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José Agustín Balseiro was born in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, on August 23, 1900. His father was Puerto Rican composer Rafael Balseiro. José Balseiro studied law and taught at the University of Puerto Rico. He left to Madrid to study and write poetry and literature. The Spanish Royal Academy honored him for his novel El Vigia (The Watchtower) in 1925.
In 1930 Balseiro was hired at the University of Illinois as a Professor of Hispanic Literature, where he eventually became the dean of the Romance Languages department. In 1938, Balseiro was the official delegate from the United States to the First International Congress on the Teaching of Ibero-American Literature held in Mexico.
Balseiro settled at the University of Miami as a Professor of Hispanic Literature in 1946. From 1955 to 1957, Balseiro served as President of the International Institute of Ibero-American Literature. He resigned his position at the University of Miami to teach as professor of Hispanic Studies the University of Arizona in 1967, but returned to the University of Miami in 1974 as a consultant to the University of Miami Libraries in Hispanic literature. The University of Miami created in his honor the José Balseiro Prize for Hispanic American Studies, a prize awarded annually to the best essay on Spanish-American studies written by a graduate student. Also upon his arrival to Miami, he was awarded the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica (Commander of the Order of Queen Isabella the Catholic of Castille), conferred by Spain to scholars, writers, and statesmen who distinguish themselves in the field of Hispanic Culture.
Throughout his life, Balseiro wrote a dozen critically acclaimed novels and multiple collections of critical essays, poetry and short stories. Balseiro was honored on a number of occasions, which include being assigned a Commander of the Order of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, being awarded a Diploma of Honor from the Mexican Academy of Letters, and the abovementioned Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica. He was a member of a number of organizations including the Spanish Royal Academy, the Colombian Academy of Letters, the Sarmiento Institute of Sociology and History of Argentina, the Academy of the Spanish Language in the U.S.A., the Consultative Committee of the U.S.A. National Commission for UNESCO, and the Academia Jerezana de San Fernando. He also co-founded the Puerto Rican Academy of Letters, based in San Juan.
He retired in 1978 to Santurce, Puerto Rico. In 1984 he was named as a candidate for the Spanish Ministry of Culture's Miguel de Cervantes Prize. Balseiro passed away in Puerto Rico on January 13, 1991.