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Echeverría, Esteban (1805–1851)

Echeverría, Esteban (1805–1851)

The Argentine poet and intellectual Esteban Echeverría (September 2, 1805–January 17, 1851) was born in Buenos Aires. He left for Paris at the age of twenty, following a somewhat unruly adolescence and interruptions in his course of study. He lived there for more than four years and studied a variety of subjects, but what finally captivated his spirit and eventually guided his intellectual career were the tendencies that dominated French intellectual life at the time: literary romanticism, philosophical eclecticism, and Saint-Simonian social beliefs.

Echeverría returned to his home in 1830 and began his career as a writer. His central work was La cautiva (1837; The Captive), a narrative poem based on a drama that takes place in the desert, the Argentine plains that are free of European civilization. Together with other young Argentines who saw him as their leader, he founded the Salón Literario, a society of ideas in which Echeverría and his circle articulated the precepts of Pan-American romanticism: to free themselves from the intellectual culture of Spain and create their own literature and schools of thought that reflected the nature, customs, and problems of the Americas. La cautiva represented such a school of thought. The hostility of the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who controlled the nation with an iron fist, led to the closing of the Salón Literario and radicalized the position of the youths, who regrouped in a secret lodge. In 1838 Echeverría wrote a declaration of principles for his lodge, the Joven Generación Argentina (Young Argentine Generation) and two years later went into exile in Uruguay. He lived there, in Montevideo, until his death in 1851, writing texts that cemented his reputation as an intellectual.

Echeverría brought literary romanticism to the River Plate region and was a mentor to the first generation of intellectuals born after national independence, the generation that led the reorganization of the nation as a liberal republic after 1853. His ideological writings gave rise to socially oriented intellectual thought in Argentina.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America; Rosas, Juan Manuel de.


Halperin Donghi, Tulio. El pensamiento de Echeverría. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1951.

Jitrik, Noé. Esteban Echeverría. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1967.

Palcos, Alberto. Historia de Echeverría. Buenos Aires:Emecé, 1960.

                                        Carlos Altamirano

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