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Presence of an Incipient Pre -Nationalist Consciousness in Juan De Velasco’s “Natural History”

Silvia Mendez-Bonito Navia, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation deals with part of Juan de Velasco's (Riobamaba 1727-Faenza 1792) historiographical work. While exiled in Italy he wrote the History of the Kingdom of Quito in Meridional America (1789). With this work he engages in the famous polemics known as the “Dispute of the New World” as other ex-jesuits such as Clavijero or Molina had done before him. Using an interdisciplinary approach, I look at the way Velasco articulated his historiographical discourse in the first part of his History, the Natural History, in order to see how it already reflects a strong regionalist consciousness. In this sense, Velasco's work is particularly relevant since it is the first written history of what we today know as Ecuador. Conscious of this fact, the author develops a historiographical project that seeks to define a “Quitean” historical and cultural identity, different from Spain as well as from other Spanish American regions. It also seeks to make the Quitean creole community conscious of this identity. The first chapter describes the development of the Jesuit Company within the Spanish American historical and political context, with special attention to the second half of the 18th century. It also describes the situation of the creole community during that same period as well as the “Dispute of the New World.” The second chapter situates the History of the Kingdom of Quito within the whole of Velasco's work examining the criticism it originated, mainly in Ecuador. The chapters that follow analyze in detail the different parts of the Natural History to show how Velasco's patriotic feelings reveal themselves throughout in this part of his work: in the regional specificity of his History, in the body of autoctonous tradition and folklore recorded in this part, in its defense of the “Quitean” native man and “patria,” in the intolerance towards the attempts to discursively appropriate “Quitean” territory (Father Gilij), and in its effort to show the actual existence of a historical written record for the “Kingdom of Quito” through the elaboration of a “Catalogue of Writers who Wrote about Peru and Quito.”

Subject Area

Latin American literature|Latin American history|Clergy

Recommended Citation

Navia, Silvia Mendez-Bonito, "Presence of an Incipient Pre -Nationalist Consciousness in Juan De Velasco’s “Natural History”" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056264.