Arzáns Orsúa y Vela, Bartolomé (1676–1736)

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Arzáns Orsúa y Vela, Bartolomé (1676–1736)

Bartolomé Arzáns Orsúa y Vela (b. 1676; d. January 1736), Bolivian writer and historian. Born in Potosí of Spanish parents, Arzáns dedicated his life to the writing of his multi-volume Historia de la villa imperial de Potosí, the most complex and fascinating text of the colonial period in Bolivia. Arzáns did not completely finish the work; his son Diego wrote the final 8 of its 322 chapters. The manuscript was lost for many years, and the first edition was not published until 1965.

In this work, Arzáns attempts to give a complete and detailed history of Potosí, one of the most prosperous cities of the New World during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was founded in 1545 next to the Mountain of Potosí, a rich silver mining site. In order to capture and convey the splendor and greatness of the city, Arzáns includes historical data, legends, short stories, Indian myths, descriptions of daily events, and details about various aspects of life in the city. The book is an exuberant and baroque depiction of Potosí, with history and fiction intertwined. The Historia is crucial to an understanding of Bolivia because of the historical, literary, and ideological information it provides; it can be seen to prefigure post-colonial Bolivian nationalism.

See alsoPotosíxml .


Mario Chacón Torres, Documentos en torno a Bartolomé Arzáns Orsúa y Vela (1960).

Lewis Hanke and Gunnar Mendoza, Introduction to Historia de la villa imperial de Potosí, 3 vols. (1965).

Leonardo García Pabón, Espacio andino, escritura colonial y pensamiento andino: La historia de Potosí en la narrativa de Bartolomé Arzáns (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1990).

Additional Bibliography

Galarza Sepúlveda, Denise. "City, Myth, and Morality in Bartolomé Arzáns's Historia De La Villa Imperial De Potosí: A Criollo Project." Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 2002.

Spadaccini, Nicholas, and Luis Martín-Estudillo, eds. Hispanic Baroques: Reading Cultures in Context. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2005.

                              Leonardo GarcÍa PabÓn