Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao (30 January 1886 – 7 January 1950), most commonly known as simply Castelao, was a Galician writer in Galician language and one of the main symbols of Galician nationalism. As a politician, caricaturist, painter, and writer, he is one of the leading figures of Galician identity and culture, and one of the main names behind the cultural movement Xeración Nós. He was also one of the founders and president of the Partido Galeguista (Galicianist Party).
Afonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao, or simply Daniel Castelao, was born in the village of Rianxo on January 30th of 1886. His father was a modest fisherman that this same year emigrated to Argentina, establishing himself in the Pampa. In 1896 he travelled with his mother, Xaquina Castelao Gemme to meet his father, and they returned in 1900 along with his two sisters, Xosefina and Teresa (yet alive at hers 100), both born in South America.
In 1903 Castelao was admitted to the Faculty of Medicine of Compostela. He was then, as himself described, "a funny and dancing lad, friend of playing guitar and agile-drawing depicting the surrounding reality." Through the years 1906 to 1908 he joined to the Tuna [student music band], making some tours thru Galicia and Portugal.
In 1909 he participated in the First Galician Regional Exposition of Cartoonists in Santiago and he won the Gold Medal. That same year, he finished his studies and travelled to Madrid to make his doctorcy studies. There, he participed in the First National Cartoonists Exposition.
Castelao returned to Rianxo in 1910 to work as a doctor and he started a new studying and researching phase in his facet of plastic and literacy artist. He meet Galician patriots like Eduardo Dieste, brother of Rafael Dieste, Fernández Mato and Rey Baltar and got a definitive plasmation of his own style as a plastic artist thru the pages of the weekly magazine El Barbero Municipal where he worked as a typographer, illustrator, cartoonist, humorist and political cronist. Besides, he collected sayings, legends and events, he drawed coats and cruceiros, he assisted to romarías, he meet blindmen and troubadours, making a whole inventory of kinds, conducts, situations and conflicts that thereafter would appear in his narratives, stamps and designs. He also meet the first Galician nationalist people, like Manuel Murguía and Valentín Lamas Carvajal. Artists like Valle-Inclán, Goya and El Greco are determinatives in this period, when he was intentionally wanting to show the best and the worst of the peasant and fishering Galicia.
In 1911 he started his collaboration with the Ourensean magazine Mi Tierra, along with Vicente Risco. The next year he was appointed to make the official poster of the Apostle Feasts in Compostela and he presented a exposition in Ourense. He took part in the Galician Regional Painting Exhibition organized by the Centro Galego of Madrid and he also participated in the First Galician Art Exhibition in A Coruña. On april 1912 he exposed his fifty paintings and oils in the Salón Iturrioz of Madrid and started his collaborations with the journal El Liberal of Madrid, and with the magazines El Gran Bufón, La Voz de Galicia and Suevia. Castelao was married on October 19th with Virxinia Pereira Renda, a beautiful woman from A Estrada.
The year of the European war, 1914, his only son, Afonso Xesús, was born. In the negative side, Castelao suffered a retina loosening, being satisfactorialy operated in Compostela.
In 1915 he started his collaboration with the magazine Ilustración Española y Americana in which he published some blindmen pictures. He took part in the Exposición de Bellas Artes of Madrid and made the conference "Something about the cartoons". He also participated in the Cartoonist Exhibition celebrated in the Salón de Arte Moderno in Madrid.
The next year he established himself in the town of Pontevedra, after winning a public examination to the technical corporation of the Geographical and Statistic Institute and he filled the post as a adjunt professor to the Drawing chair of the General and Technical Institute, where he meet since 1921 Antón Losada Diéguez, responsible of the Psichology, Logic & Ethics chair. He started to participate activelly in the Irmandades da Fala activities. In 1917 he first collaborated with the weekly magazine A Nosa Terra.
In 1918 he signed the transcendental manifest of Lugo and published 26 cartoons in the journal of Madrid El Sol, in which catalonian cartoonist Lluís Bagaría worked too.
Two years later, he started his itinerant pictures exhibition that will be printed under the title of "Nós" in 1931. He makes the conference "Humourism, humouristic picture, cartoon". The journal El Sol offers him a scholarship in Europe but he renunces to take part of the staff. Later, he started another collaboration, with the journal Galicia, edited by his friend Valentín Paz Andrade. The articles published in Galicia would be later added in his books Cousas, Cousas da vida and Retrincos.
