Show Summary Details

Page of

 PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 24 March 2017

The Creole Circus and Popular Entertainment in 19th Century Argentina and Uruguay

Summary and Keywords

Theater in Argentina and Uruguay, which together compose the Plata river region of Latin America, has been a predominant form of entertainment since the 19th century. Theaters abound in Montevideo, while its sister city. Buenos Aires, has its own Broadway in the famed Corrientes Street. In the age of digital culture, the theater remains a mainstay of cultural life for Argentines and Uruguayans. The success of theater and the making of a theatergoing public in the region have their roots first in the variety of entertainment offered by hemispheric travelers to the region from the 1820s through the 1880s and then, most significantly, in shows put on by itinerant circus troupes in the countryside that only later filled urban theaters. From the mid-1880s through 1900 these circus troupes performed plays known as dramas criollos that dealt with rural traditions and explored issues of migration, social stratification, and tensions of economic modernization. These Creole dramas, like the narrative and poetic tales of gaucho heroes that informed them, became wildly successful, attracting spectators in the countryside and city alike, in venues ranging from makeshift tents to the most opulent theaters. They also became the namesake of the circo criollo, which referred as much to types of performers staging the tales as to the circus event where people flocked to see the new main attraction—the dramas. In effect, the Creole drama phenomenon expanded the presence of popular entertainment across the region and consolidated a theatergoing public. It also gave way to a new strand of modern popular culture in which storylines and characters reappeared in other media, and the impact of the Creole drama experience long outlived the spectacle itself.

Keywords: Argentina, Uruguay, popular culture, Creole circus, theater history, entertainment, culture industry, modernization, gauchesque

In mid-July 1886 the world-famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt finally arrived in Buenos Aires via Rio de Janeiro, where spectators eagerly awaited her presence at a limited number of functions, causing a short-lived Sarahmania to erupt. The local press was filled with images and articles of the diva, a local hatmaker churned out “Sombreros Sarah” in her honor, and Buenos Aires denizens commented on their excitement to attend the shows.1 Bernhardt had just missed the debut of the drama criollo, or Creole drama, Juan Moreira, previously presented as a pantomime and now enhanced with talking characters. Juan Moreira was the story of a good gaucho gone bad, pursued by a corrupt system of justice and bent on avenging the wrongs committed against him. Based on Eduardo Gutiérrez’s serialized narrative with the same title, which detailed the downfall of the real-life criminal Moreira and which was a best-selling narrative in pre-20th-century Latin America, the dramatic adaptation of the story was the spark for what would become the circo criollo phenomenon and the entire criollista movement.

From mid-July through early September 1886 news of Bernhardt and Moreira appeared together in the Buenos Aires press. It would be easy to imagine the prima donna attending various forms of popular entertainment during her stay—after all, she had a penchant for adventure and the curious, and popular entertainment promised to satisfy both.2 Her arrival coincided with the new spectacles of the Carlo Brothers (a U.S. circus family) and Frank Brown (an English clown), while the Italian showman Pablo Raffetto put on an “unauthorized” version of Moreira on an almost daily basis. She could have attended a Spanish zarzuela or strolled through the bustling Plaza San Martín to glimpse a grand panoramic painting on display. Yet picturing Bernhardt at a performance of Moreira is the most fascinating to contemplate. Moreover, the virtual meeting of Bernhardt and Moreira brought together trajectories going in opposite directions—that of hemispheric travelers on the Rioplatense stage, who had driven the early development of the popular entertainment industry in the region and were now on their downward slope and one corresponding to all things criollo, shooting upward and most visible in the Creole circus shows and novels, pamphlets, and popular poetry that celebrated real and fictitious native sons across the Río de la Plata.

Bernhardt’s South American visit obviously tells us something about her fearlessness to brave transatlantic travel. Beyond this quality of her character, her time in the Río de la Plata region reveals a rich entertainment market whose performers followed a circuit that was centered in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, included smaller towns along the Paraná and Uruguay rivers leading to the Río de la Plata, and stretched as far north as Rio de Janeiro. By this time, however, this circuit and its corresponding entertainment market had been expanding for over half a century. The first half of this article surveys the development of this market and the forces that shaped it.3 The second half centers on the Creole circus phenomenon, which took flight with the Creole circus performance of Juan Moreira in 1886 and became the most popular mode of entertainment in the Río de la Plata for roughly the following fifteen years. Just what was this Creole circus?

As will become clear, a mix of international and local circus troupes had been a regular feature of the entertainment landscape since the 1820s, with their equestrian and high-flying stunts, musical acts, and occasional extravagances. The most important development in the region’s circus was the incorporation of short theatrical works into the program in the mid-1880s. These plays ushered in what would be an integral component from then on—the Creole drama, which was the heart of the Creole circus.4 Creole (criollo) was a colonial term denominating Spaniards born in the Americas and their privileged social status. By the second half of the 1800s, the term Creole had been stripped of all references to Spain. Its new meaning in the Río de la Plata was an inversion of the original and defined what and who were “authentically” Argentine or Uruguayan and clearly not European. The plays told variations of the story of an honest native son, a gaucho or buen criollo, who was persecuted by a corrupt system of justice, sent to fight Indians along the frontier, and sought revenge for the disruptions modernization wrought. At face value the story of country life under siege seems simplistic, but this genre became the backbone of an entire entertainment and publishing industry at the turn of the century. Creole dramas created a more personal theater experience with “local content” that was conspicuously absent from opera or acrobatic performances during previous decades. And the stories often stemmed from poetic characters, such as Martín Fierro, or literary treatments of historical figures such as Moreira who had become household names. Audiences thus embraced Creole dramas, for these represented tradition and modernity at once, which was exactly what Argentines, Uruguayans, and hundreds of thousands of European immigrants were living at the end of the 1800s.5

Hemispheric Travelers and the Roots of Popular Entertainment

From the 1820s through the 1880s, an increasingly widespread presence of Italian, French, and U.S. entertainers in Argentina and Uruguay offered musical and opera shows, engaged in the extravagant and the bizarre, and staged circus and equestrian spectacles that were especially successful in attracting crowds. Several factors explain the growing presence of these travelers in this particular region following the wars for independence.

While hemispheric travelers tried their luck throughout Latin America, the increasing population concentration in the port capitals of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, as well as their relative proximity to each other and smaller towns, linked by an easily navigable river system, made the Plata river region an attractive destination. Performers could easily give shows in a dozen or more towns without having to travel very far at all. By the time they had finished a cycle (which could last from several months to a year), they could start over again with new offerings. Moreover, massive immigration to this area during the second half of the century meant new potential audiences for hemispheric performers. As a performance circuit took shape, with growing numbers of travelers, spectacles, and spectators and consumers, the scale of the entertainment marketplace grew impressively large.

