Piérola, Nicolás de (1839–1913)

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Piérola, Nicolás de (1839–1913)

Twice president of Peru (1879–1881, 1895–1899), José Nicolás Baltasar Fernández de Piérola y Villena marked the transition between caudillo and modern party politics in Peru. Charismatic and impetuous, he was equally adept at state-building and revolution.

Born in Arequipa on January 5, 1839, he studied theology and law at the santo toribio seminary in Lima from 1853 TO 1861. While working in various commercial establishments, he began his political battles as a Catholic conservative by writing articles for El Progreso Católico and editing his own newspaper, El Tiempo. At age thirty, as minister of finance under President José Balta, he attracted controversy when he resolved a fiscal crisis by transferring Peru's enormous guano reserves from national contractors to the French financier Auguste Dreyfus, thus getting rid of debt, opening the way for new loans, and earning the enmity of Peru's commercial Civilista elite, his political rivals for the next two decades.

After unsuccessful revolutions against the democratically elected Civilistas, he became de facto president at the outset of the War of the Pacific (1879). During the Chilean invasion of Lima (1881) he led a resistance movement in the central Andes. Following the war he organized the Partido Demócrata. In 1895 a popular revolution returned Piérola to the presidency with the support of his old Civilista rivals. He inaugurated a period of prosperity that returned a civilian elite to power and brought industrialization and investment of national capital. Piérola implemented his vision of a strong central state with reforms including those of the army and the fiscal apparatus. He died June 23, 1913.

See alsoBalta, José; Peru, Political Parties: Civilista Party; Peru, Political Parties: Overview.


Alexander, Robert J., ed. Biographical Dictionary of Latin American and Caribbean Political Leaders. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Chirinos Soto, Enrique. Vidas paralelas: Vivanco y Piérola Lima, 1966.

Congrains Martin, Eduardo. Desmitificación de Piérola. Lima: Editorial Ecoma, 1972.

Dulanto Pinillos, Jorge. Nicolás de Piérola. Lima: Compañía de Impresiones y Publicidad, 1947.

Ulloa y Sotomayor, Alberto. Don Nicolás de Piérola: Una época de la historia del Perú, 2nd edition. Lima: Imprenta Santa María, 1981.

                              IÑigo Garcia-Bryce

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Piérola, Nicolás de (1839–1913)

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