Cirilo Villaverde (28 October 1812 in San Diego de Núñez, near Pinar del Río, Cuba - 24 October 1894 in New York City) was a Cuban poet, novelist, journalist and freedom fighter.
Born to a doctor on a sugar plantation, Villaverde was able to witness slavery and all of its evils from a very young age. When he grew up, he studied law in Havana. Although he never practiced the legal profession, he did write a number of short stories and published the first part of what would later become Cecilia Valdés.Beginning in 1840, Villaverde participated in the Cuban movement of independence against the Spanish colonial power. He was a secretary to Narciso López, who undertook an attempted insurrection (1850 and 1851) to liberate Cuba from Spain with help from the USA, but failed because of lack of popular support. In 1848 Villaverde was arrested by Spanish soldiers in his own house but the following year successfully arranged his escape and arrived in the USA, where he was active politically in New York and worked as the editor and publisher of few different Cuban exile magazines, including La Verdad and El Independiente. His novel Cecilia Valdés, published in 1882, is considered one of the most important works of Cuban literature. Although at the beginning of his political career, he favored U.S. annexation of Cuba, as he aged he grew disillusioned with the American imperial project, and pushed for true Cuban independence instead. Villaverde would never see the fruits of his lifelong labor, since he died before Cuba gained autonomy in 1898.
Cuban writer Daína Chaviano pays tribute to Cirilo Villaverde in her novel The Island of Eternal Love (Riverhead, 2008), where he appears as one of the characters. In this book, Chaviano also offers a very different version of Villaverde's novel Cecilia Valdés, re-writing the original story in one of the sub-plots.