Hemispheric travelers were cultural intermediaries, whether they set out to be or not.6 In contrast to other types of travelers, who chose to observe from a distance or who had little contact with local populations, the entertainers who traveled to the Southern Hemisphere were invested in connecting with their audiences, for their livelihoods depended on those bonds. Thus, the Italians Pablo Raffetto and Giuseppe Chiarini performed in the region for more than two decades in the late 1800s. The more cosmopolitan acts of illusionists, opera stars, and theater icons like Bernhardt likewise served as the very interface between new cultural consumers in the region and fashions from afar. When such cultural intermediaries landed at a border post like Monte Caseros, Argentina, or the quiet Mercedes, Uruguay, the world literally came to town. Even in the more urban port capitals, the force of attraction cultural intermediaries generated was powerful, as displayed with the crowds who clamored to glimpse that elegant embodiment of cosmopolitanism, Bernhardt. Hemispheric travelers devoted their lives to mediating between the production and consumption of culture and drove the expansion of an entertainment economy.

These travelers did much more than entertain. They unwittingly anchored the Río de la Plata in a broader Atlantic world of cultural flows. Hemispheric travelers also ushered in a new emphasis on spectatorship and the consumption of culture. This feature of the half century in focus, from the 1820s through the 1880s, stands in marked contrast to the forms of royal ostentation, religious ceremony, and patriotic celebrations of the late colonial period and early republican years, all of which were highly participatory spectacles. Fiestas patrias, or celebrations commemorating landmark moments of the new republican nations, were full of music, dance, and all sorts of entertaining games.7 Audiences continued to participate on occasion in performances after 1830—sometimes wrestling an Italian Hercules and at others engaging in horse races with traveling equestrian artists, for example. Yet being a spectator became a defining element of this moment in the history of commercial entertainment in the region.

With these broad ideas about entertainers in mind, we can survey the three distinct forms of entertainment that became staples from 1820 to 1880. The first of these forms included opera and formal theatrical productions, both of which were a natural source of traveling performers. While the first opera figures made their way to the region in the 1820s, spectators attended shows primarily to flirt and gossip until after midcentury, for the quality of performances was far from uniform.8 Those opera performers who braved the voyage to southern South America were often unable to land lead roles in Europe and decided to try their luck abroad. Others came as guests of the Brazilian emperor to Rio de Janeiro and then took advantage of the relative proximity to Buenos Aires and Montevideo.9 During the nearly two decades Juan Manuel de Rosas was in power in Argentina (1829–1832; 1835–1852) and was the towering political force in Uruguay as well, the nascent opera scene suffered a setback owing to the political climate and the state support for other forms of entertainment, most notably the circus.

Beginning in the 1850s, with the end to two decades of civil war that had gripped the region, opera and formal theater gained momentum among the “public diversions.” The quality of the spectacle improved, too, thanks in part to steamship travel, the financial ability to contract European “stars,” and the construction of new premier performance venues like the Teatro Solís in Montevideo (1856) and the first Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1857). The history of formal theater paralleled in many ways that of opera. Local actors traveled back and forth between Argentina and Uruguay in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. Some of them, like Ambrosio Morante, Trinidad Guevara, Juan José de los Santos Casacuberta, and Fernando Quijano, incorporated in their performances elements like folk dance traditions, to reach out to a broader public. But it was after 1850 that celebrated performers such as Adelaide Ristori, Eleonora Duse, Spanish theater and zarzuela troupes, and the famed pianist Louis Gottschalk electrified southern audiences with their novelties, improvements in staging, greatly increased frequency of shows, and presence at a greater number of venues than spectators had access to previously.10

From the 1830s through the 1880s, a second mode of entertainment emerged thanks to a growing stream of hemispheric travelers who presented optical illusions, constant surprise, and exaggeration. Such shows often involved a dose of swindling or craftiness in addition to genuine creativity. They enjoyed high audience turnout and overlapped regularly with opera and theater offerings, occasionally peeling away spectators from these other performances. Similar to the world of opera, prestidigitators, illusionists, professors of occult sciences, and other stunt artists who ended up in the Río de la Plata were primarily European. Like opera and formal theater, spectacles of this sort increased in number and extravagance in the second half of the century. While the shows did include audience participation, they were largely spectacles meant to be watched with amazement.

Just consider the company led by Monsieur Robert and his wife, from France, who remained active in the region for close to twenty years. An advertisement for one of their performances in Buenos Aires in November 1842 illustrates what made their shows appealing. The evening opened at 8 p.m. with a performance of a full orchestra, which gave way to the show’s three main parts. First came a short comical act, followed by an “hour of magic” with Monsieur Robert himself headlining the act. He wowed the crowd with his “creative physics, sleight of hand, and disappearances.” The final act, however, was the most invigorating. Robert was again on center stage, juggling china, wielding knives, and performing “various tricks that words cannot express.” Next came a dance where dancers launched fireworks from their fingers and toes. Spectators then laughed at two dogs dressed in royal attire that walked around on their hind legs and marveled at Robert’s balancing of “five rifles stacked in a pyramid whose weight rested on one bayonet poised on Robert’s teeth.”11 The local paper the British Packet commented that the show was sold out despite ticket prices that went for double the normal rate.12

Crowds likewise flocked to see the oddities staged by El hombre pez, also known as Mr. Watson, and his siren in a giant water tank at the Hadwin and Williams Company’s equestrian shows; the bizarre mutilated floating figure of Señora Thauma, hailed as a “great novelty” straight from London’s Crystal Palace and who floated both in the morning and at night; the Hermann brothers from France, including the “Great” Alexander Hermann; and the string of “professors of physics” who were a mix between magicians and hustlers.13 These performers played with sight and memory and challenged viewers, especially families who came out for the entertainment value, to make sense of acts that defied reason. The acts did so in part through the allure of “science” and “the modern” on display. As one observer wrote, these performers were “a sort of symbol, a living representation of something that has many names. Modern reason; modern philosophy; modern law. Prestidigitation.”14

A third distinct form of entertainment was that of touring circus and equestrian acts, which started arriving sporadically in the region in the 1810s. By the mid-1820s such acts, though still not numerous, were becoming regular entertainment options. Rosas’s support for both local groups and hemispheric travelers from Italy, France, and other areas in South America gave the circus a boost as a prime entertainment site from the mid-1830s throughout the 1840s.15 Yet similarly to the other entertainment activities mentioned, circus and equestrian marvels increased in frequency and variety in the second half of the century. In contrast to opera or theater groups and practitioners of the bizarre, traveling circus and equestrian troupes readily incorporated local “artists” into their productions and attempted to fit in to the local socialscape from early on. Horseplay—literally—was key in this regard since generations had lived on horseback, and they appreciated displays of horsemanship. Moreover, these groups offered variety at their shows (acrobatics, daring stunts, and pantomime) and advertised them as something for everyone.

Among the dozens of internationally renowned groups participating in the heyday of circus and equestrian shows (1860s–1880s), three stand out: the Carlo family, Giuseppe Chiarini’s Circo Italiano, and the entertainment entrepreneur Pablo Raffetto and his company made up of European and local talent. A brief look at these three groups gives a sense of their investment in and impact on the region’s popular entertainment marketplace.

The Carlos first arrived in Montevideo in June 1869 with Giuseppe Chiarini. Chiarini teamed up with the Carlos regularly in San Francisco in the 1860s. After a whirlwind tour that had taken Chiarini’s Circo Italiano from San Francisco to Mexico to Cuba and then down to Lima, Valparaíso, and Santiago, they arrived in Montevideo, where they performed for some five thousand people at their debut show.16 By August, this company was in Argentina, and for the next twenty years Chiarini and Carlo family members were in and out of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and smaller towns in the interior, working together at times as well as separately.

