8 junio, 2024

Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño: biography and works

Who was Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño?

Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño (1889-1927) was a writer born in Ecuador, a member of the so-called Decapitated Generation, named to identify a group of Ecuadorian writers who agreed on their poetic theme (depressive-melancholic) and suffered tragic deaths very young.

Noboa was from the wealthy class and was widely influenced by the main modernist poets of the 19th century, such as Rubén Darío, José Martí, José Asunción Silva and Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, among others.

He also identified with the so-called French «cursed poets» (Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine), whom he read in their original language.

Through his literary creation, the reality of the young Ecuadorian writers of the time is palpable, who faced a society that lacked criteria in the appreciation of art and exhibited a remarkable resistance to novelty.

This poet also carried on his shoulders the mission of opening the doors to Ecuador towards what the rest of Latin America had been experiencing for some time in the literary sphere: modernism.

Noboa had to face an insensitive society that sharpened the depressive nature of his spirit.

Thus, the world that surrounded him contrasted with his cosmopolitanism and caused the maladjustment and desire for escape, typical of modernist poets. For this reason he traveled to Europe, where he definitely connected with the essence of the literary current that marked his style.

He was a tormented man, whose crises he calmed down with morphine and high doses of drugs and alcohol, which led him to a desolate life and a tragic and early death.

Biography of Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño


Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño was born in Guayaquil on August 11, 1889. His parents, Pedro José Noboa and Rosa María Caamaño, belonged to a high-class family and were political activists.


He studied in Guayaquil for the first stage of his academic training and then moved to Quito to continue his studies. In this region he forged a close friendship with another Ecuadorian poet, Arturo Borjas.

His family settled in Quito, and it was in this city where Noboa began to discover his passion for writing.

Several magazines and newspapers in the city were spaces where this poet captured his first creations and served as a platform to increase his popularity.

The nature of his personality made him want to visit other spaces to avoid what he considered to be a rough and insensitive environment.

For this reason, he traveled to Spain and France in search of himself, trying to escape his neurosis and strengthen his mind, knowing deep down that he was hopelessly lost and without the courage to overcome the loneliness of his world.

However, despite his internal conflicts, the experiences he accumulated, as well as his vision of the world, made him one of the most important representatives of modernism in Ecuador.

Return and death

Noboa returned to Quito, and writing his second volume of poetry entitled the shadow of the wings, tragic death overtook him. Still very young, at 38 years of age, he committed suicide on December 7, 1927.


His work is impregnated with remarkable perfection and subtlety, the product of his marked modernist influence.

Samain, Verlaine, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, the great French symbolists, provided the power, strength and intensity of images to his poetry.

Among his most outstanding literary creations we can find the following, almost all published in the collection of poems Romance of the hours:

Of Romance of the hours (1922)

– Evening emotion.

– To my mother.

– Old portrait.

– Of that distant love.

– Divine Comedy.

– Boredom.

– 5 am

– Summer romance.

– Nostalgia.

the shadow of the wings (1927)

He was a true architect of the modernist aesthetic in his country, which was many steps behind the new literary proposals in Latin America.

Influences of modernism

During the course of the 19th century, Spanish-American writers felt the desire to become independent and move away from the influence of the Spanish tradition.

For this they drank from the sources of English, Italian and especially French literature. This provided them with exotic, symbolist and Parnassian elements, among others, that defined this poetic genre in its form and substance.

disturbed world

When reading Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño, one perceives a hallucinated, disturbed and overwhelmed world. A restless spirit between doubt, hopelessness and discouragement, characteristics of the so-called «cursed poets».

His dichotomy between life and death is a coming and going between an emotional, gloomy and pessimistic chiaroscuro, where the beauty of life is intangible and isolated.

This defines a gloomy theme that reflects its hidden realities, marked by an outside world that it categorically rejected.

In his compositions, he expresses what he feels and what he thinks through sensory elements, allowing a glimpse of the subjective of his perceptions through, for example, objects and their colors.

Likewise, symbolism and exoticism are present. The presence of the painter Francisco de Goya is also evident.

On the other hand, there is also evidence of perfection and beauty, representatives of Parnassianism, and his idea of ​​»art for art’s sake» expressed in the inclusion of luxury objects such as gold, a museum and even the dream theme as an element. of evasion.

«5 a.m.» (1922)

The aforementioned formal characteristics of modernism can be identified in his poem “5 am”:

«Early people who go to mass at dawn

and late-night people, in a picturesque circle,

along the street that illuminates the pink and mauve light

of the moon that shows its rogue face.

Parade intermingled pity with vice,

polychrome shawls and torn cloaks,

faces of a madhouse, brothel and hospice,

sinister cataturas of sabbat and coven.

Run a skinny old woman who already misses the mass,

and next to a harlot with a painted smile,

cross some skull of revelry and tramoya …

And I dream before that painting that I am in a museum,

and in gold characters, at the bottom of the frame, I read:

This “whim” was drawn by Don Francisco de Goya”.

This text reflects in a sensory and vivid way the image and characteristics of Quito society in its daily activities —such as going to mass to the ringing of the bells— and how the strata mix at times without conscious distinction.

«Board» (1922)

Noboa’s poetry adjusts to the aspects of perfection in the rhythm and meter of his stanzas as a condition sine qua non to achieve the musicality of his verses.

The poem «Hastío» presents the structure of the perfect sonnet, one of the emblematic poetic forms of modernism: 14 verses of major art, Alexandrian, divided into two quatrains (ABAB/CDCD), 2 triplets (EXE/FXF) with consonant rhyme and a free verse:

«Living on the past out of contempt for the present,

look into the future with a deep terror,

feel poisoned, feel indifferent,

before the evil of Life and before the good of Love.

Go making roads over a barren of thistles

bitten on the asp of disappointment,

with thirst on the lips, fatigue in the eyes

and a golden thorn inside the heart.

And to calm the weight of this strange existence,

search oblivion for final consolation,

get stunned, get drunk with unheard of viciousness,

with invincible ardor, with fatal blindness,

drinking the mercies of the golden champagne

and inhaling the poison of the flowers of evil”.

The content responds to that unequivocal influence that the French poets had on the writer. For example, the mention of the «flowers of evil» refers to the collection of poems by Charles Baudelaire.

In this work are imbued the seduction of beauty and the power of evil that detonate in the loneliness of contemporary man.

«The Shadow of the Wings» (1927)

Finally, from the sources of European inspiration, Noboa acquired his own voices from the English, Italian and French languages ​​to elevate his expression to the poetic stature of these nations, summits of all the arts.

In his poem «La sombra de las alas» this structural and aesthetic detail can be appreciated. Here is a snippet of it:

«I dream that my wings project in their flights

the weak wandering shadow

today under clear sky,

tomorrow in a distant

hazy and gray sky;

For my eternal nostalgia, for my deep desires

of the arcane seas, and the unknown soils

and the distant shores of the dream country…!

navigate is necessarysays the archaic motto

of my heraldic emblem;

and in a light environment like impalpable tulle,

A weightless galley rows on the waves,

and a new light cruva on the blue…”.


Weariness. poetic. Recovered from poeticous.com
Calarota, A. (2014). The beheaded Generation in Ecuador. Recovered from countercurrent.chass.ncsu.edu
Parnassian and Modernist poets. Recovered from cervantesvirtual.com

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