Juan León Mera

Juan Leon Mera

Juan León Mera Martínez was an Ecuadorian poet, novelist, essayist, politician and painter. He was born in Ambato, Ecuador on June 28, 1832 and died in the same city on December 13, 1894. In 1865 he penned the lyrics for Ecuador’s National Anthem “¡Salve, Oh Patria!” and in 1879 he wrote the novel Cumandá which is regarded as Ecuador’s first full-length novel. He was a member of the Ecuadorian Academy of Language, and a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language.

Political career

In addition to being a writer and painter he was a political conservative and follower of Gabriel García Moreno. He was the governor of Cotopaxi, Secretary of the Council of State, Senator, President of the Senate and National Congress in 1886.

Juan León Mera’s former residence, the museum “La quinta de Juan León Mera,” in the city of Ambato, exhibits his possessions.

English Translation of Cumandá

Mera’s novel Cumandá was translated in 2007 by Noé O. Vaca as Cumanda: The Novel of the Ecuadorian Jungle.

Cumandá vs La Emancipada, which truly is Ecuador’s First Novel?

Some scholars argue that Miguel Riofrío’s 1863 La Emancipada is truly Ecuador’s first novel (it preceded Cumandá by 16 years). However, defenders of Cumandá argue that Riofrío’s work, which was published in installments in 1863, is not a novel at all but a novella (due to its length; it usually runs less than 100 pages in print). Despite today’s controversy over who wrote Ecuador’s first novel, in their lifetime Juan León Mera and Miguel Riofrío were good friends. In fact, in 1854 Juan León Mera first published some of his verses in the periodical La Democracia with the help of Miguel Riofrío.

Cumandá the Film (1993, Directed by César Carmigniani)

1993 film adaption of Cumandá, directed by César Carmigniani and starring Sandy Puebla and Ricardo Williams. Setting Chimborazo Province, Ecuador, 19th century. Language: Spanish.

Ecuador’s National Anthem Lyrics

  • Lyrics by Juan León Mera (1865)
  • Music by Antonio Neumane (1870)
  • Adopted: 1948.

Official Lyrics

Spanish lyricsEnglish translation
Coro:
¡Salve, Oh Patria, mil veces, oh Patria!
¡Gloria a ti, gloria a ti!
Ya tu pecho, tu pecho, rebosa,
gozo y paz ya tu pecho rebosa;
Y tu frente, tu frente radiosa,
Más que el sol contemplamos lucir.

2da Estrofa:
Los primeros, los hijos del suelo
que, soberbio, el Pichincha decora,
te aclamaron por siempre señora
y vertieron su sangre por ti.
Dios miró y aceptó el holocausto
y esa sangre fue germen fecundo
de otros héroes que atónito el mundo
vió en tu torno a millares surgir.
¡A millares surgir! ¡A millares surgir!

Coro
Chorus:
We greet you, Oh Fatherland, a thousand times! Oh Fatherland,
Glory be to you! Glory be to you!
Your breast, your breast, overflows,
Your breast overflows with joy and peace;
And your radiant face, your radiant face
is brighter than the shining sun we see.

2nd Stanza:
The first sons of the soil
Which Pichincha adorns proudly,
They declared you as their sovereign lady forever,
And shed their blood for you.
God observed and accepted the holocaust,
And that blood was the prolific seed
Of other heroes whom the world in astonishment
Saw rise up around you by the thousands.
Rise up by the thousands, rise up by the thousands!

Chorus

Full lyrics

Spanish lyricsEnglish translation
Coro:
¡Salve, Oh Patria, mil veces! ¡Oh Patria,
gloria a ti! Ya tu pecho rebosa
gozo y paz, y tu frente radiosa
más que el sol contemplamos lucir.

I
Indignados tus hijos del yugo
que te impuso la ibérica audacia,
de la injusta y horrenda desgracia
que pesaba fatal sobre ti,
santa voz a los cielos alzaron,
voz de noble y sin par juramento,
de vengarte del monstruo sangriento,
de romper ese yugo servil.

Coro

II (verso oficial)
Los primeros, los hijos del suelo
que, soberbio, el Pichincha decora,
te aclamaron por siempre señora
y vertieron su sangre por tí.
Dios miró y aceptó el holocausto
y esa sangre fue germen fecundo
de otros héroes que atónito el mundo
vió en tu torno a millares surgir.

