Facundo Grown Old: Racial Diagnosis in Domingo F. Sarmiento’s

Conflicto y armonías de las razas de América

Oleski Miranda Navarro

Whitman College


Over the last two hundred years, race has been explained through varied notions, such as species, nation or ethnicity. Common perceptions of race generally relate to skin color and other physical characteristics, while modern conceptions account race to social groups based on origins and cultural elements like language and geography. Early in the nineteen-forties, American anthropologist Ruth Benedict, in what she called “a briefest possible definition of race,” explained the idea in terms of “a classification based on traits that are hereditary” (6). Although she recognized the hereditary factor as a main aspect of the question of race, Benedict was very concerned that an important part of the misunderstanding was due to confusing inherited traits with those that are socially acquired. From the standpoint of the philosophy of sciences, as Naomi Zack infers, race means “a biological taxonomy or set of physical categories that can be used consistently and informatively to describe, explain and make predictions about groups or human beings and individual members of those groups” (1). This instrumental definition indicates that race has been, at different times and in different combinations, connected to the notion of essences, biology or geography. However, the validity of the concept of race depends upon its use as an aid in reasoning, meaning that the “main issue is not what “race” is, but the way it is used” (Cashmore 294). Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that race has always been a very complex idea to establish, given the fact that is not a neutral concept.

Considering the epistemological difficulties that stem from defining the concept of race and its uses, this essay examines the diagnosis of race presented by Argentine essayist and intellectual Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888) in his book Conflicto y armonías de las razas de América, first published in 1883. As one of his later works, the book is a significant representation of the framework of positivist ideology and scientific racial discourse predominant amongst Spanish America intellectual elites in the second half of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the approach developed in his seminal work Civilización y barbarie: vida de Juan Facundo Quiroga (1845), wherein he explained his views of the Argentine nation through issues such as culture and geography, in Conflicto, Sarmiento explores the question of race through sociological, historical and ethnological studies in vogue at the time to present his analysis of the problems and malfunctions of Latin America.


Race and “scientific” racialism in the nineteenth century

By the end of the eighteenth century the concept of race obtained new meaning, establishing the foundation of an incipient racial science: “evidence from geology, zoology, anatomy, and other fields of scientific enquiry was assembled to support a claim of racial classification that would help explain many human differences” (Barton 13). Later, amid the development of natural science and its connection with the social sciences in the mid-nineteenth century, the human species was classified as consisting of four main races, characterized by physical features like skin color (which today still applies for legal usages). The assumption was that these races “white”, “black”, “yellow” and “red” – originated in specific geographical areas (Bolaffi et al. 240). Kenan Malik suggests that nineteenth-century sciences were established upon the hypothesis that all human faculties had their origins in animal life. Malik points out that the “reorientation of the scientific outlook towards the positivistic vision of the world, transformed the way that scientists looked at the relationship between humanity, society and nature and opened the way for racial science” (86).

Influential philosophy of positivism garnered serious consideration with its motto of “order and progress”, meant to be achieved under natural laws. Other important aspects of this new “scientific” approach related human mental abilities with physical distinctions, establishing what later became the foundation of modern racist theory. For example, French Anatomist Georges Curvier introduced the idea that physical nature determined cultural ways of life. His thoughts were cultivated in Britain by Charles Hamilton Smith’s work, The Natural History of Human Species (1848), and in the work of Hamilton Smith’s former pupil, Robert Knox, who authored Race of Men (1850). Both authors were interested in the morals and levels of intellect associated with race. Michael Banton has suggested that Knox’s work represents one of the first attempts to set out a systematic doctrine of racism, arguing that Knox linked his explanations of biological variation to cultural differences, describing his theory as “transcendental anatomy” (25).

