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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. They underlie the mapping of change and the assertion and challenging of values and identities, old and new.

Classical Presences brings the latest scholarship to bear on the contexts, theory, and practice of such use, and abuse, of the classical past. In fact, Gambaro’s play is the only Latin American Antigone that has been translated into another language tout court, which restricts critical appraisal to linguistic proficiency. The large web of intertextual relations and literary communities associated with the Greek myth in the region goes back to the nineteenth century and is embedded antiglna two centuries of national debates over the meaning of modernity after the French, North and South American, and Haitian revolutions of the eighteenth 1 I borrow the phrase from Oswald de Andrade’s Cannibal Manifesto, with which he defined Aantigona cultural appropriations of Europe, most succinctly expressed in his phrase ‘tupi or not tupi, that is the question’ the distortion of the Shakespearean line refers to the Tupi- Guarani cannibal tribes inhabiting the Amazon when the Portuguese arrived to the continent.

Though this is Taylor’s view, the Anglo-American wntigona in vflez has interpreted Gambaro’s Antigone in terms of the antigoa cultural production; in turn, the Spanish-American academy tends to comment on the relation with the ‘dirty war’ in passing, since this is perhaps too obvious, and concentrates on literary devices of parody and trans-culturation of the Greek tragedy.

To cite one example, see Konig Though the elimination of ‘subversion’ had started during the previous democratic government, the repressive mode of military operation constitutes a specific chapter in the history of Argentine military dicta- torships: For an introduction, see VerbitskyCalveiroFeitlowitzand Andersen The appropriations of the myth are interven- tions in specific cultural dynamics internal to the region.


Argentina is a case in point: Far from being the result of the post-dictatorial mourning of the s, Antigone has long and mysteriously worn the historical attire of Argentina’s political theatre.

It is my contention in this chapter that Antigone’s Argentine presence may be thought of almost as a ‘national tradition that dramatizes the political foundations of the nation and prompts playwrights from different gener- ations to respond to each other’s appropriation of Antigone’s myth.

This national ‘tradition’ has appropriated Antigone at foundational moments in which violence sealed tragic and unstable pacts of national unification and women played key roles, summoned to build or to sacrifice for the nation or moved to resist power. I see these historical moments as attempts to deter- mine the limits of Argentine political constituencies, either through politics or through a militarization of politics, leading to wars of extermination or to a ‘politics of disappearance’ leaving no trace of kidnapped individuals.

Linaje de Hembras AntigoneS: Female LineageI treat one nine- teenth-century precursor and four twentieth-century salient rewritings of the play as a ‘lineage of Argentine Antigones’ in dialogue with one another.

I conclude with the two more recent above-mentioned plays by Griselda Gambaro and Jorge Huertas, both referring to the ‘dirty war’, and the return to democracy, as well as Argentina’s history at large. All these Antigones dramatize Argentina’s politics of inclusion, exclusion, and extermination, highlighting four crucial moments for the nation’s con- 5 I do not engage any of the many productions ofAntigone in Argentina that follow faithfully the Greek text, not even if their staging is as original as, for instance, Alberto Ure’s production in Buenos Aires or Jose Maria Lopez’s all-female production which included oriental theatre techniques.

For Ure’s production, see Werth An Argentine Tradition 69 stitution: But Argentine Antigones present another level of complexity: The centrality of women in Argentine politics has been heavily documented; I can only mention here briefly some of its most renowned manifestations that are relevant to interpreting the Argen- tine Antigones.

Consider, for instance, the nineteenth-century discourse of ‘republican motherhood’ summoning women for the service of the nation as a ‘natural’ extension of their maternal ‘instincts’,8 a discourse that initiated the national narratives linking women to politics via motherhood—’a political maternalism’9—and forced the early feminist movement of the twentieth century to engage the question of motherhood, by including, for instance, feminist agendas with such rights as ‘rights of mothers’.

Consider too the nineteenth-century so-called feminization of Argentine education that brought women massively into the labour market as educators, and marks to this day an educational system practically led by women. The First National Census of shows that half the population in schools was female; by they could enter university.

The great precursor of the Argentine Antigones of the twentieth century was Varela’s Argia, adapted from Vittorio Alfieri’s two tragedies Anti- gone and Polynices, for the stage of the revolutionary port of Buenos Aires.


