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Cuba is an island that has never ceased to yield poets. The first known poem, "Mirror of Patience", was written in 1608 by the Canarian Silvestre de Balboa at the Villa of Puerto Principe. By the first half of the 18th century, around 1733, the first theatre play El Principe Jardinero y Fingido Cloridano written by a Cuban author, Captain Don Santiago de Pita, was performed. Native bourgeoisie attained an important accolade in 1790 with the materialisation of Papel Periodico de La Habana, the first newspaper published on the island. Manuel de Zerqueiro (1760-1846) and Manuel Justo Ruvalcaba (1769-1805) are regarded as the most representative poets of the 18th century. In both poems the Cuban feelings rise slowly with the love and delight for the land's fruitfulness, dedicating their lines to glorify tropical fruits like pineapple and mamey. It was in the 19th century that the great poets were born and the tradition in Cuban poetry began to grow solidly. Deep and beautiful lines as those of Julian del Casal, Placido, El Cucalambe, Juan Clemente Zenea, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, Juana Borrero, Jose Jacinto Milanes, Luisa Perez de Zambrana, Jose Maria Heredia and Jose Marti, left a trail of such exquisite lyrical poetry that, despite romanticism, in some cases exceeded the limits of feelings to offer poems of complete commitment. Cirilo Villaverde wrote the first great novel Cecilia Valdez, in the 19th century, it is an essential gift. Other important novelists from this period are Ramon Meza and Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda. Poetry of the 20th century, restless in a diversity of styles as the century itself, comes up in the world with the names of Jose Zacarias Tallet, Regino Pedroso, Emilio Ballagas, Regino Botti, Nicolas Guillen, Carilda Oliver, Heberto Padilla, Virgilio Piera, Jose Lezama Lima, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Gaston Baquero, Nancy Morejon, Anton Arrufat, Eliseo Diego (Juan Rulfo Prize for his life's work), Cintio Vitier, Fina Garcia Marruz, Mirta Aguirre, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera, Angel Augier and Dulce Maria Loynaz (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). The XX century developed quickly with writers that soon began to achieve important international awards. The library of novels for this century gathers the works of Miguel del Carrion, Jose Soler Puig, Dulce Maria Loynaz, Severo Sarduy, Miguel Barnet, Senel Paz, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Luis Rogelio Nogueras, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Virgilio Piera, Reinaldo Arenas, Jesus Diaz, Jose Lezama Lima, Abilio Estevez and Alejo Carpentier (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). Currently, story writing is a style that has developed into a solid tendency among young writers; names like Alberto Garrido and Ronaldo Menendez (both winners of the Casa de las Americas prize), attest the eloquent performance of Cuban literature.

Cuban literature, both new and old, abounds in Havana. Street markets often provide some prized books many of which are over 100 years old.

 

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Jose Mart

 

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Alejo Carpentier

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