Luis de Tejeda
“The pilgrim in Cordoba”
is the unique nationality of a writer, said Octavio
Paz. The Spanish language joins Tejeda with Cervantes and Borges in a
Language and destiny. Invention of a time where the reality
is revelation, conception of a work, exploration of territories where converge
the powers of silence and word.
about principles imposes an emotional and steadfast search. To illuminate dark
spaces, reduce distance; like an attempt to regain signs, evidences and
imaginary voyages to impossible meets, to the paradoxical epoch where the
worlds competed to obtain their preeminence.
A world of roots, of legends; and its opposite, the one of the prophecy,
the one of the advent.
… And the
poet in a lethargic evocation because of so much fog of centuries, because of
so many dreams made shreds.
could have been an invention. A voice that arrived to us involuntarily,
impersonal, almost blinded.
a moment of the absence, dweller of an unreal country to which we access by the
purity of the word and also by its roughness.
signals of orientation that we dispose to transpose the territories in order to
join them, to reach the strict gestation moment of what is real.
a place of confluences – a word that seems not wanting to go ahead of its
chronology, of its gleams and shades.
an imaginary time, to hands that could exhume it…
de Tejeda y Guzmán was born in 1604, in Córdoba del Tucumán,
an independent province from the Viceroyalty of Peru. When was established in Peru,
a viceroyship formed by the descendents of the
conquistadores and the indigenous blood.
social change instituted was important for the letters that flowed, from
historical chronicles and evangelization themes, to a literature of the court
reflecting the education given to scholars, from México and Peru to all domains…
the XVII century, the Baroque art appeared in America. The viceroyalty of Indies – closed universe of singular refinement – was a
very suitable place for an erudite and ingenious style to blossom.
longing for universal knowledge made evident the colonial world
crisis, uncomfortably placed between reason and faith.
Tejeda also suffered from these controversies and this can be seen in the whole
development of his work…
spiritual climate was living our poet. In that world that was reconstructing
itself, in an intent to identify itself among its antagonistic aspects, among
the constant cultural and conceptual reforms.
undetermined land, forged by the dream
of Spanish, Indigenes and Creoles; where were still succeeding the expulsion of
the Jesuits, reforms in the viceroyalties, the revolution of May, the crash of
the old system and the birth of a new one made fatherland, made identity, in
the ambivalence of the commune times…
precursor of the literature of those lands grew up in a religious ambient,
where he obtained, in 1623,
a bachelor title in art. Multiple personality, great
vigour and dynamism, he had to manage dissimilar labours going from complex
bureaucratic functions to daring military campaigns…
event in his life curved his juvenile adventures. His father, Juan de Tejeda,
obliged him to marry Doña Francisca de Vera y Aragón.
of love in this relation provoked the poet unfaithfulness, or perhaps the
reprisal for the forced mandate…
In spite of
idle pursuits in
his dissolute life,
Luis de Tejeda was able to forge inside of him, the rigid character of a
soldier and the strict military discipline.
He was captain
of infantry, fought to defend Buenos
Aires from the assault of the Hollander pirates, and
developed a big campaign against the Indians. Once the military operations were
concluded, he returned to Córdoba. After the death of
his father, he took charge of his wealth administration and performed distinct
second lieutenant in 1634, plain mayor and alderman in 1657, lieutenant general
and maitre de camp of the governor in 1660.
1661, he had to confront himself with an important conflict. Because of
despotism and arbitration in his proceedings, the Audience condemned him to
prison confiscating his wealth. He had to refuge himself in a convent, after to
flee in the mountains until he manage to enter, as a novice, in the convent of
Santo Domingo, in 1663, where he professed three years later remaining living
there until the day of his death, in 1680…
text of his poems, he uses the expression: Pilgrim in Babylon, rescued by the literary critic and poet, Ricardo Rojas, to
put a title on the collection of his works.
of Tejeda are in prose and verse and, in the original codex, figures as a
title: “Libro de varios
tratados y noticias”
(Book of various treaties and news”).
his poems were published in the “Revista de
Buenos Aires” (Review of Buenos Aires) in the year 1867; but, later on, the
original codex got lost and the name of the poet not mentioned any more; until
the manuscripts were found in the National Library by Ricardo Rojas, in 1915.
next year, he published the work of Tejeda with the title of “El peregrino en Babilonia” (The
pilgrim in Babylon),
and included it in the tome X of his “Historia
de la Literatura Argentina” (History of the
Literature of Argentina)…
was considering his secular life as a long pilgrimage to the holy city, many
times interrupted by stages in the city of the vice, Babylon. In this way, he built poetically two
opposite orbs: one of sin, Babylon; and the
other of virtue, Jerusalem.
