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Tradiciones Peruanas

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Saturday, March 13, 2010

The cover of Ricardo Palmas famous Tradiciones Peruanas

Perhaps one of Peru's most famous and notable historical figures, Ricardo Palma (1833-1919) was a famous Peruvian author and scholar.  Not only was Ricardo Palma an excellent writer he was also an avid politician who held various political positions within the Peruvian government from Consul to Peru in Pará, Brazil to official in the Ministerio de Guerra (Ministry of War) and the Ministry of the Navy.  Palma even served voluntarily six years in the Peruvian Navy.

When the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) broke out much of Lima had been destroyed and ransacked by the Chilean forces who had taken up occupation within the city (they would hold the city of Lima for a little over 3 years before being forced out), one of the target landmarks was the National Library of Peru.  It was following the war that Ricardo Palma was elected into the position of director of the National Library, a position which he proudly held until his retirement in 1912, just a few years before his death.  As director, Palma using his friendship with the Chilean President Domingo Santa María (this was a relationship that was most likely established during his exile in Chile, following his failed attempt to overthrow president Ramon Castilla), he was able to recuperate approximately 10,000 books that had originally be taken from the Peruvian National Library, among other important artifacts (if only he could have got the Huascáran back!).   His continuous efforts fueled by his passion for the arts allowed Peru's National Library to be restored back to the status as one of South America's largest libraries.

From a young age it was evident that Ricardo Palma had a gift when it came to writing despite his poor attendance record at school.  At age 15 he published his first literary verses and was even made publisher of the daily newsheet El Diablo (the devil).  He would go on to publish more of his work in several other newspapers of his time, as well as craft his famously renowned writing style coined "tradiciones" which has been used and adapted by other famous writers in South America.  From that point it seemed Ricardo Palma was destined to become a great author, and his volume of literary work still holds him in this regard, so famous is he that schools and even a well recognized university have been named after him.  Hell so famous has he become that his own visage has been imprinted on some of Peru's currency!

 This currency is no longer in circulation since the production of the Nuevo Sol

Now down to business!  I wrote this post because I believe Ricardo Palma's famous Tradiciones Peruanas to be one of the most interesting reads I have ever encountered about Peru's history.  He has a writing style like none other and his tradiciones are often short enough that even an infrequent reader such as myself can get into his stories.  The real treat for you guys is that I have found a website called "Tradiciones Peruanas de Ricardo Palma" that has ALL of his tradiciones available to anyone fortunate enough to stumble across this page.  Now for the bad news kids, the tradiciones on the page are in Spanish so your going to need a good knowledge of the language and possible a spanish thesaurus (that word always sounds like some kind of dinosaur) since his tradiciones were written at the beginning of the 20th century.  Now I realize that with that last bit of information that a large percentage of my readership will be instantly turned away, however there are a few books in publication that have translated the tradiciones of Ricardo Palma into English and can be purchased at any large bookstore or even online, so I would highly encourage those interested in Peru's past to give this books try.

NOTICE:  it should be understood that many of Ricardo Palma's tradiciones are not entirely 100% fact.  His tradiciones were written as a form of entertainment back in his day, you know when people actually read for fun (who does that anymore), therefore it should be noted that not every bit of information in his tradiciones was based on fact.  While many of his stories are based on actual events they are often supplemented with popular lore and rumors of his time which gives his tradiciones that campfire, kindergarten, bedtime story kind of feel to it.  In the end, Palma's tradiciones create this old colonial world that has long faded in time and is well worth the read.

* For those interested here is the link to the page containing the tradiciones in spanish: LINK
* For those interested in purchasing a book translated into English here is a link: LINK


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A travel blog about living abroad in Lima, Peru and my travels to cities like Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Inti Aperture is a blog about travel, Peruvian food, culture, adventure, jobs, tourism, travel, news, teaching English, photography, and living abroad, making it a perfect resource for the traveling expat.
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