Jorge Icaza

Jorge Icaza

Jorge Icaza Coronel (Quito, June 10, 1906 – Ibidem, May 26, 1978) is indisputably the most renowned Ecuadorian author of the 20th century. His impactful storytelling, exemplified in critically acclaimed novels such as “Huasipungo” and “El Chulla Romero y Flores,” presented an unflinching portrayal of Ecuadorian societal conditions, particularly the trials of indigenous and mestizo communities. Icaza’s “Huasipungo,” which brought the issue of rural exploitation to the global stage, has been translated into more than 15 languages, including two English versions, signifying his far-reaching influence. His status as Ecuador’s literary giant is not just confined to his homeland; his work has significantly shaped Latin American literature. His later role as Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia further exemplifies his multifaceted contributions. Icaza’s legacy has transcended time; his work continues to inspire and influence, marking him as a towering figure in Ecuadorian and Latin American literature of the 20th century.


Jorge Icaza began his literary career as a playwright. El Intruso was published in 1928, La Comedia sin Nombre in 1929, Cuál es in 1931, Sin Sentido in 1932, and Flagelo in 1936. After his 1933 playscript, El Dictador, was rejected, Icaza shifted his focus to writing novels about Ecuador’s social conditions, particularly the oppression of its indigenous people.


With the publication of Huasipungo in 1934, Jorge Icaza achieved international fame. The book is one of the best known Indigenista novels (Indigenista literature is a literary trend that deals with the indigenous peoples of Latin America and their problems). Fragments of the book first appeared in English translation in Russia, where it was welcomed enthusiastically by Russia’s peasant socialist class. Jorge Icaza was later appointed Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia. (1973-1977).

The first complete edition of Huasipungo was translated into English in 1962 by Mervyn Savill and published in England by Dennis Dobson Ltd. An “authorized” translation appeared in 1964 by Bernard M. Dulsey, and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in Carbondale, IL as “The Villagers”.

Read an essay on Bernard M. Dulsey’s translation of Jorge Icaza’s novel Huasipungo.

Listen to Jorge Icaza read from selected chapters of his books.

Adaption of some of Icaza’s novels for the stage

In 1970, with his wife Marina Moncayo, Jorge Icaza wanted to stage the theatrical version of “Huasipungo” but the civil dictatorial government of Velasco Ibarra prohibited it from being performed. Ricardo Descalzi del Castillo, at Icaza’s request, was the one who adapted Huasipungo for the stage. A year later, Icaza premiered his theatrical version of “El Chulla Romero y Flores” with great success in Quito.

Personal life


Jorge Icaza Coronel was born in Quito, in the Vergel neighborhood, on July 10, 1906. His father, José Antonio Icaza Manzo, was a liberal from Babahoyo who died in 1909 of a perforated ulcer when Jorge Icaza was only three years old. His mother, Carmen Amelia Coronel Pareja, was from Riobamba.

A short time later his mother married a merchant named José Alejandro Peñaherrera Oña.

Jorge Icaza relocated to Chimborazo with his mother, Amelia Coronel Pareja, where his family owned a farm. It was then that as a boy Icaza came into contact with the Indians of these lands, their language and customs, and, especially, their plight: their mistreatment in the hands of the white landowners and mestizo overseers—which later served as a theme in his novel “Huasipungo” and other works.


In 1936, Icaza married stage actress Marina Moncayo, with whom he had a daughter, Cristina Icaza Moncayo, in 1934. They had a second daughter, Fenia Icaza Moncayo, in 1937. He met Moncayo while writing plays for the National Theater Company (Compañía Nacional de Teatro). Icaza and Moncayo remained married until his death in 1978.

Novelist Jorge Icaza, circa 1920s-1930s
Actress Marina Moncayo, circa 1920s-1930s

Bookstore owner

In 1937, together with Ecuadorian novelist Pedro Jorge Vera and the Peruvian writer Genaro Carnero Checa (who was living in exile in Ecuador), he founded the bookstore named Agencia General de Publicaciones [General Publications Agency], located at Mejía No. 78, between the streets Venezuela and García Moreno. The bookstore became a place where intellectuals met, however it did not produce a considerable profit. The following year he began directing the magazine “The Union of Writers and Artists.”

