Facundo: Or, Civilization and Barbarism

Facundo: Or, Civilization and Barbarism Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-12

Summary of Chapter 9

The presidency fell, the wars with foreign enemies were failing, and Buenos Ayres’s newspapers were filled with gloomy forebodings. Dorrego and his party were weak because they underestimated the provinces and their desire for civilization. Dorrego’s eyes should have been better, Sarmiento rues.

Dorrego was unpopular with the people of the interior, the Federals in the city, and now the Unitarios he was trying to woo. At this time, peace was concluded with Brazil and Dorrego feared the veterans who would be angry that they did not get to enter Brazil as conquerors. Dorrego eventually fled the country but was killed.

His killer was Juan Lavalle, an officer. He did not know that one may kill the body but not the spirit, however; he also did not understand he should have killed Rosas instead. Of course, the death of Dorrego was a “necessary consequence of the prevailing ideas of the time” (142), Sarmiento notes. Lavalle “only fulfilled the requirements of his time and party” (142). Dorrego was in the way of everyone.

Sarmiento turns back to the other provinces. Facundo was in his element as he prepared for war. He desperately wanted to fight General Paz, and set out for Cordova. This was the battle of Tablada. It was an obstinate fight and Paz won.

Paz and Facundo represented, respectively, the forces of the city and the provincial. Paz was a true city man, civilized and brave. He was trained as a European soldier, did not ride well, and embraced science rather than brutality. There was a sense of destiny around him and Rosas did not dare to kill him. Once he hid in the forest, protected by the elements; another time, he went to Brazil. He later formed an alliance with Paraguay. His enemies did not hate him; he was a popular provincial.

After Tablada, Cordova entered a new era. The liberal element flourished more openly after Paz entered the city. Many people there loved learning, and the masses embraced the revolution. Paz brought his interpreter to the people, Barcala, the beloved Negro colonel, and amicability reigned. The clergy embraced Paz and the province became more organized and friendly to its neighbors.

Summary of Chapter 10

After Tablada, Facundo lost everything except “rage and valor” (150). Governor Morel of Rioja offered to help, but Facundo did not think it through enough and had him whipped. Facundo and his instruments, Fontanel and Barcena, carried out atrocities. In Rioja, terror replaced administration. All inhabitants were ordered to emigrate to Llanos under pain of death. Only two people, a priest and a young woman, remained. This woman, Severa Villafane, attracted Facundo but resisted him. He harmed her many times but she finally escaped and joined a convent.

At the encampment of Atiles, Facundo’s forces prepared to take revenge for Tablada. Facundo transported his headquarters to San Juan and stamped out opposition. Public opinion was shaped and the city was ready to defend the Confederation.

Facundo continued to persecute citizens and asked them to offer up money to save their own lives; sometimes he was actually affected by the money and pleas for life, and allowed the men to go free. Sarmiento notes, “in the darkest characters of history there will always be found a ray of light, however totally it seems sometimes to vanish” (157).

A year passed, and divisions from Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, and San Luis prepared to attack Cordova. General Paz tried to arrange for peace, but the stubborn Facundo rejected his attempts. Nevertheless, General Paz saw through Facundo’s plan, and in one night lost only twelve men but captured eight thousand of Facundo’s. Facundo’s bad management lost the entire army built from hard work and tears.

Summary of Chapter 11

Facundo did not return to the country, but to Buenos Ayres; this was unexpected and helped prevent his enemies from finding him.

The Republic seemed ready for unity. There were two parts – one in the interior that wanted Buenos Ayres for the capital, and one in Buenos Ayres that did not so it could stay close to European civilization.

By now, it was also clear that the montonera lost a lot of its strength and the civilized army could compete with it. In Buenos Ayres, though, Lavalle adopted the montonera system. At the same time, Rosas gave up his cavalry and embraced infantry and artillery; the gaucho now wore a military uniform and the soldier a poncho. Rosas won and Lavalle lost, killed by a ball from the montonera.