All evidence points to the Carlo family (George, Henry, Amelia, William, and Frederick) as the group from the United States with the longest-lasting presence on the regional performance circuit. The Carlos hired lots of local performers as well as international talent, like the English clown Frank Brown, with whom the family had toured the United States and who settled and enjoyed stardom in the Plata.17 Even more influential in this respect, however, was the Carlos’ collaboration with the young Podestá brothers, who were making a name for themselves thanks largely to Pablo Raffetto.

Nicknamed the Genoese Barnum, Raffetto had made his way to Buenos Aires at the end of 1869, too. Though his initial fame came from being a real hulk—challenging audience members to wrestling matches and always winning—he quickly branched out to perform all varieties of circus tricks and to direct his own companies. Like Chiarini and the Carlo family, Raffetto became a permanent itinerant Rioplatense entertainer. Raffetto hired members of a Uruguayan circus family—the Podestás—to flesh out his team at the end of the 1870s. For the next five years they worked on and off in both Uruguay and Argentina, before they would become competitors.18

It was the more immediate competition, though, from the Carlo brothers and their employment of the Podestás in 1884 that brings us back to the moment when the trajectories of Bernhardt and Moreira were poised to cross. In March 1884 the Carlo family was back in Buenos Aires.19 They gave daily shows at the Politeama Argentino, where Bernhardt would perform two years later. Though crowds continued to fill the stands, the company also looked for new ways to maintain audience enthusiasm. This was especially the case after mid-April, when Raffetto’s competing circus set up a few blocks away. This new circus included the Podestás.20 The Carlos sought to preserve the appeal of their shows with a variety of novelties, including one of the most effective: holding benefit shows for performers as well as local authorities and institutions.21 The day after they announced their last functions at the end of June, by which time they had given more than one hundred shows in the city, came the news of the Podestás on the Carlo brothers’ program. Different members did their trademark tricks: little Pablo performed on the trapeze, Juan and José did a type of death-defying leap, and José added his classic songs and humor, for which he had become known as the Creole clown Pepino 88. The true innovation, however, to the final shows the Carlo team staged was the theatrical adaptation of Juan Moreira, without words. Moreira succeeded in livening up the last thirteen performances in Buenos Aires, with José Podestá as Moreira.22 Podestá was the perfect match, for he could ride a horse, manage a long-bladed facón, and improvise on the guitar. Three thousand to four thousand attended each of these last shows at the Politeama, after which the Carlos and the Podestás, in the true spirit of hemispheric travelers, took their act, including Moreira, to Rio de Janeiro.23

Summing up thus far, thanks to hemispheric travelers a performance circuit began taking shape in the Río de la Plata in the 1820s and became more standardized in the second half of the century. These travelers were cultural intermediaries who put spectators in touch with faraway worlds. The consolidation of this performance network and the increased number and variety of spectacles reveal the development of an entertainment market whose scale was quite dizzying by the 1880s. For spectators, attending the offerings of this market at times provided a respite from war or, at others, a moment of family fun. When crowds stepped into the theater throughout the 1840s to watch Monsieur Robert balance rifles on his teeth, when they stepped into the Spalding and Rogers portable amphitheater in the 1860s, or when they stepped into a Carlo family equestrian blowout, they stepped out of ordinary, daily time. The same was true of attending one of Bernhardt’s limited performances. All of these spectacles on the Rioplatense stage gave viewers a liminal experience, a time out of time, where imaginations roamed freely and greased the wheels of social interaction.24

To be sure, Sarah Bernhardt was a hot ticket while she was in the Río de la Plata, and her visit was a commercial and artistic success for all involved. But soon the best show in town came not from glitzy hemispheric travelers, who continued to flow in smaller numbers into the region, but straight from the countryside.

The Triumph of the Creole and the Entertainment Transformation

The allure of the countryside was present in the increasingly powerful gauchesque tradition, that is, forms of writing that imitated gaucho speak and that constituted one of the most widely circulated cultural representations of folkways and rural modes of life in the Río de la Plata since the early 1800s. While early examples of the gauchesque and its political value come from a handful of anonymously written plays that debuted on the eve of and during independence (the decade of 1810), the Uruguayan poet Bartolomé Hidalgo is credited with being the first in the region to deploy popular gaucho speech and oral culture in print with his series of patriotic cielitos and diálogos from the 1810s and early 1820s. Hidalgo’s gaucho characters and the forms he utilized, such as the cielito (a regional folk dance led by a caller who directs the moves of dancers), became models that subsequent authors followed. Most importantly, Hidalgo demonstrated the politicizing power of rural culture.25 Thus, the gauchesque proliferated during the Rosas years, when the region’s first political parties emerged and when caudillos and their gaucho followers were the dominant political forces.26 During the second half of the century the political outreach character of the gauchesque became subordinate to its entertainment value and concerns about the transformation of the countryside. More specifically, new agricultural practices that led to the fencing of the previously open plains and a shift away from cattle and sheep herding to cereal cultivation altered labor needs as well as forms of life surrounding rural work.27 This modernization of the countryside brought many laments from gauchesque authors, the most famous of which now is José Hernández, who wrote The Gaucho Martín Fierro (1872) and The Return of Martín Fierro (1879), crowned in the early 20th century as Argentina’s epic poem. Yet the fictional Fierro was Argentina’s (and Uruguay’s) second most famous gaucho throughout the late 1800s. The first was Juan Moreira.

When Eduardo Gutiérrez first published his serialized (and embellished) narrative about Moreira in 1879 and 1880, he knowingly tapped into the cultural capital of the gauchesque and the Creole spirit in the air that the tens of thousands of copies Fierro had helped promote.28 However, what he could not imagine at that moment was that Moreira’s story, subsequently reprinted in book form, pirated, and then transformed into a pantomime by Gutiérrez himself for the Podestá and Carlo families, would provoke a flood of similar tales and lead to the region-wide criollista, or Creole, movement. Adolfo Prieto examined thoroughly the print sphere of this movement, which dominated the region’s literary culture from around 1880 to the early 1900s.29 Gutiérrez himself was one of the most active and commercially successful authors of the movement, composing more than thirty narratives in less than nine years. Yet the impact of this movement extended far beyond the written word, as the Creole circus phenomenon illustrates.

From the July 1884 pantomime of Juan Moreira that the Carlo brothers and the Podestá family staged through the turn of the century, about a dozen Creole dramas became the most widely attended form of entertainment in the region. Many of these dramas, such as Juan Moreira, Martín Fierro, and Santos Vega, drew from the gauchesque tradition or were adaptations of previously published tales. Others, like Juan Soldao, El Entenao, and Julián Giménez, were created expressly to be performed. These plays were represented with increasing frequency, too, as the years went by, first under makeshift tents and later in venues ranging from variety-show halls to the most upscale theaters. The Podestá family, which became the leading Creole circus family in the region, moved from their initial portable stands and tent model to shows at the Teatro Solís, among other formal theater spaces, to owning their own theater in La Plata, Argentina. Their trajectory exemplified not only the popularity of the Creole drama phenomenon but also how the “popular” came to be legitimately representative of the “national.” Like the Podestás, the traveling circus troupes who made Creole dramas their business spent months in one location performing their repertoire before moving on to their next stop. The result was forty, fifty, one hundred functions of the same set, often consisting of a handful of Creole dramas.

