Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 363–375 | Cite as

Africa under erasure: the North African travels of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Roberto Arlt

  • Ben BolligEmail author


Ninety years separate the African travels of Domingo F. Sarmiento and Roberto Arlt. Sarmiento visited Algeria at the end of the 1840s to examine political and educational systems away from Chile and in order to confirm the political and racial theories he had set out in Civilización y barbarie (1845); Arlt travelled to Spain and Morocco as a correspondent for El Mundo of Buenos Aires in the 1930s and wrote columns and stories. Their differing attitudes to race, politics and everyday life in North Africa offer revealing insights into political changes in Argentina between the two journeys.


Domingo F. Sarmiento Roberto Arlt Argentina race politics 


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  1. 1.
    Pratt also notes that Sarmiento’s work is one of the first in which a Latin American writer produces a travelogue of his European travels (Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), 189–193).Google Scholar
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    There are three strands to negative criticism of Sarmiento’s political and theoretical work. The first comes in the work of late nineteenth-century revisionist historians, beginning with Saldías, who attempt to revalidate the Rosas regime in nationalist terms (see, for example, Adolfo Saldías, Historia de la Confederación argentina, 2nd edition, 3 vols [Buenos Aires: EUDEBA, 1973 (1892)]). Secondly, more recent Right-wing nationalists such as Chavez have criticised Sarmiento’s anti-Argentine, pro-European stance as inauthentic and a betrayal of traditional Catholic Argentine values, which they see personified in the figure of the gaucho (Google Scholar
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    Sarmiento performs several remarkable deductions in defence of his characterisation of the Europe/Africa distinction: the Gospels and the Koran are of the same ‘tronco’ [trunk], but whereas the former has prepared the way for all human progress and the continuation of ‘tradiciones puras’ [pure traditions], the latter has offered the cry of protest of the pastoral races and immobilised and fixed barbarous customs from the earliest ages of the earth (Sarmiento, Viajes, 177).Google Scholar
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    Verdevoye, ‘Viajes por Francia y Argelia’, 698 (added emphasis).Google Scholar
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    Pratt states it thus: ‘Here [in North Africa], and perhaps only here, does he get to be a European pure and simple, and a colonialist. In surprisingly schematic fashion, Sarmiento identifies completely with the French and their colonial project in Algeria’ (Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 192–193).Google Scholar
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    Roberto Arlt, El criador de gorilas (Buenos Aires: Fabril, 1969), 65.Google Scholar
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    Arlt’s play Africa was first staged in the Teatro del Pueblo on 17 March 1938 (see Roberto Arlt, ‘África’, in Teatro completo I(Buenos Aires: Schapire, 1968), 189–272). Much of the material is shared with his stories and columns. Perhaps the key difference to the Aguafuertes, a difference that Africa shares with the Criador tales, is the importance given to political background, in particular espionage and international intrigue, as well as local politics.Google Scholar
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    See Bollig, ‘One or Several Betrayals?’, 401–419.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American StudiesUniversity of LeedsUK

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