José Gorostiza biography, style and works

Abraham McLaughlin
José Gorostiza biography, style and works

Jose Gorostiza Alcala (1901-1973) was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat. His life passed between government posts and writing; Although his literary work was not exactly extensive, it did enjoy depth and originality, which made him stand out among many colleagues..

In the field of literature, Gorostiza was known as "the poet of intelligence", by virtue of the intellectual and analytical nature of his work. One of the most important and recognized titles of the Mexican author was Endless death, which referred to the decline and extinction of all entities.

His life was also oriented to the dissemination of culture and art in his country. He was part of the group of intellectuals known as "Los Contemporáneos", who through a publication made known the changes, innovations and transformations of literature.

Article index

  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Birth of Gorostiza
    • 1.2 Academic training
    • 1.3 Gorostiza among Contemporaries
    • 1.4 First professional tasks of José Gorostiza
    • 1.5 Gorostiza in the Mexican government and diplomacy
    • 1.6 Literary paths
    • 1.7 Expansion of your diplomatic work
    • 1.8 Gorostiza, academically recognized
    • 1.9 Death
    • 1.10 Awards for his literary work
  • 2 Style
  • 3 Works
    • 3.1 Brief description of his poetic work
  • 4 References


Birth of Gorostiza

José Gorostiza Alcalá was born on November 10, 1901, in the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco. Although there is not enough information about his family life, it is presumed that he came from an educated family, due to the academic training he received.

Academic training

José Gorostiza studied primary and secondary school in his native Villahermosa. Then he went to live in Mexico City, where he studied high school, which culminated in 1920. Later he studied letters at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Gorostiza Among The Contemporaries

During his youth, José Gorostiza was part of Los Contemporáneos, a group of writers, among whom Carlos Pellicer, Xavier Villaurrutia, Antonieta Rivas Mercado and Salvador Novo stood out. They were in charge of propagating cultural advances in Mexico, between 1920 and 1931.

First professional work of José Gorostiza

Antonieta Rivas Mercado, member of Los Contemporáneos. Source: See page for author [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

José Gorostiza's academic preparation and training led him to different positions. At first he worked at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he taught Mexican literature. Later, in 1932, he was a professor of modern history at the National School of Teachers.

Gorostiza in the Mexican government and diplomacy

Gorostiza was a man who showed qualities both for letters and for diplomatic missions. So he had the opportunity to hold various positions within the Mexican government. In 1927 he was Chancellor of his country in London, England.

Image of the Ministry of Public Education, where Gorostiza served as director. Source: Miki Angel Maldonado [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Later, at the beginning of the 1930s, he served as director in the Secretary of Public Education of the Fine Arts section. He was also secretary of government in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 1937 and 1939. And from 1939 to 1940, he was a diplomat in the capital of Italy..

Literary paths

José Gorostiza was passionate about letters and literature, so his life was also oriented to writing. Two of his first works were published between the 1920s and 1930s. The titles of these were Songs to sing in the boats Y Endless death, the latter being the most famous.

Expansion of your diplomatic work

It can be said that practically the entire life of the Mexican writer was spent in politics. His diplomatic performance made him responsible, in 1944, for the direction of the diplomatic service.In addition, six years later, he was part of the United Nations Security Council.

Shield of the UNAM, university where Gorostiza studied. Source: Both, the shield and the motto, José Vasconcelos Calderón [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the beginning of the fifties he went to live in Greece for a year to serve as ambassador. Gorostiza, for more than ten years, was also destined to give talks and conferences worldwide. After that, he assumed the presidency of the nuclear energy delegation, from 1965 to 1970.

Gorostiza, academically recognized

Although José Gorostiza was not the most prolific of writers and poets, his first two works gave him public and academic recognition. This is how in 1954 the Mexican Academy of Language chose him as a member. A year later, he occupied chair number XXXV.


The last years of life José Gorostiza Alcalá lived between his work and political positions, plus the development of his last two publications: Poetry Y Prose. He died at the age of seventy-one, in Mexico City, on March 16, 1973..

