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Facundo (subtitled Civilization and Barbarism) is a book written by the Argentine author and politician Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in 1845. It was written partly in protest against the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who ruled Argentina from 1835 to 1852. The literary critic Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria calls it "the most important book written by a Latin American in any discipline or genre."Gonzalez Echevarria, "Facundo: An Introduction" 1.. This book describes the life of Juan Facundo Quiroga in Sarmientos perspective. By describing this gaucho, the author gives us the best exemplification of the Argentinean culture, the best description of the Argentinean context and, at the same time, Sarmiento found himself in a dichotomy between civilization and barbarism.


Dictatorship novel genre

In Latin American history, after the independence processes, dictatorships were very common in the region. Even in our days, Hugo Chavez, Augusto Pinochet and Fidel Casto, are examples of one of the most particular characteristics of Latin America. In this context, the literature of this part of the world has been characterized by the protest novel, books in which the main story is around the dictators figure, his behaviors, his main particularities and the situation of the people under this regime. Writers, such as Sarmiento, used the power of the word in order to criticize a government by using the literature as a tool, as an instance of the power and as a arm against the repression.

Argentine civil war

After the Argentine Independence Declaration, the country was divided in two different ideologies, the Unitarists and the Federalists. The Unitarists favored a centralized national governments whit its seat in Buenos Aires. In the other hand, The Federalists were looking for the independence of the Argentinean provinces or regions. Most of the Federalists were gauchos, one of them Juan Facundo Quiroga and other one Juan Manuel de las Rosas, whose power and appeal lay in their attachment to the land and to their familiarity with the regions and people they commanded. The Unitarists, the Domingo Faustino Sarmiento ideology, were cultured European-oriented, and had a vision of the nation as a cohesive political dependence. ."Gonzalez Echevarria, "Facundo: An Introduction" 2.

By 1829, Juan Manuel de las Rosas, that was boss of the province of Buenos Aires, become the ruler of the whole country. Sarmiento was trying to fight against the dictatorship, but was defeated in several times by Facundo Quiroga. Every time when Sarmiendo was defeated, he ran away to Chile, country in which he had great influence. In one of his exiles in Chile, he found a newspaper in which he was criticizing Rosas government, through this channel, Sarmiento started to write Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism.

Rosas dictatorship

Publication and translation history

Facundo was published, in installments, in the Chilean newspaper El Progreso. A second edition, with some significant changes, was published (also in Chile) in 1851.

It was first translated, in 1868, by Mary Mann with the title Life in the Argentine Republic in the Days of the Tyrants; or, Civilization and Barbarism. A modern (and more complete) translation was undertaken by Kathleen Ross, and published in 2003 by the University of California Press. In her "Translator's Introduction," Ross notes that Mann's nineteenth-century version of the text, turning it "into an Anglo-Saxon idiom [. . .] had much to do with the fact that in 1868 Sarmiento was a candidate for the Argentine presidency" and "Mann wished to further her friend's cause abroad by presenting Sarmiento as an admirer and emulator of United States political and cultural institutions." Hence this translation cut much of what made Sarmiento's work distinctively part of the Hispanic tradition. For instance, Ross continues, "Mann's elimination of metaphor, the stylistic device perhaps most characteristic of Sarmiento's prose, is especially striking."


This book is divided into 15 chapters, with an introduction by Robert Gonzalez Echevarria, translator's introduction, author's note, introduction by Sarmiento, glossary of historical names, translator's notes, and index. It is written in first-person narrative and in Sarmiento's point of view with sources to support himself. It is difficult to classify this book in a specific genre as it combines history, biography, sociology, geography, poetic description, and political propaganda.

Chapter I provides a physical description of Argentina
Chapter II introduced four different types of gaucho which are the rastreador, Baqueano, the outlaw, and the minstrel.
Chapter V talks about Facundo's life


Facundo, that is, Juan Facundo Quiroga, is the book's central character.


The dichotomy that Sarmiento expresses between "barbarism" and "civilization" is the book's central idea. The book is a critique of Rosas's dictatorship but also is a broader investigation into Argentine history and culture.

The book is ostensibly a biography of the caudillo Juan Facundo Quiroga, who is portrayed as wild and untamed in Argentina, and as standing in opposition to true progress through the common enlightenment of European society. The book implies that the only way to truly achieve progress and a better world is through the taming of such leaders and a common education allowing the common man to philosophically recognize and oppose such exploitation.

Civilization and Barbarism

Sarmiento explores the issue of civilization versus the cruder aspects of a caudillo culture of brutality and absolute power. Caudillo is a word denoting "a political-military leader at the head of an authoritative power". Caudillos are seen, at the beginning of the book, as the opposite of education, high culture, and civil stability. Caudillos introduce instability and chaos, which destroy societies through their blatant disregard for humanity and societal progress. Sarmiento portrays the rise of Facundo Quiroga, an archetypical Argentine caudillo, his controversial rule, and his downfall. Civilization is represented by the metropolitan society of Buenos Aires.

Although most only connect the book with contemporary Argentinian history, some also apply it to the wider social questions facing Latin America as a whole during the mid-19th century. As caudillos took control and set up authoritarian governments, in the book, questions of what is best for the progress of society were largely ignored by the ruling elite for the more immediate goal of exploiting the masses.

Facundo, when interpreted as a critique of both Rosas and caudillos at large, introduces an opposition message that promoted an alternative that was more beneficial to society at large. This included education and honest officials who understood enlightenment ideas of European and Classical origin.

The Dichotomy of civilization and barbarism illustrates the struggle in the post-Independence era. Although Sarmiento was not the one to create this dichotomy, he turns it into an influential concept in all Latin America Literature.

This dichotomy is also strongly linked with writing and power which is another main theme in this book.

Writing and Power

The connection between writing and power was one of Sarmiento's obsession and strategy.


Facundo has been enormously influential. It is the founding text of Argentine literature but is also more generally, as Gonzalez Echevarria notes, "the first Latin American classic."Gonzalez Echevarria, "Facundo: An Introduction" 1. This book contributed to many changes in Argentina.


Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto. "Facundo: An Introduction. In Sarmiento, Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism. Trans. Kathleen Ross. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. 1-15.

Ross, Kathleen. "Translator's Introduction." In Sarmiento, Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism. Trans. Kathleen Ross. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. 17-26.

Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino. Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism. The first complete English Translation. Trans. Kathleen Ross. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Moss, Joyce; Valestuk, Lorraine. "World Literature and Its Times: Profiles of Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them". Gale Group, 1999. Vol 1. 171-180

External links

Facundo in the original Spanish

See also

The Dictator Novel

Juan Facundo Quiroga

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Facundo