Rugendas, Johann Moritz, 1802-1858

Juan Mauricio Rugendas Letters, 1835-1845.

1 box (0.5 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 271

Born in Germany as Johann Moritz Rugendas, Juan Rugendas was a painter who spent much of his adult life working and traveling in South America. The collection includes a total of 4 poems and 192 personal letters received by Rugendas from four friends during the years 1835 to 1845. Rugendas received the bulk of these letters while living in Valparaíso, Chile, where he found political asylum, and in Lima, Peru from 1842 to 1844.

Biographical Note

Domingo De Oro (1800-1879) was born in San Juan, Argentina. He was the nephew of Bishop Santa Maria de Oro. He served as secretary to General Carlos Maria Alvear and as assistant to General Antonio Jose de Sucre. He was also a friend of General Lucio Mansilla of Entre Rios and General Estanislao Lopez of Santa Fe. They were all instrumental in Argentina’s attempt to overtake Uruguay in the 1820s. Oro worked as a messenger for the administration of Juan Manuel de Rosas until a bitter conflict arose between the two men. Exiled from Argentina, Oro lived in Chile and Bolivia until the end of Rosas’ rule in 1852.

Juan Gualberto Godoy (1793-1864) was born in Mendoza, Argentina. He was one of the first poets to introduce the poetry of “los payadores” to literature. “Los payadores” were minstrels who roamed the pampas, singing and playing guitars.

Juan De Espinosa (1804-1871) was born in Uruguay. He served as a colonel in Uruguay’s War of Independence, 1826. He also fought in Peru in 1823. As a writer he wrote about historical events.

Jose Javier Y Tomas Bustamante – an unidentified correspondent.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

A total of 192 letters and 4 poems comprise the collection of personal letters received by painter Juan Mauricio Rugendas (b. Johann Moritz Rugendas) from four friends during the years 1835 to 1845. Rugendas received the bulk of these letters in Valparaiso, Chile where he found political asylum, and in Lima, Peru (1842-1844).

Although Rugendas traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America, he was most intrigued by the scenery and the native people of Argentina. His enthusiasm for native Argentine culture was shared by his correspondents, Domingo de Oro, Juan de Espinosa, and Juan Godoy, whose own careers led them into the back country of Argentina. Their letters reflect their mutual interests in the landscape and native costume, music, customs, and language.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Juan Mauricio Rugendas Letters (MS 271). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Acquired from Robert Potash, Dept. of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1988.

Custodial history:

The collection was originally the property of Marta Madler, a descendant of Rugendas. In January 1968, Oscar Carlos Avalle of Munich’s Argentine Consulate received a cable from Ms. Madler offering to sell the letters. Avalle contacted a series of officials in Argentina’s Foreign Relations Department, offering them the opportunity to purchase the letters from Ms. Madler. The letters were eventually passed to historian, Carlos Maria Gelly y Obes, in Buenos Aires, who turned them over to Professor Robert Potash at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1988. Professor Potash in turn donated them to the Special Collections and University Archives Department at the University of Massachusetts. The collection originally contained 427 items; however, the location of 231 of them is unknown. Of the missing items, 225 were letters from Dona Carmen Arriagada Guticke, and 2 letters and 4 poems were from the Cuban poet, Rafael Valdes, both personal friends of Rugendas.

Processing Information

Processed by Madeleine Charney, January 1991.

Additional Information

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

English and

Series Descriptions

Contains 84 letters received in Valparaiso, Chile and Lima, Peru. These letters reveal an affectionate and supportive relationship between the two men, and a mutual appreciation for the beauty of Argentina. Oro offers his sympathy to Rugendas after Rugenadas was rejected by Clara Alvarez, encouraging him to continue with his artistic work as a means of convalescing. He informs Rugendas as to the whereabouts and wellbeing of mutual friends, including Juan Godoy, Juan de Espinosa, and Carmen Guticke. The friendship of Oro and Rugendas seems strengthened by their experiences as exiles and their disdain for the policies of Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas of Argentina.


Contains 2 letters and 4 poems. Godoy uses Rugendas as a sounding board for ideas about his creative work. The poems and letters express his deep passion for the lyrical poetry of “los payadores,” the minstrels of the pampas.


Contains 79 letters. Espinosa’s prose is gentle and poetic with affectionate overtones. He often questions Rugendas for any news of their friends, especially Juan Godoy and Domingo de Oro. His status in the Uruguayan military allows him to travel extensively throughout the backcountry of Argentina. His letters include detailed descriptions of the terrain of the pampas, including small sketches of sites of interest. Espinosa also compiles lists of common native terminology and expressions and their usage. He encourages Rugendas to document the beauty of Argentina in his artwork. Espinosa’s letters served as a catalyst and as a guide for Rugendas’ successful journeys in Argentina.


Contains 27 letters. Many of the letters center around the activities of Carmen Guticke. The two men seem to share a common opinion of Rosas’ reign as governor.

Contents List
Series 1: Domingo de Oro
Box 1:1
Box 1:2
Box 1:3
Box 1:4
Box 1:5

Series 2: Juan Gualberto Godoy
Letters and poems
Box 1:6

Series 3: Juan de Espinosa
Box 1:7
Box 1:8
Box 1:9
Box 1:10-11
Box 1:12
Box 1:13
Box 1:14

Series 4: Jose Javier y Tomas Bustamante
Box 1:15


  • Argentina--Description and travel
  • Argentina--Social life and customs--19th century
  • Painters--South America


  • Bustamante, José Javier y Tomás
  • Espinosa, Juan, 1804-1871
  • Godoy, Juan Gualberto, 1793-1864
  • Oro, Domingo de, 1800-1879
  • Rugendas, Johann Moritz, 1802-1858

Types of material

  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Poems
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