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Biographies: A

This webpage reproduces part of
History of Chile

Luis Galdames

translated and edited by Isaac Joslin Cox
Russell & Russell
New York 1964

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Biographies: C‑E

 p449  Biographical Notes
(continued: B)

José Manuel Balmaceda Fernández (1840‑1891) was born in Santiago. His grandfather came to Chile from Old Castile and his father held the offices of senator and counselor of state. José Manuel pursued his studies at the Conciliar Seminary, in preparation for the Church, but he soon forsook a religious career and faith and became a consistent opponent of ecclesiastical privilege. He began his public life at the age of twenty-four by serving Don Manuel Montt as private secretary at  p450 the "American Congress" held in Lima. His wealth, his distinguished personal appearance, and his grace and brilliance as an orator assured for him a successful political career. In 1866 he joined the Arteaga Alemparte brothers in publishing La libertad. His editorial experience and his work in the Reform Club brought him into the congress that became known through its political reforms as La asamblea constituyente (see p298). During the succeeding decade he continued his labors in the press and in congress, taking a prominent part in the debates of the latter body, and in 1878 he was sent as minister to Buenos Aires. Here his diplomacy did much to keep Argentina from joining Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific. He returned to Chile to support with tongue and pen measures to carry on the war and to secure the results of conquest. In the cabinet of Santa María he became minister of foreign relations and thus took charge of the measures to liquidate the war. Then as minister of the interior he took the lead in pushing various "ecclesiastical" reforms of the Santa María administration and in promoting public works. His part in these reforms added to his reputation as an orator, but not to his general popularity. Nevertheless President Santa María, who had not at first favored him as a candidate, finally accepted him as his successor and secured his election as first magistrate. The text gives us the chief events of his administration, which despite continued partisan strife was marked by substantial progress. At the close of his administration, following the disastrous civil war, he put an end to his own life in order to save his associates from further persecution and to give point to his last political manifesto. For this purpose his spectacular death proved a fruitful sacrifice. A favorable but partisan sketch of Balmaceda appears in Justo and Domingo Arteaga Alemparte, Los constituyentes, pp147‑152. See also M. H. Hervey, Dark Days in Chile, R. Salas Edwards, Balmaceda y el parliamentarismo en Chile, passim; FII, 80‑85.

[image ALT: A photograph of a man in his late middle age, with a heavy moustache. It is the Chilean politician José Manuel Balmaceda.]

José Manuel Balmaceda, upholder of the executive power in Chile's Civil War, 1891, founder of the party that still bears his name.

Courtesy Instituto de Cinematografía Educativa, Universidad de Chile.

Thayer's Note: In the print edition, this photo accompanies those of Arturo Alessandri and Pedro Aguirre Cerda; together the three photos are additionally captioned

Leading executives of the last six decades.

Manuel Baquedano (1826‑1897) was born in Santiago. Son of a notable soldier, he ran away from home to his first military experience and was commissioned lieutenant at the age of thirteen. In the battle of Loncomillaº he fought against his own father, but rendered aid to his wounded parent after the battle and also saved the poet, Eusebio Lillo, from imprisonment. Retiring from the army for political reasons in 1854, he became a farmer, but reëntered the service in 1859, and also served against the Araucanians in 1868. As brigadier general he began the campaign in Antofagasta in 1879 and, replacing Escala, emerged from the War of the Pacific as generalissimo. After the war he served as senator and counselor of state but took no active part in the civil war of 1891. His course as military commander of Santiago, after the abdication  p451 of Balmaceda, gave rise to considerable controversy. — EVII, 604; FII, 105‑106.

Orozimbo Barboza Puga (1838‑1891) was born in Chillán and educated in his native city. Descended from a family of soldiers, he joined the army in 1856 and for the next twenty years saw service in the Araucanian country. He became colonel in 1876. In 1880 and 1881 he was highly commended for his bravery and skill in the fighting around Tacna and Arica and later in the vicinity of Lima. After the War of the Pacific he served as intendant of the province of Valdivia and remained true to President Balmaceda during the civil war, serving that executive as general in chief. In the final battle of Placilla he was killed while personally fighting against a superior force of the enemy's cavalry. — FII, 110‑113.

