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Hilario Ascasubi: poet of the Fatherland

Jorge Luis Borges used to say that Ascasubi and the Fatherland were born together. The gauchesque genus, cradle of national literature, has in Cordovan one of its greatest representatives.

Art and Literature
Hilario Ascasubi

When the South project was a chimera in Victoria Ocampo's head, Jorge Luis Borges was clear what would be the subject of his first essay in the magazine. And that Norah Borges would make an allusive engraving.  Hilario Ascasubi would return to enter the Argentine canon of the Borgean pen, a poet of the nineteenth century practically forgotten a hundred years later  , although our eldest writer rescued his work in order to discuss with the nationalist bases of Argentine literary studies, which Ricardo Rojas promoted from university, and to put it before Martín Fierro de José Hernández in the conception of the “popular and commoner”, the truth is that its assessment did not change over time.  In the seventies  Borges continued to maintain that with Sarmiento he was his favorite Argentine writer . The great writer César Aira is a contemporary nonsense continuator of the talent of Paulino Lucero or Aniceto El Gallo, some of Ascasubi's multiple pseudonyms. Manuel Mujica Láinez dedicated a noveled biography to him and took him to the terrain of legend.  Ascasubi summarizes in his course the birth of the Argentine writer, first pamphlet, then artist, or how to be at the same time . In the words of Josefina Ludmer, the literate culture sneaked into the pampas with Ascasubi and transformed the gaucho into a mythical, unreal being.   Sarmiento,  ideologue of civilization and barbarism, pointed out that the language of the Gauchescos poets was more barbarian than that of the gauchos themselves . And on that hard cookie, we're going on.

Hilario Ascasubi was born in Fraile Muerto — today Bell Ville, Cordoba — on January 14, 1807. To make it a film start he came to the world on a wagon on a desolate route, at the age of twelve he embarked on the pirate “La Rosa Argentina” heading to Guyana and the United States and at thirteen he was taken prisoner by the Portuguese. He escaped in Lisbon and toured half Europe and a half America. He only returned to Argentina in 1824 and, after a brief passage through Buenos Aires, he arrived in Salta carrying one of the famous printers of Los Niños Foundlings -yes, the first ones in Argentina - in a gift from Rivadavia. That year he directed in the company of José Arenales La Revista de Salta, a pioneer medium in the province, and published poems in homage to Ayacucho's victory, under the patronage of Uruguayan poet  Heraclio Fajardo.   The dismissal of the unitary governor Victoriano Solá causes him to take refuge in Bolivia, but the Brazilian War (1825-1828) led the poet to intervene bravely in the national artillery. He ascends to lieutenant of the national squad due to the bravery demonstrated in Juncal under the orders of Admiral Brown. In 1830 he worked at the Hallet printing house and was appointed official by Governor Rosas in Fuerte Independencia . From unitary ideology he quickly becomes a political opponent, imprisoned in Entre Ríos, escaped in 1831 and furious antirosist in Montevideo.  Ascasubi works as a journalist and poet in the Oriental Band, surrounded by Argentine conspirators in exile and imperialist foreigners, skies, mediacañas, dialogues, tenths, romances and gloomy and terrifying news come out of his imagination against the fearsome Cob, and in order to overthrow the government of Roses.  Tangential continuator of the tradition of Bartolomé Hidalgo, Ascasubi redefines gauchesca, introduces new ways of versifying, and who is its ideal audience, not so much the gauchos themselves, but aspires to an urban readership to come . In this sense, the poet resembles  Esteban Echeverría  in pretending a national book market. Both also have other contact points and Ascasubi's “La Refalosa” talks in truculence and bestial images with “El Matadero” by Echeverría. And at last, both texts, foundational, are diatribes against the Rosas regime.  Argentine literature was born in a pool of blood.  

