Famous Spanish People
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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
The Greatest Spanish Writer

Miguel de Cervantes was born in the town of Alcalá de Henares, near to Madrid, on 29 September 1547.  Interestingly, his birthday is also his name day - the 29 September is St. Michael's day.

He was the fourth of seven children.  His mother was called Leonor.  His father was a surgeon named Rodrigo and he wanted to be seen as an upper-class person, but the truth is that he always struggled to make enough money.

Cervantes went to Italy to study Italian art and literature but he ended up enrolling as a soldier there. This period of his life was adventurous. 

He became a sailor on board a galley ship and fought in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.  During this battle, he was shot in the left hand, causing permanent damage.

When returning to Spain, his ship was hijacked by pirates and Miguel and the crew were captured and held as Christian prisoners in Algeria.  During this imprisonment, he tried to escape four times.  He was released in 1580. 

Miguel returned to Spain.  In 1585, he married a lady who was about twenty years younger than himself.  She was Catalina de Palacios Salazar. 

Around the time of his marriage, his first novel was published.  It was called La Galatea.  Also, during this period, some of his plays were being performed in Madrid.

He spent ten years living in the Andalucia region of Southern Spain, where he was involved as a buyer for the Spanish Armada (known as La Invencible in Spanish) and also worked as a tax collector.  However, there were some money problems and he was thrown into prison in Sevilla in 1597.

In 1605, his highly successful novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo de Don Quijote de La Mancha was published.  It was an enormous success so he decided to write a second part which was published in 1613.

Don Quijote is a silly country gentleman who is growing old.  He is obsessed by the idea of being seen as a heroic knight so, accompanied by his servant Sancho Panza, he journeys on horseback trying to appear like the figure of his fantasies. 
The story is comical.  It is considered to be one of the greatest pieces of literature in the world and it belongs to the Spanish Golden Age (El Siglo de Oro).  This is the period when Spain produced much art and literature.  Below is the original cover to the book when it was first published in 1605.

Below is a famous bronze statue of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.  This statue can be seen in the writer's home town of Alcalá de Henares.

Miguel de Cervantes had a daughter called Isabel.  She became a nun.  When Miguel died in Madrid at the age of sixty-eight, his wish was to be buried inside the convent where his daughter lived:-
El Convento de San Ildefonso de Las Trinitarias Descalzas. 

  It was always believed that his resting place was within the walls of the convent but nobody was certain of the exact spot.  Then, in March 2015, a team of researchers discovered a hidden crypt.  It is believed that the burial place of Cervantes has been discovered!

There is an enormous coincidence regarding the date of Miguel's death.  It is the same as the day on which William Shakespeare died - 23 April, 1616.  

For this reason, the 23 April is officially World Book Day, in remembrance of those two great writers.  In the area of Cataluña in Spain, it is the tradition for men to give their wives and girlfriends a rose on 23 April.  In return, the lady gives a book to the man.

There is a famous sentence written by Miguel de Cervantes. The sentence has become a proverb in Spain. It is this:-

'La pluma es la lengua de la mente.'
The pen is the language of the soul.



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