Andrés Bello (1781-1865)



Andrés de Jesús María y José Bello López (Andrés Bello) was born in Caracas in 1781. He was one of Latin America's most important humanists in the neoclassical tradition. He was poet, philologist, educator, and politician. His written style is elegant and traditional in that he works within the formal rules of Enlightenment style. His moral values also parallel those of the French enlightenment: peace, virtue, and reconciliation with the metropolis, Spain. He adds new images to his descriptions of the American countryside that he loved so much. In fact, he expresses a glorification of rural scenes rather than urban ones. Although European culture made the transition from the Enlightenment to the Romanticism during his lifetime, nevertheless, he resisted the latter. He translated Victor Hugo and Lord Byron to Spanish, but he did not adopt their style or tone completely. He was never a revolutionary, for his patriotic ideal an enlightened monarchy. He advocated modernizing Latin America progressively, not through revolution or sudden change. From 1797 to 1800, he attended the University of Caracas (Real y Pontificia Universidad de Caracas). Subsequently, he gave private tutor for the elite Society of Caracas. Among his students was Simón Bolívar. In 1800, Bello accompanied the famous German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in exploring various Venezuelan mountains.

Bello's second period covers the years from 1810 to 1829. Until 1810, he lived in the capital of the province of Venezuela (Capitanía General de Venezuela) within the Viceroyalty of New Granada, but that year he traveled to England, where, as Simón Bolívar's aid, he joined the campaign for independence. In London he studied languages, literature, philosophy, history, science, and law. In 1814, he married an English woman, Mary Ann Boyland. They had three children. She died of tuberculosis in 1821, and he remarried in 1824. As a firmly dedicated neoclassicist. Interestingly, he invoked poetry as a reason to return to Latin America from Europe. He felt that Latin American nature and history inspired poetry more than Europe did. He expressed nostalgia, love, longing, emotion for America, and he liked the fact that Latin Americans were shaking off the yoke of their colonial past.

Bello's third period goes from 1829 to his death in 1865. In 1829 he went to Chile with his second wife. In Chile, he worked for the government in areas relating to law and the humanities. In fact, he was so successful that he was granted Chilean citizenship. In Santiago, he was both a senator and a professor. At the same time he continued his journalistic activities. When he met his great Argentinian contemporary Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in Chile, the debate between Neoclassicism and Romanticism began. He was the driving force behind creation of the important legal document, the Civil Code of the Republic of Chile (Código Civil de la República de Chile). Also, he was instrumental in creating the University of Chile in 1842. Bello became its first president, and he remained in that post until his death. In 1851 he was made an honorary member of the Spanish Royal Academy (Real Academia Española).

Among his main works are a grammar of Latin, a grammar of the Spanish language (Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos), poetry ("A la victoria de Bailén", "Alocución a la Poesía", "A la agricultura de la Zona Tórrida"), and a history of Venezuela.