Never before in Cuban poetry did the nationalism of a country still pregnant with racist prejudices, a land in which it sowed the pride of belonging and devoted noble verses drowned in exquisite sensitivity and innate talent, shone so much.
Such was his soul as a poet that Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, Placido, did not cease before the glances of hatred for the color of his skin and shook the most high-ranking critics and writers of his time with poems burning, like rays of sun on The plume of the palms.
In it, economic poverty was never clothed with the poverty of the spirit. He fed his poems with Aboriginal legends, colored his hopes with prayers to God and was caught between the swings of literature, letters as sweet as the flower of the cane.
He was a young man with an easy verb who could improvise, write and publish his verses many times in spaces like Matanzas’s Aurora, to contribute to the modest daily sustenance, but he left not only the testimony of his Cubanness, but also the pride of his own mestizo condition.
A spontaneous versifier like few before or after his time, some critics consider him among the initiators of criollismo and siboneyismo in the Cuban lyric. Although he is included among the Cuban romantics, where corresponds according to the period in which he developed his work, much of his literature is much more cheerful, while remaining fine.
Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, the fruit of a secret love and then illegitimate, condemned by the customs and prejudices of the time, was confined in a house of charity by his mother to conceal his birth. Some time later his father takes him to live with him and gives him an elementary education from the age of ten. Economic difficulties cause the father to leave Cuba and die in Mexico.
In order to subsist it carries out dissimilar occupations: it apprentice of typographer in the press of Don Severino of Bologna and made combs. He studied Literature with Ignacio Valdés. In 1833 his poem La siempre viva, presented in the literary contest Aureola Poetica, achieved great success. In 1836 he moved to Matanzas and began working in the silver warehouse of Dámaso García and in the newspaper La Aurora in Matanzas.
In search of economic improvements he traveled to Santa Clara, where he collaborates with El Eco. He is imprisoned on several occasions and released after finding no evidence against him. It began to gain fame of poet and improviser with the pseudonym of Plácido. He published Poetry, El Veguero and El hijo de maldición.
As poet he is known as one of the most important representatives of Romanticism in Cuba. Many of his poems are popular, intended for family parties. His works express the everyday life of the island at that time, can be cataloged as social chronicles of an era that failed to value it in the just measure of its poetic height.
His creations did not have the depth, quality and culture of teachers like José María Heredia, who recognized him as a great creole poet, but was noted for the inspiration and naturalness of his verses. Among the most recognized are the flower of the pineapple, Jicotencal and A ungrateful.
Some critics claim that it should not be included in Afro-Cuban literature because its work is very refined, resembling too much that of the whites. Ironic is that his poetry has also been judged with the same prejudice that was seen the color of his skin.
Accused of participating in the conspiracy of the Ladder, he was imprisoned and shot. In prison he wrote his famous Prayer to God, poem with which he says goodbye to life.
The versification of his poetry is so natural that some of his poems were heard a hundred years later in the streets of Havana, repeated in many cases without knowing the declaimer who was the author. Undoubtedly, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés captured the true Cuban spirit in his verses.
Original text byon June 28th, 2017