Mariátegui, José Carlos (1894–1930)

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Mariátegui, José Carlos (1894–1930)

José Carlos Mariátegui (b. 14 June 1894; d. 16 April 1930), Peruvian essayist and political thinker. Born in Moquegua to a poor family, he was able to obtain only a primary education. In 1909, Mariátegui began as copy boy at the Lima daily La Prensa; four years later he was promoted to reporter. He worked as a columnist at several newspapers until his departure for Europe in 1919. There, he broadened his education and married an Italian girl. Won over by Marxism, Mariátegui returned to Peru in 1923, where he became an outstanding leftist personality while earning his livelihood as a freelance writer. His house became a meeting place for avant-garde intellectuals and artists, university students, and labor leaders before and after both his legs were amputated because of an illness dating from his childhood. In 1925 he and his brother established a publishing house that printed two of his books. Mariátegui's prestige rests primarily on his Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana (1928), translated into several languages; his editorship of the journal Amauta (1926–1930), the organization of the Peruvian General Federation of Workers (1929), and the founding of the Socialist Party of Peru (1928).

Traditionally, more emphasis has been placed on Mariátegui's contributions to politics than on his literary writings of his early youth (1914–1919) and mature publications (1920–1930). However, his articles on cultural events, short stories, poems, and plays, all written before 1920, have been reappraised because certain constant elements of this period remained in his later works: profound religiosity, romantic antipositivism, antagonism toward academia, exaltation of heroism, and heterodoxy. During the last seven years of his life Mariátegui molded European ideological and aesthetic currents in order to conform them to his own preferences and originality.

Just as Mariátegui's perception of Marxism exerted influence on his religious ideas, so his religiosity in turn modified his political outlook; he added a mystical dimension to his interpretation of socialism. Religion acquired a new meaning: it became a belief in the supreme good, translated into revolutionary action. At the same time his eclectic-Marxist approach to literature led him beyond a strict analysis of a work. Mariátegui felt the need for a global perspective that would blend previously utilized points of view with the Marxist position on art. He was a Marxist when he viewed art as an economic superstructure, conditioned by class struggle and subject to the changes in the market of intellectual work. He was an eclectic when, compelled by his basic precepts, he adopted heterodox ideas to check dogmatism, arbitrary authority, and the presumed infallibility of the high priests of intelligence, art, and politics. Mariátegui's open-ended ideology and his eclectic methodology of analysis presaged for him the ushering in of a new art, consonant with the socialist society he envisioned.

See alsoAmauta .


José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, translated by Marjory Urguidi (1971).

Eugenio Chang-Rodríguez, Poética e ideología en José Carlos Mariátegui (1983).

Eugenio Chang-Rodríguez, "José Carlos Mariátegui," in Latin American Writers (1989), vol. 2, pp. 791-796.

Antonio Melis, ed., José Carlos Mariátegui: Correspondencia (1984).

Harry E. Vanden, National Marxism in Latin America: José Carlos Mariátegui's Thought and Politics (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Beigel, Fernanda. El itinerario y la brújula: El vanguardismo estético-político de José Carlos Mariátegui. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2003.

Escajadillo, Tomás G. Mariátegui y la literatura peruana. Lima, Peru: Amaru Editores, 2004.

Stein, William W. Dance in the Cemetery: Jose Carlos Maria-tegui and the Lima Scandal of 1917. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997.

                             Eugenio Chang-RodrÍguez

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Mariátegui, José Carlos (1894–1930)

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