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García del Río, Juan (1794–1856)

García del Río, Juan (1794–1856)

Born in Cartagena, Juan García del Río was a prominent nineteenth-century diplomat, government official, and writer. While receiving his education in Spain on the eve of Latin America's independence from Spain and Portugal, he befriended José de San Martín; this was his first link with an important leader. Later he would have ties with Simón Bolívar, Juan José Flores, and Bernardo O'Higgins, among others.

After the death of his royalist father in 1813, García del Río served as a diplomat in Great Britain representing the United Provinces of New Granada until it was reconquered by Spain in 1816. He remained in London until 1817, when he accepted an invitation to work in the newly independent Chile; there he wrote for and edited various newspapers. He accompanied San Martín's campaign to liberate Peru in 1820 and then represented that government in France. After San Martín's retirement in 1822, Garcia del Río resettled in London, where he concentrated on literary efforts, most notably collaborating with Andrés Bello on the serial La Biblioteca Americana. He returned to Gran Colombia in 1829 and published Meditaciones Colombianas, an argument for a constitutional monarchy under Bolívar. This earned him the enmity of those who came to power after the Liberator's exile in 1830, and he moved on. After serving the governments of Ecuador and Peru, he worked as a writer in Chile during the 1840s.

He yearned for a private life of letters, but spent his last years unsuccessfully pursuing the money that he had been promised when he was awarded La Orden del Sol by San Martín's Peruvian regime, as well as litigating over slander, arranging speculative ventures, and refuting accusations about monarchical plots. He died in Mexico, an elegant writer whose life exemplified the tumult, potential, and disappointments of Latin America's independence.

See alsoBolívar, Simón; Flores, Juan José; O'Higgins, Bernardo; San Martín, José Francisco de.


Primary Work

Meditaciones Colombianas, 1829. Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional, 1945.

Secondary Works

Amunátegui Solar, Domingo. "Vida literaria, amorosa y política de don Juan García del Río." Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades 26, nos. 291-292 (1939): 1-47.

Kitchens, Lynne Brauer. "Juan García del Río, Spanish American Citizen: A Study of His Life and Works." Master's essay, Vanderbilt University, 1966.

                                  Joshua M. Rosenthal

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