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Evaristo Carriego: the invention of the hamlet

The poet entrerriano, at the beginning of the 20th century, imagined the cobblestones, walls and handsome ones that would cemented the Buenos Aires culture from Borges to Spinetta. Carriego, founder of the mythical Buenos Aires.

Art and Literature
Evaristo Carriego

 “ First spectator of our slums, and that for the history of our poetry, that matters. The first, that is, the discoverer, the inventor,” Jorge Luis Borges sentenced   in the seventies about Evaristo Carriego  to his biographer María Esther Vázquez. Borges talked about a neighbor of his Palermo made of myths, cutters, pulperías and shores.  Homer Manzi  in “El último organito” dedicates his final milonga of 1948 to the poet entrerriano, “and there he will grind tangos so that the blind may cry, /the inconsolable blind of Carriego's verse, smokes, smokes and smokes sitting on the threshold.” And the summit of “María de Buenos Aires” by Ástor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer trunks the “Milonga carrieguera” in 1968.  In 1983 in “La Canción del Bajo Belgrano” the F laco Luis Alberto Spinetta  sings: “Tango de facas, distinct organiller/Sitting on the avenue and nobody listens to you/Desolate the lost man” on a double date, Manzi and Carriego . Countless legends of the Porteño village and its archetypal inhabitants, which can also be searched in a painting by Quinquela Martín or an etching by Roberto Arlt, were put on paper for the first time by Carriego, in only 29 years of life, and in a single published book, “Masses Heretics” &  You are familiar to us as a thing/that was ours, only ours”, my dear Evaristo.  

Evaristo Francisco Estanislao Carriego was born in Paraná, Province of Entre Rios, on May 7, 1883. Evaristo descended from a lineage that sank in the Creole beginnings of the history of the Litoral, with ancestors present at the founding of Santiago del Estero, Independence and Argentine civil wars. His grandfather lawmaker and journalist, for whom he had his name, had fought alongside Justo José de Urquiza and then ally Julio Argentino Roca. His father, Nicanor, married a porteña, Maria de los Ángeles, and after a brief step through La Plata at the request of Dardo Rocha, he installed the family in the home of Calle Honduras 84 (currently 3784, Municipal Library), in one of the first in the Palermo neighborhood. A neighborhood in formation of ancient gauchos mixed with immigrants, clash and encounter cultures, which would allow Carriego's infantile mind. He began his studies at the school of young men Negri at the age of six, and went to high school at the Colegio Nacional del Norte -today Sarmiento on Libertad Street, where Manzi would be a teacher, but left the third year when he tried to unsuccessfully enter the Military College. It was short of sight. This disappointment would impact the young Evaristo, “He was a serious and sad boy, of a few words, thoughtful always... when he became big, he became sad... he wore black or blue, and he was thin...  still a boy, he wrote tenths for the gauchos of the carnivals from Palermo. He brought the gauchos home and in this room he was going to rehearse... he went out for a walk with the leader Nicolás Paredes -malevo friend of the young Borges and thug of the conservatives,”  his mother remembered him in 1937, in a note by Dardo Cuneo in the magazine Mundo Argentino. His first biographer José Gabriel in 1921 points out that literary influences were divided between the French romantic novel, the  gauchescos brochetines -he would dedicate the poem “El guapo” to San Juan Moreira- and the poetry of Almafuerte , which at that time was a kind of Creole and bohemian prophet who lived on the banks of Maldonado, near the house of Evaristo.

With just under 20 years, and being a figure of the “hairs” of the Buenos Aires night with their “penetrating black eyes”, he enters the editorial of the newspaper La Protesta, a medium that did not yet have the strong anarchist bias later.  The social question was present as much as the bohemian spirit of melting art and life . Carriego with his verses that dragged the modernist spell of Rubén Darío becomes an animator of the Aue's Keller of Bartolomé Mitre at 600, the Luzio de Mitre and San Martín Restaurant, and La Brasileira de Maipú to 200, all under the rubble with the opening of the Diagonal Norte.  From those magical plots of the end of the nineteenth century lies on foot Los Immortales, a few blocks from its original location of Corrientes Avenue to 900. There his fellow Mason Florencio Sánchez would invent the national dramaturgy, there Evaristo Carriego Creole poetry and arabalera, both seeds of the Tango of Buenos Aires -and the National Rock.  


