Birthday: October 12, 1908
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Alfredo Pareja-Diezcanseco, Alfredo Pareja y Diez Canseco, Alfredo Pareja Diez-Canseco
Born in: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Famous as: Novelist, Essayist, Historian
Died on: May 1, 1993
place of death: Quito, Ecuador
City: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Who was Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco?
Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco was an Ecuadorian writer, best known for his work as a novelist, essayist and journalist. His work also touched on the spheres of history and political science, with Pareja working as both an historian and a diplomat in addition to his primary work as a writer. He is seen as one of the founding fathers of a major 20th century Latin American movement, the so-called ‘Grupo de Guayaquil’. In recognition of his literary work, he received recognition from numerous literary societies, universities and cultural organizations as well as his own government. Pareja’s work has been connected to the work of others from the ‘Guayaquil Group’, such as José de la Cuadra, Joaquin Gallegos Lara, Demetrio Aguilera Malta and Enrique Gil Gilbert. In addition, critics have likened his work to that of other Latin American literary greats, such as Jorge Luis Borges, John Dos Passos and Julio Cortázar. He maintained personal connections with other major writers of his era, including a long-time correspondence with John Steinbeck. Aside from his prominence within the literary world, he held posts at several universities in Latin America and North America, lecturing in the departments of literature, politics and history.
Childhood & Early Life
Alfredo Pareja was born on 12 October 1908 in Guayaquil, Equador, to Fernando Pareja y Pareja and Amalia Diez-Canseco y Coloma, grandchild of the former Peruvian President Francisco Diez Canseco y Corbacho.
From the age of 14, Pareja helped support his family by working at the Colegio Vicente Rocafuerte, a local high school.
His education began in his hometown at the Colegio San Luis Gonzaga, a religious school of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order.
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At the age of 22, he left his home for the United States. There, he took an assortment of jobs, including a stint on the New York docks.
On returning to Ecuador, he entered the field of academics with a position at the Universidad Laica Vicente Rocafuerte de Guayaquil as a professor of history, Spanish and American literature.
During the same period, he also took a post as superintendent in Guayas Province, where he was responsible for Secondary Education across the entire province.
Between 1935 and 1937, during a temporary exile in Chile, he briefly worked in the publishing industry at the Ercilla Publishing House.
In 1937, as the dictator Paez was replaced by President Aurelio Mosquera Narvaez, Pareja was able to return to Ecuador and to serve as a member of the Assembly.
In 1944, he become Ecuador’s chargé d'affaires to Mexico, a post he held for just one year before being appointed as a special representative for the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) in Washington, D.C., Montevideo and Buenos Aires. As a special representative for the United Nations organization, he variously represented the interests of Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
In August 1979, he was appointed as the Ecaudorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post he held for just under a year, until July 1980.
In 1983, during the administration of President Osvaldo Hurtado, Pareja became a Permanent Delegate to UNESCO as well as the Ecuadorian Ambassador to Paris. Although the title was “permanent”, Pareja actually held the post for only one year, before his retirement.
In 1933, he wrote ‘El muelle’ (‘The Pier’), a novel based on his experiences working on the docks of New York during the Great Depression.
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In 1944, his novel-biography ‘The Barbaric Bonfire’ depicted the life and death of General Eloy Alfaro. The work extended Pareja’s fame within Ecuador to a worldwide level.
In 1944, he published the novel ‘Las tres ratas’ (‘The three rats’), a novel noted for its realism and its depiction of contemporary Ecuador. The novel would be made into an Argentine film just two years later.
Awards & Achievements
In 1994, he was given the Medalla de la Fundación Internacional Eloy Alfaro La Habana for his literary work to date, including ‘El muelle’, ‘Hombres sin tiempo’ and ‘Las tres ratas’.
In 1972, the ‘Medalla al Mérito Literario Municipio de Guayaquil’ was awarded to him for his exceptional accomplishments as a Guayaquil-born writer.
In 1979, he received the Eugenio Espejo National Award, the highest literary honor in Ecuador, from his life’s work in letters.
In 1992, in recognition of his work presiding over the Bicentennial of the French Revolution Committee, Pareja was awarded the Légion d'honneur, a notable distinction as it is typically awarded only to French nationals.
Given his work in diplomacy as well as letters, he received numerous accolades and honors from various countries, both Spanish-speaking and others. These recognitions included the Gran Cruz de la Orden al Mérito del Ecuador and the Gran Oficial de la Orden al Mérito del Ecuador (both from his native country); the Gran Cruz de la Orden de Isabela la Católica (from Spain), the Grand Croix de Order of the Crown (from Belgium) and the Gran Cruz de la Order of the Sun (from Peru).
Personal Life & Legacy
Pareja married his cousin, Mercedes Cucalón Concha in 1934. His wife was the niece of Carlos Concha Torres, a famous Equadorian colonel.
Together with his wife, Mercedes, he fathered three children: Cecilia, Jorge and Francisco.
During the dictatorship of Federico Paez, Pareja was incarcerated and eventually exiled (1935-1937). Upon his exile, Pareja fled to Chile.
On 1 May 1993, Pareja died in Quito after a quiet retirement, during which he immersed himself in historical research.
Pareja’s legacy of excellence in the arts was carried on by his son-in-law, Gerard Béhague, a noted ethnomusicologist.
Following the Second World War, he collaborated with the Equadorian President Galo Plaza Lasso on various educational projects, not only in Central and South American countries, but also elsewhere around the world.