Milla y Vidaurre, José (1822–1882)

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Milla y Vidaurre, José (1822–1882)

José Milla y Vidaurre (b. 4 August 1822; d. 30 September 1882), Guatemalan writer. Born in Guatemala City, the son of Honduran Colonel Justo Milla and Mercedes Vidaurre, a daughter of one of the city's leading families, "Pepe" Milla was the leading literary figure of nineteenth-century Guatemala and the principal intellectual supporter of the conservative regime of Rafael Carrera (1839–1865). After Francisco Morazán exiled his father in 1829, Milla grew up in the care of his uncle, Santiago Milla. He was educated under the guidance of Father José María Castilla, who had been a leader in the Central America independence movement. His literary talent, much influenced by European Romanticism, was recognized early, and he abandoned legal training to devote his time to editing and writing essays, novels, poetry, and history. He also abandoned a youthful attachment to liberalism and, as editor of the government's gazette (Gaceta oficial, later Gaceta de Guatemala) and of several independent newspapers, he eloquently defended the Guatemalan conservatives and Rafael Carrera's regime. He also served on the Council of State, in the legislature, and on several diplomatic missions throughout the period of conservative control.

Milla wrote under the anagrammatic pseudonym Salomé Jil. His novels, history, poetry, and descriptions of customs reflected his Romantic ideals but also drew heavily on Guatemalan themes, and in this sense he was a forerunner of Miguel Ángel Asturias. He was Guatemala's most popular novelist well into the twentieth century, his best-known works being Los nazarenos (1867), El visitador (1869), La hija del adelantado (1866), Historia de un Pepe (1882), Memorias de un abogado (1876), Cuadros de costumbres (1865), and Viaje al otro mundo pasando por otras partes (1875).

After the Liberal Reforma of 1871, Milla left public service, traveled widely in the United States and Europe, and retired to his hacienda at Quezada, near Jutiapa, in eastern Guatemala, where he wrote the first two volumes of his projected Historia de la América Central (1879), commissioned by the Guatemalan government. These volumes, covering the period 1502–1686, reflected his romantic attachment to Hispanic tradition as well as his sensitivity to the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.

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Francisco Albizúrez Palma, Vida y obra de José Milla: Biografía mínima (1982).

Francisco Albizúrez Palma and Catalina Barrios y Barrios, Historia de la literatura guatemalteca, vol. 2 (1981), pp. 269-288.

José Roberto Carrera Molina, Consideraciones sobre temas, personajes y humorismo de los cuadros costumbristas de José Milla (1972).

Carlos C. Haeussler Yela, Diccionario general de Guatemala, vol. 2 (1983), pp. 1019-1020.

Walter A. Payne, A Central American Historian: José Milla (1822–1882) (1957).

Additional Bibliography

Payne, Walter A. José Milla: un historiador centroamericano, 1822–1882. Guatemala: Editorial José de Pineda Ibarra, 1982.

Skinner, Lee Joan. "Colonial (Dis)order: Inheritance and Succession in José Milla's Historical Novels." Latin American Literary Review 27:54 (July-December 1999): 80-95.

                            Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.

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Milla y Vidaurre, José (1822–1882)

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