Saintly vindication: Religious epic and the formation of Criollo identities. A study of the heroic poem "Vida de Santa Rosa..." (1711)

Date of Completion

January 2007


Literature, Latin American|History, Latin American




This dissertation is a study of Vida de Santa Rosa de Santa María, Natural de Lima y Patrona del Perú: Poema Heroyco (Madrid: J.G. Infanzon, 1711), an epic poem written by Luis Antonio de Herrera y Oviedo, Conde de la Granja (Spain 1636–Lima 1717). The study explores how the poem expressed the criollo and baquiano political agenda of obtaining legitimacy and acceptance within the bureaucratic and ecclesiastic organization of the Spanish monarchy. In this pursuit, I analyze the poem's use of the religious epic in connection with a discourse that projected the ambitions of the criollo group. Therefore, I argue that Vida de Santa Rosa… aligned with a criollo spirit of vindication and legitimacy by reorganizing the colonial social hierarchy to benefit criollos and by glorifying characters—such as conquistadors and Saint Rose—whose symbolic qualities could be assimilated by the criollo group. By employing the religious epic as a genre that reorders the past and gives it meaning, the poem offers a reinterpretation of the Peruvian Viceroyalty's local history within a providential Christian mythology and proposes a reconciliatory loyal criollo discourse that is not divorced of the Spanish monarchy's ideals.^ Chapter one deals with the insertion of the hagiographic tradition within the religious epic and the construction of the symbolic figure of Rose of Lime under which the criollo group can solidify as a community. Chapter two analyzes the exalting depiction of the city of Lima as a basis for a foundational myth that claims for a preeminent place for Lima within the Spanish empire and Christian world. Chapter three addresses the poem's representation of the indigenous world within the context of the religious and political history of the viceroyalty of Perú. Chapter four seeks to demonstrate how Vida… constructs an image of criollos as crusaders that defend the sacred space of Lima against the heretic pirate. The conclusion highlights the uniqueness of this religious epic poem as a critical vehicle to comprehend the process and devices under which the basic elements of a particular criollo identity consolidated and projected in the future Peruvian nation.^