Ileana Espinel Cedeño (Guayaquil, October 31, 1933 – February 21, 2001) was an Ecuadorian poet, journalist and writer. She was the only female member of the 1950’s Guayaquil poetry group Club 7. Espinel joined The House of Ecuadorian Culture at the age of 23, becoming the organization’s first female member. She served as editor of the Ecuadorian journals El Universo, El Telégrafo, and La Nación as well as the Mexican magazine Nivel and the Venezuelan magazine Poesía. In 1957, she published “Piezas Líricas” [Lyrical Pieces], which was her favorite collection of her own poetry. She served as the the principal Councillor of the Guayaquil canton (1967-1970). As an editor, she was instrumental in getting the works of various poets published by the House of Ecuadorian Culture. The Guayaquil International Poetry Festival Ileana Espinel Cedeño, named in her honor, has established itself as one of the most important Festivals in Latin America.
Espinel’s father, Jorge Espinel Barreiro, was a customs worker who eventually ran a pharmacy. In 1945, when she was 13 years old, her father passed away suddenly. Professor Bertha Cedeño Chica was her mother. Espinel began writing poetry when she was just 10 years old and even assisted her mother in editing the theses of her students.
Meeting with Aurora Estrada y Ayala
In 1953, at around age 20, Espinel discovered a worn-out booklet of the famous poem “Como el Incensio” [Like Incense], by Aurora Estrada y Ayala, in her home. The booklet was dedicated to her mother. After asking about the author, her mother immediately called to arrange a meeting. The following day, Espinel visited Estrada y Ayala in her small garden, carrying a notebook of her poems. Estrada y Ayala was deeply moved by Espinel’s poetry, and shortly after, she published a piece in the newspaper El Universo in which she discussed “Tú sabes” [You Know] and “Te Quiero” [I Love You] which were her favorite among Espinel’s early poems.
Espinel was one of the seven young poets who co-founded “Club 7” (1951–1962), together with David Ledesma Vázquez (1934–1961), Gastón Hidalgo Ortega (1929–1973), Carlos Benavides Vega (1931–1999), Sergio Román Armendáriz (1934–), Miguel Donoso Pareja (1931–), and Carlos Abade Silva (??–??). The group had some of its poems published in El Universo and would recite them on radio stations such as El Telégrafo. The group’s poetry was compiled into a 96-page book titled “Club Siete” in 1954. Since just 500 copies were printed, the book is incredibly difficult to find.
Ileana Espinel Cedeño’s poetry has been translated into English by Helen Wolh Paterson, into Portuguese by Ilka Sanchez, into French by Henri de Lescoet and Marcel Hennard, into Italian by Gino Rovida and Vicenso Josía, and into Greek by Olga Papastamou.
International Poetry Festival
In her honor, the International Festival of New Poetry “Ileana Espinel Cedeño” (Festival Internacional de Poesa Joven “Ileana Espinel Cedeño”) was founded. The festival, which takes place in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from the 18th to the 22nd of November, brings together poets from all over the world.
1989 – Gold Medal for Cultural Merit of First Class from Ecuador’s Ministry of Education.
- Piezas líricas (Guayaquil, 1957)
- La estatua luminosa (Caracas, 1959)
- Arpa salobre (Caracas, 1966)
- Diríase que canto (Guayaquil, 1969)
- Tan solo trece (Guayaquil, 1972)
- Poemas escogidos (Guayaquil, 1978)
- Solo la isla (Quito, 1995)
- Club 7 (1954)
- Triángulo (1960)