For the consumers of these spectacles, attending a Creole drama was an incredibly rich sensory experience. Audiences could watch on the edge of their seats as horsemen raced across the pit; they could observe work—ranch hands lassoing a cow, branding cattle, or shearing sheep (for real); they could approach performers in the circular pit; they could stomp their feet to lively dance that animated scenes or sway with vibrations of music; they could hear the shrill call of roosters that was part of acts taking place at dawn; they inhaled the fumes of kerosene lanterns that lit scenes, savored the scents of bonfires roasting whole cows on “stage,” and breathed in the dense cigarette smoke actors trailed through their parts; and they could (and did), of course, cheer their heroes and jeer at their villains. While circus tents and open-space pavilions allowed for more flexibility and large-scale staging, not to mention more room for galloping horses to feature in the plays, Creole drama performances in theaters still incorporated gauchos on horseback, campfire scenes, and many of the other acts described here.

What made possible this multilayered sensory experience, and what gave Creole dramas an enduring character, was their representation of the countryside. That is, they staged the frontier for an audience who, for the most part, had to imagine that frontier from a distance. After all, these dramas explored forces of good versus evil; the maintenance of honor, tradition, and pride; and the tensions between native sons and immigrants, to name just a few of the issues inseparable from frontiers at the time. There was no better stage for these themes than the countryside itself. When people got together to watch the countryside on stage, the collective experience resonated and allowed Creole dramas to have a far-reaching and enduring impact, so much so that staging the frontier transformed these plays from mere circus dramas into the best shows in town.

A few final points bear underscoring before looking at specific examples. Creole dramas were at heart not only social events that promoted the literal rubbing of shoulders among different social sectors, but, indeed, family affairs, with acts and activities for everyone, including children, often led by circus children themselves. There was circus music, and groups often presented acrobatic tricks as well as an act with a clown whose jokes ranged from slapstick comedy to biting political remarks. Yet the main draw to the Creole circus was its namesake drama. While hemispheric travelers had helped forge an entertainment market in the capitals of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, as well as in smaller towns through the region, Creole circus troupes took their performances to even more towns in Uruguay and Argentina, often providing the first theatrical experience for rural audiences. More significantly, the Creole drama craze led to the emergence of a theatergoing culture across the region thanks to the opportunities these dramas provided for sustained contact with the world of performance and repeated attendance by spectators. In many instances, especially in smaller towns, the dramas were the only entertainment option available, which helps explain one reason for returning to the shows again and again. At the same time, the plays dealt in local issues and were created (and often, though not always, staged) by local authors and artists. This feature of the “local” was certainly part of their appeal.

With these general characteristics of the Creole drama phenomenon in mind, some examples can illustrate the overarching themes and the transformation of the movement from 1886 to 1900. Juan Moreira, in both its pantomime form and with the dialogue that José Podestá added in 1886, introduced the good-gaucho-gone-bad model. Plays in this first group foreground an incident that triggers the transformative downfall of the protagonist. In Juan Moreira the main character lives a simple life with his wife and son, working as a horse tamer, tending to his livestock, and transporting goods to the local rail station for export. The peace and quiet comes to an end when a pulpero, who, not coincidentally, is an Italian immigrant, refuses to pay back a debt he owes Moreira. The refusal takes place in front of the justice of the peace, who sides with the pulpero and who is enamored of the gaucho’s wife, which leads to Moreira’s being placed in the stocks and vowing to get his revenge. Moreira collects his due, first by stabbing the pulpero, then by avenging his honor with the corrupt lawman. The cycle of violence spirals out of control until Moreira is cornered in a brothel. There, as he tries to make his getaway, an officer stabs him in the back as he scales a patio wall—a cowardly act by gaucho standards. In this last scene of the play, Moreira sheds the outlaw aura that he had been developing and becomes “good” again: a sense of honor stands out against the bass note of treachery, and Moreira the character began his leap to Moreira the mythic figure.

While no other Creole drama surpassed the popularity—in terms of ticket sales, number of performances, and overall impact—of Moreira, several other plays ran with the heroic character who became an outlaw. In this vein, Elías Regules’s Martín Fierro (1890)—an adaptation of Hernández’s story—was a huge success. Similarly Juan Cuello and Santos Vega, both drawn from Gutiérrez’s renditions of popular gaucho legends, followed this good-bad-good arc to explore how the state treats rural inhabitants, clashes between immigrants and criollos, and meanings of patriotism and honor.

A second group of plays that debuted in the early 1890s presented more explicitly patriotic themes. Rough-and-tumble gauchos were the heroes of these plays, but they were not at war with the state. Rather, spectators were treated to moments in national history, where injustices and inequalities stood out. Thus, Abdón Arózteguy’s Julián Giménez (1892), often billed as an “independence play,” staged the eve of the “invasion of the Thirty-Three” Uruguayans in 1825 to liberate the Banda Oriental from Brazilian occupation. The protagonist dies fighting in the last scene, yet the drama ends on an upbeat note, with an angel-like figure spreading her wings over the fallen patriots. Arózteguy commented that “Moreira had the rare ability to make me sob, moving me to my very core. However, I also have to declare that I found the play to be pernicious for the masses (vulgo).” So his goal was to craft a patriotic storyline that could serve didactic purposes.30 Orosmán Moratorio’s Juan Soldao roused patriotic indignation on both sides of the Río de la Plata through its argument of rural residents living like pariahs, with no protection from the state. The play debuted in Tucumán, Argentina, in 1893 and immediately became a standard work in Creole circus repertoires.

Finally, a series of introspective Creole dramas constituted a third group of plays that gained traction in the mid-1890s and pointed to a shift in thematic content, as well as the autumn of the Creole drama movement. By this time, the Creole spirit and its representatives seemed to permeate every area of life in the region. Of the half dozen or so plays that fill out this group two, in particular, are especially illustrative: Víctor Pérez Petit’s ¡Cobarde! (1894), and Martiniano Leguizamón’s Calandria (1896). The setting in both plays is still the countryside, yet both were written to be performed in the formal space of the theater, with explicit stage directions. In contrast to earlier Creole dramas, violence is largely absent in this last group. In fact, the protagonists of ¡Cobarde! and Calandria both reflect on and reject the use of violence. Both plays also deal in generational variations in the understanding of honor. In Calandria, whose eponymous hero’s name means “flighty lark,” Calandria finally decides to settle down to a life of honorable work. In the last scene Calandria hurls his knife to the ground and pronounces: “The lark has died / In the cage of my dear Lucía’s arms. / But, old friends, in his place / The hard-working criollo has been born.”31 Calandria’s final comment marks an explicit symbolic end to the Creole drama cycle, both in Leguizamón’s mind and in the way dramas portrayed gaucho heroes, even though many of the very same “original” Creole circus troupes, like the Podestás, were performing these later stories.

