The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941 Page: 527
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and to appreciate the social conditions, the psychology, and the
dialect of the gaucho, the South American counterpart of the
cowboy of our western plains. In stirring poetic narration
HernAndez unwinds the story of rugged Martin Fierro, the
poor gaucho whose virtues of courage and perseverance oppose
a social system at once harsh and degrading. This epic poem
is an attack on the political evils which led eventually to the
revolution that introduced the Repziblica. With bitter, rapier-
like phrases, the author impales such corrupt figures as the
rapacious judge, the braggart soldier, and the heartless com-
mandant. Among the evils which Fierro and fellow-gauchos
suffered, one finds the farce of the judicial process and the
brutality of the staking-yard.
This epic of the Argentine is also not without interest to the
student of folklore. One notices with special interest the de-
scription of Martin Fierro's life among the native Indians.
These tribes now have almost all vanished, and there are only
too few authentic early records of the aborigines of the Pampas.
The Indians of the Argentine fought with incredible ferocity,
the Guaycurics extracting their own eyelashes in order better
to see their enemies and to slay them. From these fierce fighters
the invading foreigners learned the trick of using bolas (three
heavy balls attached to ropes of plaited hide) as a weapon
against enemies and for hunting the wild ostrich. The gaucho
adapted himself to the nomadic life enforced by the environ-
ment of the vast prairies. He learned to play with the knuckle-
bones of sheep the game of taba; he taught the untamed prairie
horse how to eat grain instead of the natural diet of grasses;
and he became so familiar with the semi-desert country that
he claimed he could detect by chewing a green sprig where
water was and whether it was fresh or salt. For some reason
or other, he also conceived the notion that gauchos should favor
only the dark-colored horse (moro), contending that white
horses were fit only for harlots.
But perhaps the most striking social custom among the
gauchos is the singing-match (contra-punto, or payado), which
is a spontaneous contest among singers endeavoring to outwit
their opponents by cleverer musical phrase. This extemporized
debate involves challenge and acceptance, question and answer,
and each contender is cheered by his group of auditors with
the cry of "Bravo!" The origin of this somewhat unusual form
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941, periodical, 1941; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/m1/578/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.