Luis de Tejeda

The pilgrim in Cordoba


Language is the unique nationality of a writer, said Octavio Paz. The Spanish language joins Tejeda with Cervantes and Borges in a brotherhood.


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.


To speak 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.


Memory could have been an invention. A voice that arrived to us involuntarily, impersonal, almost blinded.


Tejeda is 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.


With the 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.


Tejeda – a place of confluences – a word that seems not wanting to go ahead of its chronology, of its gleams and shades.


Given at an imaginary time, to hands that could exhume it…


Luis José 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.


The 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…


During 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.


The longing for universal knowledge made evident the colonial   world   crisis,   uncomfortably   placed  between reason and faith.


Luis de Tejeda also suffered from these controversies and this can be seen in the whole development of his work…


In that 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.


In that 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…


The 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…


A special event in his life curved his juvenile adventures. His father, Juan de Tejeda, obliged him to marry Doña Francisca de Vera y Aragón.


The lack 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 public functions.


He was second lieutenant in 1634, plain mayor and alderman in 1657, lieutenant general and maitre de camp of the governor in 1660.


Toward 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…


In the 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.


The 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”).


Some of 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.


On the 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)…


Tejeda 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.


The 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, titulatedSoledades (loneliness), where, making a pose in the relation of his life, he describes the steps of The Passion.


Tejeda 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.


The work of Tejeda is influenced by his lectures: Valdivieso, Lope de Vega and Góngora can be detected through his verses.


Ricardo 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 Rose.


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…”


Certain critics are not benevolent with Tejeda. His elaborate cultured style is disdained by many.


He 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.


His life and his work are fed by extraordinary events in a permanent confrontation of values.


His 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.


The vital 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)?


…Far away 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


Consequently, we are asking ourselves: does his work belong to us, are we his legitimate receptors?


Differences … may be insignificant.


Confuse, unreachable, appears the memory. Inviolable sometimes, usurped many times.


Lost star in his limited space…


Image of 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…


Where, at 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.


Héctor Rico

Argentine writer and poet

Buenos Ares: February, 2005




Translate into English by Mariette Cirerol






See it in the original Spanish version