Juan José Cañas was born in 1826. He first studied in Nicaragua and later in Guatemala, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then went on to the university to study medicine for three years. In 1848 he returned to El Salvador but left for San Francisco looking for gold. He later traveled to Nicaragua and joined the army that was fighting against the filibuster William Walker.
In Cañas we see the harmonious coexistence of three personalities: poet, military man, and diplomat. His literary output began at age 17, and includes verse, literary prose, critical works, narrations, and several articles. In poetry he is a forerunner of romanticism in El Salvador. His fame as a poet goes beyond South American borders.
He served in administrative posts as Political Governor and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. During his diplomatic career he represented El Salvador in Santiago, Chile as Plenipotentiary Minister and successfully negotiated a treaty that strengthened relations between both countries.
He was awarded many literary honors during his life. In 1882 the Colombian Academy in Bogotá designated him as foreign honorary member. He was President of the Salvadoran Academy of the Language as part of the Spanish Royal Academy. Numerous artistic organizations welcomed him as a member.
He died on January 19, 1918. His numerous poems are featured in the "Central American Poetic Gallery", in the "Guirnalda Salvadoreña" ("Salvadoran Garland") and were also published in the newspapers of his time.
The famous poet Ruben Dario called him "The Patriarch of the Central American Poetry" and Jose Marti, "Veteran of the Lyre and the Sword".
Above is a stamp of General Juan José Cañas issued in 1945