Ramona Victoria Epifanía Rufina Ocampo (Victoria Ocampo), was born in Buenos Aires on April 7, 1890, into one of the founding families of our country. It is said that her great-grandfather, Manuel Hermenegildo Aguirre, granted a large fortune to the Cabildo of Buenos Aires to support the cause of the May Revolution of 1810 after the English Invasions and maintained a long friendship with Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who visited him. sometimes.
According to the genealogist Narciso Binayán Carmona, on her mother's side she was a descendant of the Spanish conquistador, explorer and colonizer Domingo Martínez de Irala (1509-1556); Her ancestors had a remote Guarani mestizo origin, which she shared with many heroes of Independence and with great Paraguayan and Argentine figures.
Victoria was the firstborn of Manuel Ocampo and Ramona Aguirre. Later the couple would have five more daughters, the youngest was Silvina. The Ocampos received a privileged education with governesses who gave them classes in French and English without having to attend school. They resided in San Isidro, in the Villa Ocampo mansion. Victoria was an avid reader, her mother didn't let her read but she hid books like “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde under her pillow.
In the 1920s, Victoria made successive trips to Paris that marked her life. On several occasions she expresses her desire to study theater and become an actress, which was prohibited by her father. Immersed in the literary world, in 1920, her first article was published in La Nación on “The Divine Comedy”, by Dante Alighieri, entitled “Babel”. She would later publish her first books: “De Francesa a Beatrice” (1924) in Revista de Occident thanks to José Ortega y Gasset and “La laguna de los nenúfares” (1926).
Ocampo married Bernardo "Mónaco" de Estrada, an aristocratic lawyer, at the age of 22, but she soon fell in love with his cousin, Julián Martínez, a diplomat, with whom she was for 13 years. Her biographer, Esther Vázquez, recalled:
"If Victoria had met Bernardo de Estrada before marrying him, she would not marry, because he was precisely the paradigm of the Victorian era, where women could not talk about her body. She became disillusioned because she realized that she had exchanged one bondage for another."
Victoria had a great desire to found Revista Sur. At Ocampo's request, the architect Bustillo, based on Le Corbusier's style, built a house that would be the magazine's editorial office and later owned by the National Fund for the Arts. To carry out the project, Victoria hired the architect Alejandro Bustillo, to whom she gave “rigid indications coming from her personal taste,” according to Norberto Galasso in Dos Argentinas, Arturo Jaurteche-Victora Ocampo. It was an odd choice, since Bustillo specialized in the French neoclassical style. “Victoria was a flirt who always got her way. This house looks like a model with giraffes, that's why I didn't sign it. “It is not possible to build a modern house in a French neighborhood of mansard houses,” said the architect.
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In 1929, when Le Corbusier visited Buenos Aires, he saw and admired the house. In 1962, from Paris, he said: “Mrs. Ocampo and so far only she has taken the decisive step by building a house that causes scandal. Well, in Buenos Aires, it is like that. Its two million emotively academic immigrant inhabitants clash with this single woman who knows what she wants. In her house Picasso and Léger meet in an environment that even today I have rarely found.”
In 1931, the Revista Sur (name chosen by Ortega y Gasset) was finally created and years later, the publishing house, to publicize new national authors and publish foreign authors in our country. The editorial office was inaugurated in her house at 2831 Rufino de Elizalde Street, in Barrio Parque. Among the members of the editorial board were Oliverio Girondo, Jorge Luis Borges, Eduardo Mallea, Guillermo de Torre and María Rosa Oliver.
As part of the foreign council were José Ortega y Gasset, Alfonso Reyes, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Jules Supervielle, Ernest Ansermet, Drieu La Rochelle, Leo Ferrero and Waldo Frank, an American Hispanicist and novelist.
Among the magazine's contributors were: William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, María Zambrano, Rafael Alberti, Rabindranath Tagore, Jacques Maritain, Alberto Moravia, Paul Valéry, Bertold Brecht, Anton Chejov, Roger Caillois, Graham Greene, André Gide, Ricardo Güiraldes, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Leopoldo Marechal, Silvina Ocampo, Ernesto Sábato, Juan José Sebreli, Conrado Nalé Roxlo, Nicolás Berdiaeff, Francisco Romero, Amado Alonso, Francisco Luis Bernárdez, H.A. Murena, Juan José Hernández, Alejandra Pizarnik, Alberto Girri and Edgardo Cozarinsky.
