Argentina Literature – The Outlaws

The primitives. – The study of folklore, through which it is possible to gain direct knowledge of the ancient popular poetry of the pre-Columbian era and the early days of the Spanish occupation, now has a very extensive documentation, after the publications of the Institute of Argentine literature and the works by Lafone-Quevedo, Ambrosetti, Quiroga, Lehman-Vische, Debenedetti, Outes Lynch, etc. And the historical interpretation and illustration of all this material also made great progress thanks to E. Echeverría, B. Miter, VF López, JM Estrada, JB Alberdi, DF Sarmiento, Argentina Saldías, JV González, JM Ramos Mejía, Argentina Alvarez, J. Ingenieros, CO Bunge. This now allows us to recall those distant times with richness of detail, in which history is often mixed with legend. But already before the end of the century. XVIII onwards, while this work of investigation was gradually being carried out, the poetry itself of these ancient times was directly reborn, in the same spirit, in the same matter of imagination, in the same style, thanks to the gauchescos, modern poets, especially of the century. XIX, who in their works represented the life of the gauchos (creoles of the countryside) and imitated the art of the payadores (folk singers). Typical of this kind of poetry is Martín Fierro (1872-1878), by José Hernández, very quickly risen to the importance of a national poem (see the Italian translation by F. Testena). Written in the rustic Castilian of the pampas (somewhat different from that of the Spanish peasants), and in octosyllables (such as Spanish folk poetry), the poem depicts Martín Fierro, who, to the sound of the guitar familiar to the payadores, narrates his life as a gaucho at the southern frontier, where he lived among the last Indians and among the soldiers and officials of the civil regime that was expanding from Buenos Aires. Forerunners of Hernández were Bartolomé Hidalgo, who wrote Cielitos and Diálogos, with a patriotic theme on the war of independence (1810-1821), and Hilario Ascasubi, who composed the Trovas de Paulino Lucero, on the war of the national organization (1840-1852).

According to Toppharmacyschools, the gaucho had already been painted in prose by Concolocorvo in his Lazarillo de Ciegos Caminantes and by Azara in his travels, before Argentine emancipation; but these are simple, realistic chronicles: the first imaginative attempt in this genre was probably El amor de la estanciera, a farce by an anonymous author, represented in the era of the viceroyalty. Only with the war of independence and the constitution of the state, the gaucho was exalted as a hero of the new democracy and was erected, in literature, as a popular symbol.

Next to Martín Fierro, one of the most famous of these legendary gauchos, is Santos Vega, prototype of the payador, whose life was sung first by Bartolomé Miter in verse (1839), then by Ascasubi (1851), later by Rafael Obligado (1878), and eventually also moved on to the novel with Eduardo Gutiérrez and the theater with Bayón Herrera. The legend relates that Santos Vega died when he was won in a lyrical contest by a foreigner, Juan Sin Ropa (John without a garment), who for some was the Devil and for others the symbol of modern immigration.

Eduardo Gutiérrez, also author of a Martín Fierro in prose, drew an interesting novel from the life of Juan Moreira, and other gauchos raised against the rural police. And gauchos are also the characters of numerous other books such as Sarmiento’s Facundo. And finally inspired by the tradition of the gauchos, its landscapes, its customs, its people, its arts, its myths, it is also an abundant literary production of the present time. But here the civil and aesthetic atmosphere of the poem is already different: the true Gauchesque poetry is the one mentioned above: the one that has its most representative works, for the epic, in the Martín Fierro by Hernández, and for the lyric in Obligado’s Santos Vega: the one that, combining the romantic vein of inspiration with a naive and picturesque realism of details, and keeping a line of simplicity in the composition, rhythm, style, a frank character of primitive, popular poetry.

