Ancient history

And who was Andres Bello?

In front of the Emblematic Educational Institution -once a Great School Unit- Bartolomé Herrera, located in the Lima district of San Miguel, there is a well-known attached school, only for primary, since the well-known "Bartolo" is exclusively for the Secondary Level. This attached school is named after a Venezuelan character of great historical stature, who today is not familiar to the collective imagination of the great majority. In this new installment of our biographical series “And who was it?” we will deal briefly with his life and educational work, one of the most significant in Latin America. So let's learn a little more about this distinguished character, Andrés Bello.

(Caracas, 1781-Santiago de Chile, 1865) Venezuelan philologist, writer, jurist and pedagogue. Interested from a very young age in reading the classics and educated in encyclopedic philosophy, Andrés Bello completed his training with studies in literature, philology and law, which however he could not finish due to lack of resources; he was essentially an autodidact of extremely high intellectual capacity.

Bello is the most representative figure of the Chilean and Latin American cultural progress of the first half of the 19th century. He admired and followed the libertarian poetics of Victor Hugo and Lord Byron. He was a determined defender of the purity and propriety of the Castilian language and, even so, he accepted popular expressions as long as they did not clash with the traditional terms in use. He devoted himself to private teaching for a time, and had Simón Bolívar as a disciple. He also gave him time to practice poetic creation, in which he showed a strong neoclassical influence.

As a result of the beginning of the independence process in 1810 (Independence of Spanish America), Andrés Bello moved to London as secretary of the delegates of the Venezuelan Governing Board, Simón Bolívar and Luis López Méndez, managers of the support or neutrality of the English government against the Revolution. He married María Ana Boyland there, who died prematurely, leaving him with two sons, Carlos and Francisco.

The setbacks of the emancipation movement and his new family responsibilities placed him in a difficult economic situation that he was able to remedy in part thanks to the teaching of Latin and French, languages ​​that he He had studied hard. He remarried Isabel Antonia Dunn, from whom he had numerous offspring.

In 1822 he began to work in the Chilean Legation and later in the Colombian Legation. Despite his economic misfortunes, his intellectual activity was intense in those years:he interacted with writers and thinkers, studied Greek, collaborated in journalism and reviewed documents of various kinds.

In 1823, together with the Colombian García del Río, he published the magazine Biblioteca Americana or Miscelánea de Literatura, Artes y Ciencias and, in 1825, the magazine Repertorio Americano, both to spread the events and the culture of Latin America. His articles and poems appeared there under the generic title of Silvas Americanas, Allocución a la Poesía -fragments of a poem about America- and the famous ode Agriculture of the Torrid Zone. The situation in his country was far from improving and Bello could not return, so he offered his services to Chile and accepted the request of Ambassador Mariano Egaña -Juan Egaña's son- made on behalf of President Pinto, to hold the position of Senior Official from the Foreign Office, after spending eighteen years in England.

In 1829, at the age of 47, he settled in Chile. From his new position, Bello began a fruitful intellectual, cultural and political work that would leave deep traces in the country. He was rector of the University of Chile from 1843, a position for which he was re-elected three consecutive times. He was also a senator in 1837 and 1855 at the same time that he became the fundamental editor of the Chilean Civil Code, based on the Napoleonic code. He also published several works on jurisprudence and international law.

Andrés Bello was also director and editor of El Araucano, a ministerial newspaper founded by Diego Portales in 1830, in which he published numerous articles on education, philosophy and theater. In 1842 he argued with Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, from the River Plate, on questions of language, aesthetics, and politics. He dealt with language through numerous studies. His Grammar of the Castilian Language (1847) stands out, for which he was appointed corresponding member of the Spanish Academy of Language, and his Orthology and Metrics, the two most original works that have been carried out in our language on this subject. He also wrote a commentary on El Criterio de Balmes, and a study on El Cantar de Mío Cid.

In 1843 he began to publish his work Philosophy of Understanding in the magazine El Crepúsculo, which would only appear published in its entirety after his death in 1881. Conceived as a textbook, but elaborated in an innovative way, its object of research is a much broader field than mere human understanding, since it includes even metaphysics.

Bello also devoted time to literature by way of studies, translations and creations in which he imitated the classics and the romantics, demonstrating a broad mastery of both artistic expressions. Well known became his imitation of a poem by Victor Hugo entitled The prayer for all. His creations also include an Ode to September 18, the elegy El fuego de la Compañía and the poem El proscrito, which was left unfinished.

he also gave a strong impetus to Chilean theater with his critical comments on the performances and his suggestions to the actors in El Araucano. In this sense, he shares with José Joaquín de Mora the merit of being the creator of theater criticism. He translated Alexandre Dumas's Teresa and instilled in his disciples a taste for the adaptation of foreign works. His knowledge of Greek and Latin theatre, his analysis of the works of Plautus and Terence, his reading of Lope and Calderón, gave him sufficient solidity to give his opinion on the matter. His best literary achievements would be reached in the translation and paraphrase, from English and French, of poems and plays fundamentally. He left his translation of Boyardo's Orlando Enamorado incomplete.

Another very important aspect of his activities was his teaching role and the interest he felt in pedagogy. He was convinced that education and spiritual cultivation are the basis of the well-being of the individual and the progress of society, which is why he always promoted the study of letters and sciences. Bello proposed the opening of Normal Schools for Preceptors and the creation of Sunday Courses for the workers. Many of his educational ideas are in the Inaugural Speech with which the activity of five new Faculties at the University of Chile began in 1843.

The influence of Andrés Bello's thought was not limited to his time, but would be transcendental in the political and cultural life of Chile and all of America long after the death of him.