Antígona González | Les Figues Press

Varela’s play shifted both the ancient and the Renaissance focus: Varela’s plot has Creon kidnap the son of Polynices and Argia, Lisandro. Creon proposes marriage to Argia, so that she can save her son and stop the war; Argia begs Creon as a mother, but rejects him as a woman. Creon blames her for preferring the role of a ‘heroine’ rejecting his advance, to the role of a ‘tender mother’. Father and son are left alive to construct the nation free of tyrants. Varela’s choice for a mother speaks to the emerging narratives about mothers at the time.

In the new elite had assigned a specific public role to women with the creation of the ‘Society of Beneficence’, an all-female aristocratic organization that was to supervise the education and health of girls and women in the city.

But, more importantly, this elite had already started the first forays into Indian territory south of Buenos Aires, with the intent to populate the ‘desert’ with ‘Christians’. Decades later the campaigns would be summarized in one slogan: The bibliography on Eva Peron’s influence on Argentine antigonz is massive; for an introduction, see Dujovne OrtizLobato ; for an introductory analysis of the first women who composed the Female Peronist party, see Bianchi and Sanchis An Argentine Tradition 71 Mothers were republican: Varela’s incipient ‘cannibalization’ of Antigone was along the lines of the Argentine Antigonas to come.

Sacrificial mothers re-emerge in Marechal’s play, though the war is now between Creoles and their ‘Others’: Backstage is the hand of the woman—Evita—whose corpse would soon ‘disappear’ at the hands of the military, too. If Varela’s Antigoan is sacrificed via the Italian version of the Greek myth, Marechal’s Antigona evlez to the same sacrifice but in full Argentine attire and scenery: The play is set approximately inthe same decade of Varela’s writings.

The parliaments are full of rural icons horses and ‘tracker gauchos’ ;18 the women wear typical folk skirts and braided long hair, the men wear gaucho pants, and the decor is the front of the colonial hacienda ‘La Postrera’, situated at the edge of the Salado River, the southern limit of the land inhabited veelz Spanish Creoles at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Salado river indicates the foundational narrative of the modern liberal state, the first expedition of the so-called conquest of the desert inled by Martin Rodriguezfollowed by the second one inled by Juan Anitgona de Rosasby then the ruthless governor of Buenos Aires.

The play premiered at the elite Cervantes Theatre on the patriotic date ” See Alberdi [] The show was preceded by the National Hymn sung by a chorus of voices, which according to the press was antihona ‘with profound patriotic fervor’. The play’s premiere was accompanied by exhibitions in two of the theatre’s auditoriums: The action of the play has an Indian attack for its background.

Both the ‘desert’ and the ‘south’ are a threatening presence, at times seemingly having the status of characters in their own right. It is a scene of ‘civilization’ versus ‘barbarism’, with cosmic tinges, enhanced by a third chorus natigona to that of ‘men’ and of ‘women’: At the hacienda, Antigona Velez wants burial for her brother Ignacio, left unburied by Don Facundo Galvan, the man now in charge of the Velez family land, after Antigona’s father, Luis Velez, has been killed by the Indians while defending the Christian property.

Marechal’s choice of the name ‘Facundo’ for Creon anhigona not be more pregnant with meaning for the national Argentine im- agination, Facundo Quiroga was the quintessential ‘barbaric caudilld, ‘the tiger of the plains’, as he was known, according to legend and to his greatest mystifier, Domingo Sarmiento zntigona, who veelz the now mythical account of the caudillo’s life, setting him against civilization in his Facundo: As one of the founders of the liberal republic, Sarmiento saw all caudillos as ‘barbaric’—but especially the caudillo Rosas, who, while governing Buenos Aires, became Facundo’s zntigona.

Sarmiento saw in Rosas Facundo’s mirror image, a barbarism that had co-opted the city.

More attentive to the biblical imagery that permeates the play and to cosmic mythical allegories of creation, critics comment on Marechal’s choice of the name of Facundo only as Marechal’s invocation of Sarmiento and the fearless caudillo. Facundo is not any more the antagonist to the city, but the landowner who protects it—a figure who blends with the caudillo and landowner Rosas. An Argentine Tradition 73 play is Ignacio, the brother who attacks the site of civilization, La Postrera.

But his attack does not reproduce the fratricidal war between caudillos: Ignacio ‘came looking for his land’ p. II 21—but he came back with the Indians. The national foundational myth at stake appears to be subsumed under the issue of the land and its value for survival. The war between Christian brothers is displaced onto an older version of the war between civilization and barbarism, coming from the Spanish conquest, which the emerging nineteenth-century Creole elite veez step by step, as the alli- ances with the Indians during the wars for independence waned because the ‘pampas’ gradually became a precious meat producer for the European market.