In another important work of the period, The Catechism of Positive Religion, first published in 1852, French philosopher and founder of sociology, Augusto Comte, noted that all the different human races did not have the same brain (Wieviorka 3). A subsequent influential figure in the realm of racial determinism was the French author Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, known for his four-volume work Essay of the Inequalities of Human Races (1853-55). His work presented the argument that humans were divided into three races: white, yellow and black. Gobineau’s Essays did not attract much attention at the time, as he was more focused at that point on the history of civilization and less concerned with the biological aspect of race. Later, however, his arguments regarding the superiority of the Aryan race became relevant during the rise of German nationalism (Barton and Harwood 30). During the same period in North America there were other theorists who contributed to the rise of this form of racial science, based mainly on the determinism of biological elements. Included among them were American physicians Samuel G. Morton and Josiah C. Nott, as well as English born American Egyptologist, George R. Gliddon (Barton and Harwood 29-30). The classifications and categorizations regarding race presented by these authors were set through notions of “inferior”, “good” and “evil” races.

However, in the second half of the nineteenth century Charles Darwin brought major changes to the discussion of race. Works such as On the Origin of Species (1859) and Descent of Man (1871) were not only important accounts for the development of racial theory in the biological field, but the ideas they presented also had a significant influence on social analysis. In On the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin introduced the idea of natural selection, where individuals better suited for an environment survived while others perished, while in Descent of Men (1871) he presented the concept of “geographical races, or subspecies” (Cashmore 94). Darwin also suggested that not only was the European “related to the African, but that all men were related to the ape” (Solomos and Back 44).

In part, these concepts were applied as a pseudo-scientific theory aiming to explain the development of different societies, especially Latin America, given the multiracial background of its composition. By the turn of the nineteenth century, theories of social Darwinism, reworked by British sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), had been accepted among the ruling elites in both the United States and in Spanish America. The political climate at the time had been influenced by a group of philosophical and social ideas proclaiming the success of science in the region. These core ideas, which had begun maturing in Spanish America in the mid-eighteenth century, as Charles Hale has suggested, were commonly recognized as “positivism”. Although there is no accepted definition of the concept, from a philosophical perspective it was understood as a theory of knowledge in which scientific methods represented the only means by which men could access it (Hale 148).

In countries such as Mexico and Argentina, modern values ​​of scientific rationality based on the theories of Spencer, and at an earlier stage in the philosophical system of Comte, had an impactful reception among the intellectual and political circles that assumed positivism as an ideology able to provide concrete answers to big national issues. In Mexico, positivism became the official philosophy of Dictator Porfirio Díaz. In the Southern Cone, and specifically in Argentina, intellectuals following the generation of 1880 such as Carlos Octavio Bunge (1875-1918) and José Ingenieros (1877-1825) spread the individualistic theories of Spencer’s evolutionism, as well as establishing a body of ideas following Sarmiento’s thesis regarding the opposition between civilization and barbarism (Salomon 25-26).  In Argentina, positivist ideology was promoted through the Escuela Normal de Paraná, which had been founded by Sarmiento during his presidency (1868-1874). Focused on the need to civilize Argentina, Sarmiento crafted this doctrine concentrating on the education of the individual. The interpretation of positivism in the southern country viewed North American individualism as a model to follow by making citizens responsible for their own greatness. La Escuela de Paraná was responsible for encouraging individualism and eventually included American female teachers brought to Argentina by Sarmiento himself (Zea 92).


Facundo grown old: Sarmiento and the racial diagnosis of the continent

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento undeniably represents one the most polemic intellectual figures to live in nineteenth century Hispanic America. He is recognized for being a renowned essayist of that period, an occupation that he combined with his political activity, becoming plenipotentiary minister (ambassador) to the United States and eventually president of his native Argentina. Amongst Sarmiento’s body of work, Civilización y barbarie: vida de Juan Facundo Quiroga (1845), first published in Santiago de Chile during his exile, is considered by some critics and academics to be the most important essay written in nineteenth-century Hispanic America (1). This document narrated the life of the caudillo Juan Facundo Quiroga and simultaneously functioned as a political pamphlet in opposition to Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas (2). Facundo has been the focus of a great deal of research for being, in part, a biographical study, a sociological document and a political note, where Sarmiento’s characteristically sincere prose and belligerent tone stood out, providing him not only with recognition but also with enemies and contesters.

