Elías, Domingo (1805–1867)

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Elías, Domingo (1805–1867)

Elías Domingo (b. 19 December 1805; d. 3 December 1867), Peruvian plantation owner and statesman. Born to aristocratic parents in the Ica Valley, the wine-growing center of the southern coast, he was educated in elite Peruvian schools and in Spain and France. On returning home he married Doña Ysabel de la Quintana y Pedemonte, sister of the new archbishop of Lima. Beginning as a merchant and lender, he later became one of the largest landowners in the coastal valleys of Peru. He owned more than 600 slaves by 1850 and cultivated wine, pisco, and cotton on his plantations. Elías soon became politically active. A convinced liberal, he strongly favored free trade, and by 1843 he had formed a partnership with Ramón Castilla. After Castilla became president in 1845, Elías joined his council of state, a three-member body of presidential advisers who by serving as liaisons with the national congress, held a great deal of power. A philanthropist, he donated large sums to found a high school, the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, which became the source of liberal thought in Peru for decades. Elías also sought to preserve black slavery in Peru.

A major scandal erupted when he tried to bypass the prohibition against the African slave trade with a purchase in Colombia. The purchase included children, who under Peruvian law were free. In 1849 he designed a law to regulate the importation of indentured Asian labor. When José Rufino Echenique became president in 1851, Elías strenuously opposed his debt consolidation program because it would overburden the state, and he called the program a fraud. Echenique resorted to censorship and terrorism to stop his opponents, and Elías rebelled. Soon he joined forces with the popular uprising led by Castilla. Returning to the private sector, probably by 1859, he converted most of his remaining vineyards to cotton and focused completely on international cotton commerce. His efforts in this trade foundered on inadequate marketing techniques, and by the time of his death his cotton empire was in ruins.

See alsoCastilla, Ramón; Cotton; Plantations; Slavery: Spanish America.


Fredrick B. Pike, The Modern History of Peru (1967), esp. pp. 101-102, 105.

Peter Blanchard, Slavery and Abolition in Early Republican Peru (1992).

Alfonso Quiroz, Domestic and Foreign Finance in Modern Peru, 1850–1950 (1993).

Additional Bibliography

Blanchard, Peter. "The 'Transitional Man' in Nineteenth-Century Latin America: The Case of Domingo Elías of Peru." Bulletin of Latin American Research 15:2 (May 1996): 157-176.

Milla Batres, Carlos, and Luis Ponce Vega. Historia económica y política republicana: Siglos XIX-XX. Madrid: Editorial Milla Batres, 1998.

                                           Vincent Peloso