Juan E. O'Leary
(Raul Amaral 2003)
O'Leary, Juan Emiliano
(1879-1969), poet and historian of modern Paraguay, was born
in Asunción on 1 June 1879, the second son of Juan O'Leary
(b.1841?) of Salto, Uruguay, and María Dolores, daughter of
Pascual Urdapilleta and Cesárea Carísimo of Asunción, and
widow of Bernardo Jovellanos. Juan O'Leary Senior who had
arrived in Paraguay during the War of the Triple Alliance to
work as a travelling salesman, was the widower of Dolores
Thedy, from a prominent family in Chivilcoy, Buenos Aires
province. In Paraguay he conducted a relationship with
Natividad Mercedes Moreno. Though unmarried, the couple had a
son, Fulgencio Ricardo Moreno, who became a writer, historian,
and Paraguayan minister for foreign affairs. Juan Emiliano
O'Leary's grandparents were the Irish immigrant John O'Leary
and Eladia Costa of Buenos Aires.
Emiliano O'Leary was sent to study at the Instituto Paraguayo in
Asunción, which operated from 1885 to 1902, and at the Colegio
Nacional. He then matriculated at the School of Law in Asunción.
He actively participated in politics, supporting General
Bernardino Caballero of the National Republican Association, the
'Partido Colorado', which dominated political life in Paraguay.
O'Leary occupied key posts in the Party, as director of the
National Archive, and later as a diplomatist. During a brief
period he was foreign affairs minister in Alfredo Stroessner's
major contribution to Paraguayan historiography was his
reappraisal of Francisco Solano López and of his role in the War
of the Triple Alliance, known as the Guerra Guazú, or
“Great War” to the Paraguayans,. Paraguay fought the Great War
against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay from 1864 to 1870.
Initially, and most likely under the influence of his family,
O'Leary was bitterly critical of Solano López. He achieved
renown on the basis of a less than flattering poem about the
dictator during his studies at the Colegio Nacional. However, by
the age of twenty-five O'Leary had concluded that Solano López's
regime, though tyrannical and authoritarian, was beneficial to
the country in the context of the aggressive foreign policies of
its neighbours. Juan O'Leary depicted the Marshall as a
great hero, a great patriot and a great promoter of nationalism.
He was a close personal friend of Enrique Solano, son of the
Marshall, and for this reason some accused O'Leary of
distinguished himself as a pioneer of historical revisionism in
Paraguay. The nationalist, and frequently overtly racist, views
expressed in his narrative of Paraguayan history were
effectively used by politicians to raise awareness of an
indigenous identity among the population that remained after the
catastrophic exactions of the Great War. Among his works of
history are Páginas de historia (1916), Nuestra
epopeya (1919), El Mariscal Solano López (1920),
El Paraguay en la unificación argentina (1924), El héroe
del Paraguay (1930), Los legionarios (1930),
Apostolado patriótico (1933), Historia de la guerra de la
Triple Alianza (1912) and Prosa polémica, published
posthumously in 1982.
By the turn
of the twentieth century Juan O'Leary had become a member of a
group of poets who used their writing as a method of reaffirming
national identity. O’Leary’s name was linked with Rosicrán’s (Narciso
R. Colman) Guaraní renaissance. In the magazine Ocara Poty
Cue-mi O’Leary encouraged readers 'to preserve our language;
we must develop Guaraní and protect it from the corrupting and
intrusive effects of Spanish'. Several of his poems are epic
ballads about the Paraguayan war of independence and the war
against the Triple Alliance. He also researched oral legends and
narrated them in the form of short stories or epic poems.
O'Leary published the following poetry books: El alma de la
raza (1899), A la memoria de mi hija Rosita (1918),
Salvaje (1902), Los conquistadores (1921), and
several poetry anthologies in the Guaraní language.
O'Leary died on 31 October 1969 in Asunción. A street in the
city and a district of Alto Paraná bear O'Leary's name.
Raul, Escritos Paraguayos (Asunción: Distribuidor Quevedo,
2003), vol. 1, pp. 112-117, 166-167.
Saguier, Rubén and Carlos Villagra Marsal (eds.). Poésie
paraguayenne du XXe siècle: édition trilingue en
espagnol, français et guarani. Geneva: Patiño, 2003.
Lustig. Chácore purahéi – Canciones de guerra: Literatura
popular en guaraní e identidad nacional en el Paraguay.