100 Heroes: Luis Cernuda

The gay man who defied fascism.

100 Heroes: Luis Cernuda

Luis Cernuda was a Spanish poet, and a member of the Generation of ’27.

During the Spanish Civil War, in early 1938, he went to the UK to deliver some lectures and this became the start of an exile that lasted till the end of his life.

He taught in the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge before moving in 1947 to the US. In the 1950s he moved to Mexico.

While he continued to write poetry, he also published wide-ranging books of critical essays, covering French, English and German as well as Spanish literature.

He was open about his homosexuality at a time when this was problematic.

Early life

Cernuda was born in Seville in 1902.

He began to write from around the age of 14.

He studied Law at the University of Seville, graduating in 1925.


His poetry was first published in 1926.

He then went to Toulouse to take up a post at the university. It was during this period that Cernuda became more comfortable with his sexuality – this began to be reflected in his writing.

In 1929, he moved to Madrid and became actively involved in the city’s literary scene. He was also politically active.

Spanish Civil War

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Cernuda actively supported the Republican forces, with a focus on tackling social injustice.

Exile in Britain

In 1938, an English friend arranged for Cernuda to give a series of lectures in Oxford and Cambridge.

At the time, Cernuda thought that he would be away from Spain for one or two months, however this was to be the start of an exile that would last for the rest of his life.

After a few months in England, Cernuda travelled to Paris with the intention of returning to Spain. But, due to the deteriorating situation in Spain, he stayed on in Paris.

In 1939, Cernuda returned to the UK to take up a teaching position in Glasgow, followed by a move to Cambridge.

US and Mexico

In 1947, Cernuda moved to the US to take up a position in Massachusetts.

He spent his summers in Mexico, moving permanently to live in Mexico from 1952.

He died of a heart attack in 1963.

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