Summary of Chapter 13
Due to Facundo’s actions, the provinces had no independence or regular administration. Both parties disappeared and unity was only found in the conqueror. Facundo seemed to want to put things in order and advocated the presidency. He was governor but currently had no army. When he traveled to Rioja, he’d left weapons hidden in the woods, which was important since Rioja was the “cradle of his power” (191).
During this time, Rosas continued to gain power and became governor of Buenos Ayres. He demanded absolute power and achieved it through persuasion and deception. The city was not yet ready to give him what he wanted, but he learned everything about it and its hidden entrances. He also conducted a war against the Indians intended to heighten his own fame.
Facundo remained in San Juan. He and Rosas began to disagree and dispute, and they entered a phase of “silent combat” full of “ambuscades, snares, and treachery” (193).
Facundo took Barcala with him to Buenos Ayres; the reasons for his move are not entirely known but they no doubt included both his desire to live in luxury and to come into the stronghold of his rival. He surrounded himself with powerful men, gambled, and talked of the constitution. He sent his sons to the best schools and began to talk openly about organizing the Republic. His laziness and conviction that terror would always give him what he wanted eventually led to his demise.
Sarmiento compares Rosas to a comet headed to earth – first oscillations, then convulsions, and finally chaos and destruction. The government in Buenos Ayres became restricted, and society disorganized. Rosas was out of power for a time but his influence was everywhere. One leader, General Viamont, had to resign, and another, Dr. Maza, was just an inept friend of Rosas’s. Finally the government begged Rosas to come back to deal with the problems and he agreed only if they extended his term to five instead of three years.
Rosas was in talks with people in the interior and invited Facundo to use his influence to settle tensions in the northern part of the Republic. Facundo began to have dark thoughts about his imminent demise and his journey was difficult. The rain fell and rumors filled the city of Cordova in which Facundo and his secretary, Dr. Ortez, arrived one night. Facundo learned he was almost assassinated, but acted as if he did not care. He refused an escort out of the city.
Dr. Ortez was filled with dread at the knowledge that he too would die if his master did, and begged him to be cognizant of what was happening. Facundo replied that the man who would kill him was not yet born; Sarmiento notes, “Pride and faith in the terror of his name urged him on to the fatal catastrophe” (202).
Daylight came and the carriage reached the fatal place and was stopped. Facundo asked what was happening and was shot. Santos Perez, a handsome gaucho outlaw, murdered them all, including a young boy.
Perez fled the government for a long time but was finally given up by an angry lover. He was publicly assassinated. For a long time, Buenos Ayres “gave great solemnity to the execution of Quiroga’s assassins” (205).
Summary of Chapter 14
In 1817, a battle broke out in the Andes between the Spanish and grenadiers. One figure distinguished himself – a chaplain dressed in white who dealt fierce blows. This was Felix Aldao, and this was the moment he realized he preferred to dole out death rather than comfort the dying. He liked shedding blood and did not want to be a priest anymore; he wanted to join his brothers, Jose and Francisco.
Throughout America, priests were at times involved in combat, but Aldao was different because he had no conscience. He hated authority of all sorts. Eventually he became a renowned warrior, although he could not shed his title of priest. He also spent time in lascivious, debauched pursuits like women, cards, and drink. This troubled his comrades because of the repugnance of a priest doing what he did.
As a captain, he was in charge of delivering Peru from Spanish domination. During this, he revealed his bloodthirstiness by destroying part of his own troops when they allowed the Spanish to take an important post.
Felix traveled to Lima and met a girl he fell for. Both were passionate about each other but could not marry; as such, she agreed to be his mistress. Felix then established himself as a merchant in San Felipe, but he and his mistress were condemned for their lifestyle. He was forced to return to Mendoza.
Crossing the Andes “was also a dividing line between the two phases of his existence” (211). In 1824, he took a farm in Mendoza and labored there relatively peacefully. However, war was imminent and he was drawn back in.
At this time, Rivadavia was in charge in Buenos Ayres and the interior was jealous and angry. The Caudillos were soon to appear and clamors for a confederation filled the land. Chaos percolated. Crimes were committed that showed barbarism filling the country.
Felix and Jose Aldao marched to San Juan, conquered it, and returned as heroes to Mendoza. All three brothers delighted in their power. They met Facundo as they passed through Rioja; he was just growing powerful there.
Jose and Francisco prepared their army for Peru but were taken prisoner. Intercession came in the form of Felix, chief of the mountain guerillas. Rivadavia enlisted Francisco to dislodge Facundo.
Instead, Francisco took the money and formed the triumvirate with his brothers. Their main obstacle was Barcala, the creole Negro of refinement and elegance who had been spared by Facundo. His influence pervaded Mendoza and the brothers wanted him out of their way. He left with Lavalle to fight against the empire, and the Aldaos remained.
