The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Santos Chocano, José

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SANTOS CHOCANO, zho'kän-ô, José, Peruvian poet: b. 1875. Since the death of Rubén Dario (q.v.) in 1916, Santos Chocano has been the undisputed leader of Latin American literature; and even before the disappearance of the latter from the scene, Santos Chocano had become a figure at least equal in importance with him on the literary horizon. He influenced Dario strongly and for the better, by enlarging his view and making him, in his latter years, more cosmopolitan. It was through Santos Chocano that Dario was led to see the United States and the American people with other and more favorable eyes. Endowed with a broad vision, he threw behind him, early in his career, all sectionalism and local views, which had hampered most of the preceding Latin American poets and prose writers, and announced himself the apostle of cosmopolitanism and Pan-Americanism. At a time when other younger poets like Rubino Blanco Fombona of Venezuela made it their special business to vilify the United States and all things American and to hold her people up to ridicule as uncouth, uncultured, rude dollar-grabbers, overbearing and unbearable, Santos Chocano proclaimed himself the singer of America in all its varying moods and phases, past and present. He sang, ‘My lyre has a soul, my song an ideal.’ The sound of his lyre was America; the ideal of his song the unity and harmony of all things American. In his ‘El Canto del Porvenir’ (Song of the Future) he sees the spiritual union of the North and the South, of the Latin and the Saxon. He believes the one is necessary to the other, and that they have been placed together in the Western world for a purpose. Santos Chocano has the truest vision of all the Latin American writers; and his influence, which has become very widely extended, has been generally exercised for good. His ‘Alma America,’ in which he emphasizes the idea of race unity on the Western continent, is a stirring poem which became immensely popular and exercised a strong influence on the younger poets of Latin America. Santos Chocano has become, in a sense, the leader of a new school of poetical thought, whose self-imposed task is to sing the beauties and glories of America. Though united through this ideal, the members of this school use widely different literary methods to attain their ends; and some of them are not broad minded enough to see beyond the boundaries of Latin America. Yet all of them can sing with him: ‘When I feel myself an Inca, I render homage to the Sun which gave me the sceptre of royal power; when I feel my Spanish blood, I evoke Colonial days.’ Santos Chocano has traveled much and has found a warm welcome in nearly all the Latin American countries. Some years ago he was lionized in Mexico City, and the Central American nations have paid high tribute to his genius. Consult Coester, A., ‘The Literary History of Spanish America’ (New York 1916); González Blanco, Andrés, ‘Select Poems of José Santos Chocano’ (Introduction to ‘Fiat Lux,’ Paris 1908).