Ricardo Fernandez Guardia

Ricardo Fernández Guardia. Costa Rican narrator , playwright , historian and diplomat . He contributed to his theoretical opinion an excellent ” literary prima ” in which he enthusiastically followed the aesthetic trail of French Parnassianism and Hispano-American modernism . He was the founder of the first Society of Geography and History of Costa Rica . Declared “Benemérito de la Patria” by the Costa Rican legislative branch in 1944 .


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
    • 1 Political career
    • 2 Literary career
    • 3 Theoretical opinion
    • 4 Death
  • 2 Works
  • 3 Sources

Biographical synthesis

Born in Alajuela the 4 of January of 1867 the son of Isabel Gutiérrez Guard and historian Leon Fernandez Bonilla . Member of a wealthy family , he investigated this national identity from an ideological position that varied throughout his intellectual career.

Political career

He was Secretary of Foreign Relations and attached portfolios from 1909 to 1910 and Secretary of the Costa Rican Legation in Europe (1885-1889) and Charge d’Affaires “ad interim” in Spain (1886-1887). From 1897 to 1901 First Secretary of the Legation in Europe . He participated as Minister in a space mission in Italy in 1900 and Minister in a space mission in Honduras in 1904 . He was a confidential agent of Costa Rica in the United States in 1917 and Minister on special mission in Panama (1920) and inMexico (1921). He was Consul General in Spain (1929-1930) and Minister Plenipotentiary of Costa Rica in Guatemala (1944-1945).

Literary career

His vast literary production began with the publication of the short story Tapaligui , in 1892, in the Revista de Costa Rica , a work that, curiously, has not been duly mentioned by many historians of Costa Rican literature . Author of a brilliant and varied literary production that made him one of the main animators of the cultural life of his nation at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the following century, he was part of a fertile generation of writers determined to contribute from the field. literary to the consolidation of the Costa Rican national identity.

Identified with the birth of Costa Rican literary realism and theater, with a work worthy of the position of the first classical author of Costa Rica. He was a follower of the best of the Spanish and French literary tradition. Among these authors concerned with the affirmation or denial of specific literary keys of the national territory, in addition to Ricardo Fernández Guardia himself, other notable writers such as the poet Aquileo J. Echeverría and his cousin, the costumbrista narrator Manuel González Zeledón , stood out . to which we must add other outstanding names of Costa Rican Literature, such as those of José María Alfaro Cooper, Carlos Gagini and Jenaro Cardona.

The ties that united him to the landed oligarchy led him to oppose the novelties imposed by agrarian capitalism, to which some reactionary sectors of Costa Rican society blamed the introduction of a destabilizing morality. Fernández Guardia in the thread of this speech, held in his youth an intense controversy with some of his companions of literary career (among others, the aforementioned Carlos Gagini), in which he was in favor of trends and currents from Europe , at the same time that upheld the impossibility for the mediocre social and cultural life of Costa Rica to provide themes and arguments for indigenous artists and creators.

Faced with this position, Gagini affirmed that the specific issues of the country’s reality, added to its cultural tradition, could give rise to a Costa Rican literature proper (that is, to a literary specificity that would be one more ingredient of that sought national identity ).

Theoretical opinion

He contributed to his theoretical opinion an excellent “literary first opera” in which he enthusiastically followed the aesthetic trail of French Parnassianism and Hispano-American modernism , thereby implying that the creative keys of the Costa Rican authors necessarily passed through a cosmopolitan openness to the main cultural centers around the world. This is the volume of stories entitled Hojarasca (San José: Tipografía Nacional, 1894), a work that, turned into a kind of emblem of Costa Rican cosmopolitanism, placed its author at the head of artists and intellectuals opposed to the nationalist and traditionalist project of Gagini.


Magdalena, traditional comedy where the author from Alajuela put on the stage a female character whose progressive and feminist discourse is a cry of modernity that is strident in the ears of a conservative society still too attached to the conventions on marriage and the family

With the passage of time, it evolved towards less radical theses (more attentive to the literary possibilities of the everyday reality that it had around it), although it did not for this reason come to accept the use of some procedures of traditionalist writers who, in their constant search for national identity, inevitably ended up in manners (for example, the use of regional language , which at that time gained an unusual boom among narrators and linguists).

Without resorting to these extreme localisms, the Alajuela writer showed a very different face from that of his first work in his second narrative installment, again made up of a collection of stories in which there was no longer any trace of the «” Modernist Parnassianism ” ».

This new volume announced, from its title, a new concern for the Costa Rican society of the time and a lively interest in the issues that directly touched their compatriots, to the extent of reaching, in some stories, political criticism or political criticism. social realism . These are the titled Cuentos Ticos (San José: Imprenta María V. de Lines, 1901), which Fernández Guardia baptized with the same adjective that the colloquial register of Costa Rican speech reserves for natives of the country.

The turn of the author from Alajuela towards the issues that make up the daily reality of his town is evident , which does not prevent the distancing of the narrative voice, sometimes through the use of a sober and refined language, and other times through an approach overtly ironic or satirical. The evolution of Fernández Guardia towards local costumbrista localism became even more evident after a year, when his play entitled Magdalena (San José: Imprenta y Librería Española, 1902) was released and published , by means of which he led the Costa Rican settings the aesthetic and ideological conflict that divided the country’s artists and intellectuals.

Unable to clearly opt in favor of one position or another, the author became with this work the paradigm of that Costa Rican oligarchy that, on the one hand, wanted to embrace the progress that came from the hand of economic liberalism, while, on the other hand On the other hand, he tenaciously resisted losing the privileges that tradition guaranteed him .

Starting in 1905, he began his brilliant career as a historian with Historia de Costa Rica . Discovery and conquest , he will not abandon that path until his death in 1950 . Despite his vast written work and having simultaneously ventured into various fields of written expression, his concern for the purity of the language and the logical structuring of the expression of his ideas make up an unprecedented unity of style in Costa Rican letters.


The 5 as February as 1950 dies in San Jose Costa Rica writer and historian Ricardo Fernandez Guard.


He was the author of several literary works, and of the political essay The Message of 1916 , in which the policies of President Alfredo González Flores were criticized. More than twenty years after his death, all his stories included in “La Hojarasca”, “Cuentos Ticos” and “La miniature”, now compiled under the title of The stories of Ricardo Fernández Guardia (San José: Lehmann , 1971).

He was perhaps the most recognized Costa Rican historian. Perhaps no one like him exerted so much influence in the construction of the image of the past elaborated by Costa Ricans, particularly through the Historical Book of Costa Rica , the Costa Rican school text that has had the most editions, since its appearance in 1909 , until today.

His historiographical production was the product and reflection of a time characterized by the absence of university teaching in history , which explains, in part, its scope and limits. Some of the methodological orientations that marked his work remain valid: the concern for heuristics, and the external criticism of the documents. But perhaps what makes us think that he is still current is that he was always a master of the style. And it is that although history is a social science, it is also, according to Georges Duby, a ” literary art “.

Among his publications are:

  • Litter, 1894
  • Tico Tales, 1901
  • Magdalena (novel), 1902
  • History of Costa Rica. Discovery and Conquest, 1905
  • Historical primer of Costa Rica, 1905
  • The 1916 message,
  • Don Florencio del Castillo in the courts of Cádiz , 1918
  • Historical review of Talamanca , 1918
  • The Miniature, 1920
  • Colonial Chronicles, 1921
  • The independence , 1928
  • The league war and the invasion of Quijano, 1934
  • Things and people of yesteryear, 1935
  • Morazán in Costa Rica , 1943
  • Gleaning in the past 1946
  • The discovery and the conquest.
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