Politics and diplomatic career

Jorge Icaza had connections with the political left and consistently infused his works with social themes. He was present at the inauguration of Venezuelan President Rómulo Gallegos, a fellow writer.

In 1949, Icaza served as a cultural attaché in Buenos Aires, Argentina, under the Plaza Gallo administration. By 1959, he became the director of the National Library. During this period, he also embarked on an international tour, visiting countries like China, the Soviet Union, and several in Europe. In 1973, he lectured in the United States and later represented Ecuador as an Ambassador to the USSR, Poland, and West Germany.

In 1963, Icaza’s work “Huasipungo” was translated into Russian, and he participated in the Zionist Congress in Rio de Janeiro. Three years later, in 1966, a Cuban edition of “Huasipungo” was released in 100,000 copies. However, Icaza did not receive any royalties for this edition due to Cuba’s policy since Castro’s rise to power.


Jorge Icaza died of stomach cancer at the age of 71 on May 26, 1978 in Quito, Ecuador. He had started writing two new novels, “Los Jauregui” and “La milagrosa,” but was unable to finish them before his passing.


House of Ecuadorian Culture
In 1944, along with Benjamín Carrión and others, Jorge Icaza was a founding member of la Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (the Ecuadorian House of Culture), a cultural organization created to stimulate, to direct and to coordinate the development of an authentic national culture. Headquartered in Quito (picture above), it maintains several museums throughout Ecuador. In 1948, Jorge Icaza was elected Vice President of this institution.

Jorge Icaza Statue in Moscow Russia
In 2010, a bust of Jorge Icaza was erected in the MUZEON Park of Arts in Moscow, Russia where there are monuments of other worldwide intellectuals, such as the Russian writers Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Pushkin, and the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda.
Jorge Icaza 2006 stamp
Jorge Icaza on a 2006 stamp (bottom right) featuring the title character (on the left) of his 1958 novel El chulla Romero y Flores. It shows the title of the book’s 1965 German translation: Caballero im geborgten Frack. El chulla Romero y Flores was translated into several other languages.

A short documentary about Jorge Icaza.

Huasipungo in English translation

Fragments of the book first appeared in English translation in Russia, where it was welcomed enthusiastically by Russia’s peasant socialist class. The complete edition of Huasipungo was first translated into the English language in 1962 by Mervyn Savill and published in England by Dennis Dobson Ltd. An “authorized” translation appeared in 1964 by Bernard M. Dulsey, and was published in 1964 by Southern Illinois University Press in Carbondale, IL as The Villagers. Read a preview of Dulsey’s English translation here.


Year of PublicationLiterary workGenreNotes
1928El intrusoPlay
1929La comedia sin nombrePlay
1931¿Cuál es? y Como ellos quierenPlay
1932Sin sentidoPlay
1933El dictadorPlay
1933Barro de la sierraShort Story
1934HuasipungoNovelRead it for free here.
1935En las callesNovelRead it for free here.
1936FlageloPlayRead it for free here.
1937CholosNovelRead it for free here.
1942Media vida deslumbradosNovel
1958El chulla Romero y FloresNovel
1961Obras escogidasSelected works
1969RelatosShort Story