At age seventy-two, and after a lifetime of celebrated intellectual publications, Sarmiento published a book he considered to be a “Facundo llegado a la vejez”, (3) a continuation of his fundamental text almost forty years later. Entitled Conflicto y armonías de las razas en América (1883), the book depicted a different vision of what was argued in Facundo while embracing some of his previous viewpoints. The first image of Conflicto is one of an unconcluded and fragmentary book where Sarmiento unsuccessfully attempts a more scientific approach to race, causing this text –in contrast with Facundo– to be one of the most criticized and least celebrated of his works. While Sarmiento considered this work to be a continuation of what is arguably considered his most influential manuscript, critics such as Argentinian essayist Ezequiel Martínez Estrada viewed Conflicto as a body of affirmations that could have been incorporated in Facundo without adding anything substantial (374). Along the same lines, Nicolas Shumway suggests that “Like Facundo, Conflicto is an explanation of failure; unlike the Facundo, however, it offers no plan for redemption” (Shumway 588). In El profeta de la pampa, a book written by Ricardo Rojas in 1945 to commemorate the centennial year of Facundo, Rojas openly expresses that Conflicto “es una obra desordenada, confusa, trunca, sin base, sin lógica, sin conclusiones, y parece un aborto de la senectud más que de la vanidad” (Rojas 648). This is a harsh opinion, especially considering that it was included in Rojas’ homage to the author.

At the time of Conflicto’s publication, Sarmiento was already a major figure in Argentina and on the continent as a whole. However, his notoriety did not prevent him from becoming the subject of merciless critique in the Buenos Aires press (Levine and Novoa 126). There are two editions of the book, one published while Sarmiento was still alive and the second, a version compiled by his grandson, Augusto Belín Sarmiento in 1900. Both versions are considered chaotic dissertations. (4) Despite Conflicto not being his most highly regarded manuscript, it can be seen as a summarization of many of the pondered ideas delivered by Sarmiento throughout his life. Sarmiento continued to employ a historical approach, but in this case, mixed analysis with positivistic theories such as social Darwinism.  

The sociological perspective expressed by Sarmiento in Coflicto reveals how the trend of positivistic ideas was being established and would influence important segments of Latin American thought. According to Leopoldo Zea, during the generation of Domingo F. Sarmiento, as well as other important intellectuals, such as Juan Bautista Alberdi and José Victorino Lastarria, Latin American thinkers easily assimilated positivism. Zea pointed out that at an early stage, “la reconocen como la filosofía cuyos principios habían sostenido sin tener noticias de la misma directamente” (181). As Allison Williams Bunkley describes, the period when Sarmiento wrote this book was a popular time for the use of “a pseudo-science of hereditary influences” (503). Due to the surge of interest Darwinism generated in the biological sciences during this period, attempts were commonly made to explain individual traits through hereditary factors.

With Conflicto, Sarmiento did not provide a solid definition of race; instead he assumed race to be a condition that could define social, cultural and economic circumstances. One of the initial arguments in the book is made through an enquiry where Sarmiento attempts to establish a relation between race and the limited development of post-independent Hispanic American republics. His historical and sociological stance is blended with the notion of a hereditary condition. The author assumed that economic advancement based on private property, marketplace and commerce depends on cultural heritage and that some races have fared better than others because of transmitted attitudes. For example, in a letter written by Sarmiento to Horace Mann, which also serves as a prologue and dedication in Conflicto, the relation between race, cultural heritage and modern society is addressed:

La ignorancia, el fanatismo del sacerdocio, la tenacidad con que la raza que habla el idioma español adhiere a todos los vicios y olvida las virtudes de sus antepasados, el mantenimiento demasiado general en la práctica, de la viciosa legislación comercial y fiscal de la antigua España, la absoluta disminución, en unas partes, o el poco sensible aumento de la población en otras, la falta de espíritu de empresa, la prevalente indolencia, la agricultura rutinera, la falta de hábitos comerciales, son más que suficientes causas para explicar la impotente y nula condición de las repúblicas hispano americanas.(52)