This war does not confront two equals, but rather Christian ‘civiliza- tion’ with its absolute Other—the Indian—with whom there is no negoti- ation, for he is not a ‘rebel’ but a ‘heretic’. This is the neo-Hispanist discourse known as ‘the second conquest’—the extermination of the Indians led not by the Spaniards but by Creoles. Before such a antiigona to the nation’s civilization, Don Facundo justifies his law, which is, in his words, ‘the law that commands us to grab this land and not let it go’ p.

Ahtigona Antigona knows as her father did of ‘other laws’, she ‘understands’ Facundo’s survival ‘law’ and accepts being sent on a horse to be killed on Indian territory wearing men’s clothes, paying for her defence of the one who defended the Indians. Marechal’s Antigona will spill blood neither uselessly nor tragically, though: Marechal transforms Antigona into a mother-to-be.

Antigona is accompanied towards Indian territory by her fiance Lisandro—a version of Varela’s Lisandro perhaps—Facundo’s son.

File:Antígona Vélez.jpg

Vepez devotes a long love scene to Lisandro and Antigona at noon under an ‘ombu’ tree, symbol of the pampas. Antigona realizes she ‘was a mother before being a bride’ p. Facundo neither grieves nor repents: A man from the chorus tells him they will not give him grandchildren, to which Facundo replies: The scene also transforms the landowner into a priest, as he has carried out the sacrificial rite velsz founds the nation, which is to conquer, to civilize, to populate the pampas—once they have been emptied—to prepare terrain for Alberdi’s famous slogan ‘to govern is to populate’.

Marechal’s Facundo carries out the evangelical mission of the landowner and the military ve,ez enter Argentina’s liberal modernity. References to page numbers are given in parentheses in the text. In turn, the s—Marechal’s generation—had been busy restoring Rosas’s image and neo-Hispanism. Nationalism, Rosas, and Peron were seen as part of the same history of national unification. For Marechal, Peronism had unified all Argentines, transforming the ‘mass’ into ‘a people’.

Antigona Velez

Marechal’s Antigona Velez is surrounded as much by icons of the neo- Vekez nationalism of Peronism’s military wing as it is by the icons of Peronism’s most popular wing. Fanny Navarro, who played Antigona, lost the only copy of anhigona script. Then-girlfriend of Eva Peron’s brother, Navarro had been chosen by Evita to lead the Peronist foundation for actresses. Upon Navarro’s loss of the script, Evita personally requested that Marechal rewrite the play.

Evita, whose discourse had given unprecedented vigor to ‘political maternal- ism’, had been nicknamed antugona historian Fermin Chavez ‘la Antigona de Los Toldos’—the town where she was born. Also the name that Spaniards gave to Indian dwellings, ‘Los Toldos’ is the name of the land given to one of the most famous Indian opponents of Rosas, named Ignacio.

María Elena Sagrera – Biography – IMDb

In Marechal’s play, Ignacio is the brother who attacks the hacienda, owned by Facundo-Rosas. One wonders here if Marechal’s rewriting was not also influenced by the impact of the historic ‘Malon de la Paz’, the Indians’ first march into the city to claim rights to land. Peron himself received the Indians, though only to expel them from the city later.

If Marechal’s generation wants the reconciliation among brothers— Facundo, Rosas, and Peron—Marechal’s Antigona asks if the Indians, Anti- gona, and Evita are the sacrifice that must be paid for national reconciliation among brothers.

Both Peronist and anti-Peronist reviewers seem to say yes: In Zavalia attacks Marechal’s image of Facundo as the ‘civilized one’ in his tragedy The Limit, which he dedicates to ‘the glory of Sarmiento’ p.

Acknowledging Antigone as his source of inspiration in the prologue, Zavalia recovers the oral legend of real-life Dona Fortunata Garcia, who in dared defy one of Rosas’s caudillos, General Oribe, in the northern city of Tucuman, where the nation’s independence was signed in Like Mare- chal’s, the setting is a nineteenth-century colonial house, but the war at stake is the post-revolutionary violence between ‘Christian brothers’—the caudillos who dispute the government of the nation, divided into two main opposite parties.

Fortunata is clear about the role of women in this war: Unlike Marechal, Zavalia does not provide an Indian opposite against which the brothers could ally; the brothers are forever divided as to how they see the national project.

In the plaza, Oribe has impaled Rosas’s opponent, governor Marco Avellaneda Fortunata will bury him because he represents the ideals of freedom, versus the ‘tyranny’ of Rosas.