Partial list of Jorge Icaza’s works in translation

Original TitleLanguageTitleTranslatorPublisherYear
El chulla Romero y FloresGermanCaballero in geborgtem FrackHorst Lothar TeweleitBerlin Verl. Volk u. Welt1965
El chulla Romero y FloresFrenchL’homme De QuitoClaude CouffonLes Lettres
francaises, Nº833, 14-20 juillet 1960.
El chulla Romero y FloresFrenchL’homme De QuitoClaude CouffonAlbin Michel1993
HuasipungoGermanHuasi-Pungo. Ruf der Indios. Roman.Paul ZechGreifenverlag, Rudolstadt1952
CholosItalianI meticciCarlo BoEinaudi, Torino1949
HuasipungoFrenchLa Fosse aux IndiensGeorges PillementParís, Ed . Pierre Fanlac1938
HuasipungoEnglishThe Villagers, a Novel. Authorized TranslationBernard M. DulseySouthern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL1964
HuasipungoEnglishHuasipungoMervyn SavillDennis Dobson Ltd, London1962
HuasipungoGermanHuasipungo. Unser kleines Stückchen ErdeSuzanne HeintzBornheim – Merten Lamuv1978
HuairapamuchcasSlovenianHuairapamuške: sinovi vetra: romanBarbara PregeljMladinska knjiga2001
HuasipungoGreekΟυαζιπούνγκοΠόλλα Ζαχοπούλου – Βλάχου (Pólla Zachopoúlou-Vláchou)ΚΑΣΤΑΝΙΩΤΗΣ (Kastaniōtē)1982
En las callesSlovakNa uliciachTibor KobáňVPL – Vydavateľstvo politickej literatúry1963
El chulla Romero y FloresRussianЧеловек из КитоСкины Вафа (Skina Vafa)Khudozhestvennaia literatura1966
HuasipungoHungarianIndián átokFüsi JózsefNyomtatta Athenaeum, Budapest.1949
HuairapamuchcasRomanianCopiii vîntuluiVlaicu Bârna, David MihailEditura pentru Literatură Universală1965
El chulla Romero y FloresCzechChlapík z QuitaVěra ProkopováPraha: SNKLU1963
CholosSlovenianMešanci: romanSilvester ŠkerlV Ljubljani: Cankarjeva založba1954
HuasipungoSerbianIndijanska poljaRajna Đurđev
Biblioteka Reč i misao
FrenchUn roman : Terre indienne (I)Jean VietPoésie 47, n° 38mars 1947
FrenchUn roman : Terre indienne (II)Jean VietPoésie 47, n° 39mai 1947
FrenchUn roman : Terre indienne (III)Jean VietPoésie 47, n° 40août-septembre 1947
El chulla Romero y FloresUkrainianЛихі пригоди Ромеро-і-Флореса: прозрінняВадим Хазін (Vadim Khazin)Vydavnyt︠s︡tvo khudoz︠h︡nʹoï literatury “Dnipro”1967
HuasipungoHebrewאינדיאני על ההר: סיפור על נחלת דמיםIoram Melcerכרמל, Yerushalayim: Karmel2009
CholosFrench“Cholos”Lucie SobolSeghers1959
HuasipungoCzechIndiánská poleJaroslav Kuchválek, Miroslav PaťavaV Praze : Pavel Prokop : Svoboda1947
HuasipungoChinese養身地 / Yang shen diHao’erhe Yikasa zhu, Lin Zhimu yi上海譯文出版社, Shanghai : Shanghai yi wen chu ban she1986
En las callesRussianНа улицах Н. Любимова
(N. Lyubimova)
Журн.-газ. объединение1938
HuasipungoJapaneseワシプンゴ / Washipungo伊藤武好 (Takeyoshi Ito朝日新聞社
Asahi Shimbun
HuasipungoItalianHuasipungoLucilla SoroElliot2018
HuasipungoPortugueseHuasipungoAntónio José MassanoINALD – Instituto Nacional do Livro e do Disco1980
HuasipungoPortugueseHuasipungoHeloísa Archêro de AraújoPaz e Terra1978
HuasipungoPortugueseHuasipungoDe Plácido e SilvaGuaíra1941
HuasipungoPolishHuasipungo: Dławiące dzierżawyTadeusz JakubowiczLudowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, Warszawa1950
HuasipungoItalianHuasipungoGiuseppe BelliniNuova Accademia, Milano1961
HuasipungoRussianУасипунгоV. Vinogradov (Виноградов В.)1976
Two short stories: “Sed” and “Exodo” originally from the collection “Barro de la sierra (cuentos)”FrenchGens de l’Equateur («Soif» et «Exode»)George PillementSeghers1945
HuairapamuchcasCroatianZli DuhoviIvan VečerinaZora,
Zagreb, Croatia

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