 From Paulino to Aniceto, with the only certainty of being an opponent 

While Acasubi worked in Uruguay of the most unusual professions, lottery manager and baker with General Gelly and Obes, his entire fortune went to finance resources to overthrow the Confederation government into Rosas's hands. He was one of the main contributors of Juan Lavalle's supposed “liberating” army in 1839. Florencio Varela, Rivera Indarte and Valentín Alsina spent long seasons in their unitary friendly house, and it was a kind of plant of foreign spies attacking in Paraguay and Argentina. There Sarmiento confesses that he admires his gauchescos writings because he had learned the language along with “Soldadaje raso” “El arriero argentino”, “El gaucho en campaña” and “Jacinto Cielo” were the literary background of “Paulino Lucero or los gauchos del Río de la Río de la Silver singing and fighting against the tyrants of the Argentine and eastern Republic of Uruguay” that the author compiles in 1853, dedicated to Justo José de Urquiza, although they are poems spanning from 1839 to 1851, and were published loose in ephemeral newspapers.  From there two aspects emerge, and which are extensible to the rest of his poems, one is the profusion of explanations necessary for an urban reader who is unaware of customs and languages. Another is how pamphlet journalistic rhetoric imprints an urgency and simplification as is evident in Ascasubi's poem about Isidora, Federela and Arroyera, which in its negative characteristics intends to identify with Rosas's wife, Encarnación Ezcurra.  

Jacinto Amores and Simón Peñalva -their first duo of payadors created in 1833-, Paulino and Martín Sayago, Ramón Contreras -the character of Hidalgo- and Salvador Antero, among many other pseudonyms, follow each other in tenths in the heat of the anti-Rosist battle against tyranny.  And yet the genius of Ascasubi introduces innovations in the gauchesca that modernize the genre and even unsuspected announce other Argentine genres such as the unfortunate reality of the two thousand.  Let's go back to Isadora, in the voice of Chilean Anastasio (Sarmiento?) , “gueña federala/then is framed in his sauce/with the daughter of Juan Manuel” The poem tells the visit to Palermo of this “good mashorquera” that carries “ears of a Frenchman” by General Oribe, torn on the site of Montevideo, and in offering that complete the collection of a dark cabinet of horrors that are of the “taste of the Restorer of the Laws” Unfortunately you find Rosas “with a head of anklet (sic)” in “underpants”, in the middle of a “satanic” trance, and is slit so that the postcard of “an enraged tiger is taken to the tomb” ; who casts “foams through the mouth” Ends Roses sitting on the cádaver and kisses with the murdered Isadora, “Ansí la sad stream/A bad end to had”

Another notable innovation of Ascasubi occurs in the famous “La Refalosa” when the usual voice of the gaucho “letrao” unitary to the “mashorquero y sgollador”, who threatens Jacinto Cielo to dance in his own blood. Exacerated realism tells how the “unitary wild” is slaughtered, forced to dance in his own blood, “and fell to pateliar/and to shak/very fierce, until it stretches” to finally cut off a meat market, tear off his ears, beard, sideburns and eyebrows, and leave it to “the caranchos& rdquo;, in a usual method of unitarians and feds during the Argentine civil wars.  We know much about the nineteenth century violence, which included manifest machismo, due to the real and imaginary chronicles of Ascasubi.  

With Urquiza's proclamation of May 1, 1851 against the tyranny of Rosas, Ascasubi is enlisted in the multinational army that defeats the governor of Buenos Aires in Caseros. It was the winner's Edecan, who paid it 1800 pesos for his Gauchescos poems for “propaganda” purposes, according to Sarmiento.  Once in Buenos Aires, he worked at La Boca police station, in the gas installation and managed the Teatro Coliseo, and was among the founders of the first Teatro Colón . As he approached Mitre's separatism, Urquiza was erected for Ascasubi in the repudiable “vuecelence” or “Mr. Diretudo” or “Director Bambolla de Mogolla” or “psycho fantastic”, or simply, in a successor to the tyrant Rosas.  Arises Aniceto El Gallo, the battlehorse of the porteños facing the Argentine Confederation, and that will have its referral in Anastasio El Pollo de Estanislao del Campo, author of the next step of the gauchesca, the Creole Faust .  Further derivation in change of political brawl on journalistic satire and humor . Ricardo Rojas considered Paulino's verses to be superior to those of Aniceto El Gallo, “for while the work of Rosas's enemy gaucho is violent in passion, colorful in vocabulary, original in rhythms and forms, and authentically popular, that of Aniceto is fainted, conventional, opportunistic, romanzón of memory in  Ascasubi copied the Argentine Ascasubi without equalizing it ” Garay, Borges sang here.

