Ambrosio Larrea

Early Life and Education

Born into a wealthy family in Riobamba, Ecuador, Ambrosio Larrea was the ninth of thirteen children. His family’s affluence allowed him to receive a comprehensive education from an early age. In 1754, he joined the Seminary of San Luis in Quito, where he studied alongside his brother Joaquín. Their education, deeply rooted in Jesuit teachings, included philosophy and theology at the University of San Gregorio Magno. Even in these early years, Larrea’s poetic talents were evident, as he participated in poetic contests among students.

Literary Career and Legacy

Larrea’s literary journey took a significant turn in 1759 when he joined the Society of Jesus. His career as a poet, however, blossomed in adversity following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories in 1767. Exiled to Italy, Larrea’s poetic output became characterized by its engagement with the themes of loss, identity, and the critique of contemporary societal issues. His most notable works were collected in El ocioso de Faenza by Juan de Velasco, showcasing Larrea’s adept use of the neoclassical style and his ventures into the aesthetics of Parnassianism. Through his poetry, Larrea contributed to the cultural and intellectual discourse of his time, reflecting on the Enlightenment’s impact and the sense of dislocation experienced by many exiles.

The Exile and Intellectual Contributions

Ambrosio Larrea was about 25 years old when he left Ecuador in exile, a consequence of the 1767 expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories, including Ecuador. This directive, part of a broader political and religious crackdown by King Charles III of Spain, aimed to diminish the Jesuits’ perceived threat due to their power, influence, and independent international network. The monarchy’s desire for consolidated control clashed with the Jesuits’ autonomy, leading to their expulsion under the guise of unifying religious and educational oversight. This pivotal moment redirected Larrea’s path to Italy, where, despite challenging circumstances, he and his fellow Jesuits fostered a resilient community, deeply engaged in intellectual and creative pursuits. Larrea’s poetry from this period not only reflects his personal resilience but also engages with Enlightenment ideas, critiquing the socio-political currents of his era and immortalizing the experiences of exile. His works, particularly those dedicated to notable figures and events, bear witness to a life profoundly shaped by displacement, yet rich in intellectual and creative output.


Ambrosio Larrea’s life came to an early end in Faenza, Italy, on September 19, 1796. He was 54 years old at the time of his death. Despite his relatively short life and the adversities he faced, Larrea’s contributions to literature and the intellectual landscape of his era were significant. His death in exile adds a poignant note to his legacy, highlighting the transitory nature of his existence but also the enduring impact of his work.

Ambrosio Larrea remains an important figure in the history of Ecuadorian and Jesuit literature. His poetry, infused with liberal ideas and a profound sense of identity, speaks to the complexities of his time and offers insights into the intellectual currents that shaped the Enlightenment period in the Americas. Through his writings, Larrea not only contributed to the literary canon but also to the broader discourse on freedom, identity, and exile, making him a figure of historical and cultural significance.


  • 1742: Ambrosio Larrea is born on December 7th in Riobamba, Ecuador.
  • 1754: Larrea enters the Seminary of San Luis in Quito to start his formal education.
  • 1759: He joins the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and continues his studies in philosophy and theology.
  • 1761: Participates in poetic contests among students, showcasing his early literary talents.
  • 1767: Faces the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories and begins his journey into exile, first moving towards Guayaquil, then to Panama, and subsequently to Havana.
  • 1768: Arrives in Cádiz, Spain, in March, along with other expelled Jesuits, before embarking on the journey to Italy.
  • Late 1760s to early 1770s: Settles in Faenza, Italy, as part of the Jesuit community in exile. During this period, he immerses himself in literary work and intellectual exchanges despite challenging living conditions.
  • 1796: Ambrosio Larrea dies on September 19th in Faenza, Italy, leaving behind a legacy as a poet and intellectual known for his neoclassical and Parnassian aesthetic, and his engagement with Enlightenment ideals.

Known Published Works

  • Larrea’s poetry was predominantly featured in “El ocioso de Faenza”, a collection compiled by Juan de Velasco that included poems from various Jesuit exiles. This collection showcased a range of poetic styles, including neoclassical and Parnassian influences. Specific works or pieces directly attributed to Larrea in this collection are not listed individually, but his contributions are recognized among the fifty-five pieces contained within, with seven in Spanish and forty-eight in Italian.
  • Selection of poems in “Los Poetas Quiteños de ‘El Ocioso de Faenza’”, edited by Alejandro Carrión, published by Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana in 1958. This selection further consolidates Larrea’s poetic legacy, offering a deeper insight into his works during his time in Italy.
  • His poetry also appears in “Los jesuitas quiteños del extrañamiento”, which provides a broader context of the Jesuit community’s experience during exile, including literary contributions from various members.

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