Here can be seen Sarmiento’s first attempt to relate the problems of Hispanic America directly to Spanish heritage and what he calls la raza española. A lack of “commercial habits”, vicious commercial legislation established by the Spaniards, and the absence of an enterprising spirit among the indigenous and blacks were all vital to Sarmiento’s explanation for the material stagnation present in many Hispanic American republics at the time. Decades before in Facundo, Sarmiento attributed the problems of the region to caudillismo and the dichotomy that existed between rural areas where barbarism was the norm and life in the cities, where a civilized existence could be found. Yet for Sarmiento, as Williams Bunkley has demonstrated, obtaining an intellectual solution for an old problem came in his later years: “his many reforms and changes had not “transformed the gaucho,” not because there was anything wrong with them as theories and as reforms, but because of the inherent characteristic of the gaucho himself” (502).  

In a letter penned to Mary Tyler Peabody Mann, Sarmiento appeared to justify his authorship of Conflicto and could not have stated his position more clearly when claiming that the root of the problems existing in Argentina and Hispanic America went beyond land or geography, with the core of these malfunctions resting instead on racial composition: 


En Civilización y Barbarie limitaba mis observaciones a mi propio país; pero la persistencia con que reaparecen los males que creímos conjurados al adoptar la Constitución Federal, y la generalidad y semejanza de los hechos que ocurren en toda la América española, me hizo sospechar que la raíz del mal estaba a mayor profundidad que lo que accidentes exteriores del suelo dejaban creer (17).


Given this judgment, Sarmiento could not avoid writing a book with scientific pretention, such as Conflicto, providing him the opportunity to address evolutionary theories that were being debated in the intellectual circles of Argentina at the time. In 1882, the year of Charles Darwin’s death and a year before the publication of Conflicto, Sarmiento was asked to give a lecture about the ideas of the British naturalist in a public tribute organized by El Círculo Médico Argentino.  Alex Levine and Adriana Novoa argue that similar to his lecture on Darwin, in Conflicto, “Sarmiento weaves Darwinism into a grand totalizing theory, something Darwin himself would never have attempted” (128). However, in a letter written to Francisco P. Moreno dated April 9, 1883, Sarmiento acknowledged that he identified more closely with the evolutionist positivistic thought of Hebert Spencer. Answering Moreno’s analysis of Conflicto, Sarmiento commented on his own book, “Bien rastrea usted las ideas evolucionistas de Spencer, que he proclamado abiertamente en materia social, dejando a usted y a Ameghino las darwinistas, si de ello los convence el andar tras de su ilustre huella”. Sarmiento shared that he was on the same path as the English philosopher and biologist. As stated in his own words: “con Spencer me entiendo, porque andamos el mismo camino” (407).

Alongside Conflicto’s truncated views of Darwin and Spencer, biological hypotheses borrowed from the social psychologist Gustave Le Bon and biologist Louis Agassiz are offered to support Sarmiento’s descriptions of natives, blacks and mestizos. The biological views expressed are juxtaposed with a series of interpretations from the perspective of historians, such as historians Williams H. Prescott and Robert Anderson Wilson, and travel observations by Francois Raymond Joseph de Pons and Juan de Ulloa. The mixed inventory of notes, discussions and conceptions are a continuous trend in Conflicto. In the prologue there is an acknowledgement of the use of many other authors’ descriptions to support his stance. Sarmiento also clearly stated his intention to continue applying the same methodology in a second volume that he never managed to finish:

Cuando emito pues un pensamiento sobre apreciaciones abstractas, me pongo detrás de algún nombre de autor acatado que da autoridad a la idea, revestida con sus propias palabras, y si de hechos se trata, copio la narración original que le da el carácter de verdad. Mía es sólo la idea que campea en este primer volumen, y cuyas consecuencias serán la materia del segundo (58-59).


