Thursday 25 June 2020

El Gaucho Martin Fierro (Spain, 1974)

A stamp celebrating a poem written by an Argentinian which tells the story of an archetype that was central to the move for Argentinian independence from Spain… OK, let’s dive in…

Martin Fierro is a poem by Jose Hernandez in 1872 which stretches over 2000 lines in length. It tells the story of a gaucho (can you guess his name?) who lives a simple life singing his songs in a rural idyll. The gauchos were symbols of uprising and so, in our story, Martin is caught in a raid and goes through a series of conscription, imprisonment, escape, life as a fugitive, murder and redemption.

Gauchos were a strong part of the narrative for Argentinian independence, which was secured in 1816 (60 ish years before the publication of Martin Fierro).

The link to a Spanish stamp in 1974 comes in the word Hispanidad – which is loosely translated as the Spanish speaking world with connotations of former Spanish colonies and places that Spanish settlers then moved on to. It’s a term which became popular with assertions of Spanish-ness during the Spanish Civil War and then, in more authoritarian ways, under General Franco. The looser definition of “Hispanity” is used these days, but all words have histories just as all stamps have something to say.

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