Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Thomas Harrington


While our identities may appear to be independently created, that is often not the case. In Peru, as in much of Latin America, cultural and national identities that formed under Spanish colonial rule continued into the post-independence years. Nineteenth century authors created narratives of cultural and national identity that used “otherness” to delineate who was a proper member of society, and the categorization of separate identities remained entrenched in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the case of Peru, separate identities based on geographic regions (the coast, the mountains, and the rainforest) and ethnic background (indigenous, afro-Peruvian, European) have persisted despite enormous differences within these groups and significant harm caused by the dominant narrative that pits groups against each other. Although the dominant narratives have largely stayed the same, the critics and their methods of criticism have not. Despite these adjustments, this paper aims to display the lackluster nature of all dominant narratives examined. The thesis of this paper is that the dominant narratives regarding cultural identity in Peru were incapable of capturing the social reality of Peru, as the narratives presented by authors did not consider the intersections of marginalized identities and cultures in Peru.

In this work, I base my analysis on the theories of nation- and identity-building from Ninian Smart, David Kertzer, Benedict Anderson, and Itamar Even-Zohar. I then present the dominant narratives regarding Peruvian culture, as told by four of the country’s most famous and influential authors: Ricardo Palma (1833-1919), José Carlos Mariátegui (1894-1930), José María Arguedas (1911-1969), and Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-present). Each of these Peruvian authors had different perspectives on what it meant to be Peruvian, and many of them critiqued their predecessors’’ work. While I will trace the trends in the dominant narrative of identity in Peru, I will then use more modern sources to evaluate whether any of these authors truly captured the Peruvian reality in their works. Finally, I will conclude with proposed solutions for removing the disadvantages currently hampering the mountains and rainforest of Peru, which lag behind the dominant coastal region. Furthermore, I will extend the breadth of analysis as I describe the potential impacts that these geographic and/or geopolitical divides have on other countries and regions.