In part, what Sarmiento demonstrated in the edition published in 1883 is a compendium of notes and ideas, which in most cases do not include conclusive analysis. Enrique Anderson Imbert assumes that when Sarmiento attempted to organize a draft of this positivistic book he made important scientific errors, some of which were normal for the period, but others of which can be seen as a consequence of his characteristic mode of hasty opinion (150). Thus, in Conflicto, one can observe some of the reading done by Sarmiento during his later years. Many of the statements in the text are generalized interpretations, such as those presented by Ulloa and de Pons, both of which attempt to present an overall image using presupposed notions about the indigenous people of the continent, “La propensión al ocio y a la desidia es la misma en los indios de la Luisiana y del Canadá, que en los del Perú y partes meridionales de la América, ya sean civilizados o gentiles” (84). According to both observers, all indios were characterized by common conduct, aided by the misuse of a positivistic empirical scheme of observation where everything fits the same mold. Paraphrasing some of the arguments of de Pons, an agent of the Government of France stationed in Caracas between 1801 and 1802, Sarmiento presents more of these types of assumptions:

El indio se distingue, dice, de la manera más singular por una naturaleza apática e indiferente que no se encuentra en ningún otro. Su corazón no late ni ante el placer ni ante la esperanza, sólo es accesible al miedo (84). 


Observations made by de Ulloa and de Pons were employed by Sarmiento to deliver suppositions, not about a particular group, but instead about indigenous peoples as a whole. The ideas are oriented through a form of determinism to support his “ethnology” of the indigenous of the continent. Thus, the text is a confused merging of observations. For example, while referring to la raza cobriza, or a group of indigenous peoples found in Argentina, Sarmiento jumps into accounts presented by historians, such as Prescott and Wilson, discussing the pre-Columbian history of Peru and Mexico. Through a lineal and descriptive writing style, the purpose for studying the races of America is divided between the biological and the naturalistic. Sarmiento’s socio-cultural explications argue that the heritage of some attitudes –laziness and cowardice, for example– can be handed down through generations, just like skin color or brain size.  

The book’s content and structure is broad and disorganized; for example, there are accounts of the founding of the civil organization of the Argentinian city of Córdoba and of the viceroyalty Río de la Plata. Conflicto also contains details of the Spanish inquisition, discusses migration and religious groups in North America, and considers the role those groups played in the formation of the political system in the United States. In a certain way, every chapter could be read as a series of unconnected essays, while at the same time, fragmented essays can be seen within every chapter. Given this format, it is not surprising that the contradictions present are various. In the passages dedicated to the examination of the indigenous peoples, for example, the grandiloquent title of the first chapter, Etnologías americanas, falls short as his deliberation is based only on what he calls razas cobrizas, or a group of indigenous communities found in Argentina. He continues presenting a description of different indigenous groups in what he called “races”: quechua, guaraní, arauco-pampeana, followed by a brief study of amalgamas de razas de color diverso and concluding with an account of the raza negra.

The comparison made between the Jesuits and the Mormons while examining the raza guaraní serves to illustrate the eclectic nature of Conflicto. Sarmiento distinguishes between the social and economic development of North America, conditioned by the white Saxon race, in contrast to the mixture of races found in the southern part of the continent. On the one hand, he tends to focus on the social organization of the guaraní promoted by the Jesuits. With this in mind, Sarmiento seemed to show admiration for the Jesuits, especially for their formative manner and dedication to making alterations within the indigenous communities of Paraguay. On the other hand, he critiques the Jesuits and their utopia-like forms of communal association, which for him, did no more than limit the development of a social order where competition could be established to stimulate a modern civilization. Initially, Sarmiento seems to oppose the mix of religion with the organization of a society in what he believes are civilizations not based on utopias.

