Valdizán, Hermilio (1885-1929)

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Hermilio Valdizán, a Peruvian psychiatrist, was born at Huánuco on November 20, 1885, and died in Lima on December 25, 1929.

Valdizán's childhood was a difficult time: at the age of eight, following the death of his father, he went to Lima where he entered a charitable institution. Having enrolled for medical studies in the University of San Marcos in 1901, he worked as a teacher and journalist while still a student. He graduated as a surgeon after presenting his thesis on "Delinquency in Peru" (1910). He went to Europe to study psychiatry and presented his doctoral thesis on "Mental alienation in primitives in Peru" (1915). Valdizán was the first Peruvian psychiatrist, strictly speaking.

He began his European studies essentially in Rome, where he encountered Sante De Sanctis, whose ideas were close to psychoanalysis. De Sanctis was particularly interested in the study of childhood and although he taught experimental psychology before obtaining the chair of neuropsychiatry, he integrated psychoanalytic ideas into his vision of clinical psychiatry. Back in Lima, Valdizán began to lecture on nervous and mental illnesses in the University of San Marcos. Javier Mariátegui wrote that in his lectures, "the stamp of psychoanalysis was everywhere manifest." From 1918 he directed the Asilo-colonia de Magdalenalater renamed the Victor-Larco-Herrera Hospitalwhere he organized psychiatric treatment in accordance with modern criteria. This hospital was long a pioneering arena in terms of psychiatric therapeutics and remained receptive to psychoanalytic ideas, particularly under Honorio Delgado.

Although not a psychoanalytic practitioner in the strict sense of the term, Valdizán deserves credit for initially giving great scope to the official teaching of psychiatry and for introducing into his courses on medical psychology the theme of psychotherapy, "as useful to today's practitioner as any of the classic disciplines in vocational training."

His most noteworthy contribution to psychoanalysis was the creation in 1918, with Honorio Delgado, of the Revista de psiquiatría y disciplinas conexas (Review of psychiatry and associated disciplines), which was the virtual mouthpiece for psychoanalytic thinking in Peru until 1924. Freud mentions it in "A Short Account of Psychoanalysis" (1924f [1923]) and in a 1924 addition to the note on chapter 2 of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901b) where he quotes from Paul Wilson's article "The Imperceptible Obvious" (1922).

Of Valdizán's publications, those closest to psychoanalysis are "Extrapsychiatric Psychotherapy" (1918) and two articles written with Honorio Delgado: "Psychological Factors in Dementia Praecox" and "The Revolt of the Sexual Libido in Old Age."

Valdizán's main contribution to psychoanalysis is that he contributed to spreading the discipline at a time and in a place where it gave rise to lively controversy. In 1930, after his death at the age of forty-four, the only chair of psychiatry in the country was taken by Honorio Delgado, who had by then become a fierce opponent of psychoanalysis. It is no idle speculation that Valdizán's open-mindedness and tolerance with regard to psychoanalytic ideas would have favored their greater development.

Álvaro Rey de Castro

See also: Peru; Revista de psiquiatría y disciplinas conexas.


Mariátegui, Javier. (1981). Hermilio Valdizán. El proyecto de una psiquiatría peruana. Lima: Librería Minerva.

Valdizán, Hermilio. (1918). La psicoterapia extrapsiquiátrica. Anales, Facultad de medicina de Lima, 250-271.

. (1920). Ensayo de psicología del enfermo. Revista de psiquiatría y disciplinas conexas, 3, 1-2, 19-38.

. (1923). Factores psicológicos de la demencia precoz. Revista de psiquiatría y disciplinas conexas, 4, 4, 263-286.

. (1926). La rebelión de la libido sexual en la vejez. Mercurio Peruano, 9, 338-355.

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Valdizán, Hermilio (1885-1929)

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