The ewes were great, a lot of them, with splendid. Lincoln wool. A capitaz, cook and three men care for the sheep, one man devoting all his time to the pure-bred sheep at the galpon. There is practically no agriculture practiced, nothing is fed excepting to the stud flock. He receives 17 cents for wool. His fat wethers bring him $3.96 each. He values the land at $52.80 per acre. He is making a little profit. His land may some day keep many more sheep than at present. He is no agriculturist. To plow part of his land and sow oats for winter grazing would greatly increase the carrying capacity of his place. To drain it, in spots, would help protect his sheep from stomach worms, which bother in wet years. The Basques make good shepherds and good citizens; they are a little lax along scab lines, maybe, but they need teaching there.
The streets of all towns in the great province of Buenos Aires run northwest or southwest, diagonally with the points of the compass. All boundary lines in the province in the same direction. Argentina is a treeless land, and coal is brought from England and is dear. Who does not see the connection? Every house is turned toward the sun on every side in winter; the sun is the sole fireplace, grate, heating stove and furnace. It is interesting to see the people come out of their houses in the mornings to warm themselves in the sun. I observed that children walked to school carrying books on their little heads-; it is a good practice, as it makes them finely erect.
THE STORY OF SARMIENTO
Sarmiento Day is a holiday, somewhat like our Washington’s Birthday, and is to be forever remembered. Sarmiento was born in the west, in a little city, at a time when governments were weak and South America was in turmoil and trouble. Education was at a low ebb. Some young men con-ducted a school; I think they were young lawyers out of work. Young Sarmiento attended the school. There is a classic story told in Argentina reading books of how one day there came up a terrific wind, rain and hailstorm; tiles flew through the air, branches of trees were torn off and all was terror and confusion. “Today we will have a holiday; no muchacho will venture to come,” remarked one Maestro; but just then they heard a persistent, if gentle, knocking at the great door. They made haste to open. There stood young Sarmiento with his books, drenched, wind-blown, frightenedbut resolute. When the boy reached young manhood he resolved to teach the common children of the place, to form a real public school. There being no building available at first, he held his school under a big ombu tree. Ombus have enormous roots that lie upon the ground and reach out in all directions, often making capital seats. Under a great ombu, then, in the edge of the half desert plain, young Sarmiento taught his school.
There was born perhaps 30 years before this time one Facundo-Facundo, Quiroga, destined to be known over all South America as “Facundo.” I cannot in one chapter make the reader see Facundo and the times that he represented. It is all strange to us. He was Gaucho-bred; or, as we might say, “cowboy-bred,” only we do not breed cowboys from any especial stock. The gauchos were the half-Indian, half-Spanish dwellers of the plain, a class distinct from the dwellers in towns, and having, curiously enough, the same antipathy for and hatred toward townsmen as are shown often-times by our own cowboys. There, as here, the cowboy or the gaucho is frequently stripped of his earnings in short order when he reaches the town; he must feel that he has been unjustly treated many times. The Argentine gauchos were “ag’in’ the government,” against the towns that represented the government. There came the war of independence, beginning about 1810, when the independence of a part of Argentina was declared, and after Argentina was free from Spain she found herself distracted by internal dissensions, torn by tumults, having rival leaders whose sole purpose was to attain personal success. This man Facundo was a political boss, brigand, stage robber and whole-sale murderer. He began his career by escaping from jail and killing seven men. He was withal a leader of the gaucho element in its running warfare against the town. Perhaps the most terrible man-of modern history, his hands reeking with blood and his pockets full of plunder, he was worshiped by his followers in the camps, but he left behind him a sad trail of death and desolation. He was be-loved by his followers because he gave lavishly what he had taken with force and slaughter from the rich or the townspeople.
Sarmiento wrote a history of Facundo which is a marvelous piece of writing. I think that there is no English translation, but I will venture to trans-late some of it, just to give a hint of the result of Facundo’s work. Here follows, from this book, a dialogue or interrogatory of a citizen of La Rioja :
Question: “What is the population of the city of La Rioja’?
Answer : Scarcely fifteen hundred souls. They say that there are only fifteen men of virility and standing in the city.
Question: How many citizens of note reside here?
Answer : There may be six or eight in the city. Question: What number of lawyers have offices open?
Answer : None.
Question: How many physicians are there?
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Question : How many men visit in frock coats? Answer : None.
Question : How many young Riojan men are students in Cordoba or Buenos Aires?
Answer : I know of only one.
Question: How many schools are here, and how many children?
Answer : There are no schools.
Question : Is there any public establishment of charity?
Answer: Not one, nor any elementary school. The one priest, a Franciscan, has a few children in the convent.
Question: How many ruined temples (churches) are there?
Answer: Five ; only the mother church remains of them all.
Question: Do they build any new houses? Answer: None; nor repair the fallen ones.
Question: What is the extent of the ruination? Answer : Nearly complete; even the streets and avenues are in ruins.
Question : How many ordained priests are there?
Answer: There are only two in the city; one is a curate, the. other a monk of Catamarca. In the province are four more.
Question: How many fortunes of $50,000 are there? How many of $20,000?
Answer: Not one. All are poor men.
Question : Has your population grown or diminished?
Answer : It has diminished more than the half. Question: Does any sentiment of terror pre-dominate among the people?
Answer: The greatest. They fear to speak, even the innocent.
Question : Is the money which they have good? Answer: The provincial money is all counterfeited.
Sarmiento adds : “Here the works speak with all their horrible and frightful severity. Only the history of the conquest of the Mohammedans over Greece presents an example of so rapid a barbarization and destruction of a people.” That, then, is a picture of the condition of things when Sarmiento was a young man. We left him teaching school under the ombu tree. Across the wide, dusty plain a horseman was discerned. He drew nearer and nearer, attracted no doubt by the sight of assembled people. As he nears the tree sheltered school he rides slower and slower. Finally he leaves his horse and approaches on foot. He listens to the exercises of the school for some time, hat in hand, gravely respectful. Then he bows a low bow to the young Maestro and walks away, mounts his horse and disappears over the plain. That was the meeting of Facundo and Sarmiento, the meeting of the old and the new order. It speaks well for the Argentine people that they recognized worth in Sarmiento. He climbed from one position of service to another until at last he reached the presidency, and he was president for many years. He did much for Argentina. He introduced the Australian eucalyptus tree, and had a nursery where he grew small seedlings. When a constituent wrote him asking a favor he might get it or not; he was pretty sure to get by return post a few fine little eucalypts. Sarmiento visited the United States and had a deep admiration for our country and its institutions. He especially liked our schools, and through his efforts they were introduced into Argentina. I am told that the school system there is modeled after that of the United States.
Among other evidences of Sarmiento’s greatness, he recognized the great waste of womanhood in South Americathe same waste that we observe in all Spanish countries. I mean the waste of companionship between the sexes. In Argentina one does not converse with women other than one’s wife, sister and mother; a man does not introduce his friends to his wife. Nor is there contact or companionship between young people of opposite sexes. One of the richest assets of any nation is that of the utilization of friendships, and innocent friendships are possible between men and women. This the Spanish people have not yet learned, guarding their womenkind as do the Moors. Sarmiento sought to have the sexes educated together, thinking that this would be the first step in breaking down the barrier that separates the sexes. Suffice it to say, however, that in this endeavor not very much has yet been accomplished; only the lower grades are taught together.