Halfway though the 19th and 20th centuries, modernism burst onto the Spanish and Latin American literary scene. This literary movement had a large influence on romanticism, Parnassianism and symbolism, and found influence in the European models that it admired.
Modernism is a movement that rebelled against the bourgeois, looking for an aristocratic refinement in the content and the beauty of the form, changing the metrics of poetry in Spanish to become more like classical Latin forms. One could say that it is the expression of the spiritual and literary crisis at the end of the 19th century in words, as well as demonstrating the way of life at this time.
The themes of modernism focus on loneliness, sensuality, love, eroticism, all of which are expressed in the idealisation of women. A defence of indigenism and the Spaniard is also created, showing a history of harmony and cohesion in the world. Exoticism in modern poetry is also fundamental and it is shown through the language used, for example exotically named flowers like the lotus or magnolia; materials such as silk and porcelain; precious stones for example jade, emeralds and rubies; mythological and exotic place names; sayings and Gallicisms; all of which create a aristocratic and, at times, decadent atmosphere.
The most emblematic writer of the modernist period was the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío, and was probably the most influential author of this movement. His professional activity, firstly as a journalist, and later as a diplomat, allowed him to travel through different countries. Also he was influenced by French romanticism, in particular that of Victor Hugo. He also played host to Parnassians such as Gautier and symbolists, especially the great seducer Paul Verlaine.
In 1898, a crucial year as regards Spanish history, Darío arrived in Barcelona. During his stay in Spain, the poet sparked the admiration of a group of young modernists who would go down in the history of Spanish literature. Amongst them were Juan Ramón Jiménez, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán and Jacinto Benavente.
From Spain he went to France to visit the Parisian World Fair of 1900, and it was in this city where he met the young Spanish poet Antonio Machado, an fervent admirer of Darío’s work. It’s hardly surprising that Rubén Darío has been one of the most influential poets of the beginning of the century in Spain.
At the start of the First World War, Rubén Darío returned to his birthplace of America with the aim of defending pacificim. He travelled around various countries until, in 1916, he returned to Nicaragua, where he died in February of the same year.
His most famous works are Azul (1888), Prosas Profanas (1896) and Cantos de Vida y Esperanza (1905).