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- 1948-2002 (Creation)
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Rosario Rexach (1912-2003) was a Cuban exile teacher and author of essays and books on Spanish and Latin American literature and art, particularly that of Cuba. Being of the second generation of Cuban intellectuals of the Republic (1902-1959), Rexach’s research and scholarship focused on foundational literature, that is, her work probed into questions of national identity, often specifically addressing the role of women in the arts and professions. Rexach enjoyed a lengthy publishing career, with her first essay, “Orientación Vocacional de la Mujer en Cuba,” published in the newspaper El Mundo in 1938, and her last monograph, Nuevos estudios sobre Martí, published in 2002 just a year before her death. Other notable works include: El Pensamiento de Varela y la formación de la conciencia cubana (1950); El Carácter de Martí y otros ensayos (1954); Estudios sobre Martí (1985); Dos figuras cubanas y actitud: Estudios sobre Félix Varela y Jorge Mañach (1991); and Estudios sobre Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1996). Rexach also penned a novel, Rumbo al punto cierto, in 1979.
As her friend Eduardo Lolo describes, “despite her modest beginning and her status as a woman in a world where women were still second-class citizens,” Rexach acquired a strong academic training at the Normal School for Teachers in Havana and became professionally active in the early 1930s. The graduate assistant and then colleague to national icon and professor at the University of Havana, Jorge Mañach, Rexach was a trailblazer of her time and promoted the professional advancement of women and was involved in innovative pedagogical teaching exercises. As Patricia Pardiñas-Barnes relates in an article that was written using source material contained in this very archive of Rexach’s housed in the Cuban Heritage Collection, Rexach also “belonged to a youthful group who deposed the dictatorship of Machado (1925-30)” (159); this bold commitment to voicing her beliefs would eventually result in her permanent exile from Cuba in 1960. “Taking the school beyond the traditional classrooms would be a constant in Rosario Rexach's efforts in promoting culture,” Lolo writes, her teaching praxis extensively developing at the University of Havana where she was one of the first Cuban women to make use of modern technology in education. Pardiñas-Barnes narrates: “Her voice was heard via CMQ radio waves from 1949 to 1953, where she participated in ‘long-distance learning’ (in today’s pedagogical jargon) at La Universidad del Aire, opening the virtual classroom to as many Cubans as possible to present and discuss national identity concerns and cultural issues. The Universidad del Aire was a cutting-edge educational program created by Jorge Mañach, her mentor and university colleague” (160).
Additionally, Rexach was twice elected President of the prestigious Lyceum de la Habana, “a private non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the culture” (Lolo), and a member of the Comisión Cubana de la UNESCO. By 1960, Rexach left Cuba and relocated permanently to New York City because it was believed she was a counterrevolutionary as Patrick Iber relays: “Another member, the professor of sociology Rosario Rexach, left after a Communist student minder – there was one in every university class – denounced her as a counterrevolutionary because her lectures on the French Revolution credited it with having done much to develop systems of modern education … Rexach said that she could have stayed if she had kept her mouth shut, with a good income of $6,000 a year, an air-conditioned house, and three servants.”
Even when in her seventies and eighties, Rexach was “still publishing with the brió of a much younger generation” (Pardiñas-Barnes 163). But in excess of her scholarly and teacherly vigor and the volume of her published works, Rexach will be remembered for her distinct style and flair of writing, best summarized in the words of a friend who knew her voice in life as well as through the many pages she left behind: “Her essayistic prose is literature, even though literature itself is its content. She talks about the art of others through her own art, as if the waves commented on the sea or the cold the snowfall. Form and content go hand in hand to the bottom of the idea and the soul of the text studied, shaping their own soul and idea as a new literary text … it is the case that Rosario Rexach wrote ‘a la Rexach,’ in a formula that is completed when the receiver enjoys both what he receives and the way he receives it” (Lolo).
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