Tourist Gaze and Germanic Immigrants in Roberto Arlt's Aguafuertes patagónicas

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Tourist Gaze and Germanic Immigrants in Roberto Arlt's Aguafuertes patagónicas
  Tourist Gaze and Germanic Immigrants inRoberto Arlt’s  Aguafuertes patago ´ nicas*   jennifer m .  valko east carolina university   Y yo, con mi indumentaria mitad inglesa y mitad linyera, representoal turismo; un turismo que me estoy tragando con resignacio´n parasatisfacer la curiosidad de mis lectores porten˜os. —  Roberto Arlt,  En el paı ´ s del viento  D uring the summer months of January and February of 1934, Roberto Arlt  journeyed through the territories of Rı´o Negro and Neuque´n as a corre-spondent for the Buenos Aires newspaper  El Mundo  . His job was to visit a variety of sites in the Andean Lakes District, to convey his travel notes back to the news-paper, and to maintain the interest of his working-class readers in the capital.These articles formed a part of his renowned  aguafuertes   (notes, charactersketches, chronicles), Arlt’s regular column published in  El Mundo   from thebirth of the paper in 1928 until the author’s death in 1942. The collection titled Aguafuertes patago ´ nicas   has been under-studied compared to the journalist’s  Agua-  fuertes porten ˜ as   and his other travel series, like the  Aguafuertes espan ˜ olas  . Whileanalyses of the reporter’s national and international travel chronicles have scruti-nized how he employs Orientalist discourse (Majstorovic), treats sociopoliticalconditions (Ramos de Vanella), and semanticizes rural landscapes (Saı´tta), crit-ics have not adequately discussed his travelogues in the frame of tourist criticism.This essay examines the journalist’s tourist gaze within Argentine nation-build-ing initiatives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Touring Pata-gonia, Arlt’s gaze focuses on the Germanic elements of the region and registersa lack of Argentine national flavor. 1 His inability to interpret the sites accordingto national models produces contradictions resulting in a pioneer trope that symbolically incorporates the Germanic population into the Argentine nation by fictionalizing it in accordance with North American frontier myths. *My sincere thanks to the anonymous reviewers at   RHM  , as well as Ylce Irizarry for theirsuggestions on an earlier version of this essay. 1 I use the term Germanic because it is more inclusive; it refers to people of different srcins who speak a Germanic language.  78    Revista Hispa ´ nica Moderna   62.1 (2009)  El Mundo  , Roberto Arlt, and his  Aguafuertes  Between 1890 and 1920 the social setting of Buenos Aires changed considerably.Mass immigration engendered population growth and the rise of the middleclass precipitated a broad, more diversified reading public.  El Mundo   (1928)formed a part of a new style of journalism that emerged at the beginning of thetwentieth century catering to this audience. The new ‘‘popular press’’ did not rely on a political party or a member of a ruling class for its continued existence.Instead, it was written and managed by professional journalists to represent theconcerns of middle-and lower-class readers. These papers employed innovativetechniques that departed from the more conservative style of   La Prensa   (1869)and  La Nacio ´ n   (1870), such as the use of colloquial language, irony or sarcasm,as well as caricatures, illustrations, and high impact titles. Newcomers manifesteda more intrepid attitude than their didactic and moderate predecessors. 2 Fitting the profile of   El Mundo  ’s readership, Arlt also came from a middle-classfamily. Although he was the son of Germanic immigrants who relocated to Bue-nos Aires, Anne Saint Sauveur-Henn suggests Arlt had no contact with the abun-dant social institutions established for and by members of the Germaniccommunity in the capital. 3 The historian explains that his parents spoke Spanish with difficulty and concludes that he must have learned Spanish outside of thehome. She also notes that Arlt’s parents did not conserve his German languageskills by enrolling him in one of the many German schools in the city. Unlikeother artists, intellectuals, and writers of Germanic background, Arlt never wrotein German nor did he publish in Germanic presses; instead, he became fully integrated within circles of Argentine journalists, making a name for himself by 1930 (‘‘Arlt y la emigracio´n’’ 23–24). Arlt’s identification with Argentina issignificant for the comprehension of his Patagonian travel notes.Roberto Retamoso and Andrea Pagni have examined key discursive featuresof Arlt’s  aguafuertes  . Retamoso traces a strong presence of the writer in his texts, which is evident in their subjective nature and the use of the first person or theauthor’s proper name. Furthermore, he contends that Arlt’s travel notes can beread as autobiographical because they narrate the subject (Arlt) in space andtime (305–06). Pagni argues that the journalist’s  aguafuertes   create a pact of soli-darity between Arlt and his readers where they share the same moral judgment. According to Pagni, the appellative gesture ( ustedes  ) creates an imagined com-munity with a common way of thinking, while the use of   nosotros   constructs acommunity with readers yet, excludes others (‘‘El cı´nico’’ 164–65). These defin-ing characteristics of Arlt’s  aguafuertes   intimately link him to his texts as the sub- jective narrative voice. Arlt is best known for his notes on Buenos Aires and its denizens, which consti-tute the vast majority of his  aguafuerte  s. His identification with Buenos Aires,the subjective, autobiographical nature of his texts, and the shared camaraderie 2 For more in-depth information on this topic see Sylvia Saı´tta, ‘‘El periodismo popular enlos an˜os veinte.’’ 