When he compares the Jesuits of Paraguay with the Mormons of North America, the author recognizes the enthusiasm of followers of the prophet Joseph Smith, mainly for their work ethic and their promotion of private property. This made Mormons very prosperous, even though they were practitioners of certain primitive customs, such as polygamy (99). As such, Sarmiento condemns the paternalistic practices of the Jesuits, which he perceives as being connected with the “Spanish race”, while demonstrating an admiration for Mormon business practices, which he views as being related to the “white Saxon” race. Diana Sorensen Goodrich has suggested that Sarmiento’s ideas in Conflicto are subordinate to a North/South dichotomy. Sorensen Goodrich observes that “Sarmiento attempts to employ the events of world history so as to show that the North fared so well because it was colonized by a superior race which avoided miscegenation” (113). Certainly, Sarmiento saw in North America a society composed generally of a pure white race, far from what can be seen in the south of the continent. This served as an explanation for the harsh reality of Hispanic America at the time the book was written, as well as the political system and the solid economy of North America. Decades before, when he wrote Facundo, the central binary opposition consisted of civilization versus barbarism, while in Conflicto it is based on the political success of the North juxtaposed with the failure of the South. 


Conflicting stereotypes

Sarmiento tended to demonstrate suspiciousness regarding certain indigenous groups. For example, while he admired the araucanos indians for their bravery, he did not trust the Spanish military’s chronicles that attempted to justify their own failure in defeating them, ridiculing the manner in which the Spaniards portrayed the araucanos of Chile:

Los araucanos eran más indómitos, lo que quiere decir, animales más reacios, menos aptos para la civilización, y resistieron ferozmente, porque feroces eran, la conquista y la asimilación europeas. Desgraciadamente, los literatos de entonces, y aun los generales, eran más poéticos que los de ahora, y a trueque dé hacer un poema épico, Ercilla hizo del cacique Caupolicán un Agamenón, de Lautaro un Áyax, de Rengo un Aquiles. ¡Qué oradores tan elocuentes los de parlamentos, que dejaban a Cicerón pequeño, y topo a Aníbal, los generales en sus estratagemas! (103).


While acknowledging their bravery, he does not hesitate to also satirize:

No es que dudemos del valor y obstinación de los araucanos, pero a ser ciertas estas pinturas, completamente europeas, del arte de la guerra, resultaría que los poderosos imperios de Méjico y el Perú, eran los salvajes en América y los araucanos el pueblo más adelantado (106).


This curious analogy of famous caciques araucaunos with ancient Greek mythological heroes and gods is characterized by irony and demonstrates more of a creative writer than a social scientist. However, passages like this in Conflicto are not common as Sarmiento tried to maintain a more scientific position throughout the book. To continue his description of the indios araucano-pampeano, Sarmiento followed patterns reminiscent of Facundo, invoking geography to explain their way of life in the Argentinian pampas:

Acaso en la Pampa se ha barbarizado más que en su tierra natal el araucano, pues allá, por necesidad, son agricultores, no habiendo mulitas, ni guanacos, ni liebres que cazar, y teniendo, por no ser nómadas, ranchos fijos las familias (108-109).


It is noteworthy that for Sarmiento, the araucano-pampeano of Argentina were more barbarous than the auraucano living in Chile. He explained this through geography, stating that the unstructured style of life on the pampas allowed the auraucano-pampeano to cultivate all types of vices. Sarmiento continued his analysis of what he called “the amalgamation of race”, describing it as something that had extended into South America, where mixed races were widespread. Thus, mestizos, cholos, criollos were presented through a taxonomy of their function in society and were divided by social classes. Here, the author again enters a form of biological analysis, using affirmations by Swiss paleontologist and geologist Louis Agassiz:

Si alguno duda del mal de esta mezcla de razas, que venga al Brasil, donde el deterioro consecuente a la amalgamación, más esparcida aquí que en ninguna otra parte del mundo, va borrando las mejores cualidades del hombre blanco, dejando un tipo bastardo sin fisonomía, deficiente de energía física y elemental (116).


