Josefina Manresa was the wife of the famous Orihuela poet Miguel Hernández and the inspiration for some of the most beautiful poetry written in the Spanish language. She was born in Jaén and her family moved to Orihuela in 1927 where she had one year of elementary education and went to work at the age of 13. She met Miguel Hernandez in 1933 and after a timid, formal courtship the couple married four years later and moved to Jaén where Miguel was stationed at the beginning of the civil war. Shortly afterwards Josefina’s father was killed and her mother died of grief, so she had to return alone to Cox, whilst pregnant with her first child, to care for the family. Sadly her son, Manuel Ramón died before reaching his first birthday. The couple had a second son, Manuel Miguel born in 1939 who lived until 1984.
At the end of the civil war Miguel Hernandez decided to go into temporary exile but he was arrested in Portugal and detained for four months. On his release he returned home but was betrayed by a neighbour and re-arrested, never to be freed again. During her husband’s imprisonment, Josefina continued to work for a living, to care for her son and her family and managed to visit her husband in various jails, whilst she herself was suffering from bad health. One of Miguel’s most famous poems “Nanas de la Cebolla” was written in jail when he heard from Josefina that she and her son were surviving on a diet of onions and bread. Miguel’s final destination was Alicante where Josefina managed to visit him a few times before he died of tuberculosis in March 1942.
During the years following her husband’s death, Josefina Manresa fought to preserve his work and memory. She hid his poetry and other papers including the famous portrait drawn in jail, in a family chest but, as her house was being continually searched by the authorities, she had to hand them to trusted friends for safe-keeping. At other times she even buried his works in the patio of her house, when friends’ homes were in danger. After Franco’s death, Josefina allowed Miguel Hernandez’s works to be passed to municipal archives in Elche and his poetry has been subsequently edited and published. Josefina passed away in 1987 having spent her life preserving the works of one of Spain’s greatest poets.