29 September is observed as the birthday of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, born near Madrid (1547). The actual date of his birth is unknown, but his baptism was recorded on October 9. It was customary in Spain at that time for babies to be named after the saint on whose feast day they were born, and today is the Feast of Saint Michael, so people assume that this is his birthday.
Cervantes’ early life reads like an adventure tale. His father was deaf and worked as a barber-surgeon, which was not the prestigious and highly skilled profession that it is today, and mostly involved bloodletting, bone setting, and pulling teeth. He moved around Spain in search of income, and the family never had much money. Cervantes probably didn’t have much formal education, although we don’t know for sure. A relative taught him to read when he was a boy, and this was his chief joy in life. When he was 22, he published a poem in honor of Spain’s late queen, Elizabeth of Valois. He became a soldier the next year, and was known for his bravery. On his way back to Spain in 1575, he was captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in Tangiers. He earned a reputation for courage and leadership among his fellow captives, and seemed to have been respected even by his captors, who were relatively lenient with him even though he tried to escape four times.
Cervantes was finally ransomed five years later. Once he was free, he wrote an unsuccessful novel, tried to break into playwriting, and finally took a civil service job with the Spanish Armada. He wound up in prison after he was accused of financial mismanagement in his job. During his imprisonment, he started work on the first modern novel, and the first best-seller: Don Quixote. He published the first part in 1605, and the second part a decade later, just a year before his death in 1616.
When you're visiting Sevilla you can make a stop where his house was located. Where else can you see spots found in his novel or from his own life?