 The Immortals of the first Buenos Aires literature 

In Los   Immortals the cream of art and thought was gathered, while at a table Sanchez could be writing works of the transcendence of “M'hijo el dotor” (1903), in another José Ingenieros discussed the advances of his works as “El Hombre mediocre” (1913). For many parishioners those gatherings were a stop in everyday work, not everything lived in a loose position like Carriego, Leopoldo Lugones was an employee of Correos and Sánchez himself worked with Juan Vucetich in the Police, and more, they meant the obligatory meeting point for discussion of literary, philosophical, political and aesthetic novelties; and for public reading.  There Carriego would meet Charles de Soussens, also editor of La Protesta, the bohemian journalist and writer a kind of vate, who recommended him, “Carriego... -his modernist verses - live a fictitious life... why you, who are wandering at the exit of the secluded neighborhoods, do not poetry... the inner dramas of the poor people who struggle and suffer, burdened by disease and misery”  From that moment on Carriego, who will refer from now on more to de Soussens as “my discoverer”, unknowingly founded a new current in Argentine literature, criollism” From the gospel of misery/... flower of the suburb desconsolado”, in “La viejecita”, and “It is the polyphonist of feeling/is that of pains and pleasures”, in “La guitarra”, are the first verses published with great recognition in the magazine Caras y Caretas. Collaborations are soon joined in La Nación and La Razón, and in newspapers of the Interior, La Unión de Rauch, which require his impressions of the Buenos Aires of the casitas bajas and malvones that he wore in his heart. Many of these articles would be published posthumously in the 1920s by his brother.

In Corrientes and Junín, the lively group of Soussens met, in a bar that is free for poets and writers due to the philanthropy of its owner, Juan Boucau, one of the founders of the Jockey Club. In this cultural camaraderie, where Roberto Giusti participated, among others, the editor of the magazine Nosotros, promoter of the Centennial generation, Ricardo Rojas -a few meters from the current Rojas Cultural Center of the UBA- and Evar Méndez -director of Martín Fierro magazine, avant-garde de los twenties-, supported Carriego in his verses of novel nationalism and got Boucau to finance Evaristo's first, and only book in life, “ Heretic Masses” of 1908. Carriego ran to ask his admired Almafuerte in La Plata for the prologue but he refused, according to Romualdo Brughetti, “he disliked the complaining tone of his colleague.” The poet of hammerlazos did not understand the future of the bandoneon's complaint.  


 Heretic Masses for Eternity 

 That first book is still in school with the modernist program until in the fifth part, the unhappy life of the Buenos Aires suburb, the poor neighborhood and its characters, immigrant workers and malevos creoles emerges in the first place as an absolute novelty. This was quite an event in argentinian cultured poetry  “Between the barabía del conventilo/ dodging pushjones passes light/ because it brings news one that another kid/ Divulging the new one of the crier... because at the beat of a tango, which is “La Morocha”/they make agile cuts two selvelleros& hellip; the worker's wife, dirty and tired/ patching that boy's clothes”, in “The soul of the suburb”, or “The handsome”, “with that hat he bowed to the eyes/with that mane that combed to careless/singing adventures, of red tales/looks like a poet who was bandit”, presents Carriego pioneer the models with no expiration date, the neighborhood, the mother, the compadrito, the urbanized courage, the infinite sadness, and that would take over, and again, Argentine writers, tangueros and porteños artists.  Giusti publishes a criticism in Us requesting some restraint in these paintings that overflow modernist illusions, something that Carriego, as the simplism of Baldomero Fernández Moreno would do, or Alfonsina Storni's confessional intimism, flatly rejected. Evaristo put his feet in the neighborhood.  

