Raúl Porras Barrenechea: Biography And Works

Raúl Porras Barrenechea (1897-1960) is one of the most outstanding Peruvian thinkers of the last century. A renowned teacher, historian, essayist, diplomat and politician, he always had teaching as a true passion.

Whether in school classrooms, university classrooms, in gatherings, seminars or conversations, he always transmitted his passion for Peruvian history and thought, leaving an indelible mark on many generations.

His commitment to deep investigation and the search for the truth marked his students, colleagues and colleagues, and transcends today thanks to his prolific work on the history of Peru.

The love he felt for his homeland made Porras Barrenechea dedicate himself to exhaustive research to be able to leave a series of books on Peruvian history and Inca history, and thus be able to show the wealth and truth about his people.

This same love for Peru led him to represent the country in various diplomatic missions, shining for his wise and pertinent advice on international issues in which the Peruvian government was involved.


His birth took place in Pisco in March 1897. He was the son of the couple that made up Juana Barrenechea Raygada and Guillermo Porras Osores. On the maternal side, he came from a wealthy Peruvian aristocratic family, since his mother was the granddaughter of José María Raygada, who was in charge of the presidency between 1857 and 1858.

His father, Guillermo Porras Osores, died in a duel in 1899 as the outcome of a trivial discussion, since it is known that Porras Osores faced his rival for a seat to listen to the band of the Military School of Chorrillos, in a event in a park in Barrancos.

Porras Barrenechea studied his early years at the Colegio San José de Cluny and then went on to the classrooms of the Colegio Sagrados Corazones Recoleta, in Lima.

At an early age, he was already known for his intelligence, as well as his talent for writing with the publication of three stories.

Passion for teaching

In 1912 he entered the National University of San Marcos, where he obtained a doctorate in History, Letters and Philosophy.

In 1919 he promoted the University Conversation together with other brilliant young people such as Carlos Moreyra Paz Soldán, Jorge Guillermo Leguía, Manuel Abastos, Ricardo Vegas García and Guillermo Luna Cartland.

In this University Conversation they concentrated on bringing together researchers on the history of Peruvian independence.

At the same time, he was also one of the promoters of the university reform in his house of studies, inspired by the “Grito de Córdoba” of 1918 in Argentina, with which he had direct contact thanks to a trip he made to the south of the continent. as a student delegate.

His alma mater also had him as a professor of several chairs: Castilian Literature, History of the Conquest and the Colony, Diplomatic History of Peru and Peruvian and American Literature.

Porras Barrenechea’s teaching vocation led him to teach at various schools in Lima, as well as at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, at the Diplomatic Academy and at the Urban Planning Institute of the National University of Engineering, where he was head of the chair of History.

He was the teacher of great contemporary intellectuals such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Bryce Echenique.

At the service of the country

Although his teaching vocation and his love for knowledge led him to be in front of numerous students teaching a lecture on the history of Peru, his career as a national official also meant great challenges and made him reap important achievements.

In 1922 he began his public performance by serving as a librarian for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which marked the beginning of his career as a diplomat.

He was the founder of the Limits Archive, which contains invaluable chronicles, maps, demarcations and other important documents on the limits of the territory of Peru. There he served as chief between 1926 and 1931.

It always set the course for the actions of the Foreign Ministry of Peru. Proof of this is the fact that she advised the limits committee for the Question of Tacna and Arica in dispute with Chile. He also participated in the Leticia Question with Colombia, in which he served as a counselor.

Diplomatic work

In 1934 he traveled to Spain to serve as Minister Counselor and was part of the delegation accredited to the United Nations League between 1936 and 1938. During his stay in Spain he focused on research for the development of his work on Francisco Pizarro.

A few years later, in 1948, he was appointed ambassador to Spain. In his political career, he was also elected senator for the city of Lima in 1956.

In April 1958 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Manuel Prado y Ugarteche, who was then president of the nation. As Porras Barrenechea was convalescing from heart problems, he was sworn in at home and from there he performed his duties.

In the diplomatic sphere, his speech before the OAS on August 23, 1960, in which he rejected the exclusion of Cuba in contravention of the presidential order, is memorable. On his return he was disowned and, naturally, put his position to order.


At the age of 63, on September 27, 1960 at 10 p.m., he died at his home in Miraflores as a result of a heart attack, a condition that had afflicted him for some years. Although he did not leave heirs, he left to the Peruvian culture the greatest of its legacies: knowing its history.

His house in Miraflores, which in the 1950s he turned into a library and where memorable disciples met, today is the headquarters of the Raúl Porras Barrenechea Institute.


Porras Barrenechea’s research work led him to focus on unraveling the roots of Peruvian culture, from pre-colonial beginnings to the Republican era. His main works are the following:

History of the limits of Peru

Even up to the present time, this text is the most complete work on border issues in Peru, in which Porras Barrenechea drew on his experience in the Limits Archive.

Small anthology of Lima

He was always in love with his hometown and dedicated several works to it. A small anthology of Lima was published in Madrid in 1935 and stands out because it inspired the waltz La flor de la canela , by Chabuca Granda, with its verses “the river, the bridge and the avenue”.

Demystifying Pizarro

His works also include those he dedicated to the conqueror Francisco Pizarro. As a result of the exhaustive research he carried out in Madrid, particularly in the Archivo de Indias and the Archivo Histórico Nacional, he published El Testamento de Pizarro (Paris, 1936) and later the book Pizarro .

The Inca Garcilaso

Another character he focused on was the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega , author of the Royal Commentaries . Porras Barrenechea contributed valuable documentary information to clarify several years of the Inca’s life; He even discovered the house where he lived in Montilla until he was 52 years old.

As a result of this research, he published El inca Garcilaso de la Vega in 1946 and El inca Garcilaso, in Montilla in 1955.

Peruvian historical sources

The publication of this text in 1954 earned him national recognition for historical studies. It is a compilation of the notes that Porras Barrenechea used to give his chair at the University of San Marcos.


  1. Fernández, María (September 27, 2015) in El Comercio. Retrieved on October 5 from El Comercio: elcomercio.pe
  2. “Raúl Porras Barrenechea” in UNMSM. Retrieved on October 5 from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos: unmsm.edu.pe
  3. “Raúl Porras Barrenechea” in Cultural History. Retrieved on October 5 from Cultural History: historiacultural.com
  4. «Biographical review of Raúl Porras Barrenechea» (23 March 2012) at Instituto Raúl Porras Barrenechea. Retrieved on October 5 from Instituto Raúl Porras Barrenechea: institutoporras.blogspot.com
  5. Salazar Larraín, Arturo (1990) in the Library System. Retrieved on October 5 from Pedro Zulen Central Library: sisbib.unmsm.edu.pe

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