Manuel José de
in the literary scene of
Río de la Plata
of my country, Argentina,
has a literary origin, much anterior to the existence of the nation. It already
came to appear a poem called “La Argentina”,
written by Martín del Barco Centenera (1544-1605), on year 1602.
Strictly speaking, is the first work written by a son of the land. The title of
this poem graved with fire the famous Latinism equivalent to Río de la Plata (River Plate).
Río de la Plata
signifies not less than to invoke the Southerner Indies.
simple modest manner, the Renaissance as well as the Baroque and the Neoclassicism
were present in the colonial literature of South America
– from the XVI century until the beginning of the XIX century -. The
Spaniard Culture scattered these seeds in America; nevertheless, the Baroque
from the River Plate is poor, compared with others from the continent. But,
mysteriously, the colonization of River Plate coincides with the first rays of
light that was emerging from the Spanish Gold Century.
from Spanish classics and French encyclopaedists were circulating inside the cloisters
of the University, in Chuquisaca, now in the Bolivian Republic,
where the Jesuit print press forged amalgams with indigene languages. The
Baroque emerged there, under an imitative form, among the cultured verses of
the followers of Góngora.
stream of thought that interest us now, is the neoclassicism. It arrived in
River Plate at the latest colonial epoch of our literature – between 1700
and 1830 -. As we well know, this current surged in Europe
as a reaction against the Baroque excesses.
eleven viceroys that had River Plate in the city called now Buenos
Aires, Don Juan José de Vértiz y Salcedo, Viceroy of
Lights, the unique from American origin born in Mexico, was the one who lighted
with major emphasis the cultural flame of the colony. In this environment is
where our poet, José Manuel de Labardén, was studying laws like many others
famous personalities from River Plate, but with a particular patina.
legends presaged that following the River Plate we would arrive to the regions
of gold and argent. Travellers of
that epoch reflected in their works some ambient and geographic aspects. It was
there, between the testimony of the forest, of the water plants carried by the
current of the river, of so many colours conjuring flowers and birds, where
emerged the glimpse of our poet, in his poem Oda al Paraná:
Paraná, sacred river,
illustrious firstborn of the ocean,
in the gleaming nacre char
embroidered green and gold caimans,
you are going from climate to climate,
region to region, pouring frank
green and prodigal abundance,
loved by Portuguese and Spaniard people.”
(See the original of this poem in the Spanish version)
moments of the going down of the waters, Juan Manuel de Labardén sings
the beauty and fecundity of the River, the overflowing of the riches leaved for
us on its banks.
another moment of the “Ode to the Paraná”, he tells
the simple Argentine nymphs
there their carey* comb
and get mellow sounds
crystal lyres, with gold cords
the Goddesses of Parnassus.
*carey = kind of see turtle
(see original in the Spanish version)
Here his telling
expresses, with a proverbial delicacy, the contemplation of certain gifts,
certain grace, of the American woman.
ahead, we perceive a meditation of gratitude towards River Pananá,
together with a clamour to the Spanish land, when he says:
you will not remain without prize, holy prize!
wear adorned with diamonds
rubies, two portraits,
divine moving faces,
Luisa’s, other is Carlos’ “.
appeared in the first issue of the journal: El Telégrafo
Mercantíl, Rural, Político, Económico e
Historiográfico del Río de la Plata (The Commercial Telegraph, Rural,
Politic, Economic and Historiographe of River Plate - on first April, 1801 -.
In the Press, Lavardén manifests his preoccupation for the estates, for
the free commerce, for the care to ports and, as he used to say, to
“… poetry that animates all things and makes wearable the labours
the more sterile.
literary aspect, preferences were given to the antiques Latin poets Virgil and
Horace. As we know, the last one had a great admirer: Fray Luis de León.
land, the Neoclassicism began to have some influence after the expulsion of the
Jesuits (1767) and under the Bourbon liberalism. It coincided with the
apparition of the new encyclopaedic French ideas and its stream of popular
arrogance and republican ideals.
true is that without knowing, Labardén anticipated the condition of the
Rio Plate versifiers; who, in the middle of political patriotic affiliation
controversies, had to fight at the same time with spade and pen, as they were
as much soldiers than writers. With his delicacy and contagious erudition, he
had a dream: to stack the artistic culture of the colony with a pair of wings;
and raise the gleam of the letters in an opener social environment. This
desire, special for that time, brought him to be the first Argentine dramatic
writer. He was born in 1754, which means that his fifty five years of life went
by at the end of the colonial epoch. He
collaborated in the creation of the first theatre, called De la ranchería, during
the reign of the viceroy Vértiz. A fire put end to the life of this
theatre and other compositions belonging to Labardén: between them, a
poem on The defence of Buenos Aires
during English invasions, some satyrs and two sonnets.