Romance of his life is an autobiographic relate quite extensive; followed
by another in which the major part of the texts are on religious themes, titulated “Soledades”
(loneliness), where, making a pose in the relation of his life, he describes
the steps of The Passion.
realized a sort of breviary of the Virgin Mary, divided in two parts: the first
integrated with the history of the Holy Virgin, begins with quatrains dedicated
to the sworn ceremony and publication of Alejandro VII bull on the Immaculate
Conception mystery, and with the comment in prose on a sermon gave in 1663, and
finished with “Fénix de amor”
(Fénix of love) plus its explanation in prose. The
second part is a poetical version of The Passion, in verse and prose – the texts
about the meditation
that form the
rosary –, the most popular rite
of the cult dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
of Tejeda is influenced by his lectures: Valdivieso,
Lope de Vega and Góngora can be detected through his
Rojas is who signals with emphasy the influence of Góngora in Tejeda, and advises it particularly in his
sonnet to the Holy Rose of Lima.
In a fragment of the preliminary study written by the critic for “The
pilgrim in Babylon”,
we reed: “I told that Tejeda knew Góngora. His
influence is sensed in the third and forth verse of his sonnet to the Holy
“Entre las rosas
sol es ya del prado / Crepúsculo de olor, rayo de rosa” (“Among roses sun
is aleady on meadow / Smelling twilight, ray of rose”, “if
you do not prefer to find it in the main air of the composition and in its
cultured obscurity. It is known that Góngora died in
May 1627, thirty years before Tejera wrote. The
reputation of the Spanish poet was then at his apogee…”
critics are not benevolent with Tejeda. His elaborate cultured style is
disdained by many.
excelled in religious themes, in sobriety and elegant expressivity; but his
creativity decays in the biographical relates, proving that only the exaltation
of what is holy converts him in a relevant poet.
and his work are fed by extraordinary events in a permanent confrontation of
penitent retirement opened to him a space full of light where the figures of
opprobrium were deleted. From there, the pilgrim would definitively start on
his way to Jerusalem.
reserve becomes exhausted in some place… and in some other place,
the nationality of Tejeda appears as an unavoidable problem.
To what Argentina did the poet belong, to the one who
emerges like a gleaming word, almost like a mythical animal, in the poetical
relate of Martin del Barco Centenera, published in Lisbon in 1602?
Or to the
same toponym that re-emerges ten years later, used by
the Spanish journalist, Ruy Diaz de Guzmán, in his chronic in prose titled “La Argentina. Del descubrimiento, población y conquista del Río de la Plata” (La Argentina. About the discovery,
population and conquest of Río de la Plata)?
from allusive denominations and legal promulgations – the official name of the
country as Argentine
Republic, appears in a
sanctioned decree, on October first, 1860, by Santiago Derqui,
who was the President
in that time – Tejeda can consider himself as the first poet born in those
primitive and conventional “argentines” from the south of América…
we are asking ourselves: does his work belong to us, are we his legitimate
… may be insignificant.
unreachable, appears the memory. Inviolable sometimes, usurped many times.
in his limited space…
supernatural essence projected like a mystery, in the days and nights red
prefiguring a place.
An unyielding place where times stop. The uncertain time
separated from the pilgrim destiny, in the shade of his enchanted places…
dawn, some hands conciliate oppositions and misunderstandings, in the hazardous
discovery, in the gravitation of the unknown hours that they reach, to rescue
Tejeda for the poetry… for the unquenchable domains of the future.
Argentine writer and poet
Buenos Ares: February, 2005
Translate into English by Mariette Cirerol
See it in the original Spanish