The archaeology of the Gaucho "Vago y Mal Entretenido"

Facundo Gómez Romero

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    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The purpose of this article is to explain and discuss the essential operational characteristics of the technology of power (sensu Foucault) perpetrated on the internal frontiers with the Indians in nineteenth-century Argentina. The conquest and colonization of the Pampas took shape in the establishment of military camp structures placed to create a defensive cordon, known as "the Indian frontier line." These constructions were fortlets defended by gaucho cavalry squadrons (know as Blandengues during the Spanish period, and then Guardias Nacionales after Argentinean Independence). This process is known in Argentinean historiography as "the conquest of the desert." This particular technology of power existed in this historical context and operated at every social level, impacting strongly on the lower classes that inhabited the incorrectly named "desert." Its implementation in the military field enabled the existence of an array of micro-powers that surrounded the gaucho, called vago y malentretenido - "a vagrant and lingerer" - and their women's lives. The army as institution was the locus of various forms of coercion and old forms of punishment (such as the stakes, whipping, and public executions) most of which affected peasants, nonresidents, itinerant workers, and the rural youth. This schema was adopted in different areas: in the enrolment and discipline of the gaucho soldiers, in life in the fortlet-prisons, and in the ritualism of power. The alternative chosen by soldiers to evade this technology of power and the fortlet-panopticons was escape through desertion. The utility of those observations is demonstrated, because an important part of the area of research of historical archaeology that has developed with the greatest impetus in Argentina has taken fortlets as its subject of study. © Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)143-164
    JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2005


    • Bodily torment
    • Filiaciones
    • Fortlets
    • Gauchos
    • Technology of power


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