Manuel Zeno Gandía

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Manuel Zeno Gandía
File:Manuel Z. Gandia.jpg
Dr. Manuel Zeno Gandía
Born January 10, 1855
Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Died January 30, 1930(1930-01-30) (aged 75)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Occupation Doctor, novelist
Nationality Puerto Rican
Notable works La Charca

Dr. Manuel Zeno Gandía [note 1] ( * Arecibo, Puerto Rico/January 10, 1855 –+ San Juan, Puerto Rico/January 30, 1930) wrote the novel La Charca (The Pond), which is considered by many to be the first Puerto Rican novel.

Early years

Zeno Gandía's parents were wealthy land owners in the city of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, where he was born and raised. As a child, Zeno Gandía witnessed firsthand the harsh working conditions of the poor farm workers. After receiving his primary and secondary education in his hometown, he went to Spain where he studied medicine at the University of Barcelona's school of medicine. He graduated with the titles of Doctor in Medicine and Surgeon. He developed his love for political literature during his stay in Spain. His interest in politics led him to become an outspoken advocate for Puerto Rican independence.[1]


When Zeno Gandía returned to Puerto Rico, he set up his medical practice in Arecibo. In 1894, he published La Charca (The Pond), the first serious Puerto Rican novel, which dealt with the harsh life in the remote and mountainous coffee regions in Puerto Rico. This naturalist novel tells about the injustices that the poor farm hand suffered against the rich landowners. La Charca is a Puerto Rican classic and is one of four novels in Las Crónicas de un Mundo enfermo (Chronicles of a Sick World). The other three are Garduña, El Negocio (The Business) and Redentores (The Redeemers). In the 1960s, Zeno Gandía's best-known novel, La Charca was translated to English by Kal Wagenheim. It remains in print as The Pond, published by Markus Wiener Publishers of Princeton NJ.[1]

Independence advocate

After Puerto Rico was invaded during the Spanish–American War in 1898, Zeno Gandía traveled to Washington, D.C. where, together with Eugenio María de Hostos, he proposed the idea of independence for Puerto Rico. The men were disappointed when their ideas were rejected by the government of the United States and the island was converted into a territory. Zeno Gandía returned to the island where he continued to write and was politically active. As a member of the Puerto Rico Union Party, he also advocated allowing voters to choose among non-colonial options, including annexation, an independent protectorate and autonomy. In 1912, Zeno Gandía joined the Independence Party, a new political party founded by Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón which promote Puerto Rico's independence. That same year, Zeno Gandía together with Matienzo Cintrón and Luis Lloréns Torres wrote a manifesto which stated that it was time for Puerto Rico to have its independence.[2] The Independence Party, which also included Eugenio Benítez Castaño, and Pedro Franceschi as founding members, was the first party in the history of the island to exclusively want Puerto Rican independence and established a precedent for future organizations with similar ideologies.[3]


Zeno Gandía died in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1930. Puerto Rico has honored his memory by naming a school and avenues after him. In his native Arecibo, the Credit Cooperative and an industrial park are named after Zeno Gandía.[1] An 11-foot-high (3.4 m) statue of him was unveiled on March 27, 2007 by Senate President Kenneth McClintock on the grounds of Puerto Rico's Capitol, to honor Zeno Gandía, with grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren in attendance. Zeno Gandia is recognized at Ponce's Tricentennial Park for his contributions in the field of literature.[4]

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