Creole dramas’ humor, their engagement with issues of immigration and race relations, and their portrayal of the unequal rights of citizenship are just some of the avenues through which they struck resonant chords with spectators and addressed issues of contemporary concern. Humor in the plays provided comic relief against backdrops of violence or more serious themes. Many of the most humorous moments involved cocoliche characters, who spoke a garbled mix of Spanish and Italian that had audiences rollicking at the same time more poignant points came through. Cocoliche outlived its stage presence. Carnival participants disguised themselves as cocoliche figures, illustrated magazines included comic sketches of these characters, and today in the Río de la Plata the term cocoliche is still used, principally in reference to not speaking clearly.32

For all the fun that came with the cocoliche confusion, such scenes also presented ways of engaging with issues of immigration. Immigrants and the demographic revolution that was reshaping the region’s population at the end of the 1800s were sources of both dramatic and real life tension that, at times, escalated into outright violence, as we saw with the plot of Moreira. Of course, there was the irony that many of the Creole circus’s most celebrated performers were immigrants themselves (like the Italian showman Pablo Raffetto) or children of immigrant parents (like the Podestás). Immigrants also swelled stands and theater boxes and were among the most passionate Creole drama enthusiasts, in part because of the sense of belonging that came with attending the plays. This fact was not lost on performers, impresarios, or authors: a handful of these representations of country life went so far as to paint immigrants in a heroic light—Julián Giménez’s death is avenged by a Basque immigrant, for example. Such a mix of roles for immigrants invited playgoers to contemplate one of the underlying forces of attraction Creole dramas wielded: patriotism and a nativist, Creole spirit. The Moreiras, Fierros, and others embodied this nativist spirit. Even the objectors to the pervasive influence of Juan Moreira or Martín Fierro felt giddy when thinking about these representatives of the “gaucho race,” which was, after all, becoming the symbol of all things Argentine and Uruguayan.33

Patriotism and the promotion of all things Creole were linked to unequal rights of citizenship—perhaps the most powerful, central, and threatening theme of the Creole drama phenomenon. Access to these rights and protection from their abuse by the very state officials who were supposed to guarantee them transcended the performance space and echoed challenges many Argentines, Uruguayans, and immigrant newcomers faced. Critics of the Creole circus craze as well as some state officials feared that such a focus on rural inhabitants’ rights could lead to popular demands that could spill over into large-scale rebellion. Thus, for instance, despite the fact the Martín Fierro presents in the end a calm, “domesticated” gaucho, willing to accept his subordinate place in the world, and not eager to pick fights with anyone, the play’s representation was prohibited in Rosario, Argentina, in 1893, along with Juan Moreira and Juan Cuello. In Córdoba, too, efforts were made to limit Creole drama performances, primarily by imposing heavy taxes on companies.34 More effective than prohibition was a show of sympathy for the concerns the dramas raised, evident in the growing presence of state officials, including the Argentine and Uruguayan presidents, at the performances beginning in the early 1890s. The popularity of the plays simply could not be stomped out.

A glance at the reception of Creole dramas reveals the extent of their reach and impact. In October 1891, a little over a year after Fierro’s debut, the Podestá company’s secretary wrote to Regules to assuage his concerns about the play’s not attracting hoped-for numbers in Buenos Aires. After taking the drama on tour, noted the secretary, it was drawing audiences like those for Moreira.35 From 1892 to 1896 Julián Giménez was represented more than a thousand times on both sides of the Plata river. The play’s author celebrated that “if [this drama] has any merits, one is for sure that it excited the popular classes of my land. And that was my main goal with its performance.”36 Despite the success of these and other Creole dramas, Juan Moreira drew more spectators to more performances over the course of more years. After all, it was the Creole circus phenomenon’s spark. Journalist Carlos Olivera summed up this point in 1887. “Until now with Juan Moreira, debuts of other theatrical productions have all been like attending a wake.”37 For the most part, high society kept their distance from Moreira until around 1890, when audience makeup began to change. A writer for the Buenos Aires paper Sud América wondered about the meaning of this change in attitude toward Moreira and the circus: Was it a sign of growing patriotism? Did it point to “the plebianization of the spirit, or signs of originality? . . . Whatever it may be, it is clear from the crowds that this dramatic representation commands attraction. On the streets, in social clubs, one phrase can be continually heard. ‘Che!, have you seen Juan Moreira?’ And that’s enough to lead one to the circus.”38

Numbers of performances and ticket sales rose steadily in the 1890s, too. The Podestá group alone went from staging around two hundred shows in 1891 to more than three hundred in 1896. Police routinely had to enforce queues at box offices and limit sales to prevent overcrowding at venues, with capacities ranging from five hundred for those located in smaller towns to more than four thousand for sites in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. A reporter for the Salto, Uruguay, paper Ecos del Progreso captured succinctly the image of crowds coming back for more: “Though it weighs on those who do not support Creole dramas, Salto residents spend hours of their life at these plays night after night. We return to the circus tent again and again with enthusiasm and excitement that the impresarios of any opera or theater company would envy.”39

When considering reception, audience reaction, especially among males, is an important indicator. Examples abound of men getting into knife fights upon exiting Creole dramas, occasionally tussling with police. Police reports comment on “toughs” who were “trying to be like Moreira,” referencing their resistance or their use of knives. And then there are the many colorful accounts of spectators who interrupted the performances of Moreira (as well as other dramas) to prevent authorities from capturing the hero. One such tale comes from a writer who recalled a performance of Moreira at the Raffetto circus. A young man jumped onto the stage to defend Moreira from the advancing authorities. The audience member pulled out his knife—a real one, in contrast to the props of the actors. Moreira’s opponents fled the stage while the crowd cheered, after which the scene was performed again from the beginning.40

Of course, the thematic content of the plays kept audiences coming back. The festive atmosphere, with dances in which spectators often participated; live music, including improvisational verse and guitar competitions between payadores (the Afro-Argentine Gabino Ezeiza was a regular payador at Podestá shows); as well as all the sights and smells detailed here also provided for a rich entertainment experience. Finally, and not to be underestimated, attending a Creole circus show was a perfect opportunity to socialize with friends and strangers, make new acquaintances, and escape from the rigors of work or daily routines. The collective experience of the emotional charge plays communicated was part of this social moment, and conversations about this experience continued as audiences flowed out of venues to nearby bars and cafés.

Given the popularity of the phenomenon, it is no surprise that Creole drama figures and storylines appeared in other media. Argentine cigarette maker La Popular issued Moreira and Fierro brand cigarettes, to name just two, with collectable cards summarizing key moments in the stories. Creole dramas informed the region’s first silent movies as well. Moreover, playwrights of the early 1900s, like Florencio Sánchez, who would become the region’s emblematic dramaturg in the early 20th century, built on the cultural capital and audience base of Creole dramas, even while elaborating explorations of the countryside that were critical of the nativist fervor behind the criollista movement.


The popular entertainment market grew steadily over the 1800s thanks to hemispheric travelers and their interactions with local talent. With them culture was literally on the move. These travelers helped forge a performance circuit with hubs in Montevideo and Buenos Aires and spokes toward the interior. Bernhardt herself followed points on this circuit during her 1886 tour. And while locals turned out in the thousands and paid high prices to see her limited number of performances, Sarahmania was more of a last bright moment for the falling star of cultural intermediaries from abroad. Cultural consumers were already turning their attention to more local stories and traditions with local performers, precisely what the Creole circus provided.