In 1933, Victoria created Editorial Sur to carry out her literary dissemination project by publishing novelties by foreign authors. “Romancero gitano” by Federico García Lorca was the publisher's first publication. Books by André Malraux or Virignia Woolf, a few months after their original publication, were translated and edited by Sur. He also published Juan Onetti, Horacio Quiroga, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Paul Sartre, Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus, among others.
For more than four decades, texts by José Bianco, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Walter Benjamin, Simone de Beauvoir, Oliverio Girondo, Carl Jung, Yukio Mishima, Gabriela Mistral, Vladimir Nabokov, Silvina Ocampo, and Virginia Woolf, among many, appeared in its editions. others. In 1940, after the death of her father, Victoria decided to move to Villa Ocampo, her family residence in San Isidro, located at 1837 Elortondo Street in the town of Beccar (today administered by UNESCO).
Ocampo also had a great attraction for acting. In 1936, she performed Perséphone (Igor Stravinsky's Opera) at the Teatro Colón, and she remembered: Perséphone is the most painfully happy memory of my life. I say painfully because I would have liked to continue doing that kind of thing, which is what I have done best in my life.
As a chronicler, Victoria published "Sundays in Hyde Park" (1936) and "San Isidro" (1941). She also published a series of 10 volumes called "Testimonies", among which "Impressions of Nuremberg" stands out, where she narrates what happened in the trials after the Second World War, where she was the only female guest, since she was an internationally recognized patron. . In 1946, Ocampo wrote her "Postwar Letters", a letter exchange she had with her sisters during one of her trips to Europe.
Victoria was also president and co-founder of the Union of Argentine Women, along with Susana Larguía and María Rosa Oliver. In 1936, Ocampo fought to prevent the promulgation of a reform to Law 11,357, of 1926, which sought to remove the civil rights already granted to women. In a radio conference that was heard in Buenos Aires and Madrid, she managed to prevent the reform of the Civil Rights law from being voted on. The article "To Argentine women" was also published in the newspaper La Prensa.
In 1958, Ocampo was appointed as part of the Board of Directors of the National Fund for the Arts, a position from which she would resign in 1973. In 1962 she created the Fundación Sur with the objective of "promoting educational, cultural and artistic activities that tend to enlightenment and spiritual elevation." through the dissemination of works or ideas that are suitable for this purpose.”
In 1973, Victoria donated the San Isidro house to UNESCO, the residence of the current UNESCO Villa Ocampo Observatory, since she and the institution shared values such as culture as a factor of development and social inclusion, the promotion of diversity culture and women's rights, tolerance and openness to other people's ideas and beliefs. Her summer residence, Villa Victoria Ocampo, in Mar del Plata, is currently a municipal cultural center.
Ocampo would present and witness one of the most influential literary duos in our country: Borges and Bioy Casares. On the other hand, his sister Silvina, also a collaborator of Sur, would marry Bioy years later.
The dynamics of the friendship between Borges and Ocampo are printed in the following sentences. Victoria wrote in "Testimonies": “…I have an advantage over Borges: I know him. The reciprocal is unlikely. I admire him. The reciprocal is unthinkable…”
In turn, Borges wrote in his article after Ocampo's death: “In a country and at a time when women were generic, she had the courage to be an individual. He dedicated his considerable fortune to the education of his country and his continent. "Personally I owe him a lot, but much more as an Argentine."
Among the recognitions he received for his work in the world of culture, are the decorations of “Officer of the Legion of Honor and Commander of Arts and Letters”, awarded in 1962 by the French government, the distinction “Commander of the Order of the British Empire” and the “Gold Medal of the French Academy”. In addition, she was awarded the “Maria Moors Cabot” Prize from Columbia University, and was named “Doctor Honoris Causa” by Harvard University and Visva-Bharati University in India.
She was the only woman appointed as a member of the Argentine Academy of Letters in 1977, shortly before her death. She is considered a woman ahead of her time who dedicated her life and fortune to promoting culture, inviting writers and publishing her books in our country.
Victoria Ocampo died at the age of 89 on January 27, 1979.