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Mariano Melgar

Other names/titles:
Gender: M
Ethnic origin: Mestizo/a

Biographical details

A poet born in Arequipa in 1790. He was educated at home and then at the Convent of San Francisco. He entered the Seminario Conciliar de San Jerónimo aged 17. He later studied philosophy, maths, theology, law, history, and bellas letras. Graduated at the University of San Marcos, Lima. He was the divulgador of the “yaravi” peruano, inspired by the Indígenas praises. (Quechua songs that showed an appreciation of natural and individual factors in a sentimental way with liberal ideals.) De Valle claims that he is considered as a precursor of the American romantics, or first Peruvian romantic. On the outbreak of the Mateo Pumacahua rebellion (1814) he enrolled with the liberators, being named auditor de guerra. They won the battle of Umachiri (11 March 1815), but he was taken prisoner and shot at daybreak on the orders of the Spanish General Ramírez. His poems were gathered later, although many were lost because the cura de Santa María (Arequipa) made his sister burn them because they spoke of love and were thus prohibited. His works include Arte de olvidar (por Ovidio, translated in verse, 1821); Poesías (1878 and 1958); Carta a Silvia (in verse, 1927); Yaravíes (1941); Obra poética (Lima, 1944); Antología (1948). (Romero de Valle, 203)

He fell in love with Silvia (María Santos Corales) and abandoned his ecclesiastical career. His parents decided to send him to Lima to study law to forget her, but he returned to Arequipa and to Silvia. She persuaded him to do what his parents wanted and he went back to Lima. There he became embroiled in the revolutionary fervour. He wrote “Oda a la Libertad” for Baquíjano, it includes pro-indigenous sentiments:
Oid: cese ya el llanto;
Levantad esos rostros abatidos,
Indios que con espanto,
Esclavos oprimidos,
Del cielo y de la tierra sin consuelo,
Cautivos habéis sido en vuestro suelo,

He is also quoted (no reference details) “Manco estuvo rodeado de indios que su remedio esperaban…”

He returned to Lima (in 1812?) but Silvia had forgotten him. This inspired his sonnet “La mujer”: “No nació la mujer para querida
por esquiva, por falsa y por mudable…”

Melgar turned his passions to his studies including his interest in indigenous affairs. He also fought for the patriots, still mourning Silvia, wishing to die. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Humachiri, and shot on the morning of 15 March 1815. He was 25 years old.

Quote from “El Cantero y el Asno”: “Nos dice cierta gente
que es incapaz el indio;
yo quiero contestarle
con este cuentecillo…
(it ends) … lluevan azotes, lindo:
sorna y cachaza, vamos
¿para esto hemos nacido?
Un indio si pudiera
¿no diría lo mismo? (Tamayo Vargas, 489)

Most of his poems were burned by his sister, Josefa on the instructions of her confessor, who deemed them to be of little educational value as they were sensual and sceptic, but many were remembered in the oral tradition and were reproduced in Lira Arequipeña, published in Ayacucho in 1827. He was already a popular legend. (Tamayo Vargas, 489)

Franco states he was of mixed blood and that he drew attention to the oppressed conditions of the indigenous races. She describes him as one of "the most enlightened" thinkers of his time. (Franco, 26)

Life Events

Born 1790He was born in Arequipa in 1790 or 8 September 1791.
Other 1814He was named auditor de guerra for the patriots.
Died 1815He was executed on 15 March 1815.
Other 1815He took part in the battle of (H) Umachiri on 11 March 1815.


Romero de Valle, Emilia, (1966), Diccionario manual de literatura peruana y materias afines

Tamayo Vargas, Agusto, (), Literatura peruana

R.O. Jones, (1973), Spanish American Literature Since Independence


Edited Book: Poesías


Resource id #31 (2)

Resource id #35 (1)

Resource id #39 (26)

Resource id #43 (23)

Resource id #47 (20)

Resource id #51 (127)

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