3 His father, Karl (Carlos) Arlt, was from the Prussian province of Posen (now a part of Poland); his mother Ekatherine (Catalina) Iobstraibitzer was from the port city of Trieste(now a part of Italy) (Saı´tta,  El escritor   13–14).  valko , Tourist Gaze and Germanic Immigrants    79established with his readership shape his unique tourist gaze and justify the em-phasis that he places on the socioeconomic situation, politics, and the idiosyncra-sies of everyday people in his chronicles. 4 Touring Patagonia in 1934 It is essential to underscore that in 1934 Patagonia was no longer the unexploredbackcountry of the 1880s. Government initiated programs had begun to inte-grate Amerindian lands, seized during the Campaign of the Desert (1879–1883),into national and international networks of production. At the beginning of thetwentieth century, the localities of Nahuel Huapi and San Carlos de Bariloche were backed by Germano-Chilean entrepreneurs, and formed a part of a thrivingcapitalistic emporium that included the first large-scale tourist schemes to mar-ket the region as ‘‘la suiza chilena y argentina’’ (Bandieri,  Historia   241; Me´n-dez). 5 Moreover, lands donated in 1903 by Francisco Moreno for a nature reservehad become Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. 6 By the 1930s the lake region haddeveloped into a dynamic vacation spot that was regularly promoted on thepages of   El Mundo  . For the newspaper’s working-class readers, the advertisementsincluded images of a train, forested terrain, and a list of towns that served asnational tourist destinations. 7 It is the railroad that made these locations accessi-ble and permitted members of the urban reading public to imagine interacting with bucolic surroundings unlike their own. Already a seasoned travel correspondent for  El Mundo  , in the summer of 1934 Arlt traveled to Patagonia by train with stops in the port towns of Carmen dePatagones and Viedma. Once in the Lakes District, he was hosted by the promi-nent Newbery family using their  estancia   as his headquarters to venture out onday trips that provided him with material for his articles. His chronicles regularly included Kodak photographs of the landscape. 8 The author’s texts demonstratethat his tourist gaze was initially transfixed by his environs, but gradually focused 4  Analyses of the reporter’s  Aguafuertes porten ˜ as   by Sylvia Saı´tta, Daniel C. Scroggins, andRita Gnutzmann observe the attention that he places on the sociopolitical and cultural stateof affairs in the country. They also highlight his extraordinary observation skills, as well ashis spirited, insightful representations of   porten ˜ os   and their cultural practices. Critics likeRetamoso indicate Arlt provides descriptions of social ‘‘types’’ that all of his readers couldrecognize, as well as his special affinity for providing ironic case studies of dubious individu-als, such as thieves, bachelors, and landlords (‘‘Roberto Arlt’’ 310–11). 5 The Chileno-Argentina company maintained strong economic ties with Germany until WWI and established lucrative businesses in both Southern Cone nations. Research on thecompany and its role in the transnational economic development of the region can be foundin Me´ndez (2006) and Bandieri (2005). 6 See   . 7 For an example, see the Nahuel Huapi advertisement that appeared in  El Mundo   on 17 January, 1933, p. 11, published the summer before Arlt’s excursion south in 1934. 8 The overwhelming majority of the photographs that accompanied Arlt’s Patagonianchronicles were of the landscape (rock formations, forests, and buildings). I could only iden-tify one image with a person. Published at the beginning of the series, the article titled ‘‘Vidaportuaria en Patagones’’ describes a man with one leg identified in a caption as ‘‘el rengo dePatagones’’; Arlt includes a picture of this man (  El Mundo  . 13 January 1934: 8.).  80    Revista Hispa ´ nica Moderna   62.1 (2009)on people and their social conditions. 9  As a result, his  Aguafuertes patago ´ nicas   first depict scenery, but later emphasize settlers’ tales of survival in a harsh region.Moreover, his salient articles refer to the Germanic colonists in Bariloche. Per-haps because of the time and word limits imposed by the daily, Arlt’s accountsprovide no references to past travelogues. Instead, his  Aguafuertes   refer to fic-tional texts or movies that serve to compare surroundings with untamed landsand daring individuals to which he and his metropolitan readers could relate. 10 Therefore, one could argue that his chronicles project a larger-than-life imageof Patagonia. Arlt’s first piece in the series captures the reader’s attention by announcinghis location: a shady hotel room in the town of Carmen de Patagones, 915 kilo-meters to the south of Buenos Aires. He outlines his itinerary and reveals hisexpectations; the text is infused with dramatic anticipation redolent of an adven-ture movie, in which the narrator is the star:Como los exploradores cla´sicos me he munido de unas botas (lasbotas de las siete leguas), de un saco de cuero como para invernar enel polo, y que es magnı´fico para aparecer embutido en e´l en unapelı´cula cinematogra´fica, pues le concede a uno prestancia de aven-turero fatal, y de una pistola automa´tica. Todavı´a ignoro si la ame-tralladora tira o no, pues me la presto´ mi gran amigo Diego Newbery.Con las botas, el saco de cuero y la pistola enigma´tica, espero descu-brir ma´s tierras maravillosas que sir Walter Raleigh [ . . . ] (33–34) 11 The reporter’s caustic humor is characteristic of his work and promises an ac-count of the escapades of a city dweller (like his audience) in the Argentineinterior. The portrait he paints refers to seven-league boots, a magical accessory from European folklore that permits heroes to cover great distances quickly, andinvokes the tradition of adventurers, like Sir Walter Raleigh, who searched forgold in South America. 