Eduardo de la Barra Lastarria (1839‑1900) was born in Santiago, spent his early days in La Serena, and graduated as civil engineer from the National Institute in 1860. As a student of this institution he obtained prizes for his verse and after graduation continued there as teacher of literature, mathematics, and history. In 1864 he became popular through his first book of poems and was led into radical journalism. In 1872 he became a subordinate in the ministry of finance and later published important pamphlets in behalf of the radical party. In 1876 he became rector of the liceo at Valparaiso. Endowed with all-inclusive talent and restless energy, he kept himself immersed in political disputes, condemned the revolution of 1891, and suffered exile in Uruguay and Argentina. His reputation as educator and poet led the Argentine government to bestow numerous commissions upon him, but his bitter experience abroad hastened his death. His frankness and skill in polemics made him a persistent defender of truth as he interpreted it. — FII, 124‑126.

Diego Barros Arana (1830‑1907) was born in Santiago. Son of a prominent merchant and political leader who operated in Chile and Argentina, young Barros Arana early acquired a liking for public affairs. His education, begun in the National Institute, was continued in the university, but ill-health forced him to give up the law and devote himself to literature and history. His first essay, appearing in 1850, proclaimed him the future historian of Chile — a prophecy which he abundantly justified by his devotion to research, his fecund production, and his ability to organize his material rapidly and present it in monographic form. Much of this he later incorporated in voluminous general works. He wrote as a narrator and annalist, rather than in a critical philosophical spirit, but occasionally displayed severity and passion in his judgments. From the beginning of his literary labors he was connected  p452 with contemporary newspapers and reviews. In 1855 he became a member of the faculty of philosophy and humanities of the University of Chile, and with some interruptions continued to teach and write textbooks in history, literature, and geography, which were used throughout Hispanic America. His biting and incisive articles attacking the administration of Manuel Montt led to his exile — a period which he utilized in gathering documentary material in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and other European centers. He was twice rector of the university, frequently a deputy in congress, although no orator, and served as adviser to the commission discussing boundaries with Argentina. His writings, covering the colonial period, the wars of independence, the early national period, and contemporary happenings, run into scores of titles. To his outstanding work, Historia jeneral de Chile, the author of the present work and all other recent historians of Chile are greatly indebted. — EVII, 957‑958; FII, 139‑141. For a less favorable view see Cruz, op. cit., I, 145‑213. A series of tributes to Don Diego and bibliographic data are published in Revista chilena de historia y geografía, LXVI (July-September, 1930), 6‑346; also ibid., LXXI (January-April, 1932), 54‑69.

[image ALT: A photograph of a man in his late middle age, with a beard and a moustache, and wearing glasses. It is the Chilean historian Diego Barros Arana.]

Diego Barros Arana, leading historian of Chile, prominent educator.

Courtesy Instituto de Cinematografía Educativa, Universidad de Chile.

Thayer's Note: In the print edition, this photo accompanies those of José Toribio Medina, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, and a statue of the Amunátegui brothers; together the four photos are additionally captioned

Chilean historians.

Luis Barros Borgoño (1858‑1943), son of the historian Barros Arana, was born in Santiago and studied in the National Institute and the University of Chile. He received his law degree in 1880 and while still a student taught history in the institute. In 1883, while holding a subordinate post in the foreign ministry, he participated in the final negotiations that closed the war with Peru. Later he assisted in bringing about peace with Bolivia. Under Jorge Montt he was minister of war and did much to preserve peace with Argentina. In addition he helped direct the Caja de crédito hipotecario (Mortgage Loan Bank) and published several works on education, history, and public finance. While heading the department of foreign relations under Sanfuentes, he brought Chile into the League of Nations. He was defeated for the presidency in 1920 but in 1925 was called upon by his successful rival to complete the latter's administration and to usher in the government of Emiliano Figueroa. Retiring to private life, he resumed his banking and cultural activities. — EI, 1355 (App.); FII, 142‑145.

Daniel Barros Grez (1834‑1904), a prominent engineer and mathematician, is best known as a novelist and writer of fables. He also attempted the drama. Most of his literary work emanated from Talca, where the family lived after the death of his father, who was convicted in 1837 of conspiring against the intendant of Curicó. Varied judgments have been pronounced upon the work of Barros Grez, but his  p453 Pipiolos y pelucones (see p355) is accepted as one of the outstanding interpretations of Chilean life. — FII, 148.

