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In this article, Juan F. Ballón discusses the recent revolutionary process that began in Arequipa and went on to overthrow the dictator Augusto B. Leguía. In Ballón’s opinion, it was a “total” revolution that involved “all the events, all social and political activities in Peru,” as demonstrated by the university student movement. He associates these events with the artistic avant-garde, which at that time had been rejected by reactionary segments of Peruvian society. Ballón states that “art’s revolutionary ranks were filled with proletarian artists and the petite bourgeoisie.” He thinks the original period of uncertainty created by the artistic revolution has passed, as people have come to realize that the “ideal of our new art” is “the stylized representation of reality.” In his opinion, the movement is in need of guidance from teachers with a new artistic vision who can educate the proletarian masses. According to the author, our ignorance and suspicion of the first phase of the artistic revolution (in Europe) had a silver lining in the Americas because it prompted a contemplation of our past, without which we would have found it impossible to adapt to the goals of the avant-garde.
Born in Arequipa, in his youth, the musician and writer Juan Ballón was an enthusiastic supporter of the avant-garde ideal of renewal. In 1929, he published “Carácter y tendencias de la revolución vanguardista” in Mundial, the prestigious Lima magazine, in which he underscored the links between avant-gardism and revolution. In his article, he suggests that some local artistic movements are in fact an expression of a progressive political outlook. A year later Ballón addressed the same subject under very different circumstances following the overthrow of the Augusto B. Leguía (1919–30) dictatorship by the revolution led by Lieutenant Commander Luis Sánchez Cerro (1889–1933), who delegated power to a governing junta charged with calling an election. Leguía was a populist, tolerant regime, but his overthrow exacerbated social demands that included university reform, arising mainly from the Universidad de San Marcos (in Lima). Like many other intellectuals, Ballón saw this mood of social unrest and artistic renewal—in his view associated with a strictly nationalist agenda—as a prelude to political revolution. It was no coincidence that the election of the conservative candidate, Sánchez Cerro (who was assassinated two years later), coincided with the retreat or disappearance of the few local avant-garde movements. In fact, one of the first military directives of the new government was to close the Universidad de San Marcos (which did not reopen until 1935). [See the following article in the ICAA digital archive: “Carácter y tendencias de la revolución vanguardista” by Juan F. Ballón (doc. no. 1151280)].