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Ignacio Manuel Altamirano

Ignacio Manuel Altamirano

México (1834-1893)

Photograph: Biblioteca de las Artes, Centro Nacional de las Artes del Conaculta

Born on november 13, 1834 in Tixtla, state of Guerrero, Mexico, of an indian family who took her last name of some spanish colonizers. Altamirano is considered a pioneer of an authentic mexican literature. His novel Clemencia (published in our 800 Collection) is a key text in the latin american narrative of the 19th century. Besides, the author was prolific and relevant in journalism, poetry, essay and as a “nation builder”.

Altamirano, raised in an almost completely indigenous environment, started his spanish learning only at the age of fourteen. In 1849 he won a scholarship to study at the Instituto Literario de Toluca (Literary Institute of Toluca), where he stayed until 1852. He joined the revolution of Ayutla to fight against the criticised dictatorship of General Antonio López de Santa Anna –supported by conservatives–. In 1856 he settled down in Mexico City in order to study law at the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán (San Juan de Letrán College), doubtless the most decisive period of his early literary career.

He took part in the political conflict of the time against the conservatives. Altamirano married Margarita Pérez Gavilán in may 1859 and, when the republic system was restored, he devoted himself to the civil service. He performed as a magistrate and president of the Supreme Court, among others. In 1869, the author founded El Renacimiento, a magazine which represented a turning point in the history of mexican art and literature. The publication, deeply innovative and democratizing, became the cultural milestone of the time because of his attempt to giving a predominant place to the open, inclusive artistic activity.

At the same time, Altamirano focused in his own work; through these years he wrote and published his major book, Clemencia (1869) and several short stories of Cuentos de Invierno. However, late in the seventies, Altamirano begun to confess a fatigue of his social environment and he lost the faith in the political project he had defended passionately. His own life was full of annoyance.

He left the country in 1889 when he was appointed consul in Barcelona and later in Paris. Nevertheless, he got infected with colera. Altamirano died in San Remo, Italy, on february 13, 1893.

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