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Chocano, José Santos (1875–1934)

Chocano, José Santos (1875–1934)

José Santos Chocano (b. 14 May 1875; d. 13 December 1934), Peruvian poet. Acclaimed as Poet of America, Chocano was born in Lima to a father whose origin can be traced to Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, a famous Spanish soldier known as the "Great Captain"; his mother was a wealthy miner's daughter. Nevertheless, Chocano was not a happy child; he made the motto of his family coat of arms his own: Either I find a way, or I make one. On entering the University of San Marcos, at age 16, he began three careers: student, poet, and politician. In politics he learned that in Peru, family name means more than personal skills. His success as a poet was outstanding: he began writing before the age of ten and published his first book at twenty. His Poesías completas was published in Spain in 1902. King Alfonso XIII received from Chocano's hand the book Alma América (1906); Spanish American countries demanded his presence and applauded his recitals; and, in 1922, the Peruvian nation crowned him National Poet.

Chocano did not achieve political power because his creed accepted the so-called organizational dictatorships. But as a diplomat, he scored resounding victories arbitrating disputes between Guatemala and El Salvador, Colombia and Peru, and Peru and Ecuador. Twice Chocano escaped the firing squad. Once he eluded an angry mob in Guatemala, and on another occasion, after receiving a slap in the face, he fatally shot his adversary. One biographer characterized Chocano's adventurous and colorful life as a "mixture of vigor, audacity, and the picaresque." Disheartened, he moved with his young wife, Margarita, and their son to Chile. The Chileans welcomed Chocano, who continued writing, reciting, and trying his hand at business ventures. He died when an assassin fatally stabbed him on a streetcar. One of his verses inadvertently became a prophecy: "He who took a life by assault/could only die by a sword thrust."

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


Augusto Tamayo y Vargas, "J.S.C.," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu, vol. 2 (1989), pp. 543-549.

Additional Bibliography

Rodríguez-Peralta, Phyllis W. José Santos Chocano. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970.

Rodríguez-Peralta, Phyllis W. Tres poetas cumbres en la poesía peruana: Chocano, Eguren, y Vallejo. Madrid: Playor, 1983.

Salgado, María Antonia. Modern Spanish American Poets. Second Series. Detroit: Gale, 2004.

Sánchez, Luis Alberto. Aladino: O, vida y obra de José Santos Chocano. México: Libro Mex, 1960.

                                     Balbina Samaniego

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