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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2001
It's difficult to classify "Facundo" written by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (argentine thinker, politician and educator) in 1845: it is at the same time history, myth, essay, pamphelt and sociological discourse. It was published for first time as a newspaper serial in Chile where Sarmiento was in exile and written against Rosas'dictatorchip in Argentina. The text is influenced by the Enlightment and specially by the romanticism. Because of the romantic influence, it tells Facundo Quiroga's biography since for romantic'stream a "great man" (Facundo in this case) expresses an epoch. This book has the intention of solving an enigma: how independence's revolution in Argentina (1810) reached Rosas ' dictactorship (1835-1852) This drama, product of the revolution, was caused by the combination of 2 elements which shouldn't have been combined: the city, civilization's field, and the countryside, barbarism's field. The book can be read as the city and the countryside were the characters.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2006
This is NOT, like other reviewer says, an account of Revolutionary Argentina in the 19th century (the period of civil war that followed the independence from Spain). This is not a book of history. Sarmiento is much more than a mere witness/narrator of a period. He is a man of letters, a writer -and one of the very best from Argentina- it takes you only the reading of the first sentence "Oh, Shadow of Facundo..." to realize that you are in the dark territory of myth, not of the clean, sunny history classroom.

This book, like many great books, escape the incarceration of genre, but if there is one thing it demands from the reader is a capacity for being amazed, for being swept away by the story and the writing itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2014
Argentina had only recently become independent from Spain when it fell into a prolonged series of civil wars lasting from 1814 to 1880. The conflict was chiefly between two factions, the Unitarios, who favored a strong central government headquartered in Buenos Aires, and the Federales, who preferred provincial autonomy in a weak confederation. In 1845 Domingo Sarmiento, a Unitario living in exile in Chile, published what was ostensibly a biography of Juan Facundo Quiroga, one of the Federales leaders. This highly polemicized biography of his now-dead enemy was also an attack on Juan Manuel de Rosas, the Federalist governor of Buenos Aires and de facto dictator of Argentina.

Sarmiento begins with several chapters on the geography and demographics of Argentina. His sentiments are immediately clear: "Civilization" is represented by urban life and European ideas. "Barbarism" is found in the countryside among the ignorant and brutal gauchos (cowboys) and the savage Indians. The goal of the Federales, as he saw it, was to keep Argentina divided and undeveloped so these "gaucho-outlaws" (as he frequently calls them) can pursue their careers of dissolution and banditry unmolested by any civil authority.

Facundo Quiroga (the two surnames are used interchangeably) was the foremost of the gaucho generals in the early stages of the war. His undeniable talents and powerful charisma were only partially offset by his ignorance and reckless behavior. He was especially known for his capricious and arbitrary brutality. When in a foul mood he would torture a man to death for an unintended slight, but on other days would not only pardon but reward an enemy who had the courage to defy or insult him. Sarmiento even shows a grudging admiration for Facundo's strength of character and occasional flashes of nobility. He is always quick to note, however, that Rosas has no such qualities. In the end, after a spell of residence in Buenos Aires, Facundo begins to show leanings toward the Unitario side, so Rosas has him assassinated.

It is impossible not to sympathize with Sarmiento, the author, a self-proclaimed child of the Enlightenment. He idolized French philosophers, believed in the separation of church and state, and later in his life, as Argentina's president, made public education his top priority. His ideas on education came from his friendship with Horace Mann, called the father of American public education. Sarmiento translated a biography of Mann into Spanish, and Mann's wife, Mary, translated Facundo into English. (Mary and Sarmiento are also presumed to have been lovers.) But critics have said there is more fiction than fact in Facundo, and the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano excoriates Sarmiento for his disenfranchisement as president of the rural poor and Native Americans. So we must take everything in this book with a hefty dose of skepticism.

Though it is beautifully written, Facundo is probably best read by someone who has more background than I do in Argentine history or is planning further reading. The many factions and shifting alliances of the civil war period are confusing, and Sarmiento is writing to an audience of his compatriots and contemporaries. Several times he says that something is too well known for him to bother describing or recounting it. So I would recommend this work chiefly to those with a special interest in the subject matter.
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on October 4, 2014
This was actually a great book! I bought it for a class and became really interested in the story that was being told.
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6 of 24 people found the following review helpful
There are very few primary sources one can find when studying Latin American revloutions, with Argentina being the subject here. This being a primary source, isn't one that should be taken for an overall look on the Argentina Revoultion. Sarmiento has a sort of bias that shouldn't be taken too seriously. It is hard to get really a good account of Juan Facundo Quiroga because he is such a vague figure in Argentinian history. This is probably the only elaborate interpretation of the figure. Sarmiento also has a sort of habit to go off on tangents on things that are totally irrelevant to the subject matter at hand.

Domingo F. Sarmiento is of European descent and has a biased for "civilization" and defies everything that is "barbaric" as he puts it, which really is what the story is about, and his protest to Rosas one of the leaders of Argentina at the time this story was written who is also "barbaric". The author compares "civilizations" and "barbarism" and how the "barbaric" gauchos are a threat to society. Facundo is a gaucho and is interpreted by Sarmiento as a dicator who made is way to the top by hate and carelessness and is partially at fault for the state of "deterioration" that Argentina was presently in during mid-19th century Argentina.

All criticism aside, one does get good descriptive imagery of the man that was Juan Facundo Quiroga. Due to the fact that this book was written on a sort of bias, it would be better if it was written under a more accurate scholarly account, but then again it is a novel and that is what makes it interesting. It is by no means a useful primary source.
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0 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2007
I am currently a history major and took an Argentina class because I thought it would be interesting, this book was not interesting in the least. Sarmiento's book, Facundo, is during the revolutionary stage in Argentina. There is to much emphasis placed on trying to describe in great detail mundane things while not getting to the important issues at hand. On the parts that I thought would be of the utmost importance they were explained in very vague terms which half the time I did not know what he was getting at.
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