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Una Excursión a Los Indios

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 9 (2166 words)
Categories: Civilization, Criticism, Culture, History, Literature, Philosophical Theories, Philosophy, Society
Downloads: 17
Views: 3

Lucio V Mansilla’s Una excursión a los indios ranqueles is a 19th century literary piece describing different societies and cultures in Argentina, mainly focusing on the Indios ranqueles and the Gauchos. In this piece, Mansilla describes the people he meets and the customs these people have, and whether he understands or approves of these or not. This essay will examine the extent to which his piece constitutes a critique of the idea of ‘civilization’.

Through the analysis of their different positive aspects, one may believe Mansillais not criticizing the indio’s idea of civilization because he seems to agree with certain values and traditions the Indios let him see, however, he is, in fact, leading a very firm critique, as he often states he believes his ideas of civilization are better. Firstly will be examined how it seems he is not criticizing civilization because of his positive views on his encounter with the Indios and their side of civilization.

Secondly will be examined how he actually does criticize through his negative view of the gauchos and their idea of civilization. Finally will be examined how through the comparison of his own civilization to the previously stated, Mansilla is leading a very firm critique and debate on the idea of civilization.

It does not seem like he is criticizing as he describes the traditions and customs the Indians are showing him. He is genuinely curious and seems intrigued by their differences in way of thought and action, and tries to understand why and where these differences could have been born. His descriptive comments tend to be positive impressions, contrary to when he first entered the village with negative preconceptions. This can be noticed, for example, when the Indios show and explain their traditions on how to kill a cow for its meat. Mansilla quotes Mariano “Cre? que iban a matarla como lo hacemos los cristianos, clav?ndole primero el cuchillo repetidas veces en el pecho, y degoll?ndola en medio de bramidos desgarradores, que hacen estremecer la tierra. Hicieron otra cosa. Un indio le dio un bolazo en la frente dej?ndola sin sentido. En segued la degollaron”. He thought they would kill the cow as the Christians do, by stabbing her several times first before finally killing her. However, they did it in a different way, knocking her unconscious before killing her. The Indios make an effort to make sure the cow will not suffer uselessly by hitting her on the head before the murder, which also makes of a less dramatic death. Throughout the whole novel the Indians are described as “the barbarians”, yet it seems their manner is more humane than those of the Christians who would slaughter live cows in much more violent ways. This indeed, as stated later in the paragraph shows that there is another side to the Indios that Mansilla was not aware of, and makes way for new cultural surprises that the author had not expected.

Mansilla seems almost proud to have discovered these hidden traits of the ranqueles peoples and believes their civilization has potential. This potential could be to teach new ways to Europeans or to be reshaped into a different, more modern and European civilization. When Mansilla writes « El sacerdote es para los indios algo de venerando. Hay en ellos un germen fecundo que explotar en bien de la religi?n, de la civilizaci?n y de la humanidad. », this is what he means, he speaks of a seed of hope being planted and waiting to grow into a new fruitful tree of religion, civilization and of humanity. He later explains that during his stay the Indios have taught him a lot on humanity (such as relationships between people and communities, power, the history of their traditions.) He is very surprised by this as he considered them to be barbarians and a clueless people, and hardly even believes it, yet admits they have.

One may say he does not criticize civilization because he sets forth the positive aspects of their civilization and learns from them. Being an avid traveler, it is interesting for him to see how different social groups lives and are organized. Though technically he does not consider the ranqueles as civilized people, he does consider them more civilized than the Gauchos. He takes the time to write down long descriptions on how their society functions, their laws and rules, and how these are followed, such as power being passed on in a simple father to son descendance. He describes the ways in which bonds are created and respect is gained, such as through the methods of drinking enormous amounts of strong alcohol or standing his ground during the debate in chapter 53. He discovers how mature and diplomatic a people the indios are, and as pointed out in Corina Mathieu-Higginbotham’s article: “The primitivism of the gaucho is greater than that of the Indian.”

Though he may be positively surprised by the Indios Ranqueles, and does not seem to criticize much their society, he does set forth a critique of the gaucho’s civilization. He states several times that the Indios are a better, more civilized society. On page 20 he describes the gaucho’s ranches saying “, no hay generalmente puerta. Se sientan en el suelo, en duros pedazos de pala, o en cabezas de vaca disecadas. No usan tenedores, ni cucharas, ni platos.(·) » and the description continues for six more lines. All these details of their lifestyles show they do not live in the same way modern Europeans do, not even as the Indios do. They live a very simple life. The fact they live without doors, of which they do not use cutlery shows how different their lives are from those of the modern Europeans. They do not know much about culture, or Aristotle as Mansilla does, and on page 22 he describes their gaucho schooling as being very close to the earth and the animals. As he goes on discovering and describing the gaucho’s lifestyle, the preconceived idea he had of the fabulous gauchos starts to dissolve. He compares them to the indios. Ironically as he describes them they seem less civilized than the Indios, less organized and less respectful. On page 20 he writes “Como ves, Santiago amigo, el espect?culo que presenta el toldo de un indio, es m?s consolador que el que presenta el rancho de un gaucho. » He contrasts not only the raqueles to the gauchos, but civilization to barbarie. This shows that anyone can be civilized, as well as anyone can be “barbaric”. He then starts to ask himself “?Cu?les son los verdaderos caracteres de la barbarie?” If the indios can be civilized with as he says “camas c?modas, asientos, ollas, platos, cubiertos, una porci?n de utensils que revelan costumbres, necesidades.” Then the gaucho has no excuse to be leading such a primitive life, which he categorizes as primitive.