Here, Sarmiento’s point of view regarding the mixing of races spans from Agassiz’s ludicrous testimonies to a more noble manifestation regarding the black race, taking ideas from American abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, who visualized the future for the black races of Africa in the most promising terms:

Sí; en aquella tierra mística del oro, de las perlas, de los diamantes, de las ardientes especias, de los ondulosos palmeros, de flores maravillosas y de una fertilidad sin límites, el arte producirá formas nuevas y la magnificencia se revestirá de un nuevo brillo. La raza negra, que ya no será hollada como hasta aquí, producirá sin duda la más soberbia manifestación de la vida humana. (123)


The Argentinian author opposed slavery in the book and demonstrated a belief in civilization based on the law and a modern economic system. Nonetheless, his provocative analysis acknowledged blacks as a servile race that had fulfilled their purpose of saving the indigenous of the continent. In fact, Sarmiento diverges and offers several positive references about black people in Argentina. For example, he mentions that blacks were good for war and for construction, while portraying them as a loyal and utile race. His assessment of the way the black race was treated in comparison to the indigenous is of great note.



The breadth of consideration offered in Sarmiento’s Conflicto illustrates the way nineteenth-century writers projected their ideas. Specialization was not a path regularly utilized. Instead, writing styles can be characterized as being wide in scope and touching on all sorts of subject matter without delving into detailed discussion. The writing of Conflicto includes very few metaphors, instead it employs a lineal and punctual prose style more typical of scientific narrative. It is evident that many of the author’s ideas regarding race would be considered erroneous and without scientific value today, in part because Conflicto is an incongruous group of essays put together in search for positivism, with race represented as either an obstacle or an advantage in the continent’s march toward progress. Given the scientific trends prominent at the time, it is not at all surprising that in his final years of life, Sarmiento would assert that malfunctions in Hispanic and Portuguese speaking American societies were rooted in race.

If in Facundo the solution was to get rid of caudillos like Rosas and to promote a civilized form of life in the vast geographical extensions of the pampas, in Conflicto, Sarmiento’s thesis focused on the ethnic and racial assimilation of the continent as causes for the limited capabilities and aptitudes of the racial mix in Latin American republics. To offer proof, he used the political and economic successes he observed in North American non-mixed Anglo society. According to Sarmiento’s logic, Latin America was condemned because Spanish colonization came about as a result of “un monopolio de su propia raza, que aún no salía de la edad media al trasladarse a América y que absorbió en su sangre una raza prehistórica servil” (449). Conflicto’s importance can be established in its status as one of the first theses to use race to explain and diagnose the social realities of Latin America. Sarmiento’s text led to what would become a common formula of proto-scientific determinism based on race, exploited by other authors in the years that followed, including Francisco Bulnes, Carlos Octavio Bunge, Alcides Arguedas and José Ingenieros.



(1). See Nicholas Shumway 584, Roberto González Echevarría 1.


(2). Pedro Henríquez Ureña has expressed that Facundo is a "sort of essay in human geography in which he tried to ascertain the cause of the social disease of the country, tyranny engendered by anarchy, at the end there was a study of the political situation, proving the inevitably of the fall of Rosas and the whole caudillo system" (Henríquez Ureña 132).


(3). In a letter written to Mary Tayler Peabody Mann in December 6 of 1882, Sarmiento makes the following comments about Conflicto: "Para Vd., que está tan versada en nuestra historia, le diré que tiene la pretensión este libro de ser el Facundo llegado a la vejez". Cited by José Ingenieros (9).

(4). In a critical appraisal of Conflicto, Frances G. Crowley suggests the following about the supposed second part published by Augusto Belín Sarmiento: "Whereas the first volume bears at least the semblance of being scientific and follows a well-drawn, if carelessly documented plan, the volume edited by his grandson presents the reader with a random collection of Sarmientana […] There is no connecting thought or central theme to the volume, which should not have been called the second part of Conflict and Harmony of Races in America, as in effect it is not a continuation of the first, and it is doubtful whether Sarmiento meant it to be". See Frances Crowley, Sarmiento 59.



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