It is not
strange that the fragility of the very humble wood hut, whose thatched roof
raised in the big park of the “Ranchería”, succumbed to the
voracity of the flames, in the night of August, 16th, 1792, during
the festivity of Saint Juan.
oldest of the papers published in Buenos Aires,
in the issue corresponding to November, 19th, 1801, Lavardén
is insisting on the necessity to have a theatre and deploring the fact that
“the precious capital of Argentina
had to be slighted without the unique solace of the civil man”. Three
years later, the cements of the Coliseum were raised, under the auspice of the
town council, in the same place where the principal of our theatres, the Teatro
Colón de Buenos Aires, stands today.
under the thatched roof of the “Ranchería”, that the
dramatic muse inspired our compatriot Lavardén for the creation of the
famous tragedy Siripo, applauded successively by two generations, before
and after the Revolution of May, 1810.
us have a look on the environment in which Lavardén is improving as a
say that the neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, because of
having a predominant Spanish origin, has always been a theatre lover; and
already in that time, citizen were attending with pleasure the plays offered by
actors amateur, in occasion of some official public entertainments,. Functions
would take place on Sundays, between four and seven p.m. And once upon November
1747, to celebrate the accessing to the throne of King Fernando VI, it was the
officials of the garrison troupe that improvised, converted in actors and
machinists, a theatre saloon, to play not less than the dramas: Las armas de
la hermosura (Beauty arms) and Efectos de odio y amor (Beauty and
love effects), by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, with their respective prologues about the
Vértiz made what he could to favour honest entertainment, especially
dramatic ones, using sometimes the energy of his soldier; and others, his
ability as a man of the world; to get over the obstacles raised against his
ideas by the word of the pulpit. In order that, when he believed the moment was
opportune to establish a public theatre, he put this profane idea under the
protection of charity sentiments, offering the product of the comedy house for
the maintenance of orphan children; and to vanquish completely the resistance of spineless
spirits, he surrounded himself by a sort of council integrated by solvent and
illustrated persons that would purge the works to be played, from all what
could provoke scandal in the public, and bad behaviour in young people. The
sage viceroy, like he, himself, told in his Govern Memories, took the
narrowest diligences to be sure disorder would not be committed by spectators
in the theatre; and, as he, himself, was an assiduous one, he used to dissimulate his devotion by telling that he felt as if he was
obliged to guaranty the public behaviour by the respect the presence of his
person would impose.
would have been the inspiration of our poet to create his tragedy: Siripo? Among
the magic of the legends and chronicles, our first history writer, Ruy Blas de
Guzmán, had retaken the word Argentina.
The work in
prose of this American journalist of Indian and white parentage is called: Historia
del Descubrimiento, Población y Conquista (History of Argentina from
the Discovery, Population and Conquest).
influenced Manuel José de Labardén in the production of his
works, based on Lucía Miranda legend. A delicious story in which this
Andalusian woman arrived to River Plate with the expedition of Sebastián
Gaboto, citizen from Genoa, together with her husband: Sebastián
Hurtado. They would loge in the fort
situated in the right margin of River Panamá.
remember that, in their desire of adventures to obtain renown, the major part
of these first inhabitants, sons of important families, knights and commanders,
was not afraid to affront the biggest dangers. Lucía leaves her pure and
serene sky, the devotion of her mother, only to follow her loved husband. She
would contact Indian Timbúes, give friendship to their chef bringing him
to the Christian religion. Lucía would be kidnapped by Siripo. And then
a spiritual exchange is occurring between the two worlds.
manuscripts of the legends and chronicles, written by Ruy
Díaz de Guzmán, were circulating among European writers. In the essays of
Montaigne, in De los Canibales (From the Cannibals), we observe the
mooring of the opposition between civilization and nature, but from a utopian
perspective and with concrete information about the living of the indigenes
We also find the characters of Lucía Miranda legend, which represents
what is marvellous in America,
in one of the last work of Shakespeare: The Tempest, in a surprising
relation between the intent of violation and the rapt of Miranda by
Calibán may be explained – and this is only an hypothesis –
as a sort of duplication, or reflect, of
the kidnapping made by Mangoré and Siripo. And the triad Prosper, Miranda, Caliban,
in The Tempest, has the same character as shown in the relation between
the two Spanish captains, Lucía Miranda and the indigene chefs,
described by Luis Astrana Marín in his Estudio Preliminar a William
Shakespeare (Preliminary study to William Shakespeare). It is about a
possible lecture, proposed from a
frame of significations that surges by itself and from his critical interpretations.
first played in a night of carnival of 1789 and represented successfully until
1816, when the national
independence is declared. Here you have a passage of the XIII scene of
where shall I go alone, feeble woman?
grot shall be funeral repair
to my sad
orphan state? Fierce tigers
give me help? Yes, they shall be meek
lover, a father and a spouse
pity their fierceness robbed.
am I complaining? His vengeance
did I not
provoke? Is this not justice
crime? Was I not the one
glimpsed unfair laughing eyes
to a new lover, weaving
malicious and bloody hands
nuptial crown that would crown
and my wedding?
wash it. I have to die.
I, of myself
judge, pronounce the sentence.
calls for it. Love commands it.”…
has three parts - some say five - and was preceded by a short dramatic
panegyric entitled: La inconclusa (The unfinished), which text has been
lost. The tragedy, written by tiring hendecasyllabic romance verses, had not
yet reached us. It is evident that the historic value of the work is superior
to its literary merits. But it took its space nearly without willing; because
Lavardén, in spite of being ignored the last years of his life, is
giving to us the re-encounter of the most refined poetry with the people; and,
in another hand, there are his
literary poems; they are there, in the luminous place of the scene where the
heartbeats have a meeting… And another epopee was born, the history of
the Argentine theatre.
Argentine poet and writer
Translated into English by