In this remarkable new book, Ezequiel Adamovsky makes a critical reassessment of the career of the pampas' gauchos as symbols of Argentine nationality. Criollismo, the national literary genre of Argentina and Uruguay, which centers around the life and costumes of the gauchos, has been subject of numerous academic studies. Here, Adamovsky takes a risk in revisiting a well-trodden path and succeeds in bringing new insights, sources, and themes to bear on the subject, making innovative reflections on the character of Argentine popular culture.

Adamovsky traces the origins of criollismo from the independence era, when patriotic songs printed in cheap leaflets and written in gaucho vernacular promoted the point of view of gaucho soldiers. During the long period of the civil wars (1828–62), the rhymes in gauchospeak continued to appear in newspapers, usually elaborating on political events. The genre attained a higher status...

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