Paz’s efforts in Cordova made it impossible for Facundo to regain power in the provinces. He turned to Buenos Ayres at this point and met General Guido at the court of Rosas. Facundo found him rude but merged into the city nonetheless, gambling and dressing like a gaucho.

At this time Buenos Ayres and Santa Fe were preparing to attack Cordova. Lopez was commander-in-chief. He, Facundo, and Rosas met together on the pampas. They were in their element and spent their days competing.

Facundo prepared to depart and saw three roads: the first to the Llanos, the middle to San Juan, and the third to Mendoza. Facundo chose Mendoza and conquered the city. This was possible because those defending the city chose the traditional Argentine strategy of horses. They also failed because they misapplied European strategy, using poor troops instead of their best. Facundo’s audacity paid off.

Mendoza had been highly civilized, considered the Barcelona of the interior. It was highly developed and could have been remarkable, but this burgeoning civilization was crushed.

One silver lining remained, though – members of the mining society had emigrated to Chile and continued to study chemistry, mineralogy, and metallurgy. One, Godoi Cruz, also studied the white mulberry, which later came to help the economy tremendously.

Unlike these men, Facundo and Rosas never did anything good for the public. Sarmiento hopes, though, that civilization and progress will return again. Hopefully there will come a time when the learned and enlightened men are not exterminated by governments afraid of them.

In Mendoza, Facundo returned to his old ways of raising money and soldiers. He arrested officers, had them shot, and blamed the death of General Villafane. He gave no quarter and violated all forms. The death of General Villafane was indeed terrible; Major Navarro, a veritable savage, had killed the General once he heard he was returning to Facundo. Navarro died alongside his friend Echevarria.

During this time, Paz was captured.

Facundo prepared to march on Tucuman. He entered the city and ordered all furniture in his house heaped in the square. He began his customary executions and called for tribute.

His rage was something to behold, but he was simply a typical barbarian. He did not know how to control his passions and his treatment of women came from a lack of delicacy. He was like Rosas, who used terror to get what he wanted. This terror did not resemble 1793 France, for it was an effect, not a means. Rather, this terror was like that of Caligula, for he wanted to be worshiped like a god. Facundo did not do this, for he was only cruel when in a passion, but Rosas was very much like Caligula.

Summary of Chapter 12

The expedition departed San Juan and the people breathed a sigh of relief. Facundo’s opponents were General Madrid with Colonel Lopez under him, but they were no match for the terror and obedience Facundo inspired. His soldiers feared him more than the enemy and rushed forward.

Tucuman was filled with consternation. Facundo took their gold and the prisoners were ordered to be shot. The city was a tropical, lovely one, filled with incredible foliage and flora and fauna. The women were beautiful, but Facundo cared not when they came to beg for their men’s lives.

Horror permeated the city. Facundo butchered almost everyone of note except Barcala. Sentinels were placed everywhere throughout the city, all goods were claimed by Facundo, European goods were auctioned off, and money ceased to circulate. There was not a full pillage, though, for Facundo saw it as immoral.

Anyone who criticized Facundo was subject to lashing or death. Sarmiento writes that while Facundo was “barbarous, avaricious, lustful, and gave himself up to his passions without restraint,” Rosas “had only one passion – the thirst for human blood and despotism” (185).

Facundo’s presence in Tucuman, Salta, and Jujui interrupted a progressive industrial movement. While Rivadavia knew the importance of the rivers, men like Rosas opposed free navigation of rivers because it would have putatively allowed for a European invasion. He had contempt for ships like all gauchos do, preferring the horse and caring nothing for progress in the interior. Sadly, the natural resources of this place were being ignored in favor of fratricidal war. All the people got for their sacrifices and suffering was a red rag.


