Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages


Raquel Chang-Rodríguez

Subject Categories

Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Latin American Studies


Baroque, Ecuador, Enlightenment, jesuit, poetry


The purpose of this study is to demonstrate how mid-eighteenth century notions of patria, nación, and Nuestra América predate latter nation-building constructs, particularly at the turn of the 19th century. Benedict Anderson's (1991) assertion that Spanish-American Creoles attained a sense of belonging to an "imagined community", towards the end of the 18thcentury,fails to take into account the limitations of print capitalism due to extremely low literacy rates and rare access to the printing press. This dissertation focuses on the life and work of Jesuit poet, orator, and philosopher Juan Bautista Aguirre (Daule [Ecuador], 1725-Tivoli [Italy], 1786). His poems and sermons, many of which were recited in public spaces, confirm the prevalence of orality over the written word, as quiteños gathered outside administrative buildings of the Real Audiencia de Quito for important occasions, thus strengthening a sense of belonging to a body collective.

Unlike previous specialized studies of Aguirre's oeuvre, this dissertation takes on a holistic approach to his multidisciplinary production. It aims to offer a more cohesive understanding of Aguirre's conception of time and space. This approach will enable the reader to trace, not only his transition from Baroque aesthetics to early Enlightened thought, but also to visualize his ever-expanding configuration of the territory corresponding to modern-day Ecuador. I argue that the Enlightenment origins of Ecuadorian thought lies in the poem "Breve diseño de Guayaquil y Quito." This composition has often been viewed as a regional divide among scholars who tend to overlook Aguirre's assimilation of Spanish Golden Age models and tropes. Aguirre's growth, both as poet and philosopher, is evident in his transitional poems, particularly in "Rasgo épico a la llegada de Tomás Nieto Polo" (1750), a Pindaric ode which foreshadows 19th century resurgence of neoclassical thought, particularly in José Joaquín de Olmedo's "La Victoria de Junín: Canto a Bolívar" (1825). Aguirre's evolution is also evident in his oratory works "Carta Pastoral" (1757), a response to a major earthquake, and "Oración fúnebre" commemorating the passing of a Bishop, adding cohesiveness to a collective catharsis that solidifies a sense of community. Aguirre's treatise on Física (1756-7) is not merely an encyclopedic compendium of Enlightenment thought. It aims to correct preconceived, Aristotelian notions about the equatorial landscape, but it is also a window into 18th century Creole thought and ingenuity. Lastly, this dissertation constitutes a contribution to nation-building studies, as preconceived by 18th-century Spanish-American creoles in the midst of a paradigm shift, from the Baroque to the Enlightenment.