Graffiti and the Poetics of Politics in Rosas’s Argentina (1829–1852)

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010

Publication Title

Hispanic Review


Hispanic Studies


This article considers the function of writing in Argentina during the mid-nineteenth century by examining graffiti, a scriptural practice that occupies the margins of what Ángel Rama termed the "lettered city." Against the grain of the durable myth that dissident letrados of the Rosas regime wrote in a cultural void, an interrogation of this corpus demonstrates how an array of social actors struggled to establish and define the operative terms of shared political and aesthetic discourses. The inscriptions of political adversaries, despite claims to the contrary, similarly appealed to the emotions of their audiences in order to imagine the nation as an organic, preexisting social field sharply divided between a "we" and an internal other: civilization versus barbarism, or federalists versus unitarians. In other words, graffiti demonstrates how competing models for hegemony were debated through a common aesthetics and a mutually intelligible, modern political language.