Awards for his literary work

- Mazatlán Prize for Literature in 1965.

- National Prize of Sciences and Arts in 1968.


José Gorostiza's literary work was framed within the avant-garde and modernism movements. The author used in his writings a cultured, simple and precise language. In addition, there was a strong lyrical and expressive charge in his words.

The poetry of the Mexican writer was characterized by being reflective, analytical and profound. At the same time it gave the impression of being light; but, deep down, its content was the product of the absolute interest that Gorostiza had on the human being, the world where he developed and the end of existence.


Gorostiza's literary work was not abundant. This was perhaps due to the incessant diplomatic and political activities that he carried out. However, the four titles that he managed to publish were enough to leave a legacy, and be known as one of the most significant Mexican poets of the 20th century..

- Songs to sing in the boats (1925).

- Endless death (1939).

- Poetry (1964).

- Prose (1969).

Brief description of his poetic work

Songs to sing in the boats (1925)

It was the first collection of poems by the Mexican author, whose most notable characteristic was the change made by Gorostiza, from the traditional and costumbrista, to the vanguard and innovation. The work consisted of about twenty-five poems, full of elegance and expressiveness.

A good part of the verses were composed of rhymes of major and minor art, also by tetrasyllables and hendecasyllables. On the other hand, the publication was well received by critics, and many argued that the writer had a marked influence from Spanish writers, especially Luís de Góngora..


The language that the writer used for the development of the poems was simple and straightforward. However, not all of them are easy to understand, since many of the verses are of a certain complexity in terms of context and meaning. Thus, the reader can perceive a certain disconnect between stanzas.


José Gorostiza himself made a criticism of his first literary work, he said that some of the poems arose from the reading of other writers. Also, he considered that it was "poor", that in it there was a little careful metric structuring, and a very personal feeling.

Most relevant poems of the work

- "Night".

- "Women".

- "Drawings on a port".

- "Who buys me an orange?".

- "The seashore".

- "The sea rejoices".

- "Moon fisherman".

- "Water, do not run away from thirst, stop".

Fragment of "The sea rejoices"

"We will go find

banana leaves when planting.

The sea rejoices.

We will go looking for them on the way,

father of skeins of flax.

Because the moon (has a painful birthday) ...

... the sea rejoices.

Seven rods of tuberose; just a scent,

a single whiteness of a dove's feather.

The sea rejoices.

Life -I tell him- I detached them white, I well know it,

for my girlfriend with a nice foot.

The sea rejoices.

Life -I tell him- I detached them white.

Don't go dark for being me!

The sea rejoices ".

Fragment of "The seashore"

"It is not water or sand

the seashore.

sound water

single foam,

water can't

form the shore.

And why rest

in dock instead,

it is not water or sand

the seashore.

... the same the lips,

if they want to kiss.

It is not water or sand

the seashore.

I just look at myself

because of the dead;

lonely, desolate,

like a desert.

Cry to me,

well I must grieve.

It is not water or sand

the seashore".

Endless death (1939)

It was the author's second published work, characterized by a high degree of intensity and depth. The writer developed a philosophical theme related to a confrontation between water and the reservoir that collects it; the poem was divided into twenty sets of verses.

The critical, intelligent and reflective characteristic of Gorostiza's personality was reflected in the interests that the writer had on arguments related to living, the human being, God and the end of life. The language he used was loaded with metaphors, which added expressiveness and beauty..


"Full of me, besieged in my epidermis

for an elusive god who drowns me,

lied perhaps

for its radiant atmosphere of lights

that hides my spilled conscience,

my wings broken into splinters of air,

my clumsy groping through the mud; ...

More than a glass, also more provident!

Maybe this hollow that narrows us

on islands of monologues without echo,

although it is called God,

be nothing but a glass

that the lost soul molds us,

but perhaps the soul only warns

in an accumulated transparency

that stains the notion of him blue.

… In the crystal net that strangles her,

the water takes shape,

He drinks it, yes, in the glass module,

so that this is also transfigured

with the trembling of the strangled water

that is still there, without a voice, marking the pulse

glacial stream ... ".


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