Fernando Chaves

Fernando Chaves Reyes

Fernando Chaves Reyes (Otavalo, February 13, 1902 – Quito, 1999) was an Ecuadorian novelist, essayist, journalist, diplomat and politician. He wrote the short novel, “La Embrujada” (1923) and the novel “Plata y bronze” (1927), which laid the groundwork for the Ecuadorian Indigenist novel. Chaves’ novel influenced other future Ecuadorian indigenista novelists, including Jorge Icaza, whose novel “Huasipungo” (1934) is considered Ecuador’s most important indigenista novel. He served as Ecuador’s ambassador to El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua.


In 1991 Chaves received the National Grand Cross of the Order of Merit.


Chaves was influenced by the Bolivian novelist Alcides Arguedas, who in 1919 wrote the indigenist novel Raza de bronze (Race of Bronze).

Personal life

Chaves was married to Magdalena Marie Ribreau, who died of a stroke in 1982. They did not have children.


In 1927, Chaves was named director of the Espejo School. América Magazine held a novel contest that year to commemorate Juan Montalvo’s birthday, and Chaves’ “Plata y Bronze” won in May. The Imprenta Nacional (National Press) published it in a 316-page edition with a prologue by Isaac J. Barrera. The print run was 1,000 copies; he received 100 copies which he distributed to his friends.

Chaves was appointed Ecuador’s consul in Le Havre. He traveled there at the end of 1938 and witnessed the outbreak of the war. The city was bombed three times by the Germans in 1940. For several months, he established the consulate in Bordeaux. Then he went to Marseilles, on free French territory, where he stayed until the end of 1941. Being the only Ecuadorian consulate in Europe that did not sell visas or passports for bribes, he was unjustly relieved of his duties and returned to Otavalo. When Foreign Minister Tobar Donoso learned of this injustice, he summoned him to Quito and appointed him First Director of the newly established Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Feeling financially secure, he married his fiancée Magdalena Marie Ribreau, a widow with a small daughter, in Le Havre. He was appointed Consul General in Lisbon in April 1944, and in 1946 he was promoted to Charge d’Affaires. In May 1950, he was transferred to Bremen with the same functions. He served as Ecuador’s ambassador in El Salvador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

Chaves was appointed Director of the National Library in 1956. Escombros, his second novel, was published in 1958. It was an existential novel about loneliness and disenchantment. Chávez stated that it is the work that was written with the most care and even affection, but that its publication was stifled by critics.


Besides his native Spanish, he spoke Portuguese, French, German, and English.



  • La embrujada (1923)
  • Plata y bronce (1927)
  • Escombros (Quito, 1958)

Non fiction

  • Crónica de mi viaje a México (Quito, 1992)
  • El hombre ecuatoriano y su cultura (Quito, 1990)

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