Facundo: Or, Civilization and Barbarism

Facundo: Or, Civilization and Barbarism Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why does Sarmiento allot so much time to the story of Felix Aldao?

    The story of Felix Aldao comes at the very end of the work and almost seems unnecessary; after all, we've already heard about the atrocities of Facundo and Rosas for over two hundred pages. However, the story of Aldao helps crystallize the message Sarmiento wants to impart about barbarism and the particular ability of the Argentinian landscape to shape the character of its citizens. This caudillo-general-priest is a curious figure in the same way as Facundo - capable of horrors yet possessing some redeeming qualities. He is a man of nuance, and his religious background does not preclude him from participation in secular activities. He is also a tragic figure in that his vices consume him; he suffers greatly for his role in his brother's death. After the work ends Felix Aldao remains as a figure of intense interest, sympathy, and repulsion.

  2. 2

    What are the characteristics of Cordova and Buenos Ayres?

    Perhaps Italo Calvino had Sarmiento in mind as he wrote Invisible Cities because his cities are magical and finely drawn in the manner of his Argentinian predecessor. Cordova and Buenos Ayres in particular are stunning character studies; their idiosyncrasies and singularities are immensely vivid and memorable. Cordova's architectural wonders and institutions of learning are accompanied by an entrenched traditionalism and artificiality; while civilized, it the city is almost stagnant and resistant to progress. Buenos Ayres almost reached the zenith of civilization but its learnedness, refinement, progressiveness, and revolutionary ardor were under threat from the forces of barbarism. Sarmiento describes these cities' characteristics in order to showcase just what will be lost if men like Facundo and Rosas prevail.

  3. 3

    What are the differences between Facundo and General Paz, and why do they matter?

    Both Facundo and Paz are provincially born, great warriors, ambitious, and imbued with a sort of destiny. That is where their similarities end, however.

    Facundo is hostile to the law, full of rage and bile, capable of great atrocities, selfish and prideful, and a bringer of destruction to civilization.

    Paz, by contrast, is a noble man. He is familiar with European military strategy, but remains an Argentinian to the core. He rules not with an iron first but with capability and respect for the populace. He exemplifies civilization while Facundo is the exemplar of barbarism; this contrast is the central point of his work.

  4. 4

    Does Sarmiento have any sympathy for Facundo?

    Sarmiento spends most of the work condemning Facundo's bloodthirstiness, barbarity, destructiveness, willfulness, and disavowal of the law, morality, and religion. Facundo is the absolute embodiment of barbarism, and Sarmiento's goal to is to rid Argentina of men like him and bring about the "restoration of [the cities'] former life, and the promise of improvement." All this being said, Sarmiento does occasionally evince some sympathy for his antihero. He seems to suggest that there was an inevitability about how Facundo would turn out; his barbarism was almost fated, outside of his control. He did indeed have some human relationships that were meaningful and he did occasionally demonstrate quarter to men who begged it of him. He was a brute, yes, and bad for Argentina, but like the great Classical writers, Sarmiento sees something more than a monster in the man.

  5. 5

    What are the ways in which Sarmiento manifests the prejudices and intellectual and cultural ideas of his day?

    The modern reader will no doubt find several things in this text that bring about a wince or two. First, Sarmiento clearly harbors some racial prejudices. While he accounts for the civilized nature of Barcala, he also speaks derogatorily about "Negro princes" who wore red to showcase their barbarism. He says absolutely nothing important about women; they are invisible figures, privy only to the pursuit and persecution of men. He holds Europe up as the apotheosis of progress, culture, and refinement to the detriment of native Argentina. Indeed, it is for this reason that some modern scholars and historians are easier on Rosas, for at least he resisted European "civilizing" and upheld the local and the native.