The colonials. – The literature written during the three centuries of the colony (XVI, XVII, XVIII), belongs almost entirely to Spanish authors, but, since it deals with the American question, it draws a particular local character from the subject. Historically these authors have importance, because they are the precursors of the nationality that will reach its political maturity in the century. XIX: aesthetically, however, their value is very poor. Their work consists mostly of linguistic news, natural descriptions, geographical reports, historical annals, autobiographical memories, chronicles of contemporary events, capitular acts and judicial processes. On this documentary material, which we now possess in good editions edited by competent scholars, wider narratives were conducted already at that time; and were also, in part, already published at the time, but generally in Europe; since, although printing had been introduced to the Plata during the colonial era, no important books were printed before independence. The main among these books are due to chroniclers belonging to religious orders, mainly to the Jesuit order, such as Father Techo, who wrote his work in Latin (16th century), and his successors Father Lozano (16th century), and father Guevara (XVIII century). Other notable geographical descriptions and historical narratives are those of fathers Maccioni, Dobrizhoffer, Falkner, Sánchez, Labrador, etc. mainly to the Jesuit order, such as Father Techo, who wrote his work in Latin (16th century), and his successors Father Lozano (16th century), and Father Guevara (18th century). Other notable geographical descriptions and historical narratives are those of fathers Maccioni, Dobrizhoffer, Falkner, Sánchez, Labrador, etc. mainly to the Jesuit order, such as Father Techo, who wrote his work in Latin (16th century), and his successors Father Lozano (16th century), and Father Guevara (18th century). Other notable geographical descriptions and historical narratives are those of fathers Maccioni, Dobrizhoffer, Falkner, Sánchez, Labrador, etc.

In the secular world they begin the series, in the century. XVI, El Viaje by Schmidel, a Bavarian who participated in the first foundation of Buenos Aires, which he narrated; the Comentarios by Alvar Núñez; the Comentarios by Pedro Hernandez (Seville 1559), the first book on Argentina printed in Spain; and La Argentina by Ruiz Díaz de Guzmán (1612), the first important work written by a Creole, half-Spanish and indigenous. In the same period are also a composition in verse by Luis de Miranda on the destruction of the first Buenos Aires by the Indians, and La Argentina y conquest of the Río de la Plata, by the archdeacon Barco Centenera, who imitates La Araucana in bad Ercilla. The first Argentine lyric poet was born in Córdoba (1604), and left a work entitled Peregrino de Babilonia, with an autobiographical theme, and numerous compositions on a religious theme, in the manner of Góngora. The first dramatic poet was Manuel Labardén (1754-1810), the aforementioned author of the pseudo-classical tragedy Siripo, performed for the first time in the first Bonaerense theater, in the year 1789, under the viceroyalty of Vertiz. The novel was not cultivated at this time, because Spanish laws forbade it.

The outlaws. – An initial expression of patriotic sentiment could be discovered from the first Creole generation in the verses of Tejeda and in the prose of Ruiz Díaz de Guzmán; but this sentiment does not present itself with its heroic character until the moment in which the songs inspired by the English invasions and the victory that Buenos Aires (1806-1808) won against them were composed. The affirmation of this was clearer after the May Revolution (1810), at the beginning of the war against the Spaniards: this generation saw the birth of some poets: Luca, who wrote the first song of American emancipation; López, who composed the Argentine national anthem (1813), and Varela, author of the Odason the liberating campaigns of San Martín. The main tribunes and prose writers of the revolution were Mariano Moreno, Bernardo Monteagudo and Gregorio Funes. Don José Ignacio de Gorriti, author of the book Reflecciones, was finally the first who tried to clarify the social problem of the newly founded American republics; however, even if he did so with liberal intention and in good prose, his ideas still derive from the philosophy of the previous age. Freer in his attitude and more realistic in his methods, was Esteban Echeverría, who, in his Socialist Dogma (1837), set the great Argentine problems that became the program of his generation. This generation was faced with the task of fighting, first, the anarchy that followed the wars of independence, and then the dictatorship that arose from anarchy. Expatriated following their political attitude, the writers of this period (1839-1852) published almost all their works in neighboring countries, in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, where they had found refuge. Therefore they are called “the outlaws”. But their influence was great. To them Argentina owes the first core of genuinely national ideas. Their philosophical and literary position within the confines of Argentine evolution is analogous to that of “Young Italy” and “New Germany” in Europe. Argentine sociology, history and law had a new foundation in their activity. And almost all of them were poets, as well as prose writers, and cultivated the opera, the theater, the novel, preferring American subjects for their works. Sarmiento, Miter, Alberdi, SM Gutiérrez, Mármol, VF López belong to this pleiad, all direct or indirect disciples of Echeverría in their youth, and continuators of the previous generation of patriots in the political and cultural formation of Argentine democracy. To these names could be added those of the jurist Vélez Sársfield, of the economist Fragueiro, of the moralist Zuviría and of the poets Ascasubi and Hernández already mentioned. The intellectual evolution of Argentina in the nineteenth century has its centerpiece in their activity; and the guiding dates of this historical process are: 1810 (emancipatory revolution); 1837 (May association) 1853 (democratic constitution) 1880 (federalization of Buenos Aires). With this last event, the organization of the state is completed and a new cultural cycle begins.

Argentina Literature - The Outlaws