Martín Fierro, the classic poem of Argentine Gauchesca literature, published in two parts (1872 and 1879). The poem contains a strong ethical, social, and political message, which its author, José Hernández, also delivered in his journalism and political life. Hernández sought to depict the destitute existence of a specific social class, re-creating its world view and particular language. He embodied that class in a fictional gaucho, Martín Fierro, who narrates his life before and after he was compulsorily sent to the frontier to fight the Indians—robbed of his family, home, and all his belongings. He escapes from virtual slavery at the fort, lives as a gaucho matrero (cunning outlaw), together with his friend Sargeant Cruz, and finds refuge among the Indians. Upon returning to his "pago" (the region in which he used to live), Martín Fierro finds two of his sons and the one of Cruz. After hearing the father's wise advice the four agree, for reasons not explained in the poem, to lead separate lives.
A vivid depiction of life in the fort and of Indian malones (surprise attacks), of Fierro's humiliating experiences as an unsalaried soldier, as well as of the abuses of his orphaned children, the poem is a denunciation of the profound injustices inflicted on the gauchos. An epic and lyrical piece of 7,210 verses, the poem not only achieved Hernández's sociopolitical purposes, but also won popular acclaim. Martín Fierro has ever since been the archetypical gaucho, symbolizing the "barbaric" inhabitants of the Pampas who were decimated in the name of "civilization."
Nettie L. Benson, "Martín Fierro at the University of Texas," in Library Chronicle of the University of Texas 8, no. 4 (1968): 13-27.
Ted Lyon, "Martín Fierro: Narrative Fluctuation (as Key to Interpretation)," in Chasqui 1, no. 3 (1972): 26-35.
Nettie L. Benson, "Martín Fierro, Best Seller," in Américas 25, no. 2 (1973): 8-12.
Frank G. Carrino et al., trans., The Gaucho Martín Fierro (1974).
Fermín Chavez, "Martín Fierro: Sus contenidos ideológicos y políticos," in Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos 357 (March 1980): 525-540.
Michael J. Casey, "El cantor y el mudo: Speech and Silence in Martín Fierro," in Chasqui 11, no. 1 (1981): 53-57.
Nancy Vogeley, "The Figure of the Black Payador in Martín Fierro," in CLA Journal 26, no. 1 (1982): 34-48.
Rodolfo A. Borello, "La originalidad del Martín Fierro," in Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos 437 (November 1986): 65-84, and "El Martín Fierro y la poesía gauchesca," in Boletín de la Academia Argentina de Letras 54, nos. 211-212 (1989): 97-129.
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Angela B. Dellepiane