Juan Latino

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Juan Latino, born Juan de Sessa (Baena, 1518 – Granada, 1596), was a Spanish black professor at Granada during the sixteenth century.


The son of black slaves of the second Duke consort of Sessa since 1520, Luis Fernández de Córdoba (deceased Rome, 1526), Latino went to Granada where he was educated together with his master's son Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba (1520-1578), and with the grandson of another famous Gonzalo, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, called "Gran Capitán". Juan Latino excelled in classical languages and music, and studied with the famous grammarian Pedro de Mota. The Duke himself commented on his dexterity: rara avis in terra corbo simillima nigro ("a rare bird, black like a crow").

The University of Granada had been opened in 1526, five months after the coming of the emperor to the city, and after the papal bull, it began to confer degrees in 1533. In 1545, in the presence of the Archbishop, the listener of the Real Chancery, Conde de Tendilla, and many other gentlemen, Juan Latino received the degree of Bachelor. He was 28 years old in that time.

He was set free and received in Granada the Chair of grammar and Latin language of the Cathedral, post that he held for twenty years.

His literary and fiercest personal enemy, León Roque de Santiago, maintained that Juan Latino was born in Baena, son of a slave woman and the Duke of Sessa, Luis Fernández de Córdoba, father of his friend and protector Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba (1520-1578), third of the same title.

One the houses he frequented to teach his varied grammatical teachings was property of the Duke's administrator, Licenciado Carleval, whose daughter, famous in the city because of her extraordinary beauty and fiancée by her father to Don Fernando de Valor, future Abén Humeya, received classes.

The playwright Diego Jiménez de Enciso (1585–1633) composed about him and his love-affairs with his student and future white wife, the young Ana Carleval, the comedy Juan Latino. The strange interracial relation was fruitful and the marriage took place between 1547 and 1548.

Nonetheless, without the support of the Duke, it would have been unlikely to carry out so pintoresque union in the Spain of that age. Even with such support, it is not frequent in many societies the union of a slave with a woman of the high society, which constitutes a note of glory in that Spanish society given the permissiveness.


Latino published three volumes of poems between 1573 and 1585.[1]

His poem Austrias Carmen, was dedicated to John of Austria after his victory over the Morisco insurrection in Granada, known as the War of the Alpujarras (1568–1572).

He has been hailed as one of the first writers to have used signifyin(g).[1]


  1. ^ a b The Signifying Monkey, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Oxford University Press, hardcover, page 90
  • Black Africans in Renaissance Europe ed. Thomas F. Earle and Kate J. P. Lowe [1]
  • Measuring the moment: strategies of protest in eighteenth-century Afro-English Writing by Keith A. Sandiford [2]
  • O. R. Dathorne. The Black mind: a history of African literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1974.
  • Aurelia Martín Casares. Juan Latino: talento y destino. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2016.
  • Elizabeth R. Wright. The Epic of Juan Latino: Dilemmas of Race and Religion in Renaissance Spain. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.