Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The National Anthem of Peru

After Peru declared its independence, the general José de San Martín began a public contest to select the National March, which was published on 7 August 1821 in the Gaceta Ministerial (Ministerial Gazette). The contest called upon professors of poetry, composers and general aficionados, to send their signed productions to the Ministry of the State before 18 September, the day in which a designated commission would decide which of them would be adopted as the "National March". The author of the selected composition would be compensated with the government's and the public's gratitude.

Seven compositions were entered, and on the prefixed day, they were reviewed and played in the following order: The music of the battalion major "Numancia", master Alcedo, master Guapaya, master Tena, master Jesus, Father Aguilar, master of the Augustine Chapel. and another entry of master Alcedo, at the behest of a brother of the Convent of Saint Domingo. After hearing the last production of master José Bernardo Alcedo, General José de San Martín stood up and exclaimed, "Without a doubt, this is the National Anthem of Peru". The following day, a signed decree confirmed this opinion expressed in the midst of great enthusiasm and jubilation.

The anthem was first performed publicly in the night of 23 September 1821 in the Theater of Lima, in the presence of San Martín and the supporters of the independence, who on that day reunited in the capital. The beautiful voice of lady Rosa Merino, was the first to intone the anthem, from the original verses from the poet Don José de la Torre Ugarte from Ica. Upon hearing the music and the lyrics of the National Anthem for the first time, the audience responded with a standing ovation directed at Alcedo, who conducted the orchestra.

Diverse publications of the anthem had subtle modifications in the lyrics and the music, which was then restored by Claudio Rebagliati in 1869 at the behest of Alcedo. In 1874 there was a solicitation which asked for a revision to the lyrics of the anthem, in light of the various versions in circulation, as well as the minor mistakes which were found. This initiative was approved, but did not prosper, due to the rejection that it generated in the public opinion at its core and the recognition that it had already become a time honored tradition.

In 1901 there was another intent to reform the anthem, this time approved by the administration of Eduardo López de Romaña, who approved of the music of the restored anthem by Claudio Rebagliati. He declared a new contest to select new lyrics as he considered the original lyrics as aggressive towards Spain, which at the time had amiable relations with Peru. The winner of the contest was the poet José Santos Chocano, whose verses along with the same chorus went on to be sung in public schools and in public venues.

It was not long until public opinion once again asked for the original lyrics to be restored. Public pressure was so great that the Peruvian Congress was obligated in 1913 during the administration of Don Guillermo Billinghurst to declare untouchable the lyrics as well as the chorus of the National Anthem.

The stamps above features the national symbols (flag, arms and anthem with a picture of Alcedo and Ugarte anthem composer and lyricist) issued in 2005.