Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    La poesía y el hombre : carta a la "Agrupación Espacio" / Sebastián Salazar Bondy
    Espacio (Lima, Perú). -- no.7 (1951)
    Journal article – Essays
    Salazar Bondy, Sebastián. "La poesía y el hombre: carta a la "Agrupación Espacio."  El Comercio (Lima, Perú), October 21, 1961.

Peruvian writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy sent this open letter to his fellow members of the Agrupación Espacio—a group of modern architects, artists, and writers based in Lima—from Buenos Aires. Salazar Bondy asserts that both art and thought must “be born out in the flesh,” which means that poetry must become “meaningful communication” of a content that is “the greatest sort of human communion.” He condemns the “pure” poem as spurious, a depersonalized form of sterile virtuosity that has become the norm among his countrymen who produce work that “pleases but doesn’t move.” Salazar Bondy speaks of rereading works by fellow Peruvians, of César Vallejo’s poetry, and of his conversations with composer Celso Garrido Lecca. He concludes that, due to its social influence, poetry should be written “in such a way that it conveys the artist’s connection with his peers.” As an example, Salazar Bondy cites Vallejo, who—without falling into “folklore”—managed to capture the essence of the Americas. Salazar Bondy asserts that “pure poetry must be opposed by meaningful poetry.”


Poet Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65) was a crucial figure in the aesthetic debates that took place in Peru in the mid-20th century. At the beginning of his career, he was deeply engaged in two movements fundamental to Peruvian history. First, the democratic government of José Luis Bustamante y Rivero in power from 1945 to 1948; from the editorial board of the newspaper La Nación, Salazar Bondy supported that administration’s attempts to broaden political participation. Second, in 1947 he signed the manifesto released by the Agrupación Espacio, a document fundamental to Peruvian modern art and architecture. Shortly after the publication of that manifesto—but before Bustamante y Rivero’s administration was ousted and the dictatorship under General Manuel A. Odría that would hold power from 1948 to 1955 put in place—he left for Buenos Aires. Though he was a contributor to the journal Espacio (1949–51), the platform of the group of the same name, the stance he voiced in “La poesía y el hombre” differed from the universalist formalism that the group embraced. Eventually—and particularly in the fifties—those differences led to open clashes with architect and critic Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94), the primary framer of modernism in Peru.


[For further reading, see in the ICAA digital archive the following texts on the Espacio group: “Expresión de principios de la Agrupación Espacio” (doc. no. 1126309), and (unsigned) “Dice Fernando Syszlo que no hay pintores en el Perú ni América: el joven pintor peruano declara sentir su pintura y la de los demás pero no puede explicarla” (doc. no. 1137793). The following texts were written by the Agrupación Espacio itself: “Posición” (doc. no. 1143745), “Presencia” (doc. no. 1150278), “Polémica” (doc. no. 1137823), “Prescindir o no prescindir” (doc. no. 1138933), and “Polémica: ¿hay pintores en el Perú?” (doc. no. 1139402). See as well the following texts by Samuel Pérez Barreto: “El Perú y la cultura: Sentido y expresión de las formas” (doc. no. 1138491), “Polémica: ‘polémica Espacio’” (doc. no. 1137916), and “Pintura: la guerra de los pintores: plumas por pinceles” (doc. no. 1137839)]. 

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Reproduced with permission of Yvonne Lostaunau de Salazar, Lima, Peru