In 1930 he started a new stage of collaborations in the journal Faro de Vigo which would go on until 1932, when he edited his Cousas da vida [Things of Live] series with more of three hundred pictures. On april 27th he took part in the 6th Nationalist Galician Assembly, representing Pontevedra along with Xosé Filgueira Valverde and Iglesias Vilarelle. In that meeting they rejected the integration in the Casares Quiroga's ORGA (a pro-Spanish political party) and they decided to promote the creation of a new party with a clear Galeguist principles, independent from the Spanish organizations.
On april 14th, 1931 the Second Spanish Republic is proclaimed in Madrid. A meeting of the Galeguist cells is hold with the goal of promoting a candidature to run in next elections. The candidature was formed by Castelao, Valentín Paz Andrade and Ramón Cabanillas. In the electoral campaign Castelao takes part as speaker and he also designed the electoral posters. Finally he was elected and become a representative for the Galeguist Party for Pontevedra.
In the 1933 elections Castelao lost his seat in the Spanish Cortes [Parliament] and the "Bienio Negro" [Black Two Years] start when the right-wing party took the power. In november of 1934 Castelao was exiled to Badajoz (South of Spain) because of his political activities and the defence of the Galeguist ideals. Nevertheless, in 1935 he re-started his collaborations with the journal A Nosa Terra [Our Land], with a chronicle series which will serve in the future as introduction to his masterpiece, Sempre en Galiza, the master work of the Galician politic theory.
In February 1936 he was again elected member of the Spanish Parliament for the Galeguist Party, and he took part in the electoral defence of the Galician Autonomic Estatute, approved by a overwhelming majority in a referendum in February, 1936. Alas, on July 18th the Franco's fascist army started the Spanish Civil War, but Castelao didn't quit from the cause of the Estatute. After a thousand of incidences and obstructionist manouvers, he achieved that Spanish Cortes approved the Estatute in February, 1938. But in the practice, fascist troops had already taken all Galicia and the starting of the Estatute was too late.
In Galicia there was no Civil War. There was a massacre. In 1937 Castelao started a continuous work for supporting and defending the Republic, promoting along with Suárez Picallo the organization of a Galician militias, creating the magazine Nova Galiza and making trips as a Republican roving ambassador in Europe and America.
Being profoundly impressed by the war aftermaths in Galicia, especially the terrible killing of the Galician patriot and personal friend Alexandre Bóveda, he visited in 1938 some cities of the USSR along with a cultural embassy in the spring. He also studied there the arts of Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaiyan. In July he started another trip in the United States and Cuba to support the Republic. He stood three months in the USA and four in Cuba. He published his album Milicianos and started the composition of Dibuxos de negros [Black people drawings]. He was then appointed Honorific President of the World Federation of Black Societies.
The Spanish War finished in 1939 with the defeat of the democracy. In Juny 1940, Castelao was definitivelly established in Buenos Aires, counting with the moral and material supporting of the Galician emigrants, especially the Galician millionaire Manuel Puente. He also promoted the creation of the Irmandades Galegas [Galician Brotherhoods].
Through the period 1941-1944 he participated in the exiled Republican MP's meetings that took place in Mexico City, in which the re-establishing of the Estatutes Comission was approved. He also revitalized Galeusca, an association created in Compostela in 1934, formed by intelectuals from Galicia, the Basque Country and Catalonia.
In 1944 the Consello de Galiza [Counsel of Galiza] was created, as the Government of Galicia in the exile. Castelao becomes the first president of the Consello. Two years later he was appointed as Ministry for the Spanish Republic and he established in Paris, but in 1947 he returned to Buenos Aires again.
In 1949 he knew about the illness that would kill him, a lung cancer. So, he dedicated his last months to prepare the edition of his last work: As Cruces de pedra na Galiza [The stone crosses in Galiza]. It wouldn't be published in Galicia until 1980´s.
On January 7th, 1950 the biggest Galician man ever born died in Buenos Aires in exile. His own countrylanders couldn't know the sad new until some weeks later, because of the Franco's fascist censure. His corpse was buried in La Chacarita cemitery, using earth brought from Galicia. All the Galician people silently mourned him and very important people from all over the world came to the La Chacarita cemitery in Buenos Aires to say salute Castelao. The Argentinian senate and the City of Buenos Aires Council erected monuments to honour him.
In 1984 his remains were moved to Compostela, where they rest in the Distinguished Galician Pavillion of the Santo Domingos de Bonaval monastery. A big political controversy arose then because some people thought that Galician politicians were using or taking adventage from his figure, and the Spanish policemen charged against demostrators. Since then, most of Castelao's work has been translated and published in several languages: Hungarian, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, English, Chinese...