As it is compared to other peoples, the gaucho society receives mostly negative criticism from the modern European point of view of what their society should resemble. It is through these comparisons that the reader gets a true perspective on who these people are. As said in Lojo, Maria Rosa’s article,5 “The value of Mansilla’s text lies precisely in its direct knowledge of nature and the various human groups that inhabit the Pampa. As Mansilla gets to approach these groups and start to know their true way of being and thinking(·)” This explains perfectly how it is impossible to criticize a civilization from afar, without having met or been to their homelands.

Mansilla not only compares the ranqueles and the gaucho’s civilization with each other, but he also compares them to his own civilization. This makes it clear that he is conducting a solid critique of the idea of civilization. And that even if it makes good points it is still criticism. In MAGAL? ARMILLAS-TISEYRA’s6 article it is explained that though Mansilla seems to appreciate certain aspects of these groups, he still maintains his position on the fact that these societies are less civilized than his, and that he is a member of a superior civilization. To quote the article, “While the declaration “todos somos iguales” is often repeated, Mansilla maintains strict divisions along lines of race, religion, gender, and class” (·) “Mansilla – cannot conceive of a co-existing Indio culture outside of the terms set by the centralized, “civilized,” nation. Mestizaje here demands a forgetting that is both cultural and physical. In order to become the basis for a national nostalgia from which the nation can emerge, the Indio and the gaucho must disappear.” This shows that even though he claims having learned some things from the different civilizations, and has bonded with the peoples, he still draws a racist line at complete social integration.

His Christian beliefs tower over the rest of his newly acquired experiences. As a result of this three-way, confrontation is a confession of his philosophical and political view of his modern civilization. He wonders what barbarism really is and who is really at fault in society. He exclaims « nuestra pretendida civilizaci?n no es muchas veces m?s que un estado de barbarie refinada. » After having spent time with these primitive groups, he started to understand that barbarism is not something that is simply found is primitive worlds, but can also be found within his own society. He says « Miserable condici?n humana! El hombre es el mismo en todas partes, (·) » and on page 647 he exclaims « Qu? dulce es la vida lejos del ruido y de los artificios de la civilizaci?n! Los enanos nos dan la medida de los gigantes y los b?rbaros la medida de la civilizaci?n ». He sees how absurde the situation is. The fact that he had to travel so far away to have the realisation that all civilizations are slightly the same and that barbarism can be in other forms than the one he believed shows that even though he still strongly believes his civilization is the strongest and most educated, he can still learn from more “primitive” peoples.

However, this being said, being with them makes him reflect on his own civilization, and on how much more educated it is then them. He does not consider the ranqueles and gauchos as less intelligent, but merely less educated. And following this theory, he believes that as he is the most educated one, his civilization of modern European white male makes him more powerful. He still overall believes his civilization is better than that of the Gauchos and that of the indios. He still sides with the Christians. He can’t fight the ideas that have been planted into his head. For example when he has a dialogue with a black accordionist player on page 12.8 The black man tells him “no me trata mal porque soy negro y pobre”, “aqcui todos somos iguales”. This is complicated for Mansilla to accept as his values and moral laws do not match certain of the ranqueles’s . The racism he feels towards any different races is already to strongly stated in his mind. Or for example, on Page 78 he writes “When the ranqueles have been exterminated or reduced, Christianized and civilized” as if these where inevitably sure things. It seems as though for him being Christianized and civilized are the same, and though the ranqueles present similar cultural traits to his own culture, and are very different from the primitive gauchos, he still does not consider them as civilized until they have been Christianized. This condescending and power thirsty attitude are what led to what is referred to in the Patricio Lepe-Carri?n9 article as “natural inequality”. In this article, it is written that “natural inequality”, was the idea of the obvious superiority of the Europeans in front of the natives. This completes the Epilogue, where, as pointed out by the ARMILLAS-TISEYRA text,10 Mansilla thinks of integration and metizage as an effective “whitening” of the indios, as if it were obvious that they would never truly belong as long as they staid who they are.

To conclude, at first it might not seem like he is constituting a critique of the idea of civilization, as he listens and learns from the Indians, and remembers many positive memories with them. However, at the same time, he paints a rather harsh picture of the Gaucho people and what they are: savages. He opposes Indians and civilization to gauchos and barbarism. Finally, he adds on to these comparisons with a meliorative description of his own civilization, which puts his discoveries into perspective. Finally, though he is tempted and intrigued by these new cultures, he still believes his Modern values and morals are better, more reasonable and logic. Even though he finds positive aspects to comment on, he still conducts a firm critique of the general idea of civilization. To a large extent, the cultural difference may seem extreme at times but are more similar to each other than one may think at first.

Cite this essay

Una Excursión a Los Indios. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/una-excursion-a-los-indios-essay

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