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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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Domingo F. Sarmiento Roberto Arlt Argentina race politics 

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Notes

  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
  2. 2.
    Ricardo Cicerchia, ‘The Arena of Memory: Travelers, Historians and Cultural Frontiers’, The Americas, 60, no. 1 (2003), 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Kelly Austin, ‘Missives and Messages: Epistolarity and Translation in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s Viajes por Europa, Africa y America 1845–1847’, Mester, no. 32 (2003), 104.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    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
  5. 4a.
    Fermín Chavez, Civilización y barbarie en la historia de la cultura argentina (Buenos Aires: Theoría, 1974)). Finally, Marxist critics such as Viñas and Fernández Retamar adopt an anti-colonial stance against Sarmiento’s espousal of increased European influence and presence in Latin America (seeGoogle Scholar
  6. 4b.
    David Viñas, Literatura argentina y realidad política: de Sarmiento a Cortázar (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 1971); andGoogle Scholar
  7. 4c.
    Roberto Fernandez Retamar, ‘Algunos usos de Civilización y barbarie’, Revista mexicana de sociología, 51, no. 3 (1989), 291–325). Mignolo includes Sarmiento as an example of the ‘discourse of assimilation’ in Latin American post-colonial thought (CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 4d.
    Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Human Understanding and (Latin) American Interests: The Politics and Sensibilities of Geohistorical Locations’, in Henry Schwarz and Sangeeta Ray, eds, A Companion to Postcolonial Studies (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 190), or, as Katra puts it, Sarmiento’s works are characterised by ‘the dogmatic support that he almost always demonstrated for ‘foreign’, European, international, and liberal interests’ (Google Scholar
  9. 4c.
    William H. Katra, ‘Rereading Viajes: Race, Identity, and National Destiny’, in Julio Halperín Donghi et al, eds, Sarmiento: Author of a Nation (London: University of California: 1994), 77).Google Scholar
  10. 5.
    Paul Verdevoye, ‘Viajes por Francia y Argelia’, in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Viajes (Madrid: Archivos, 1993), 689 and 707 respectively. All translations from Spanish language texts are my own unless otherwise stated.Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    Ibid., 691.Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    Gabriel E. Brizuela, Viajes por Europa, Africa y America: su significado en la evolución del pensamiento político de Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (San Juan, Arg.: Andres Lara, 1998), 6.Google Scholar
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    Olga Fernández Latour de Botas, ‘La parabola africana como pre-texto de Sarmiento’, in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Viajes, 1055.Google Scholar
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    Katra, ‘Rereading Viajes’, 76.Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    Fernandez Latour de Botas, ‘La parabola africana’, 1071.Google Scholar
  16. 11.
    Sarmiento, Viajes, 170.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    Ibid., 171.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 172.Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    Ibid., 187 and 190 respectively.Google Scholar
  20. 15.
    Ibid., 173.Google Scholar
  21. 16.
    Ibid., 174.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 174–175.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    Ibid., 175.Google Scholar
  24. 19.
    Ibid., 202.Google Scholar
  25. 20.
  26. 21.
    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
  27. 22.
    Verdevoye, ‘Viajes por Francia y Argelia’, 639–716.Google Scholar
  28. 23.
    Ibid., 710.Google Scholar
  29. 24.
    Austin, ‘Missives and Messages’, 103.Google Scholar
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  31. 26.
    Ibid., 105 and 120 respectively.Google Scholar
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    Diana S. Goodrich, ‘From Barbarism to Civilization: Travels of a Latin American Literary Text’, American Literary History, 4, no. 3 (1992), 451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Ibid., 452. Pratt, for example, sees Sarmiento following in the footsteps of, but going beyond and eventually rejecting, the work of Alexander von Humboldt, which he cites in French in Facundo (Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 186–187).Google Scholar
  35. 30.
    Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Facundo, o, Civilización y barbarie, ed. R. Yahni (Madrid: Cátedra 1990).Google Scholar
  36. 31.
    Sarmiento, Viajes, 179.Google Scholar
  37. 32.
    Verdevoye, ‘Viajes por Francia y Argelia’, 690.Google Scholar
  38. 33.
    Sarmiento, Viajes, 188.Google Scholar
  39. 34.
    Ibid., 190.Google Scholar
  40. 35.
    Viñas, Literatura argentina, 174.Google Scholar
  41. 36.
    Sarmiento, Viajes, 183 and 198 respectively.Google Scholar
  42. 37.
    Ibid., 184.Google Scholar
  43. 38.
    Ibid., 185–186.Google Scholar
  44. 39.
    Ibid., 198.Google Scholar
  45. 40.
    Cicerchia, ‘The Arena of Memory’, 4.Google Scholar
  46. 41.
    Verdevoye, ‘Viajes por Francia y Argelia’, 698 (added emphasis).Google Scholar
  47. 42.
    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
  48. 43.
    Viñas, Literatura argentina, 172.Google Scholar
  49. 44.
    Sarmiento, Viajes, 173.Google Scholar
  50. 45.
    Victoria Cox, ‘Viajes reales ficticios: Roberto Arlt y su descripción del Oriente’, Monographic review/Revista monográfica, no. 12 (1996), 368–369.Google Scholar
  51. 46.
    Roberto Arlt, Aguafuertes españolas (Buenos Aires: Fabril, 1971), 67.Google Scholar
  52. 47.
    Ibid., 70.Google Scholar
  53. 48.
    Ibid., 73.Google Scholar
  54. 49.
    Ibid., 74.Google Scholar
  55. 50.
    Gorica Majstorovic, ‘From Argentina to Spain and North Africa’, Iberoamericana, 6, no. 21 (2006), 109–114.Google Scholar
  56. 51.
    Arlt, Aguafuertes, 77-78.Google Scholar
  57. 52.
    Majstorovic, ‘From Argentina to Spain’, 112.Google Scholar
  58. 53.
    Ibid., 113.Google Scholar
  59. 54.
    Arlt, Aguafuertes, 96.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 100.Google Scholar
  61. 56.
    Ibid., 107.Google Scholar
  62. 57.
    Majstorovic, ‘From Argentina to Spain’, 111.Google Scholar
  63. 58.
    Arlt, Aguafuertes, 87.Google Scholar
  64. 59.
    Ibid., 82.Google Scholar
  65. 60.
    Ibid., 82–83 and 99 respectively.Google Scholar
  66. 61.
    Ibid., 93–94.Google Scholar
  67. 62.
    Ibid., 95–96.Google Scholar
  68. 63.
    Roberto Arlt, El criador de gorilas (Buenos Aires: Fabril, 1969), 65.Google Scholar
  69. 64.
    Ibid., 66.Google Scholar
  70. 65.
    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
  71. 66.
    Arlt, El criador, 15.Google Scholar
  72. 67.
    Ibid., 17.Google Scholar
  73. 68.
    Ibid., 15.Google Scholar
  74. 69.
    Ibid., 21–22.Google Scholar
  75. 70.
    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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