Juana Manuela Gorriti

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Juana Manuela Gorriti
Juana Manuela Gorriti.png
First Lady of Bolivia
In role
6 December 1848 – 15 August 1855
PresidentManuel Isidoro Belzu
Preceded byMercedes Coll
Succeeded byEdelmira Belzu
Personal details
Juana Manuela Gorriti Zuviría

(1818-06-15)15 June 1818
Rosario de la Frontera, United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata
Died6 November 1892(1892-11-06) (aged 74)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Spouse(s)Manuel Isidoro Belzu
ChildrenEdelmira Belzu
Mercedes Belzu de Dorado
ParentsJosé Ignacio Gorriti
Feleciana Zuviría

Juana Manuela Gorriti (June 15, 1818 – November 6, 1892)[1] was an Argentine writer with extensive political and literary links to Bolivia and Peru. She held the position of First Lady of Bolivia from 1848 to 1855.


Juana Manuela Gorriti was born in Rosario de la Frontera, in the province of Salta, in the north of Argentina.[2] She came from a wealthy upper-class family, and attended a convent school when she was eight. Her father, José Ignacio de Gorriti, was a politician and soldier, and signed the Argentine Declaration of Independence on July 9. She was also the niece of the infamous guerrilla Jose Francisco "Pachi" Gorriti. Her family was liberal, and supported the Unitarians during a time when Juan Manuel de Rosas ran the country. Juan Manuel was a conservative who was in office from 1829 and 1852, and used genocide to steal land from the indigenous people. In 1831, when Gorriti was thirteen, the federal caudillo Facundo Quiroga forced Gorriti and much of her family into exile.[3]

They settled in Tarija, Bolivia, where she met future husband. Manuel Isidro Belzú was a captain in the Bolivian Army at the time. They married when she was fifteen and she bore three daughters. As his career advanced, their marriage suffered, and he abandoned her in 1842 after nine years together. Gorriti did not receive the divorce papers until fourteen years later, after his assassination.[4]

Gorriti left Bolivia for Peru, where her literary life would take off. She started teaching, and she eventually founded a school. In Lima, a coastal city where she lived, she developed a name as an influential journalist, and started to host tertulias on a regular basis. These salons would be attended by fashionable and mostly well-educated men and women, such as Ricardo Palma and Manuel González Prada, Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera, Clorinda Matto de Turner and Teresa González de Fanning. They would meet to discuss literature and social progress, themes that Gorriti felt passionate about, and would include in much of her literature. She was an ardent feminist, and it showed in many of her journals. Through her writings, she instructed and inspired women to take on modern gender roles which were more common in Europe and North America. She wanted women to stand up and be heard, to educate themselves, and not be afraid to go against the norm.

Belzú went on to become president in 1848. He survived an assassination attempt two years later and ruled for a further five years until retiring in 1855, having sponsored his son-in-law, Jorge Córdova, to succeed him. Córdova was overthrown in a coup d’état two years later and succeeded by José María Linares, who in turn was ousted by his Minister of War, José María de Achá in 1861. Achá survived for three years until replaced, through another coup, by General Mariano Melgarejo. Belzú raised an army against Melgarejo who, according to unconfirmed rumours, invited him to the presidential palace and shot him during a fake embrace. He died on 23 March 1865.[5]

In 1866, the Spanish Navy shelled ports on Peru's and Chile's coastlines, including the port of Lima. Gorriti served as a battlefield nurse. She also risked her life evacuating the wounded when the Spanish surrendered at Callao. For her heroism, and Florence Nightingale-like actions, Gorriti was seen as a Peruvian freedom fighter, and was awarded the Second Star of May by the Peruvian government. She wrote about these events in numerous articles and short stories, later collected and published in the Album of Lima founded by herself and her friend and fellow writer Carolina Freyre de Jaimes. Gorriti also founded the newspaper The Dawn of Lima with fellow poet Numa Pompilio Yona.

In 1878, Gorriti returned to Argentina, and even after having faced numerous scandals in her life such as divorce, exile, and Belzu having a child out of wedlock, she was still seen as an exceptional woman who brought great pride to her country. Her daughter Mercedes became sick in Peru in 1879, but Gorriti could not go to her because of the war between Chile and Peru over the provinces of Tanca and Arica. Mercedes died later that year. Gorriti also founded the newspaper The Argentina Dawn, where she published many articles on the rights and education of women. When she died, Argentines hailed her as a famous, instructive, influential journalist in her day. [6]

Literary contributions[edit]

Gorriti wrote several short novels and numerous short stories. Her novels include El Pozo de Yocci (The Yocci Well), a love story, ghost story and gothic horror rolled into one, set in one of the most critical periods in the history of the Argentine Republic, contrasting the idealistic patriotism behind the War of Independence with the savagery of the civil wars that followed.[7] This was followed by La oasis de la vida (Life's Oasis), a melodramatic novel written in the 1880s. La tierra natal (Our Native Land), her last major work, published in 1889, relates a physical journey through northern Argentina, back to the places where she had lived over the course of her lifetime, as well as a voyage back through her memories of the people and events she had known and experienced along the way. Two of her most famous short stories are La hija del mazorquero and El lucero de manantial; both are melodramatic tales with a strong anti-Rosista political message.

Her intermittent three-year stay in Lima resulted in the publication of La Quena, a short but influential novella, in the prestigious newspaper El Comercio. Later, as Peruvian politics began to stabilize, she contributed to the Revista de Lima with stories like El Angel Caido and Si haces mal no esperes bien. By organizing and hosting her tertulias, she provided a great opportunity for many female writers to come together and discuss literature, progress, and the progress of women. Many of the attendees would later go on to write more about these subjects, including Teresa González de Fanning, who founded an enlightened women's movement.

Although perhaps not as well known as she should be, Juana Manuela Gorriti is an author not to be overlooked. Her stories are finely crafted, and not only bear witness to trends in South American literature of the 19th century, but are enjoyable reading in their own right.

Principal works[edit]


  • El pozo de Yocci (1869)
  • Oasis en la Vida (1888)
  • La tierra natal (1889)

Novellas, short stories, and miscellaneous writings[edit]

  • Sueños y realidades (1865)
  • Panoramas de la vida (1876)
  • Misceláneas (1878)
  • El mundo de los recuerdos (1886)

English translations of her work[edit]

  • Dreams and Realities translated by Sergio Waisman
  • The Yocci Well translated by Kathryn Phillips-Miles
  • Our Native Land translated by Kathryn Phillips-Miles


  1. ^ Berg, Mary G. (1990). "Juana Manuela Gorriti". In Diane E. Marting (ed.). Spanish American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 226–29. ISBN 978-0-313-25194-8. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Autoridades - Vista completa del registro". Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina.
  3. ^ Mackenna, Benjamín Vicuña; Riveros, Cristián Gazmuri (2003). The Girondins of Chile: Reminiscences of an Eyewitness. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515181-7.
  4. ^ "El Historiador magazine (Archives)". Archived from the original on 23 December 2015.
  5. ^ Historia De Bolivia, 4th edition, by José de Mesa, Teresa Gisbert and Carlos D. Mesa, Editorial Gisbert y Cía, La Paz, 2001.
  6. ^ Born in Blood and Fire, 2nd ed, by John Charles Chasteen, W. W. Norton & Company, London, 2006.
  7. ^ Gorriti, Juana Manuela (June 2020). The Yocci Well by Juana Manuela Gorriti, translated by Kathryn Phillips-Miles, The Clapton Press, 2020. ISBN 978-1-913693-02-2.

External links[edit]