PJAS 15 Spring-8

Susan Savage Lee
“They Look Like They’re Trying to Pull Up Nails with Their Heels”: Ricardo Güiraldes’s Response to Cultural Appropriation in Don Segundo Sombra
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 15 (Spring 2021), pp. 117-129

Abstract: Cultural appropriation has often been linked to American treatment of indigenous cultures. In Playing Indian, for example, Philip J. Deloria investigates how images of Indianness, however inauthentic, stereotypical, or completely ethnocentric, work to help white Americans come to terms with their history of conquest and possession. While the term cultural appropriation has been linked to the conflict between dominant and indigenous cultures as Deloria suggests, it is used far less frequently with respect to American and Latin American cultural identities. Yet, the preponderance of movies and literary works in which Americans follow the same rubric – use Latin American culture to define American cultural identity – evoke the same sense of loss on the part of Latin Americans, in this case, Argentines. For over a century, for example, the gaucho has been examined, evaluated, and reevaluated by Argentines within gauchesque literature to make sense of modernization, notions of civilization versus barbarism, and what creates argentinidad, or what it means to be Argentine. Ricardo Güiraldes sought to respond to the cultural appropriation and misrepresentation of the gaucho, specifically that gaucho culture could be taken up by anyone and used for any purpose, no matter how benign; and that gauchos were a part of the past, eschewing modernization in forms such as industrial ranching and technology when, in fact, they embraced it. In Don Segundo Sombra, Güiraldes addresses these issues. Rather than permit cultural appropriation and ethnocentrism to remain unremarked upon, Güiraldes demonstrates that gaucho culture has remarkable qualities that cannot be imitated by novices, both foreign and native. He then examines gaucho culture, particularly the link between frontier life and economic displacement, in order to champion the gaucho and argentinidad as the models for Argentines to follow.

Keywords: Ricardo Güiraldes, Don Segundo Sombra, gaucho, argentinidad, cultural appropriation

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.15/1/2021.08

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