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Juana Manuela Gorriti de Belzú

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

She was born in Horcones, Salta, Argentina in 1816, 1818 or 1819, the daughter of José Ignacio Gorriti and Felicia Zuviria.

In 1831 her family went into exile in Bolivia, fleeing from the civil war. She was briefly married to Manuel Isidoro Belzú, President of Bolivia. (Romero de Valle, 145) She left Belzú after an affair with Gen José Balliván and went to live in Lima where she stayed for many years.

Intellectuals met in her Lima home where literary tertulias were held. Clorinda Matto de Turner, Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera and Carolina Freire de Jaymes attended these meetings. They were a base for feminist expression through Peruvian culture, history, literature and journalism. She also ran a college that educated the best of Lima society.

She was one of the founders of El Club Literario. Riva Agüero described her as a detestable writer, and her works as tedious, affected and silly as produced in the romantic school. (Romero de Valle.)

She edited El Album (1874) and contributed to La Alborada (1875-75). Her works include, La quena (1848); El ángel caido (novel); Sueños y realidades (1865); Panoramas de la vida (1876); Misceláneas (1878); El mundo de los recuerdos (1886); Tierra natal (1889); Lo íntimo; Veladas literarias(1892). The last two, which have prologues by Ricardo Palma, describe the meetings in her literary salon.

She wrote El guante negro a story about the Rosas period, around 1850. In it, women are portrayed as symbols and agents in the nation building process. Her female character places politics above love and asks her federalist lover to change to the Unitarian side; her lover places love above politics and does so, and the lover’s federalist father places politics above family and arranges to have him killed for disloyalty. His wife, a mother above all, kills her husband to prevent the death of her son. The son/ lover then reverts to federalism in remorse, but is killed in battle. (Pratt, 55-56.)

Arambel-Guiñazú discusses Lo íntimo (Guiñazú.119-130). She is described as the first Argentine novelist, daughter of Ignacio Gorriti, a hero of independence, wife of Manuel Belzú, a military man, popular idol, and President of Bolivia. She wrote in the Romantic style, invented historical dramas and tragedies of love and death. La tierra natal (1889) narrated the return from exile to her native Salta. She had fled the country to escape Facundo Quiroga. (Guiñazún, 98-104; 132-145.)

Coester gives her year of birth as 1819, and says she married Belzú when she was 15. In 1845 she wrote La Quena, the history of the Incas. Her stories generally have a historical setting; some are based in Argentina. (Coester, 257-258)

She wrote about Juana Azurduy.

She wrote her first novella, La quena, in 1845. In it she takes the point of view of the marginalised (the indigenous and women). It shows a struggle between a Spanish father and his Creole daughter. Her work was a critical response to the Argentine generation of 37. She "explored the personal and private stories of women and inserted them into narratives about the nation's historical past and present". (Denegri, 381-382)

She studied French, literature and religion in a convent in Salta. She emigrated to Tarija, Bolivia in 1831 where she met Manuel Isidoro Belzú. They married when she was aged 14, and had three daughters. The youngest died in childhood. They formally parted in 1843 and Gorriti went to Arequipa and then Lima. When Belzú became president she refused to accompany him, sending their eldest daughter in her place. She worked as a writer; her first story, La Quena, was published in La Revista de Lima in 1845. In 1874 she moved to Buenos Aires. (Sosa de Newton, 286-287)

She died of pneumonia in Buenos Aires on 6 November 1892.

Life Events

Born 1816She was born in 1816 or 1818 or 1819, in Harcones, Provincia de Salta, Argentina. A specific date is given as 15 June 1818.
Married 1831She married Manuel Isidoro Belzú in Bolivia.
Other 1843She formally separated from Belzú.
Other 1845Her La Quena, the history of the Incas, was published in La Revista de Lima..
Other 1874She moved to Buenos Aires.
Died 1892She died in Buenos Aires of pneumonia on 6 November 1892.


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

Balta Campbell, Aída, (1998), Presencia de la mujer en el periodismo escrito peruano (1821-1960)

Bergmann, Emilie; Masiello, Francine; Miller, Francesca; Pratt, Mary Louise; Greenberg, Janet., (1990), Women, Culture and Politics in Latin America

Arambel Guinazu, Maria Cristina , Martin, Claire Emilie, (2001), Las mujeres toman la palabra: Escritura feminina del siglo XIX. Volume: 1

Coester, Alfred, (1919), The Literary History of Spanish America

Smith, Verity, (1997), Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature

Sosa de Newton, Lily, (1986), Diccionario biográfico de mujeres argentinas


Essay: Margarita Puch de Güemes

Essay: Women in the Fatherland


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