Coro

III
De estos héroes al brazo del hierro
nada tuvo invencible la tierra,
y del valle a la altísima sierra
se escuchaba el fragor de la lid.
Tras la lid, la victoria volaba,
libertad tras el triunfo venía,
y al león destrozado se oía
de impotencia y despecho rugir.

Coro

IV
Cedió al fin la fiereza española,
y hoy, oh Patria, tu libre existencia
es la noble y magnífica herencia
que nos dio el heroísmo feliz.
De las manos paternas la hubimos,
nadie intente arrancárnosla ahora,
ni nuestra ira excitar vengadora
quiera, necio o audaz, contra sí.

Coro

V
Nadie, oh Patria, lo intente. Las sombras
de tus héroes gloriosos nos miran,
y el valor y el orgullo que inspiran
son augurios de triunfos por ti.
Venga el hierro y el plomo fulmíneo,
que a la idea de guerra y venganza
se despierta la heroica pujanza
que hizo al fiero español sucumbir.

Coro

VI
Y si nuevas cadenas prepara
la injusticia de bárbara suerte,
¡gran Pichincha! prevén tú la muerte
de la Patria y sus hijos al fin
Hunde al punto en tus hondas entrañas
cuanto existe en tu tierra, el tirano
huelle solo cenizas y en vano
busque rastro de ser junto a ti.

Coro
Chorus:
We greet you, Oh Fatherland, a thousand times! Oh Fatherland,
glory to you! Your breast overflows
with joy and peace, and your radiant face
is brighter than the shining sun we see.

I
Your children were outraged by the yoke
That Iberian audacity imposed on you,
By the unjust and horrendous disgrace
Fatally weighing upon you.
They cried out a holy voice to the heavens,
that noble voice of a unbreakable pledge,
to defeat that monster of blood,
that this servile yoke would disappear.

Chorus

II (official verse)
The first sons of the soil
Which Pichincha adorns proudly,
They declared you as their sovereign lady forever,
And shed their blood for you.
God observed and accepted the holocaust,
And that blood was the prolific seed
Of other heroes whom the world in astonishment
Saw rise up around you by the thousands.

Chorus

III
Of those heroes of iron arm
No land was invincible,
And from the valley to the highest sierra
You could hear the roar of the fray.
After the fray, Victory would fly,
Freedom after the triumph would come,
And the Lion was heard broken
With a roar of helplessness and despair.

Chorus

IV
At last Spanish ferocity yielded,
And now, oh Fatherland, your free existence
Is the noble and magnificent heritage
Which the felicitous heroism gave us.:
It was given to us from our Fathers’ hands,
Let no one take it from us now,
Nor any daring fool wish to excite
Our vengeful anger against himself.

Chorus

V
May no one, oh Fatherland, try it. The shadows of
Your glorious heroes watch us,
And the valor and pride that they inspire
Are omens of victories for you.
Come lead and the striking iron,
That the idea of war and revenge
Wakes the heroic strength
That made the fierce Spanish succumb.

Chorus

VI
And if new chains are prepared by
The barbaric injustice of fate,
Great Pichincha! May you prevent the death
Of the country and their children in the end;
Sink to the deep point in your gut
All that exists on your soil. Let the tyrant
Tread only ashes and in vain
Look for any trace of being beside you.

Chorus

Works

Year of PublicationLiterary work
1857Fantasías
1857Afectos íntimos
1858Melodías indígenasread it for free here.
1858Poesíasread it for free here.
1861La virgen del solread it for free here.
1865Himno Nacional del Ecuador
1868Ojeada histórico-crítica sobre la poesía ecuatorianaread it for free here.
1872Los novios de una aldea ecuatoriana
1875Mazorra
1876El héroe mártir: canto a la memoria de García Moreno [Folleto]read it for free here.
1879Cumandá o un drama entre salvajesread it for free here.
1883Los últimos momentos de Bolívar
1884La dictadura y la restauración de la República del Ecuadorread it for free here.
1886La Estatua de Sucre ( Folleto)read it for free here.
1886Los inocentes de Ambato (Folleto)read it for free here.
1887Lira ecuatoriana
1889Entre dos tías y un tío
1890Porqué soy cristianoread it for free here.
1892Antología ecuatoriana: cantares del puebloread it for free here.
1903Tijeretazos y plumadasread it for free here.
1904García Moreno
1888Réplica a Don Manuel Llorente Vázquezread it for free here.
1908La escuela doméstica : artículos publicados en El Fénixread it for free here.
1909Novelitas ecuatorianasread it for free here.

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