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The Lira Popular in Chile: An Important Latin American Broadside from the Late 19th and 20th Centuries  

Simoné Malacchini Soto

Lira Popular refers to the group of broadsides printed in Chile between 1860 and 1920, a period considered to be “classic,” although reappearing into the early 21st century. In these broadsides, verses written in ten-line stanzas, called originally décimas in Spain (a metric consisting of stanzas of ten eight-syllable verses), that were dedicated to both the human (daily, historical, love, news topics) and the divine (religious topics) were published. Over time, the content of the sheets evolved to become more newsworthy by portraying journalistic events of a criminal nature. Each sheet contained four to eight poems, although they generally consisted of five or six. They were undated and generally contained compositions by a single popular poet (although there are cases of sheets signed by more than one poet). The poet included their name at the end of the paper and sometimes added their address in order to market their sheets, as well as the print shop that often functioned as a place of sale. Although the phenomenon is also called string literature, it has not been confirmed that, in Chile, these sheets were hung for sale. The name Lira Popular is usually associated with the popular poet Juan Bautista Peralta, who titled his sheets in this way, perhaps parodying a literature magazine of the time called Lira Chilena; however, among the popular poets themselves, this phenomenon was already called “popular verses” or “popular poetry,” even referring to the sheet with the term lira.