On September 13, 1908 Carriego lived his moment of glory, one who was eagerly looking for in the redactions of the Center and in the bowling of the shores. Ferrari restaurant in Uruguay and Sarmiento celebrates the launch of “Heretic Masses”, in its title influenced by French decadentism, with an “lunch” that brings together a hundred journalists, writers and poets.  After that back he continued to publish but according to his relatives his character moved more retracted and melancholic, and his poetry focused on the little dramas of the outside walls, the abandoned bride, the drunken father or the little orphan battered, those knots that would pass into the tango universe in the feathers of Celedonio Flores, the lyricist of Carlos Gardel,  and Enrique Cadícamo.   The death of his father in 1909 and his friend Florencio Sánchez in 1910, “Go to the Stars, Goodbye, Canillita”, dedicated Carriego to the playwright who imposed this nickname on street newspaper vendors, aggravated his melancholy and almost did not leave the family home on Honduras Street.  In mid-1911 Carriego suffered an attack of appendicitis, which was misdiagnosed, and that would lead him to death on October 13, 1912, the same year Diego Fernández Espiro died, and with them, the bohemia porteña finisecular disappears - although the new times of a popular society and open, which many of these bohemians had interviewed without proposing it, would arrive in 1916 with radicalism in power.

A year later his brother returned to publish “Masses heretics” with the “Song of the neighborhood” and “La sesturerita que que que que paso”, confirming the novelty of the previous book. Here stand out the female characters of Carriego, such as “the girl who is always sad”, “the French woman who came out sunbathing today”, “the sick woman they brought last night”, and obviously, “la seamurerita”, “Goodbye, morochita, you'll see girl/when you walk in all the Homemade talks... Stay with us. You suffer and comes poor/ We will not make a reproach to you: not a word about/ the hidden reason for your distancement/... Enter without fear, sister” To Gabriel's aforementioned biography would be added in 1930 another of one of his admirers, who left behind Creolism but who in  1923 would write totally influenced by Carriego, “The streets of Buenos Aires are already my endees/not the avid streets, uncomfortable with peat and bustle, /but the streets disgainted from the barrie/... hopefully in the verses that draw the flags”, in “Fervor de Buenos Aires” in Borges . And that would be the forerunner poet of the narrations of the Maduro Borges. From his anecdotes of handsome and compadritos will come out the first story of Jorge Luis, “Hombre de la esquina rosada”; from the critical-biographical mold of Borges in “Evaristo Carriego”, the glosses of “Universal History of Infamy”, in the form of a fictional essay . It is just the moment that  Borges  leaves the neighborhood, although he never forgets it as evidenced by the reissue of Carriego's biography essayistic in 1955, where he adds “History of Tango”, but his stage now will be the whole universe. For cosmopolitan Borges, who treasure in Geneva an edition of “Heretic Masses” signed by Evaristo for his father, Creolist Carriego was a forerunner.  

Carriego bequeathed to us the first mythological land of Buenos Aires, the lantern, the mine and the sadness of no longer being, which was not only his Palermo but the hundred neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, “They repeat it infinitely in us,  as if Carriego endured scattered in our destinies, as if each of us were for some Carriego seconds.   I think that literally is so, and that those momentary identities (not repetitions! , exclaims Borges) that annihilate the supposed run of time, prove eternity” Buenos Aires, Eternal City of Evaristo Carriego.


Sources: Carriego, E.  Complete poetic work . Buenos Aires: Editions of the Arrabal. Quinquela Martín Museum. 2013; Rivera, J.  Literary bohemia in La  vida de nuestro pueblo. Buenos Aires: CEAL. 1983; Gabriel, J.  Evaristo Carriego: a simple life.   Buenos Aires: Report from the South Collection. 2006; Borges, J.L.  Evaristo Carriego.  Buenos Aires. South American. 2016.

Publication Date: 07/05/2021

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poeta Homero Manzi Homero Manzi: poet at the foot of Buenos Aires
borges What did Jorge Luis Borges read?



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