Manuel González Prada and his literary and political influence in Peru

On a day like today, but in 1918, Peru lost Manuel González Prada, a poet, writer, and politician. Son of María Josefa Alvarez de Ulloa and Francisco González de Prada Marrón y Lombera, member of the Superior Court of Lima and mayor of Lima between 1857 and 1858. González Prada was born on January 5, 1844 in Lima to an aristocratic family.

In his youth he studied in Santiago de Chile to later continue his studies in a seminary in Lima. Once in Peru, he toured the high Andean zone and managed to live on a southern hacienda.

Prada not only lived through the war with Chile, but also accused the Peruvian ruling class, the Army and the Catholic Church. He is remembered for a historic speech in 1888 when he mentioned «the old at the grave, the young at work.»

He was a member of the Ateneo de Lima, which was the Ricardo Palma Literary Club. However, this does not seem to be to his liking and even disappointed he kept trying persistently in this world of letters. He participated in the foundation of the Literary Circle, which managed to give a boost to his career as a writer. Many of his works were oriented to science and the future.

Thanks to this immersion in the world of literature, he wrote Free Pages in 1894 and Hours of Struggle in 1908. In poetry he could not be left behind. Among his most outstanding works were Minúscula (1901) and Exóticas (1911).

Political life

His time in politics also had an unexpected turn. After moving away from the Civilist party, he founded his own party with more radical ideologies. This was called the National Union and in it he was named presidential candidate. However, his ambitions were not for the need for power, but to speak out for the ills of Peru.

Among his most critical complaints was indifference to the indigenous’s subhuman condition. This partly motivated one of his masterpieces called Our Indians written in 1904 that explained the inferiority of the native population as a result of the treatment received and the lack of education. Returning to Europe, the anarchism of Barcelona caught his entire attention, which motivated him to spread these ideas.

Family life

In 1887, he married the French Adriana Adelayda Verneuil Conches. However, his three children ran a tragic fate. The first two lived only 1 year and the third, Alfredo, committed suicide in 1943. On the other hand, he had a fourth daughter with Verónica Calvet and Bolívar.

González Prada died in Lima from a heart attack on July 22, 1918. He became a benchmark for politicians of the stature of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre and José Carlos Mariátegui. Abraham Valdelomar and César Vallejo acknowledged having been influenced by their poetic work, too.

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