Ovalle, Alfonso de

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Chilean Jesuit priest and historian; b. Santiago, Chile, 1601; d. Lima, Peru, March 16, 1651. He entered the Jesuits in 1618 and studied at Córdoba de Tucumán. In 1625 he returned to Chile, where he became famous as a preacher. He taught philosophy and theology and was rector of San Francisco Javier Seminary. In 1640 he was elected procurator for Rome and Madrid. He went to Europe via Lima and Panama and arrived at Cádiz at the beginning of 1642. While in Madrid he persuaded the king and the Council of the Indies to finance a large Jesuit expedition to accompany him upon his return. He also obtained tax exemptions and other benefits for the many victims of the earthquake of Santiago in 1647. He spent two or three months with the Chilean missionary Luis de Valdivia in Valladolid, and their conversations contributed to his historical publications of those years. At the end of 1643 he arrived in Rome. After consulting, among others, the general of the order, Muzio Vitelleschi, he wrote Histórica relación del reino de Chile (Rome 1646, in two editions, Spanish and Italian), which has been reprinted many times and translated into the principal European languages. This work is the basis of Ovalle's reputation. Because of its sound historical information and its elegant classical diction, it is considered the outstanding literary monument of colonial Chile.

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