Like Rivadavia, General Paz is the antithesis of Facundo. He was a civilized man, trained in the ways of the European military rather than in the savage ways of the Argentinian pampas, and fervently committed to promoting peace and progress. He was indeed a provincial, but did not fall prey to the countryside’s deleterious effects. His enemies respected him and even Rosas dared not persecute him. One thing he had in common with Facundo, though, is a sense of destiny, of mystery. Sarmiento says of Paz, “certainly [there is] a sense of destiny about this man” and recounts how “Rosas, even, [did not dare] to kill him, as if a guardian angel watched over his life. He escaped almost miraculously one stormy night” (146). This is reminiscent of Facundo’s reputed gift of prophecy and how there were “hundreds of… stories of Facundo’s life, which show the man of superior ability [and] served effectually to give him a mysterious fame among the vulgar, who even attribute superior powers to him” (85).

Like Paz, Barcala is one of the few real heroes of the text and a man whom Sarmiento clearly admires. This “Negro” (Sarmiento uses his own 19th-century terminology) is refined, elegant, civilized, and important enough that even Facundo decided to spare his life. Like Dorrego, Barcala is described in a way that acknowledges that a man’s influence and reputation live on after his mortal body has perished. Sarmiento is intimately familiar with the way Argentinian violence can cut a man down in an instant but hopes that ideas – Barcala’s, Dorrego’s, Rivadavia’s, his own – will linger on and eventually manifest in progress.

By this time, most readers will have realized that the work has a distinct structure; or, at least, that the first few chapters are very different than the middle ones. The structure of the work is discussed within a hybrid of genres, for Sarmiento has multiple concerns with this text. Many critics like it as a political pamphlet, but see its putatively disunited structure as problematic and ultimately unsatisfactory. The last section concerning Aldao has received most of the antipathy, with some critics finding it almost completely unimportant.

However, critic D.L. Shaw takes a look at the structure of Facundo in his article and concludes that far from being incoherently fashioned, it has not only “the qualities of style and descriptive effectiveness which critics have consented to praise, but also… genuine structural unity and skill of composition.” Shaw begins by explaining that Sarmiento meshed myth and history in his work on purpose – there is historicity but also an ahistorical, mythical element. Facundo is symbolic, representative. He is chosen instead of Rosas as the central figure to allow Sarmiento to “use the medium of art to express something essentially Argentinian.” It is a biography of Rosas through the legendary figure of Facundo, for a straightforward biography of Rosas would not have the same effect.

Shaw argues the work is composed in three parts. In the first part, Sarmiento is committed to revealing “geographical and historical determinism.” He gives us the lay of the land to show us how a man like Facundo (and Rosas) developed. He also accounts for the Revolution of 1810 as a factor in Facundo’s rise. He moves from the general to the specific, always getting readers back to the actual effects of barbarism on the cities and their denizens.

In part two, Sarmiento is ready to introduce the man, indelibly a product of the milieu and the moment, Shaw writes. The work is “ideologically centred, and the presentation of Facundo Quiroga is modified to fit the ideology.” He is contrasted with locally-oriented caudillos like Lopez and Ibarra, his ambitions conspicuous. He is also, of course, contrasted with General Paz in this section. This is perhaps the most important part of the work, Shaw explains, because of this very contrast. There is then the vacillation of Facundo’s fortunes in losing to Paz and then joining with Rosas and seeing his star ascend again. The section ends with Facundo’s time in Buenos Ayres when there is another, more positive aspect of his character revealed, and with his death. It is a suspenseful “dramatic climax of the book” and “Facundo, in the role of the tragic hero, becomes possessed of that fatal confidence which confers an almost classic tone.”

In part three, considered an epilogue or appendage by some critics, Sarmiento actually consolidates his ideological message. Readers saw how Rosas patiently and methodically rose to power, with him now at his zenith. All of the subtle and not-so-subtle foreshadowing of this ascent has come to fruition. The inclusion of the story of Aldao also solidifies the message. Shaw concludes by stating, “Facundo as a whole is logically articulated and follows a deliberate line of evolution which runs from environmental and historical causes to the gaucho malo, thence to Facundo as the archetypal gaucho malo and finally to Rosas and his regime as the culmination of an entire, inevitable cycle of causes and effects.” There is clarity and coherency, not disorganization.