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Matto de Turner, Clorinda (1852–1909)

Matto de Turner, Clorinda (1852–1909)

Clorinda Matto de Turner (Grimanesa Martina Matto Usandivaras; b. 11 November 1852; d. 25 October 1909), Peruvian novelist and journalist. She was born and raised in the ancient city of Cuzco. The family lived in the city as well as in the Hacienda Paullu Chico. Her mother died when she was ten years old, and she was sent to a Catholic school to be educated. At age eighteen she left school to look after her younger brothers. She learned English to prepare herself for study in the United States, but failed to travel to that country. She married Joseph Turner, an Englishman, in 1871. The couple first settled in the small town of Tinta, in the province of Canchis, which later served as the model for the imaginary Killac, the city of her most widely read work, Aves sin nido (Birds without Nest). While living in Tinta she developed two of her major intellectual preoccupations: defending the rights of women and protesting the cruel exploitation of the Indians.

In 1876 Matto returned to Cuzco, where she directed the literary magazine El Recreo del Cuzco (Cuzco's Entertainment). As an active journalist during these years, she became a well-known celebrity in Peru. She traveled to Lima in 1877 and was warmly received by the intellectual elite. She attended the salón literario organized by Juana Manuela Gorriti and was hailed as an important literary voice of Peruvian letters.

When Matto's husband died in 1881, leaving her in dire economic straits, she returned to Tinta to manage her hacienda personally. During this time Chile and Peru were engaged in the War of the Pacific, which left the defeated Peru devastated. Matto aided her compatriots by raising funds for military equipment and donating her farmhouse for medical assistance to the troops. In 1883 she lost her hacienda and she went to Arequipa, where she again worked as a journalist. In 1884 she published Tradiciones cusqueñas: leyendas, biografías y hojas sueltas (Cuzco's Traditions: Legends, Biographies, and Other Writings), a volume of articles published in newspapers and literary magazines between 1870 and 1882, with a preface by Peruvian writer Ricardo Palma. In 1886 she published a second volume, Tradiciones cusqueñas: crónicas, hojas sueltas, with a preface by José Antonio Laval. These short stories (tradiciones) follow the model of the genre created by Palma.

In 1887, Matto returned to Lima and organized a salón literario that became an important meeting place for Peruvian intellectuals. She joined the Ateneo de Lima and Círculo Literario literary groups. Connected to these groups was the literary publication El Peru Ilustrado, of which Matto was appointed director in 1889. She insisted that the magazine reflect Peruvian concerns above all others. Together with writer Manuel González Prada, she became known as a defender of the Indians. In 1889 she also published her best-known novel, Aves sin nido. It was the first indigenous novel that portrayed the life and social condition of the Indian population of Peru and the first favorable literary representation of the Indian cause, including a partial history of the abuse of the Indian by whites, mestizos, and the clergy in Spanish America. In 1892, Matto published her only play, Hima sumac. In 1893 she published Leyendas y recortes. Her other novels, Indole (1891) and Herencia (Inheritance, 1895), continue the Indian theme. Boreales, miniaturas y porcelanas, published in Buenos Aires in 1902, documents the difficult years of political turmoil in Peru and how they affected Matto. In 1895 she left Lima for Buenos Aires, where she wrote for La Nación and La Prensa. She founded the magazine El Búcaro Americano in 1897 and traveled to Europe in 1908. Her memoirs are collected in Viaje de recreo (Vacation Trips, 1910). She died in Buenos Aires of pneumonia, and her remains were returned to Peru in 1924.


Antonio Cornejo-Polar, La novela peruana (1980; 2d ed. 1989).

Efraín Kristal, "Clorinda Matto de Turner" in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu, vol. 1 (1989).

Alberto Tauro, Clorinda Matto de Turner y la novela indigenista (1976).

Additional Bibliography

Meyer, Doris. Reinterpreting the Spanish American Essay: Women Writers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Peluffo, Ana. Lágrimas andinas: Sentimentalismo, género y virtud republicana en Clorinda Matto de Turner. Pittsburgh, PA: Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Universidad de Pittsburgh, 2005.

                               Magdalena GarcÍa Pinto

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