(1664-1743) poet, dramatist, scholar
The Peruvian scholar Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo produced more than 80 works covering a diverse range of subjects, including history, religion, medicine, literature, astronomy, and military engineering.
Born in Lima, Peralta was a Criollo or Creole, the name given to persons of Spanish origin born in the colonies. After studying law at the University of San Marcos, he became professor of mathematics and later rector of that institution.
From 1718 to 1743 Peralta held the office of cosmographer, completing Conocimientos de los Tiempos, begun in 1680 by his predecessor, Juan Ramon Koenig. Peralta also served as chief engineer of Peru and comptroller of the audiencia, or tribunal, of Lima. When the ancient wall of Callao was destroyed by the earthquake of 1687, it was Peralta who devised plans for its reconstruction.
Among his literary works for the stage are a number of plays in the baroque style. They include comedies such as Triunfo de amory muerte (The Triumph of Love and Death, 1710) and Afectos ven-cen finezas (Affections Conquer Finenesses, 1720). His tragedy La Rodoguna (1710) shows the influence of the French playwright corneille.
Fluent in six languages, Peralta could write poetry in each of them. Perhaps the best known of his poetic works is the epic Lima fundada o conquista del Peru (The Founding of Lima or Conquest of Peru, 1732), which deals with the life of Pizarro. His other major work of poetry was Pasion y triunfo de Cristo (Passion and Triumph of Christ, 1737).
Until 1730, when he published Historia de Es-pana vindicada, Peralta’s work reflected a European worldview. With Lima fundada, however, he began to target a Criollo readership. Like many Criollos, Peralta was dissatisfied with the political and cultural censorship exercised by Spain over its colonies.
In Dialogo de los muertos: la causa academica (Dialogue of the Dead: The Academic Case), modeled on the Roman satirist Lucian, Peralta ridiculed the institutions with which he had been associated as an official. While he did not break completely with traditional Spanish culture, he nonetheless began to articulate a Criollo viewpoint from which later radical intellectuals would develop a distinct Latin American identity.
English Versions of Works by Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo
Censorship and Art in Pre-Enlightenment Lima: Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo’s Dialogo de Las Muertos: La Causa Academica. Translated by Jerry M. Williams. Madrid, Spain: Scripta Humanistica, 1994.
Peralta Barnuevo and the Discourse of Loyalty: A Critical Edition of Four Selected Texts. Translated by Jerry M. Williams. Phoenix: Arizona State University, Center for Latin American Studies, 1997.
A Work about Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo
Hill, Ruth Ann. Sceptres and Sciences in the Spains: Four Humanists and the New Philosophy. Liverpool, U.K.: Liverpool University Press, 2000.