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Jorge Ricardo Isaacs Ferrer (Santiago de Cali, April 1, 1837-Ibagué, April 17, 1895) was a Colombian novelist and poet of the romantic genre. Jorge Isaacs lived during the period of consolidation of the Republic.
Little is known of his childhood. His place of birth was Cali, he studied in Cali, then in Popayán, and finally in Bogotá, between 1848 and 1852, during the government of José Hilario López. His father was George Henry Isaacs, an English Jew originally from Jamaica.
In his poetry, Isaacs evokes Valle del Cauca as the idyllic space in which he spent his childhood, and the march to Bogota must have been a difficult step for him. He returned to Cali in 1852.
In 1854, he fought in the campaigns of Cauca against the dictatorship of General José María Melo, for 7 months. His family went through a difficult economic situation because of the civil war.
In 1856 he married Felisa González Umaña, who was then fourteen years old, and who would give him abundant offspring and perseverance to hide from them, he was a famous writer who crossed Europe, Asia and Africa.
He tried to engage in trade, without much success, and tried his luck with literature. His first poems date from the years 1859-1860; at the same time, he undertakes the writing of several historical dramas.
In 1860 he again took up arms to fight General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, who had risen up against the central government, and fought in the battle of Manizales.
In 1861 his father died; After the war, Isaacs returned to Cali to take charge of the father’s business, full of debts. He had to get rid of the haciendas “La Rita” and “La Manuelita”. His economic misadventures led him to seek lawyers in Bogotá, where he found his literary activity echoed. He read his poems to the members of the social gathering “El Mosaico”, who decided to pay for its publication (Poesías, 1864).
In 1864 he supervised the works of the bridle path between Buenaventura and Cali; during the year in which he carried out this work, he began to write his novel María. At this time also, due to the unhealthiness of the climate, he contracted malaria, a disease that would eventually die at 58 years of age.
Militar at the beginning in the conservative party, but later he joined the radical party and, in 1870, was appointed consul general in Chile. Upon his return, he actively participated in the politics of Cauca, both as a newspaper editor and as a representative of his department in the House of Representatives. He intervened again in the political struggles of 1876, in which he took up arms again. He was expelled from the House of Representatives in 1879, following an incident in which Isaacs, before a conservative uprising, proclaimed himself political and military chief of Antioquia.
After this incident, he retired from politics, and published, in 1881, the first song of an extensive poem that he did not conclude, entitled Saulo. Appointed secretary of the Scientific Commission, he explored the department of Magdalena, in northern Colombia, finding important deposits of coal, oil and coal.
The last years of his life he spent retired in Ibagué (where he had left his family lodged years before), department of Tolima, projecting a historical novel that was to be his masterpiece and never wrote. He died in Ibagué on April 17, 1895, his last wish being that his body be buried in Medellín; However, he always expressed his love for Cauca (his beloved “Valle del Cauca country”): “Yes, I love the Cauca a lot, although he is so ungrateful to his own children!”
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