Ramón Barros Luco (1835‑1919) was born and educated in Santiago and gained the degree of advocate in 1858. Devoted to agriculture, he published notable financial articles which at once gave him a secure position in the liberal party. He headed the treasury under the first Errázuriz and also during part of the administration of Santa María. He served eight times as minister of the interior. As president of the chamber of deputies he signed the manifesto deposing Balmaceda. Later he served as president of the senate, headed several charitable and financial bodies, and was author of various juridical works. In 1897 he was made special envoy to France and in 1903, during the illness of Germán Riesco, acted as vice-president. His work as minister was characterized by faithful but seemingly careless attention to detail rather than by brilliant execution. He was distinguished for his sleepy, taciturn manner, his ironic smile, and his apparent lack of attention; but somehow he created the impression that he thus solved more problems than his more energetic associates. At any rate, all parties turned to him as president in the crisis of 1910. His great preoccupation during his presidency was the construction of the National Library. An important monument to his charity is the hospital that bears his name. After his presidency he held the title and emoluments of vice-admiral of the navy. — EVII, 958; FII, 152‑155.

Emilio Bello Codecido (1869‑1941) was licensed as advocate in 1889 and immediately entered upon a notable administrative and congressional career. As grandson of Andrés Bello he has continued the family tradition for learning and effective public service by active member­ship in the liberal democratic party and by filling notable cabinet and diplomatic posts. Since the political overturn of 1924‑1925 he has spent some time in exile but in 1936 was called to assume the war portfolio in the second administration of Alessandri. — FII, 169‑172.

Andrés Bello López (1781‑1865) was a native of Caracas. He had already gained outstanding reputation in Venezuelan letters and politics when he took up his residence in England in 1810. Although holding important diplomatic posts, he gained his living largely from his work as teacher and translator, while devoting his energies to reading and to writing for literary reviews. He was on intimate terms with James Mill, Bentham, and other advanced thinkers. In 1829 he came to Chile, where he spent the remainder of his life. The pages of Galdames abundantly attest to his manifold activities. He was poet, literary critic, and educator, and his monuments to fame are his Principios  p454 del derecho internacional and his Gramática de la lengua castellana. His poetry is not spontaneous but he was very successful in imitating the Georgics of Virgil and in his Silvas americanas he presents striking descriptions of life in the tropical forests. — FII, 172, 173. See also M. L. Amunátegui, Vida de Don Andrés Bello (Santiago, 1882), and Ensayos biográficos, II, 5‑242; E. C. Hills, The Odes of Bello, Olmeda, and Heredia (New York, 1920), pp3‑9; Eugenio Orrego Vicuña, Don Andrés Bello (Santiago, 1935).

Bello's advice on the best method of studying history is worth noting: "Learn to judge for yourselves. Aspire to independence of thought. Drink in the sources — at least in the torrents (caudales) nearest to them. The very language of the original historians, their ideas, even their prejudices and their fabulous legends, are a part of history and not the least instructive and true. Would you, for instance, know what the discovery and conquest of America was? Read the Journal of Columbus, the letters of Pedro de Valdivia, those of Hernán Cortés. Bernal Díaz will tell much more than Solís or Robertson. Interrogate each civilization through its works. Demand of each historian that he give his warrants." — Domingo Amunátegui Solar, Bosquejo histórico de la literatura chilena, p80.

Diego José Benavente Bustamante (1789‑1867) was born in Concepción and early entered upon the struggle for independence. Emigrating to Argentina with Carrera after the battle of Rancagua, he remained in that country until 1823. On his return to Chile, he reorganized the treasury department and served as counselor and minister of state, minister plenipotentiary, director of the Banco hipotecario, and member of the university faculty. He opposed Portales with energy but was absolved from participation in his death. His Ensayo sobre la hacienda pública de Chile (Santiago, 1842) and his Memorias de las primeras campañas de independencia (Santiago, 1844) attracted considerable public attention. — EVIII, 23; FII, 178.

Ambrosio de Benavides (1720‑1787), born in Granada, was after more than twenty years of service only a lieutenant colonel when in 1760 he was appointed governor of Puerto Rico. Relieved of that office in 1766, he was two years later transferred to Peru, as president of the audiencia of Charcas. He arrived in Santiago as governor on December 12, 1780. Although then an old and sickly military man and not brilliant, he proved a prudent and discreet administrator, bringing about many reforms and local improvements. — BVI, 402; M, pp126‑127.

Antonio Alejandro Berney, or Vergne, came to Chile in 1776. A man of less practical ability than Gramusset (q.v.), but no less influenced  p455 by illusory political and social ideas, he gained a precarious living as a teacher of Latin and mathematics. At the time of his arrest, he had formulated a bizarre manifesto with which the conspirators were to launch their revolution. They sought to bring Rojas into their plot, but he gave them his sympathy rather than his coöperation. — M, p133. See also Bernard Moses, Spain's Declining Power in South America, 1730‑1806, pp228‑239.

