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Juan Leon Mera


Juan Leon Mera Martinez was an Ecuadorian poet, novelist, journalist, critic, politician and satirist.

Mera is known as the father of Ecuadorian literature, principally for being the author of Cumanda (1879). This is a novel about the clandestine love affair between a young woman from an Amazonian tribe, and the son of a Spanish Dominican friar. Their relationship is doubly doomed: not only because it is opposed by the girl's father, but also because it is ultimately revealed that the pair are in fact brother and sister. Yet the moral of the story is that people can change: the indigenous father, who turns out to have kidnapped the girl as a child as he also killed her lover's mother, is converted to Christianity in what are (literally) his dying breaths. Mera therefore (ostensibly) argues for the peaceful assimilation of indigenous people within the national project, by means of the twin virtues of religion and love. The novel is widely taught in Ecuadoran primary and secondary schools and is considered to be among the most important achievements of nineteenth-century Latin American literature.

Mera also wrote the words to the Ecuadoran national anthem.

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