Is it possible to search a village for a book? Where are the tracks of the character and the writer? Read this article and discover a treasure.
Ricardo Güiraldes was born into a rich family in 1886 and passed away in 1927. His life involved trips to Europe and the return to his hometown, San Antonio de Areco. His professional career as a writer was ideally captured in his famous work Don Segundo Sombra, which tells the story of two gauchos. One of them is old and accomplished and the other one is young and inexperienced and they live in San Antonio de Areco.
The name after which the book has been entitled was taken by Ricardo Güiraldes from a real life character: a countryside man called Segundo Ramírez, who performed tasks in the writer’s estancia.
La Porteña used to be an estancia in the fields of Areco where the writer spent part of the best years of his life. In addition to polishing up his work as a writer, that was the place where he learned how to get in touch with the workers and the rural men, namely the “gauchos”. Thus, sitting in front of the fire, sharing some mate, enjoying the rodeo or the pulpería, he came across the necessary characters that gave free rein to his writing and he managed to mingle this art with his unfinished elementary studies of architecture and law which he had coursed in the City of Buenos Aires.
Painting the story
Miguel Ángel Gasparini
Oils, inks, charcoals and watercolors
Also a sculptor
The Trip to Paris
The novel entitled Raucho is considered the first serious work managed by the writer. “Raucho” was the name of the main character and, just like Güiraldes himself, he would go from the countryside to the illuminated City of Paris. Eventually, the character chooses to return to the estancia for good. But that would not necessarily mean that he would cease to be a cultured and well-educated man who realizes he cannot live away from what he really feels.
Maybe it is not by chance that a certain Fabio Cáceres, the other character in Don Segundo Sombra, changes into an aged man at the end of the novel, but a rural man after all.
Today, in San Antonio de Areco there is hardly any local who does not own a copy of Don Segundo Sombra and in many houses, especially the most ancient and stately in town, there are neighbors who even preserve the first edition of this work.
One of them is Miguel Ángel Gasparini, who is in charge of painting and telling the story of Areco in his museum and studio called La Recova. He reads paragraphs from the original edition for whoever wishes to listen. A small treasure indeed, just like the large number of photographs from the old days which feature many proud neighbors and rural men.
At the main square, more precisely at the newsstand, its owner provides all the necessary explanations to whoever asks about the two gauchos in the picture. They are don Ricardo Güiraldes (the writer) and don Ricardo Ramírez or don Segundo Sombra (the character). The photograph, which looks intact, was taken at the writer’s estancia in 1926, when the book came out.
Tracking down don Segundo Sombra is not an easy task but it certainly is exciting. Each man and woman in Areco knows that both writer and character have managed to make this small town in the Province of Buenos Aires quite famous and therefore, they have earned a well-deserved reputation.
Pablo Etchevers Gentileza Sanantoniodeareco.com