Mera, Juan León (1832–1894)

views updated

Mera, Juan León (1832–1894)

An Ecuadorian writer and politician, Juan León Mera was born on June 28, 1832, in Ambato. He was a member of the Conservative Party, held the position of senator, and was twice governor and also minister of the State Auditing Office. He founded the Ecuadorian Academy and promoted an awareness of national literature. This concern for national culture is reflected in his essay Ojeada histórico-crítica sobre la poesía ecuatoriana (1868) and in a letter he wrote to Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo in 1883. Mera wrote the words of Ecuador's national anthem, the verses of Melodías indígenas (1858), and the Inca legend in verse La virgen del Sol (1861). His most popular work, Cumandá; o, Un drama entre salvajes (1879), falls into the melodramatic Indianist literary genre—a New World extension of Romanticism—because it tells of the thwarted love of the Indian siblings Carlos and Cumandá, who were unaware that they were brother and sister. It is the culmination of the Indianist genre in America, which addressed indigenous issues from folk or idealist perspectives and, unlike the twentieth-century Indigenist novel, ignored the social and ethnic consequences of inequalities between races and social classes.

Mera is considered Ecuador's best poet and novelist between independence (1830) and the twentieth century, and both his political and literary activity have a marked Catholic character. He promoted his country's Concordat with the Holy See when he held important positions in the government of Gabriel García Moreno and, in Cumandá, stressed the spiritually, culturally, and materially positive work done among indigenous peoples by Spanish priests in the New World. As a literary critic and historian, he fostered in Ecuador popular knowledge of literature, poetry in particular, and, from his political position in the administrations of García Moreno, encouraged younger generations to value and devote themselves to literature. He died on December 13, 1894.

See alsoGarcía Moreno, Gabriel; Literature: Spanish America.


Gálvez, Marina, editor. Coloquio Internacional "Juan León Mera," 2 vols. Ambato, Ecuador: Casa de Montalvo, 1998.

Garcés, Víctor Manuel. Vida ejemplar y obra fecunda de Juan León Mera. Ambato, Ecuador: Ed. Pío XII, 1963.

Guevara, Darío C. Juan León Mera; o, El hombre de cimas. Quito: Ministerio de Educación Pública, 1944.

Pazos, Julio, ed. Juan León Mera: Una visión actual. Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional, 1995.

                                           Angel Esteban