Maria Elena Walsh Biography
María Elena Walsh was born in Villa Sarmiento, Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires, to an English railway worker, of Irish descent, who played the piano and an Argentine woman of Andalusian descent. As a child, she lived in a big house, where she greatly enjoyed reading and listening to music in a cultural environment.
When she was 15, Walsh had some of her poems published in El Hogar magazine and La Nación newspaper. In 1947, before graduating from art school, she published her first book, Otoño Imperdonable, a collection of poems which was critically acclaimed and received recognition from important Latin American writers.
After graduation in 1948, she traveled to North America invited by poet Juan Ramon Jiménez and Europe during the Peronism and then moved to Paris where she spent four years in the early 1950s. While there, Walsh performed in concerts featuring Argentine folklore with fellow Argentinean singer Leda Valladares (born 1919), forming the duo Leda & Maria and recording for Le chant du monde.
She returned to Argentina in 1956 after the Revolución Libertadora. From 1958 onwards, Walsh wrote numerous TV scripts, plays, poems, books and songs, specially dedicated to young children. She was also a successful performer, singing her own songs onstage and recording them later in albums, like Canciones para mirar, Canciones para mí and El País de Nomeacuerdo. Juguemos en el mundo, also an album, was a satirical show for adults, which also became a film of the same title with a story unrelated to the original stage show and songs recording. The film was based on her characters Doña Disparate y Bambuco and was directed by her partner at that time, Maria Herminia Avellaneda (1933–1997).
Her work has often contained an underlying political message, as in the song El País del Nomeacuerdo ("The Country of I-Don't-Remember"), which was later used as the theme song for The Official Story, winner of the 1985 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
During the military dictatorship (1976–83) she was a fierce opponent, her song "Oración a la justicia" (Prayer for Justice) became a civil right anthem. In an open letter she criticized the regime censorship comparing the country with a preschool country calling it "Desventuras en el Pais-Jardin-de-Infantes" (Misadventures in the Preschool Country).
In 1985 she received the title of Illustrious Citizen of the City of Buenos Aires, and in 1990 was named Doctor honoris causa of the National University of Cordoba and Illustrious People of Buenos Aires Province as well.
In 1994 she was Highly Commended for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, a prize awarded by the International Board on Books for Young People.
She died of bone cancer in Buenos Aires at the age of 80 on 10 January 2011. She lived with her partner, the photographer Sara Facio (born 1932) from 1980 until her death.