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Martin Fierro

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Martín Fierro
Martin Fierro11111

Real Name

Martín Fierro

First Appearance

Martín Fierro (1872)

Original Publisher

Unknown

Created by

José Hernández

Details

Martín Fierro is a 2,316 line epic poem by the Argentine writer José Hernández. The poem was originally published in two parts, El Gaucho Martín Fierro (1872) and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro (1879). The poem supplied a historical link to the gauchos' contribution to the national development of Argentina, for the gaucho had played a major role in Argentina's independence from Spain. The poem, written in a Spanish that evokes rural Argentina, is widely seen as the pinnacle of the genre of "gauchesque" poetry (poems centered around the life of the gaucho, written in a style that evokes the rural Argentine ballads known as payadas) and a touchstone of Argentine national identity. It has appeared in literally hundreds of editions and has been translated into over 70 languages, all done by different publishers.

Story

In "El Gaucho Martín Fierro", the eponymous protagonist is an impoverished gaucho who has been drafted to serve at a border fort, defending the Argentine inner frontier against the Native Peoples. His life of poverty on the pampas is somewhat romanticized; his military experiences are not. He deserts and tries to return to his home, but discovers that his house, farm, and family are gone. He deliberately provokes an affair of honor by insulting a black woman in a bar; in the knife duel that ensues, he kills her male companion. The narration of another knife fight suggests by its lack of detail that it is one of many. Fierro becomes an outlaw pursued by the police militia. In battle with them, he acquires a companion: one Sergeant Cruz, inspired by Fierro's bravery in resistance, defects and joins him mid-battle. The two set out to live among the natives, hoping to find a better life there.

In "La Vuelta de Martín Fierro", we discover that their hope of a better life is promptly and bitterly disappointed. They are taken for spies; the cacique (chieftain) saves their lives, but they are effectively prisoners of the natives; in this context Hernández presents another, and very unsentimentalized, version of rural life. The poem narrates an epidemic, the horrible, expiatory attempts at cure, and the fatal wrath upon those, including a young "Christian" (presumably ethnically Spanish) boy suspected of bringing the plague. Both Cruz and the cacique die of the disease. Shortly afterward, at Cruz's grave, Fierro hears the anguished cries of a woman: he follows and encounters a native woman weeping over the body of her dead son, her hands tied with the boy's entrails. It develops that she has been accused of witchcraft. Fierro fights and wins a brutal combat with her captor and travels with her back towards civilization, or at least towards Christian lands.

After Fierro leaves the woman at the first ranch they see, he goes on to an encounter that raises the story from the level of the mildly naturalistic to the mythic. He encounters his two surviving sons (one has been a prisoner, the other the ward of the vile and wily Vizcacha), and the son of Cruz (who has become a gambler). He has a night-long payada (singing duel) with a black payador (singer), who turns out to be the younger brother of the man Fierro murdered in a duel. At the end, Fierro speaks of changing his name and living in peace, but it is not entirely clear that the duel has been avoided.

Appearances

  • Martín Fierro (1872)
  • La Vuelta de Martín Fierro (1879)

See Also

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