Eva-Lynn Alicia Jagoe, Patagonian Peripheries, in: Studies in Travel Writing 7/1, 2003, pp. 29-45, esp. p. 31.


Jens Andermann, Mapas de poder. Una arqueología literaria del espacio argentino, Rosario 2000, p. 125.


Although white middle- and upper-class Argentinians have traditionally traced their lineage back to Europe, Huellas proposes instead to go back to the native cultures that originally inhabited the territory as a possible foundation of Argentinian-ness that is supposedly more ‹authentic›. Discourses of the Patagonian Amerindian as an ancestor of the white lettered man were common tropes in the discourse of 19th-Century naturalists. For example, Eva-Lynn Alicia Jagoe points that «[Charles] Darwin perceives Patagonia and its inhabitants as somehow occupying a different geographical and temporal sphere from his own». [16]

Argentinian naturalists and explorers Francisco Moreno, Estanislao Zeballos or Ramón Lista appropriated this notion as they established the foundations of natural science and ethnology in Argentina, in synchronicity with the emergence of the modern nation-state in the last decades of the 19th Century. They proposed a connection between Amerindians and Argentinians based on the fact that they both inhabited the same land. This was instrumental in justifying the state’s advance over Patagonia, under the effective control of indigenous groups until the military expedition known as the ‹Conquest of the Desert›, led by Julio A. Roca in 1879. As Jens Andermann correctly points out, because the active presence of indigenous groups implied that the so-called desert was not exactly empty, it was necessary to produce a representation of Amerindians as living fossils, relics of the past soon to disappear under the inexorable force of modernity. [17] Since the disappearance of Amerindians was ‹inevitable›, it was necessary to use the capabilities of the photographic camera to register these cultures before their imminent extinction.

Thus, collections of indigenous people were created in order to produce a scientific visual record of these subjects, such as is the case of the photographs held at the archive of National Museum of La Plata. [18] Huellas does not only appropriate this discourse that claims a lineage of continuity between Argentinians and Amerindians (as human fossils from a different historical time); what is more, it reproduces the visuality associated to it through the use of sepia tones that recreate the tonality of the anthropometric-portrait collections. But at the same time, in their artistry, they resemble even more the studio portrait of Pincén, taken by Antonio Pozzo in 1878.

The recently captured cacique also performed a masquerade of Amerindian-ness, since he was forced to handle a spear, strip from the waist up and dress with specific attire designed by Pozzo, in order to personify for the camera the image of the barbaric Amerindian that was popular at the time [fig. 4]. The fact that Pincén’s Amerindian-ness was not ‹Indian› enough in the perception of the white culture can be connected with Huellas in the fact that, through the reproduction of colonial stereotypes of racial otherness, unintentionally ends up showing the performative dimension and artificiality of racial identities.

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