CIRO ALEGRIA, MY FATHER (1909 - 1967)
My father was a Peruvian intellectual and politician who was born in the hamlet of Sartimbamba, in the Province of Huamachuco, Department of La Libertad, in the highlands of Peru, on 04.11.1909 and died in Lima on 02.17.1967.
He devoted himself internationally for his trilogy of novels about Peru: "The Golden Snake" (1935), "The Hungry Dogs" (1939) and "The World is Wide and Other" (Latin American Novel Award, Farrar & Reinhart, New York, 1941).
He is considered one of the two greats of the indigenous current in Peru, together with José María Arguedas. See slides
As a politician and social thinker, he defended democratic progressivism. His political commitment led him to be a founding member of the Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP) and later, of the Popular Action Party.
He was one of the youngest members of the North Group, a hotbed of Peruvian intellectuals and politicians congregated by the thinker Antenor Orrego, Director at that time of the newspaper El Norte. He was an elementary student at the San Juan de Trujillo School, of the poet César Vallejo. In addition, Alcides Espelucín, a poet and intellectual of prestige, was the Editor in Chief of the newspaper El Norte and hired Alegría (in 1927) being this very young man, to work as a reporter. Together with Antenor Orrego and Alcides Espelucín, they founded the “first cell” of the Peruvian Aprista Party in Trujillo, inspired by a mimeograph copy of “Anti-imperialism and APRA” that Haya sent to Antenor Orrego from Mexico. Subsequently, upon the arrival of the leader (Víctor Raúl Haya de La Torre), the Official Foundation of the Party was made in Lima.
He suffered imprisonment, torture and exile for his aprista ideals, between the ages of 18 and 25, when he was deported to Chile (1934). For decades there were totalitarian governments in Peru that did not let my father return. He had to live a long exile, residing in Chile, USA, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
In 1948 he renounces APRA from exile, because he disagrees with his ideological-relativist turn (embodied in the book "Historical Time Space"), which predicted a right. Years later, that suspicion of Ciro Alegría was confirmed with the APRA-UNO (National Odriist Union) alliance.
In 1956 he met the Hispanic-Cuban poet Dora Varona, with whom he married. Later, my sister Cecilia will be born in Santiago de Cuba (1958), and the remaining three brothers in Lima: Ciro (1960), Gonzalo (1962) and Diego (1967). Diego was a posthumous son (born 4 months after Ciro Alegría died.
Unfortunately, Diego died at age 14 on a school trip).
In 1957 my father is allowed to return temporarily to Peru, for the Book Fair organized by Juan Mejía Baca and the novelist Manuel Scorza (creator of the Peruvian Populibros publishing label). Then meet the architect Fernando Belaúnde Terry.
In December 1959, the turn to communism in Cuba decided to return definitively to Peru (where he lived continuously his last 7 years of life, between January 1960 and February 1967, when he dies at the young age of 57). He was elected Congressman by Popular Action in 1963 and dies in office. At his funeral he received honors from the Minister of State. His works are translated into 59 languages.
I remember my father little, since I lost him at an early age. They are reflected in my memory, her head pink and full of silky gray hairs, her shy and somewhat yellowish smile (for tobacco), veiled by her thinning and pink lips. His aching eyes, penetrating, radiating intelligence ... He loved sitting at the end of the day in the living room, in his wing chair and I climbed like a kitten to scratch his head. Even today, amid the sorrow of absence, I feel his head affectionately, scratching ideas and memories.
My father had a country air, mixed with his speech, typical of the northern highlands of Peru. Prankster, I laughed and celebrated my jokes, my childish jokes told with half a tongue, my anecdotes that he extolled into fun stories that the whole family repeats, especially my mother. These childish pranks, full of charm and mischief that formed my cheerful, positive and tireless character, as my mother tells in her autobiographical book ("Everything has its time").
Our house in Chaclacayo (….) Was on the banks of the Rimac River, very close to the highway and the Central Railroad track. Crossing the bridge over the Rimac, you entered the bucolic Huampaní Residential Center. My dad lived very busy, as Deputy, journalist and writer he was. But they were many times that, with extraordinary affection and a sweet peace, he walked with me through Huampaní or chatted with me on the banks of the river, taught me to sing the songs of his novels, told me stories, or made me hear in the living room , along with my brother Ciro, classical music records (Deutsche Gramophon) that I achieved with great effort, as authentic cultural oddities in Lima at that time.
He had me at the end of his life, and he enjoyed and loved me intensely and sincerely, like everything in him. He was a good man, who tried to fight against injustice and convey a message of hope. As he himself tells in his book of Memories, his life was "very lucky with a stick, as is the mood of God." When he died, the news was hidden for almost two years, telling me he was sick, hospitalized. My mother did not want grief to hit me from the front, and tried to wade it by force of oblivion ... But as the bends of the river that my father taught me to love, in the backwaters of my soul, it is empowered, crystalline and fresh, the memory from my father: the great writer Ciro Alegría, the great Peruvian who taught me to love deeply, my land and my people. And whenever I can, I immerse myself in his memory, to take strength and rekindle my commitment to stay, work and love, for our beautiful and difficult Peruvian homeland.
Nuestra casa en Chaclacayo (….) quedaba a orillas del río Rímac, muy cerca de la carretera y la vía del Ferrocarril Central. Cruzando el puente sobre el Rímac, te adentrabas en el bucólico Centro Residencial Huampaní. Mi papá vivía muy ocupado, como Diputado, periodista y escritor que era. Pero fueron muchas las veces que, con extraordinario cariño y una dulce paz, paseó conmigo por Huampaní o charló conmigo a orillas del río, me enseñó a cantar las canciones de sus novelas, me contaba cuentos, o me hacía oír en la sala de casa, junto con mi hermano Ciro, discos de música clásica (Deutsche Gramophon) que conseguía con gran esfuerzo, como auténticas rarezas culturales en la Lima de aquella época.
Él me tuvo al final de su vida, y me disfrutó y quiso intensa y sinceramente, como todo en él. Fue un hombre bueno, que intentó luchar contra la injusticia y transmitir un mensaje de esperanza. Como él mismo cuenta en su libro de Memorias, su vida fue «mucha suerte con harto palo, como es el humor de Dios». Cuando falleció, me ocultaron la noticia casi dos años completos, diciéndome que estaba enfermo, hospitalizado. Mi madre no quería que la pena me golpeara de frente, e intentó vadearla a fuerza de olvido… Pero como los recodos del río que mi padre me enseñó a amar, en los remansos de mi alma, queda empozado, cristalino y fresco, el recuerdo de mi padre: el gran escritor Ciro Alegría, el gran peruano que me enseñó a amar profundamente, a mi tierra y a mi gente. Y siempre que puedo, me sumerjo en su recuerdo, para tomar fuerzas y reavivar mi compromiso de permanencia, trabajo y amor, por nuestra bella y difícil patria peruana.