 Santos Vega, a jump to the void of the gauchesca 

  Cielito, cielito que yes/Cielito by conclusion/Die el mulatto Ascasubi/De todos el más robrón” José Hernández, who supported the federal project Urquiza, was dedicated in the newspaper El Nacional Argentino a certain José Hernández, who supported the federal project in Urquiza.  Aalien to this, the poet friend of Carlos Pellegrini embarks on diplomatic tour representing the country of the government of  Mitre  . He lived for several years in Paris, where he planted a Creole willow on the tomb of his admired Alfredo de Musset, and returned sporadically to Buenos Aires. In 1872 he decided to publish his complete works under his own supervision and compiled for the first time the verses of “ Santos Vega or Los mellizos de La Flor”, his most ambitious literary project that had begun to pergenate in 1850 in El Comercio del Plata in Montevideo “History, poem, tale or how want to call”  said Ascasubi twenty years later, and with the addition of ten thousand verses to the original two thousand, he reimagined the campaign of the late times of the Colony and the first years of Independence.  It innovates thus evade the temporal axis of the present of the gauchesca so far and also invents two types, Luis and Jacinto, the bad gaucho and the good gaucho, who acquire a mythological stature of fight between ontological forces of the pampas in the voice of the payador Santos Vega  “Ascasubi was the first in put in cast letters to our payador”, recognizes Fermin Chavez, because Santos Vega was a gaucha legend born apparently in Santiago del Estero.

There is no hero, there is no tragic destiny, there is no Martín Fierro, but there is “the direct intuition of dance, of the discontinued play of the bodies that are being understood” writes Borges in “La poetry gauchesca”, in a brilliant analysis of eroticism that shines in several of the d& eacute; tops “ I have happily concluded I consider it the most interesting of what I have written in my poor and hectic life”  would write Ascasubi to his friend José Tavolara from Europe.

It all starts when Santos Vega says that Rufo Tolosa's horse has an “Y” shaped errand and starts a story with thousands of turns and disgressions, and that it has the thread to these two brothers adopted in Estancia La Flor. Vega, unusually for the puritarisms of the time, decides to court the woman of Tolosa and establishes a rogue counterpoint that accumulates situations and contexts of high folkloric value - there was no such discipline yet. Between chanzas and laughter, two gauchos “apedados”, “allow me, if you like/continue my question/the one who you cut me/with their güevos de carancho”, are braided in a story with fantastic visos without forgetting the courtship, “Rosa is redamó/en la canillas de Vega, /that slippers went oacute; /to hold his legs, /like he held it/when he was already burned/the naguas and nightgown”, in a scene that dances between epilepsy and sexual tension. Finally, the story returns to the twins in a tragicomic ending, which has more folletín than gauchesca poetry. Hyacinto supposedly dead revives and scares his brother Luis, who falls from the cart and dies crushed. And that “Y” that resumes vibrant and links genres, comedy and tragedy, poetry and novel, in a context out of time.  Like those  gauchos  who in 1872 “disappeared as a social type and historical entity because of the contact of the city,” said Ascasubi. The poet would return ill to Buenos Aires and died on November 17, 1875, and was fired in the cemetery of La Recoleta with loas by the Argentine government  

“Many will never have heard the word gaucho, or have heard it as insult/ (...) Men of the city made them a dialect and a poetry of rustic metaphors/ (...) Hilario Ascasubi saw them singing and combating/ (...) They lived their destiny as in a dream, not knowing who they were or what they wer/Maybe the same happens to us”  Jorge Luis Borges in “Los Gauchos” (1969)

Sources: Borges, J. L. “ Gauchesca poetry”  in Discussion. Buenos Aires: Emecé. 1957; Sorrentino, F.  Seven conversations with Jorge Luis Borges.  Buenos Aires: El Ateneo. 2001; Soler Bistué, M. “ Hilario Ascasubi and the Bicentennial” in Images, Poetics and Voices in Argentine Literature: Foundation and Itineraries. Buenos Aires: CCC. 2010; Mujica Láinez, M.  Life of Aniceto El Gallo.   Buenos Aires. 1943

Publication Date: 14/01/2021

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