Creole dramas were certainly paeans to tradition and notions of a simplified life. Audiences tapped into this nativist appeal. At the same time, by going out night after night to the circus and theater, they were being modern, as the first consumers on a large scale of modern popular culture. In effect, the Creole drama phenomenon had not only expanded the presence of popular entertainment across the region; it had also given way to a new strand of popular culture, demanding a flourish of dramas as well as cadres of performers, impresarios, and printers of the programs and posters. Scores of entrepreneurs also appeared in the hope of profiting from the excitement of the stories.

By 1900, however, the Creole drama repertoire had ceased to grow, and some of the very forces the phenomenon had created contributed to its decline. New performance options, which capitalized on the mass audience the Creole circus world had created, started filling venues. Paramount among these new entertainment choices were more formal plays in the form of sainetes that explored urbanization and the ramifications of massive immigration to the region. So when Bernhardt returned to Argentina and Uruguay in 1905, she was more likely to attend one of these new entertainment options than cross paths with a circus show. Around the 1910 centennial celebration of independence, film likewise captured audiences’ attention and led to further distance from the Creole circus. Ironically, the first silent movie was about Moreira. By then, the Creole drama was no longer an attraction in theaters, except for the occasional benefit show for one of the performers. The circus as a site for people to gather had lost its appeal, too. There was no doubting, however, that the Creole circus was the pillar of this theater- and now cinema-going public.

Discussion of the Literature

Literary scholars and historians have explored the history of theater in Argentina and Uruguay dating back to street performances, royal processions, and ceremonies during the colonial period. They have addressed the Creole circus, too, though almost exclusively within national confines rather than in transnational perspective.41 Moreover, previous studies have focused on the careers of leading circus performers in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, removed from the rural contexts where they first gave performances. While the influence of the circus on “national theater” has been central to the elaboration of the historical narrative of the region’s theater culture,42 the effects of Creole dramas on the rise of nationalism at the dawn of the 1900s, the greater impact of the circus on the consolidation of theater as a pillar of social identity, and the reception of Creole dramas and their importance in small towns and the countryside are problems that invite more sustained attention and cross-disciplinary dialogue. That said, over recent years scholars such as Carolina González Velasco, Ezequiel Adamovsky, and Daniel Alex Richter have produced rich cross-disciplinary research into the history of closely linked areas such as popular entertainment and popular classes and cultural practices.43 Finally, Adolfo Prieto’s El discurso criollista en la formación de la Argentina moderna is a landmark study of the proliferating phenomenon of gauchesque literature in the last third of the 1800s as well as the connections of this print world to the broader industry of all things Creole. Taking Prieto as a starting point, in recent research Ezequiel Adamovsky examines criollismo’s features and functions in the 20th century, focusing especially on powerful connections of lo criollo to ideas of race, ethnicity, and identity.44

While there is no existing book in English on Creole dramas or the Creole circus phenomenon, recent scholarship focusing on aspects of popular culture in the Río de la Plata during the 19th and 20th centuries can help shed light on the context and impact of popular entertainment. John Chasteen’s National Rhythms, African Roots makes several mentions of Creole dramas as sites where rural dance traditions garnered attraction among urban theatergoers, and he devotes a chapter to the Río de la Plata’s most famous circus group’s representations of dance forms that fed the development of tango.45 Chasteen, in Heroes on Horseback; Ariel de la Fuente, in Children of Facundo; and Richard W. Slatta, in Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier have examined frontier social life and the complex emotional bonds between caudillos and their supporters. These scholars likewise probe dynamics that contributed to the iconic image of rural horsemen and the mythmaking that paralleled the diminishing role of gauchos in the Argentine and Uruguayan economies and that was central in the rise of the criollista movement.46 Matthew Karush and Mollie Lewis Nouwen have written recent studies of Argentine popular culture (radio, film, Jewish theater) in the first half of the 20th century, though with clear connections to the consumption of popular culture in the late 1800s.47 There is likewise a growing body of work on 19th-century popular literary culture of the region, uncovered in books like Brendan Lanctot’s Beyond Civilization and Barbarism and William Acree’s Everyday Reading.48

Primary Sources

Primary sources for the history of popular entertainment and the Creole circus, in particular, in the Río de la Plata can be found in a variety of collections located primarily in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and La Plata. To begin, the regional press is one of the richest sources for (a) following the entertainment offerings on a daily basis (in the diversiones públicas section), from the 1860s on; (b) reading reviews of or reports on spectacles; and (c) discovering other indicators of the reception of performances, including crime reports related to scuffles occurring at theaters. Good starting points for exploring the press include La Nación, El Nacional, El Orden, El Tribuno, and La Prensa (from Argentina) and El Siglo, El Día, El Paysandú, and Ecos del Progreso (from Uruguay). The Biblioteca Nacional de Uruguay, in Montevideo, houses most of the country’s papers published in the late 1800s, whether from Montevideo, Mercedes, Salto, Paysandú, Colonia, or elsewhere. In Argentina key newspaper collections from the second half of the 19th century are located in the Biblioteca Nacional de Argentina’s hemeroteca and at the Biblioteca Pública de la Universidad Nacional de la Plata. Photography collections are likewise valuable for literally glancing into this performance world, especially from the 1880s through the 1900s. The different branches of the Museo Histórico Nacional in Uruguay have a wealth of visual material for seeing the Creole circus, as does the Instituto Nacional de Estudios de Teatro in Buenos Aires. Both institutions also have other materials—posters advertising plays, pamphlets about the Creole drama phenomenon, and letters from authors to actors, actors to actors, and fans to actors—that can provide insight into the history of popular entertainment. The Archivo General de la Nación in Argentina also has a large photograph archive. Song lyrics from Pepino 88 are included in José J. Podestá’s Nuevas canciones inéditas del gran Pepino 88, while a variety of cocoliche characters’ carnival songs feature in pamphlets by Manuel Cientofante and Santiago Rolleri (available online from the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut). Finally, interested scholars may consider exploring the illustrated magazines El Fogón (Montevideo) and Caras y Caretas (Montevideo, Buenos Aires) for commentary on entertainment, cultural practices, and visual representations of popular culture. Both magazines are available at a variety of U.S. university libraries.

