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José María Arguedas

Born: 18 January 1911

Died: 2 December 1969

Nationality: Peruvian

José María Arguedas was a Peruvian novelist, poet and anthropologist. He was a mestizo (a person of combined European and Amerindian descent) of Spanish and Quechua descent who wrote novels, short stories and poems in both Spanish and Quechua.

As a child, Arguedas comforted himself in the care of the family's indigenous servants, allowing him to immerse himself in the language and customs of the Andes, which came to form an important part of his personality.

He began studying at National University of San Carlos (Lima) in 1931; there he graduated with a degree in Literature. He later took up studies in Ethnology, receiving his degree in 1957 and his doctorate in 1963.

Arguedas is especially recognized for his intimate portrayals of indigenous Andean culture. Key in his desire to depict indigenous expression and perspective more authentically was his creation of a new language that blended Spanish and Quechua and premiered in his debut novel Yawar Fiesta.

Between 1937 and 1938 he was sent to prison for his protesting an envoy sent to Peru by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Arguedas also worked for the Ministry of Education, where he put into practice his interests in preserving and promoting Peruvian culture, in particular traditional Andean music and dance. He was the Director of the Casa de la Cultura (1963) and Director of the National Museum of History (1964–1966).

Arguedas was a Great Utopian because he believed in and worked in a harmonic way combining two different and socially unequal cultures.

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