Francisco Bilbao Barquin (1823‑1865) was born in Santiago. Accompanying his father into exile at the age of eleven, he was destined to spend the greater part of his mature years outside of Chile. His great-grandfather was compromised in a conspiracy in 1780. Hence he came naturally by his radical temperament and early determined to aid the oppressed, to know the truth, and to declare it openly. Five years among the Chilean exiles in Lima gave a permanent bent to his revolutionary spirit. In 1839, he returned with his father to Santiago and entered the National Institute. Bello, Lastarria, and Vicente Fidel López (see p275) contributed to his education but the last-named alone could satisfy his inquiring mind. The mental awakening that was then expressing itself in renewed political contests, in short-lived but stimulating periodicals, and in the founding of the university affected the none-too-steady intellect of Bilbao. When barely past his twenty-first birthday, he attracted public attention by his dramatic apostrophe to José Miguel Infante, who had steadfastly refused, in his last moments, to receive the sacraments of the Church that he had opposed during his life. This youthful act, more spectacular than convincing, was shortly followed by the publication of La sociabilidad chilena (see p279),º characterized by the courts as blasphemous, immoral, and seditious. The author was fined and in lieu of payment condemned to prison, but his admirers paid the fine and threatened to mob the judges. Life in Santiago, however, proved insupportable for the daring author. An article of his was burned; he was expelled from the institute and went into voluntary exile to France, where for five years he still further immersed himself in revolutionary ideas as well as in contemporary science. On his return he organized along with Eusebio Lillo (see p487) the Sociedad de la igualidadº — an act which led to the outbreak of 1851, and a second and permanent exile. Meeting with further persecution in Peru he went to Europe in 1854 and in 1856 to Buenos Aires, where he died. In his last years he devoted himself to the task of unifying Argentina and the whole American continent without abating his opposition to the influence of the Church. He especially sought to arouse his fellow Americans to the danger revealed in the invasion of Mexico and Santo Domingo. His final book, El evanjelio americano (Buenos Aires, 1864), reverts to the  p456 theme of his Sociabilidad chilena. His death by tuberculosis was hastened by his efforts to save a woman from drowning. — FII, 201‑202. See also Cruz, op. cit., I, 7‑58.

Bartolomé Blanché Espejo (1879‑1970), on finishing his course in the Military School (1895), began his service in the cavalry. He continued his military training in Germany (1904) and later served on the general staff from 1912‑1914, besides exploring the Río Negro and other points in Chile. After taking part in organizing the military junta of 1924, he served as subsecretary of war and opposed the civilian junta, presided over by Alcibíades Roldán. He supported the military junta of 1925 and helped to suppress some of the early revolts against Ibáñez. He has frequently represented his government abroad and has received numerous decorations from his own and from foreign governments. — FII, 211‑216; Hoy, May 20, 1937, p19.

Manuel Blanco Cuartín (1822‑1890), born in Santiago, was the son of the notable Argentinian poet and littérateur, Ventura Blanco Encalada, at one time dean of the faculty of philosophy and humanities of the University of Chile. He received some early impressions from the Spanish poet and publicist, José Joaquín de Mora (see p250). Educated at the National Institute, he at first planned a career in medicine, but because of deafness turned to journalism and literature. His first work in 1845 attracted attention because of his easy style and elegant concepts. After preliminary work in minor periodicals, of which El mosaico was his favorite, and collaboration with the Arteaga Alemparte brothers on La semana, he became editor in 1866 of El mercurio and in the course of twenty years' service published numerous articles and poems that attracted wide attention outside the country and made the paper famous. In 1876 he joined the faculty of philosophy and humanities of the University of Chile, where his advent, marked by a notable address, "Lo que queda de Voltaire" (What Remains of Voltaire), provoked a notable newspaper controversy. Affiliated with the conservative party, Blanco Cuartín was Catholic in the best sense, a man of independent judgment, and modern in his outlook. Notwithstanding his literary fame, his death passed almost unnoticed by contemporary writers. — FII, 216.

Manuel Blanco Encalada (1790‑1876) was born in Buenos Aires, but was sent to Spain to complete his education and then served in the Spanish navy against the French. Twice sent to America on the outbreak of revolt there, in 1813 he joined the revolutionists of Chile, was taken prisoner after Rancagua, and exiled to Juan Fernández. On his return he served in the artillery at Cancha Rayada and Maipú, later began the organization of the Chilean navy (see p210), and continued  p457 in that branch of the service under Cochrane. For a brief period in 1826 he held the presidency ad interim. After Paucarpata, he retired to private life until 1847. In 1852 he took over the Chilean embassy in Paris and in 1865 directed naval operations against the Spanish fleet. — EVIII, 1084; FII, 216‑218.