12 Despite the fact that Arlt undercuts his heroic statureby using adjectives such as ‘‘embutido’’ or referring to his gun as ‘‘enigma´tica,’’his witty description is based upon preconceived notions of Patagonia.Tourism critic John Urry affirms that tourist destinations are chosen to gaze 9 Critics such as Sylvia Saı´tta (2000) and Marı´a Rosa Ramos de Vanella (2004) have madesimilar observations with regard to Arlt’s  Aguafuertes porten ˜ as   and later his  Aguafuertes gallegas  . 10 Sylvia Saı´tta is the only critic who has fully examined Arlt’s corpus. Her study of the journalist’s  Aguafuertes patago ´ nicas   considers how he semanticizes the Patagonian landscape.She argues Arlt, an urbanite, translates the rural landscape into writing by utilizing a mechan-ical and geometric lexicon to describe it. Saı´tta also observes that the reporter assumes a‘‘textual attitude’’ by privileging and providing literary and cinematographic analogies forhis metropolitan readers (‘‘Pro´logo’’ 14–18). 11 Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Arlt’s  Aguafuertes patago ´ nicas   are from the collec-tion  En el paı ´ s del viento: Viaje a la Patagonia (1934) . The edition does not include the photo-graphs that srcinally accompanied the articles. 12  Walter Raleigh was a sailor, pirate, poet, and courtesan who achieved a prominent posi-tion in the court of Elizabeth I. Inspired by the legend of El Dorado, he traveled to Guianain 1595 and published his account of the voyage,  The Discoveries of the Large, Rich and Beautiful  Empire of Guiana  , in 1596. In 1617 he returned to Guiana to search for gold under the aus-pices of King James I (Beer 21; Shirley 56).  valko , Tourist Gaze and Germanic Immigrants    81upon due to anticipation, oftentimes in the form of fantasies and daydreaming;this anticipation is constructed and maintained by such non-tourist practices asfilm, literature, and magazines (3). Thus, underlying Arlt’s sardonic self-portrait is a set of expectations that stems from culturally constructed images of Pata-gonia as a dangerous and uncharted territory. Such perceptions srcinate in theprojects of late nineteenth-century Argentine scientists and travelers, like therenowned Francisco P. Moreno, who were instrumental in mapping and describ-ing the Andean Lakes District for metropolitan readers. Their accounts under-pinned widely held beliefs regarding the area and inspired the fantasies of  visitors. It is precisely such preconceived notions that help to define the concept of ‘‘tourist gaze.’’Breaking with established routines, tourism is a pursuit that facilitates a tour-ist’s interaction with different surroundings and cultural observances. A ‘‘tourist gaze’’ is fashioned via a collection of culturally constructed signs that the subject interprets, acting as a semiotician, by reading the landscape for signifiers madeup of pre-established ideas or signs (Urry 13). As a journalist nurtured in a capi-tal city enriched with symbols reinforcing heritage and homeland—like muse-ums, architecture, monuments, and even culinary traditions—Arlt, as a traveler/semiotician, was accustomed to interacting with and interpreting national signs.In nineteenth-century Europe and Latin America, statesmen employed delib-erate methods for inventing national traditions to create citizens and to cultivatepatriotism in residents and immigrants. In this context the idea of a nationspread by way of communications, including transportation (railways) and print media (newspapers). 13 Likewise, travel played an integral role in national con-struction and understanding: ‘‘more generally, since the mid-nineteenth cen-tury, travel to see the key sites, texts, exhibitions, buildings, landscapes,restaurants and achievements of a society has developed the cultural sense of anational imagined presence’’ (Urry 158). Dean MacCannell implies tourist gazesare not arbitrary; people are taught when, where and how to gaze by clear mark-ers ranging from guidebooks to plaques (41; 109–11). Arlt’s travel chroniclesclearly indicate that he had been trained to look for markers to help him inter-pret his surroundings and, since he was traveling within his own country, matchthem up with established, urban notions of ‘‘Argentineness.’’ Improper Guidance, Nationlessness, and Frustration  Arlt’s first attempt at being a good tourist failed due to ineffective markers, orrather, landmarks that offered no guidance. In Viedma he describes this phe-nomenon with relation to a column located in the town square:Esta columna de mamposterı´a remata en un busto representando aun sen˜or de pera a la francesa y melena victorhuguesca. El bustopuede representar a Bartolome´ Mitre, a Clemenceau, al general 13 For specific methods employed for nation building in the Argentine context, see Bertoni(2001).
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