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Martín Fierro

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gaucho pampas poem

"Aquí me pongo a cantar
Al compás de la vigüela...

"Here I sit down to sing
To the rythm of the guitar..."

So begins El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic Argentine poem written in 1872 by José Hernández. The epic tells the tale of a gaucho – sort of an Argentine cowboy – and his life on the rugged pampas. The story begins when Fierro is drafted to fight the Indians on the frontier, but soon deserts the battle to return home. Finding his house destroyed and his family gone, Fierro sets out across the desolate plains. After he kills a rival in a knife fight, he is hunted as a murderer.

Although Martín Fierro is a fictional character, the gauchos were very real. Hernandez’s poem decries the loss of the culture of these rugged men of the plains, who were a dying breed by the end of the nineteenth century. The two-part poem was a huge success in Argentina, and by the 1920s it was considered to be the definitive work of Argentine literature by important Argentine writers such as Ricardo Güiraldes and Jorge Luis Borges, comparable to Don Quixote in Spain. Today, the poem has been translated into dozens of languages and made into several movies. Although the gauchos are long gone, Martín Fierro has secured an eternal place in the hearts of the Argentine people.



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21 Sep 2010


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