William Blest (1800‑1884) was the father of the novelist Alberto Blest Gana and of the poet William Blest Gana. Of Irish birth, the elder Blest came to Chile in 1827 and married there. In 1828 he wrote an important brochure on the common diseases of Chile, which was published by the government. As physician and surgeon he acquired an immediate reputation, which a long and laborious practice abundantly justified. He also frequently served as deputy and senator. — FII, 226.

Alberto Blest Gana (1831‑1920) was the son of the Irish Chilean physician, William Blest (see above). Together with his famous brothers, Guillermo and Joaquín (see FII, 226‑229), he received his early training from his father, later entered the Military Academy of Santiago, and finished his engineering course in Paris. For a time he taught in the War Academy, headed a section in the ministry of war, and later was intendant of Colchagua. In 1870 he entered the Chamber of Deputies, but in 1871 he began a diplomatic career which included work in the United States, Great Britain, and France. Remaining in the latter post twenty years, he rendered important service to Chile in the purchase of arms during the wars of 1879 and 1891. He never returned to his native land after 1886, but his numerous novels, headed by Martín Rivas (Santiago, 1862), present the best characterizations of Chilean life and justify the Chilean claim that he is the leading novelist of Spanish America. — FII, 227; Alfred Coester, The Literary History of Spanish America, pp224‑228.

Guillermo Blest Gana (1829‑1905), distinguished as a poet and journalist, also wrote dramas and novels. Exiled for his opposition to the government of Manuel Montt, he visited Europe and on his return entered the diplomatic service, first as minister to Ecuador and later to Argentina, where he is credited with the discovery of the secret treaty between Peru and Bolivia (see p324). During the War of the Pacific he served as jefe político at Lima. Later he held the office of intendant at Tarapacá and Linares, and other subordinate positions. His later years were embittered by a sense of being passed over in popular favor. — FII, 228.

Jorge Boonen Rivera (1858‑1921), born in Valparaiso, was the son of a Flemish settler who located in Chile in 1851. He was educated in part in Belgium, graduated from the military school of Santiago in 1879, became captain in 1881, a colonel ten years later, brigadier in  p458 1898, and general of division in 1903. He took part in the campaign against Peru, was military attaché in Spain, and became chief of staff under Emilio Körner. In the battle of Placilla, he commanded the third division and his action in that battle later led to a bitter controversy and duel with Estanislao del Canto. Boonen survived despite a direct wound in the forehead and the affair caused a great sensation in the country. Boonen retired from the army in April, 1921. His Ensayo sobre la geografía militar de Chile appeared in 1897. — FII, 233‑235.

William I. Buchanan (1852‑1909) was appointed minister to Argentina by President Cleveland in 1894. Afterward he served as director-general of the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo in 1901 and later was a member of several special missions to Hispanic America. In the dispute over the Atacama region, Mr. Buchanan was able to bring about a prompt settlement by siding in turn with the Chilean or the Argentinian representative, when his vote would give either the decision upon a specific point. See Dictionary of American Biography, III, 219; W. A. Hirst, Argentina (London, 1910), p109.

Gonzalo Bulnes Pinto (1851‑1936), son of President Manuel Bulnes, was born in Santiago and educated in the liceo of the Padres Franciscanos and at the National Institute. He then spent three years in Europe, whence he returned to Chile and devoted himself to business and agriculture, varied by periods of political and diplomatic activity. At times, he was closely associated with nitrate and insurance enterprises and was a frequent contributor to the daily press and to historical publications. The two volumes mentioned in the text appeared in 1878 and were shortly followed by a three-volume Historia de la guerra del Pacífico (Valparaiso, 1912‑1919). He was minister to Germany and Italy and, as special envoy to Ecuador in 1923, settled an unpleasant incident with that country. Later he served acceptably as special and regular ambassador to Argentina. The celebration in 1935 of the sixtieth anniversary of his marriage to Señora Carmela Correa was an occasion for public congratulations in the Santiago press. — FII, 276‑278.

Manuel Bulnes Prieto (1799‑1866) was born in Concepción and early entered upon his military career in that city. His espousal of the cause of the revolution forced him into exile, from which he escaped to join San Martín. He participated in the later battles which secured independence and then was sent to fight the Araucanians and outlaws in the south, with success, as noted above. His successful campaign against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation (see p270) made him president of Chile from 1841‑1851. Moderate rather than liberal in his views, he  p459 consistently pursued a conservative course in government. — E. IX, 1388; FII, 281‑282.

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