Manuel Curros Enríquez ( 1851 – 1908) studied law in and then moved, by way of , to Havana, where he settled in 1894. An active journalist, he wrote reviews, articles, texts devoted to theatre and art criticism, biographies, political commentary, chronicles and op-eds for periodicals such as the Gaceta de Madrid, El Imparcial (the title under which the Crónicas del Norte appeared during the Carlist Wars of 1875-76), El País and, in Cuba, Diario de la Marina and (which he founded and in which he published the series ).
Curros emerged as a Galician poet when he won the Ourense poetry contest of 1877 – financed by Modesto Fernández y González, whose protégé he was – with the poems O gueiteiro de Penalta (“The piper from Pentalta”), Unha boda en Einibó (“A wedding in Einibó”) and A Virxe d’o Cristal (“Our Lady of Crystal”), a narrative legend based on . All three poems were later included in (1880), a volume marked both by regional/rustic local colour and intimate lyricism. Social commentary is expressed in Nouturnio (“Nocturne”), As duas pragas (“The two plagues”), O mayo (“The mayo”) and Ós mozos (“To young people”, denouncing the hardship endured by peasants), and poetry as a mobilizing force is celebrated in ¡Crebar as liras!. Anticlerical poems like Pelegrinos, á Roma (“Pilgrims, to Rome!”), Mirand’ó chau (“Looking at the floor”) and A Igrexa fría (“The cold church”) caused the bishop of Ourense to ban the book, which was seized. Curros was given a prison sentence – which in the event he did not have to serve – and a fine.
These proceedings increased the popularity of this collection, which was reprinted in 1881 and 1886, and translated into Spanish in 1892, and made Curros an icon of progressivism. His stature was raised further by the burlesque satire O divino sainete (1888), a celebration of secularism, democracy, rationalism and the , of which it is one of the greatest 19th-century landmarks.
Later writings in Spanish include the verse legend El maestre de Santiago (1874), the novel Paniagua y Compañía (1877), the dramatic eulogies El dos de mayo de 1808 (as co-author; 1874) and El Padre Feijoo (1880), the operetta El último papel (1892-93), Estudio biográfico-político de Eduardo Chao (1893) and individual poems. In La lira lusitana (1883-86), he translated contemporary writers into Spanish.
Curros joined the ranks of federalist republicanism in the time of the Democratic (or Revolutionary) Six-Year Period, professed Freemasonry in the 1880s, and eventually identified with liberal regionalism, more strongly so after settling in Cuba. Here, he participated in the activities of the Galician colony and became involved in various public controversies both because of his political stance (his defence of independence for the island, and his criticism of the Chamber of Deputies, which got him embroiled in fresh court proceedings) and as a result of his interventions in the Galician associations of Havana. Most influential perhaps was his chairmanship of the committee that prepared the creation of the , the Galician language academy.
Curros’s literary work has been read in an almost exclusively political light. As a public and social poet, and also as a result of his controversialist personality, Curros had supporters and detractors of equal ardour. Nonetheless, he was the most popular living Galician poet among readerships of all kinds; he was crowned best poet on two occasions (Madrid 1893, A Coruña 1904), and a number of his poems, set to music, became landmarks of musical regionalism, e.g. Cántiga (1869), his first Galician poem, set to music by . Curros’s remains were transported from Havana to , where the funeral was a mass event.