A timely excuse to celebrate a local writer in Malaga

Salvador Rueda's house in Benaque.
Salvador Rueda's house in Benaque. / JENNIE RHODES
  • Francisco José García Martínez was inspired to mark World Mental Health Day through poetry

  • Organisers of an event in honour of poet Salvador Rueda hope to attract more foreign residents and visitors to share poems from different countries

From streets to schools, the name Salvador Rueda should be familiar to anyone living in Malaga province. But many may ask who he was. The hamlet of Benaque, where he was born, will be celebrating his life and works on 21 September.

Salvador Rueda is one of Andalucía's best loved writers and poets. He was born in the small hamlet of Benaque, which belongs to the Axarquía municipality of Macharaviaya, on 2 December 1857. He was one of seven siblings; however four died in infancy. His parents, Salvador Rueda Ruiz and María Santos Gallardo, worked as day labourers in the fields around Benaque.

Rueda is quoted as saying that as "a child in my poor house" he would, "roam at all hours around the fields, trying to decipher the profound mysteries and great marvels" and that he "learned administration from ants".

In 1870, aged 13, Rueda moved to Malaga city where he started to have his poems published in local newspapers, and then in the 1880s he went to Madrid in search of fame and literary recognition.

He found work in public office and continued to write poems and novels, many of which were inspired by his native Andalucía. Titles included, El Patio Andaluz, and El Copo.

Rueda travelled to the Americas and the Philippines and it was at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, Cuba, on 4 October 1910, where he was officially recognised for his writing and influence on Hispanic culture.

In 1919, at the age of 62, Rueda returned to Malaga. He had spent a number of years living in Alicante after the death of his mother, which is said to have provoked a "personal crisis" for the writer. He was given the position of first manager at the Alcazaba library in the city.

Rueda fell ill and died, aged 77, on 1 April 1933. He is buried in Malaga's San Miguel cemetery.

Rueda's family house in Benaque is now property of Macharaviaya town hall and has been preserved as it was when his family lived there. It is a museum house and can be open to visitors on request by contacting the town hall.

A day in his honour

Three years ago, Benaque resident Francisco José García Martínez, who lives in the hamlet with his English wife, Theresa, came up with the idea of holding a day in honour of Salvador Rueda. He works for Malaga's mental health team and every year they organise a five-day getaway in the province for service users.

"One of our users loves poetry so among the different activities that we organise, one of them is a poetry event," he explained. "It occurred to me that we could organise an event in Benaque as it's where Salvador Rueda was born and where I live."

He goes onto explain, "The original idea was to tie it in with World Mental Health Day, which is 10 October, but by then it can be quite chilly up in Benaque, so we've brought it forward over the years."

The event, A Viva Voz, now in its third year, will take place on Saturday 21 September from 7pm in Benaque church.

The church, which like many in the Axarquía, was originally a mosque during the Islamic era and is well worth a visit to see its stunning seventeenth century frescoes.

There will be recitals of Rueda's work, as well as other poetry and traditional Malagueñas music.

Different languages

Foreign residents and visitors have also been invited to recite poetry in their own language, which is an element of the day that Francisco José hopes to develop further over the next couple of years.

"There are foreign residents living in the area and we have a lot of British and other foreign friends so I hope that we will be able to share poetry in English, German, French and other languages in the future," he said.