Further Reading

Cara-Walker, Ana. “Cocoliche: The Art of Assimilation and Dissimulation among Italians and Argentines.” Latin American Research Review 22.3 (1987): 37–67.Find this resource:

Castagnino, Raúl H. El circo criollo: Datos y documentos para su historia, 1757–1924. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Lajouane, 1953.Find this resource:

Castagnino, Raúl H. El teatro en Buenos Aires durante la época de Rosas. 2 vols. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Academia Argentina de Letras, 1989.Find this resource:

Delaney, Jeane. “Making Sense of Modernity: Changing Attitudes toward the Immigrant and the Gaucho in Turn-of-the-Century Argentina.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 38.3 (1996): 434–459.Find this resource:

González Urtiaga, Juan. El circo criollo en el Uruguay: Sus artistas, su repertorio y su vocabulario. Montevideo, Uruguay: Organización Nacional Pro Laboral, 2003.Find this resource:

Gutiérrez, Eduardo. The Gaucho Juan Moreira: True Crime in Nineteenth-Century Argentina. Edited and with an introduction by William G. Acree Jr. Translated by John Charles Chasteen. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2014.Find this resource:

Klein, Teodoro. El actor en el Río de la Plata. 2 vols. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Asociación Argentina de Actores, 1984, 1994.Find this resource:

Mirza, Roger. “Para una revisión de la historia del teatro uruguayo: Desde los orígenes hasta 1900.” In Uruguay: Imaginarios culturales. Edited by Hugo Achugar and Mabel Moraña. Vol. 1. Montevideo: Trilce, 2000, 179–202.Find this resource:

Pellettieri, Osvaldo, ed. Historia del teatro argentino en Buenos Aires. 2 vols. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Galerna, 2002.Find this resource:

Podestá, José J. Medio siglo de farándula. Edited and with a preliminary study by Osvaldo Pellettieri. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Galerna, 2003.Find this resource:

Prieto, Adolfo. El discurso criollista en la formación de la Argentina moderna. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Sudamericana, 1988.Find this resource:

Rama, Angel. Los gauchipolíticos rioplatenses. 2 vols. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1994.Find this resource:

Roach, Joseph R. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Rossi, Vicente. Teatro nacional rioplatense: Contribución a su análisis y a su historia. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Solar/Hachette, 1969.Find this resource:

Sansone de Martínez, Eneida. El teatro en el Uruguay en el siglo xix: Historia de una pasión avasallante. Montevideo, Uruguay: Editorial Surcos, 1995.Find this resource:

Seibel, Beatriz. Historia del circo. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Sol, 2005.Find this resource:

Seigel, Micol. “Cocoliche’s Romp: Fun with Nationalism at Argentina’s Carnival.” TDR: The Drama Review 44.2 (2000): 56–83.Find this resource:

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Trigo, Abril. “El teatro gauchesco primitivo y los límites de la gauchesca.” Latin American Theatre Review 26.1 (1992): 55–67.Find this resource:


(1.) El Orden (Buenos Aires), July 22, 1886.

(2.) On Bernhardt’s adventuresome spirit, see Robert Gottlieb, Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).

(3.) Here I elaborate more broadly on some conclusions presented in William Acree, “Hemispheric Travelers on the Rioplatense Stage,” Latin American Theatre Review 47.2 (2014): 5–24.

(4.) The classic overview of the Creole circus, though centered on Argentina, is Raúl H. Castagnino, El circo criollo: Datos y documentos para su historia, 1757–1924 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Lajouane, 1953). See also Beatriz Seibel, Historia del circo (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones del Sol, 2005); and Vicente Rossi, Teatro nacional rioplatense: Contribución a su análisis y a su historia (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Solar/Hachette, 1969).

(5.) Scholarship on this demographic revolution abounds. For a concise survey of immigration statistics, see Hernán Asdrúbal Silva, Adriana Beatriz Gerpe, and Adriana C. Rodríguez, “Estadísticas sobre la inmigración a la Argentina,” in Inmigración y estadísticas en el cono sur de América, ed. Hernán Asdrúbal Silva (México City: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia; Washington, DC: Organización de los Estados Americanos, 1990), 13–68; and Juan José Arteaga, Ernesto Puiggrós, and Martha Lafalche, “Inmigración y estadística en el Uruguay, 1830–1940,” in Silva et al., Inmigración y estadísticas en el cono sur de América, 261–372.

(6.) See Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), chapters 1 and 6; Keith Negus, “The Work of Cultural Intermediaries and the Enduring Distance between Production and Consumption,” Cultural Studies 16.4 (2002): 501–515; and Sean Nixon and Paul Du Gay, “Who Needs Cultural Intermediaries?,” Cultural Studies 16.4 (2002): 495–500. Claudio E. Benzecry, The Opera Fanatic: Ethnography of an Obsession (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) provides a fascinating approach to such cultural intermediaries and their impact by exploring opera goers’ passion and how they connected to performances in Buenos Aires.

(7.) See, for example, Juan Carlos Garavaglia, Construir el estado, inventar la nación: El Río de la Plata, siglos XVIII–XIX (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Prometeo, 2007).

(8.) Jorge Myers, “Una revolución en las costumbres: Las nuevas formas de sociabilidad de la elite porteña, 1800–1860,” in Historia de la vida privada en la Argentina, ed. Fernando Devoto and Marta Madero, vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Taurus, 1999), 124; and Teodoro Klein, El actor en el Río de la Plata, vol. 2, De Casacuberta a los Podestá (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Asociación Argentina de Actores, 1994).

(9.) John Rosselli, “The Opera Business and the Italian Immigrant Community in Latin America 1820–1930: The Example of Buenos Aires,” Past & Present 127 (1990): 155–182.

(10.) Raúl H. Castagnino, El teatro en Buenos Aires durante la época de Rosas, vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Academia Argentina de Letras, 1989), 77–117, 145–168; Alex Borucki, “Tensiones raciales en el juego de la representación: Actores afro en Montevideo tras la fundación republicana (1830–1840),” Gestos 42 (2006): 33–56; and Alex Borucki, “From Colonial Performers to Actors of ‘American Liberty’: Black Artists in the Bourbon and Revolutionary Río de la Plata,” Unpublished manuscript.

(11.) Archivo General de la Nación, Argentina, Fondo y Colección José Juan Biedma 1126; see also Ana Laura Lusnich and Susana Llahí, “El circo y las formas parateatrales,” 363; and Alicia Aisemberg, “Espectáculos y público,” 540, both in Historia del teatro argentino en Buenos Aires, vol. 1, Período de la constitución del teatro argentino (1700–1884), ed. Osvaldo Pellettieri (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Galerna, 2005); and Castagnino, El teatro en Buenos Aires durante la época de Rosas, 1: 287–290.

(12.) See Castagnino, El teatro en Buenos Aires durante la época de Rosas, 2:418.

(13.) On fish man, see El Siglo (Montevideo), May 24, 1878; Thauma appears in El Siglo and El Nacional (Montevideo) during January and February 1886.

(14.) José Selgas, Hojas sueltas y más ojas sueltas (Madrid: Imprenta de A. Pérez Dubrull, 1883), 307–317.

(15.) Castagnino, El teatro en Buenos Aires durante la época de Rosas, 1: chap. 10; vol. 2: 420–423.

(16.) Daily Alta California (San Francisco), November 18, 1864; May 25, 1868; September 5, 1872; November 27, 1872; and Klein, El actor en el Río de la Plata, 205–206.

(17.) Castagnino, El circo criollo, 106; on Brown’s reception, see El Mosquito, April 6, 1884; and Dardo Cúneo, Frank Brown (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Nova, 1944).

(18.) Castagnino, El circo criollo, 40–49; Alicia Aisemberg, “Compañías,” in Historia del teatro argentino en Buenos Aires, vol. 1, Período de la constitución del teatro argentino (1700–1884), ed. Osvaldo Pellettieri, 513.

(19.) El Siglo, February 6–March 2, 1884.

(20.) La Patria Argentina, April 17, 1884.

(21.) El Mosquito, April 27, 1884; and La Patria Argentina, May 16, 1884.