A constitution was proposed but encountered resistance from the Caudillos. The national government fell and Dorrego assumed power. At Tablada, Felix survived but was wounded, and had to recuperate at San Luis. In prison, Jose and Francisco planned their move back into power. They escaped and returned to Mendoza, aided by Facundo.
The terms of the treaty were drawn up, but bedlam was everywhere. Francisco was killed when he was in the enemy camp, and word came that Felix drunkenly desired unconditional surrender. When Felix found out, he exploded in anger. The murder and pillage lasted for over a day. Felix blamed himself for his brother’s death and indulged himself in excess and revenge. Jose tried to calm him but it did not work; Felix was beset by horror of himself.
Another attack against General Paz was put together; Indians killed Jose and Aldao was captured. Frightened and cowardly, he was openly afraid of dying. The people of Mendoza appealed to Paz to deliver the cruel Aldao up to them, but Paz did not agree.
While in prison, Felix turned back to his priestly offices. Paz was captured and Felix was liberated from prison in Bolivia. In 1832, he returned to Mendoza, meeting Facundo along the way and telling him to get rid of Barcala.
He was appointed commander-in-chief of the frontier and picked up all of his old vices. It was he who truly governed the city, but he did not actually do anything. He cared only for excitement and protection for his person.
Rosas, now firmly in power, studied the leaders of interior. He had Facundo killed and had Felix kill Barcala. The cities were disunited and rebellion broke out. Aldao and Benavides fought against Brizuela, but lost against the immortal fighter Acha. Benavides reversed this, though, and caught Acha. Felix fled in disgrace and his own province loathed him. Rosas ignored him now and Felix’s power waned.
In Mendoza, his mistresses fought openly and his vices were flagrantly displayed. He developed cancer in his face and he became blind and repulsive. He governed with terror until the end. Some say he died penitent in the church, but no one truly knows.
In the end, no one can quite say if he was a general or a priest/monk, but he was indeed beloved by some of his soldiers. He loved his children immensely and did have some dear friends.
Now Mendoza has no governor. Sarmiento concludes that he has told his tale impartially and objectively, relying on the testimonies of both friends and enemies.
In these last two chapters, Sarmiento chronicles the demise of Facundo and gives readers another example of a barbarous individual, the priest Felix Aldao, whose actions brought suffering to the Argentine people. Facundo’s death is told almost in a way that conjures up Greek tragedies. Facundo knew he was going to die, but his Achilles' heel also stubbornly refused to allow him to rationally acknowledge and prepare for it. He pridefully announced that no man is yet born who can kill him and ignored all of his subalterns’ pleas for caution. Nature itself seemed to know the great man was about to expire; a ragged, muddy brook and torrents of rain foreshadowed the imminent assassination.
Sarmiento has ably demonstrated the disparities between civilization and barbarism in his country. Interestingly, some literary critics have claimed that there is more nuance in his views than there appears. Evelyn Fishburn notes that some claim “Sarmiento was himself un gaucho and as such his sentiments lead him to identify with Facundo, and admire Rosas” and “the best pages of Facundo, those in which Sarmiento’s literary genius finds its most lyrical expression are the ones in which he describes the excesses of barbarism.”
Even his prose is romantic and nationalistic, not the “cold positivist language fashionable at the time in Europe.” There are a few times in the text in which Sarmiento expresses admiration for Facundo or tries to temper his excess and/or explain it in a way that almost absolves him of his actions: he was “impelled by a blind, vague instinct” (131); he “was not cruel or bloodthirsty in comparison to other barbarians; he was only a barbarian, who did not know how to restrain his passion” (175); he “was only cruel when in a passion” (176); even “in the darkest characters of history there will always be found a ray of light” (157).
However, Fishburn points out that Sarmiento’s praise for Facundo is lukewarm at best and only comes when he is embracing aspects of civilization (e.g., his time in Buenos Ayres when he puts his sons in the best schools). When other positive remarks are made, they express how Facundo did good things without actually knowing that they were good.
These “contradictions” aren't even exactly that; since the work is a hybrid of genres, these things exist side-by-side on purpose. Sarmiento is a historian, journalist, and man of letters. Rosas, the ostensible target of the work, actually emerges as the one figure who seems to avoid a classification. Fishburn sees the methodical, cool way he applied his rule of terror as almost civilized. Thus, the means, if not the end, give off a whiff of rationality and scientific exactitude. In him, “both Barbarism and Civilization are combined. They are not fuse conceptually, for their original meaning remains clearly defined. Thus… Sarmiento, who saw things always in a relationship of cause and effect, hated in Rosas the side of him which belonged to Barbarism, but appreciated the genius which would bring about the eventual triumph of civilization.”