(22.) La Patria Argentina, March 4–July 13, 1884.

(23.) Castagnino, El circo criollo, 65–66; and Angela Blanco Amores, “Pablo Podestá: El niño acróbata y el circo nómade; El comediante criollo y el teatro gauchesco,” Boletín de Estudios de Teatro 7.24–25 (1949): 6.

(24.) Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theater: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: PAJ Publications, 1982).

(25.) Angel Rama, Los gauchipolíticos rioplatenses, 2 vols. (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1994); Jorge B. Rivera, La primitiva literatura gauchesca (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial J. Alvarez, 1968); Horacio Jorge Becco, ed., Antología de la poesía gauchesca (Bilbao, Spain: Aguilar, 1972); and Horacio Jorge Becco, “Los cielos de la patria,” Revista Hispánica Moderna 34.3/4 (1968): 539–548.

(26.) See Nicolás Lucero, “La guerra gauchipolítica,” in La lucha de los lenguajes, ed. Julio Schvartzman (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Emecé Editores, 2003), 17–38; William Acree, “Luis Pérez, a Man of His Word in 1830s’ Buenos Aires and the Case for Popular Literature,” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 88.3 (2011): 367–386; William Acree, “Gaucho Gazetteers, Politics, and Popular Literature in the Río de la Plata,” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 26 (2007): 197–215; Julio Schvartzman, Microcrítica: Lecturas argentinas (cuestiones de detalle) (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos, 1996); and Julio Schvartzman, “A quién cornea El Torito: Notas sobre el gauchipolítico Luis Pérez,” in Letras y divisas: Ensayos sobre literatura y rosismo, ed. and with a prologue by Cristina Iglesia (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1998), 13–23.

(27.) Fernando Rocchi, Chimneys in the Desert: Industrialization in Argentina during the Export Boom Years, 1870–1930 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006); and Richard Slatta, Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983).

(28.) Eduardo Gutiérrez, The Gaucho Juan Moreira: True Crime in Nineteenth-Century Argentina, ed. and with an introduction by William G. Acree Jr. and trans. John Charles Chasteen (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2014).

(29.) Adolfo Prieto, El discurso criollista en la formación de la Argentina moderna (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI, 2006).

(30.) Abdón Arózteguy, Ensayos dramáticos (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Librairie Nouvelle “La Anticuaria,” 1896), xiv–xv. See also Laura Mogliani, “Julián Giménez de Abdón Arózteguy,” in Teatro, memoria, identidad, ed. Roger Mirza (Montevideo, Uruguay: Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación, UDELAR, 2009), 195–207; and Osvaldo Pellettieri, “Cambios en el sistema teatral de la gauchesca rioplatense,” Gestos 2.4 (1987): 115–124.

(31.) Martiniano Leguizamón, “Calandria: Costumbres campestres en diez escenas,” in Dramaturgos post-románticos, ed. and with a prologue and notes by Angel Mazzei (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ministerio de Cultura y Educación, 1970), 110.

(32.) Ana Cara Walker, “Cocoliche: The Art of Assimilation and Dissimulation among Italians and Argentines,” Latin American Research Review 22.3 (1987): 37–67; and Micol Seigel, “Cocoliche’s Romp: Fun with Nationalism at Argentina’s Carnival,” TDR: The Drama Review 44.2 (2000): 56–83.

(33.) Jeane Delaney, “Making Sense of Modernity: Changing Attitudes toward the Immigrant and the Gaucho in Turn-of-the-Century Argentina,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 38.3 (1996): 434–459; and Jeane Delaney, “Imagining El Ser Argentino: Cultural Nationalism and Romantic Concepts of Nationhood in Early Twentieth-Century Argentina,” Journal of Latin American Studies 34 (2002): 625–638.

(34.) José Marial, “Los enemigos de Juan Moreira,” Revista del Instituto Nacional de Estudios de Teatro 5.13 (1986): 64.

(35.) Elías Regules, “Martín Fierro” y “El Entenao,” with notes by Teodoro Klein, Beatriz Seibel, Eneida Sansone de Martínez, and Jorge Dubatti (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones del Jilguero, 1996), 36.

(36.) Arózteguy, Ensayos dramáticos, xv.

(37.) Carlos Olivera, En la brecha: 1880–1886 (Buenos Aires: F. Lajouane and Paris: Ch. Bouret, 1887), 317.

(38.) Sud América (Buenos Aires), November 11, 1890; qtd. in José J. Podestá, Medio siglo de farándula. ed. and with a preliminary study by Osvaldo Pellettieri (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Galerna, 2003), 68–71.

(39.) Ecos del Progreso, March 17, 1895.

(40.) Alvaro Yunque, “Estudio preliminar” to Croquis y siluetas militares: escenas contemporáneas de nuestros campamentos, by Eduardo Gutiérrez (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Librería Hachette, n.d.), 36.

(41.) Examples include Castagnino, El circo criollo; Seibel, Historia del circo; and Beatriz Seibel, Historia del teatro argentino: Desde los rituales hasta 1930 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Corregidor, 2002); the monumental volumes, in particular 1 and 2, of Osvaldo Pellettieri, ed., Historia del teatro argentino en Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Galerna, 2001–2005); and Klein’s two-volume El actor en el Río de la Plata.

(42.) Good examples are Rossi, Teatro nacional rioplatense; Luis Ordaz, El teatro en el Río de la Plata: Desde sus orígenes hasta nuestros días, 2d ed. (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ediciones Leviatán, 1957); and Mariano G. Bosch, Historia del teatro en Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Comercio, 1910).

(43.) See Carolina González Velasco, Gente de teatro: Ocio y espectáculos en la Buenos Aires de los años veinte (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2012); Ezequiel Adamovsky, Historia de las clases populares en la Argentina: Desde 1880 hasta 2003 (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Sudamericana, 2012); and Daniel Alex Richter, “Symbiotic Cities: Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Mass Culture, 1910–1960,” PhD Diss., University of Maryland, 2016.

(44.) Ezequiel Adamovsky, “La cuarta función del criollismo y las luchas por la definición del origen y el color del ethnos argentino (desde las primeras novelas gauchescas hasta c. 1940),” Boletín del Instituto de Historia Argentina y Americana “Dr. Emilio Ravignani” 3.41 (2014): 50–92; and Ezequiel Adamovsky, “El criollismo en las luchas por la definición del origen y el color del ethnos argentino, 1945–1955,” Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 26.1 (2015): 31–63.

(45.) John Charles Chasteen, National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004).

(46.) John Charles Chasteen, A Life and Times of the Last Gaucho Caudillos (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995); Ariel de la Fuente, Children of Facundo: Caudillo and Gaucho Insurgency during the Argentine State-Formation Process (La Rioja, 1853–1870) (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000); and Richard W. Slatta, Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992).

(47.) Matthew Karush, Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, 1920–1946 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); and Mollie Lewis Nouwen, Jewish Immigrants and the Creation of Argentine National Identity (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013).

(48.) Brendan Lanctot, Beyond Civilization and Barbarism: Culture and Politics in Post-Revolutionary Argentina (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2013); and William Acree, Everyday Reading: Print Culture & Collective Identity in the Río de la Plata, 1780–1910 (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2011).