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Buenos Aires Bohème:
Argentina and the Transatlantic Bohemian Renaissance, 1890–1910

When best-selling Argentine novelist and intellectual giant Manuel Gálvez released the first volume of his memoirs in 1944, he expected readers to be surprised, even dismayed, by one of its revelations. “Thousands of people alien to the little world of writers, or those who live far from the literary scene, and even some young writers today, are convinced that between roughly 1900 and 1906 there existed in Buenos Aires a true bohemia, formed by men of letters and by journalists.”1 Nonsense, he scoffed. Fantasy! No such bohemian coast had ever existed on Argentine shores, declared Gálvez, who would only admit the presence of a few pathetic “pseudobohemians” in the Buenos Aires of his youth—all of them pale shadows of the heroic, penniless Parisian artists and writers of the 1840s made famous by Henri Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème (1849–51). “I read Murger’s novel,” snarled the great master, “exactly in those years of our pseudobohemia”; the experience, he claimed, left him with a “clear idea” of “what the life of bohemia was” and “what it has continued to be, more or less, until today, in Paris, the fatherland of bohemians” (Amigos y maestros, 134–35). Buenos Aires fell far short of the mark, as it so often did for the acerbic Gálvez, whose moralizing novels—in particular El mal metafísico (1916), Nacha Regules (1918), and Historia de arrabal (1922)—had long before established his distaste for the modern city, café life, and popular culture.2 Now he set his sights on another aspect of urban modernity. “I am going to destroy the legend” of Argentina’s “pseudobohemia,” he announced with considerable relish (134). [End Page 37]

And so he did, at least to his own satisfaction. Unaware or unconcerned that this cry of imposture had been raised repeatedly throughout the history of modern bohemianism, even in Murger’s day, Gálvez gladly hacked away at the myth of a turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires bohème, using the Paris original as his yardstick and axe.3 The real bohemia, he declared, consisted of spontaneous, poor, and sentimental artists, ill suited for family or social life but fiercely loyal to one another, lacking in discipline but crafty in matters of survival—men who cared little for politics or money, who survived on drink and passion, and who were totally dismissive of bourgeois values. By contrast, the few porteños (people of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s port city) who claimed to be bohemians all had day jobs, said Gálvez, and since most of them had families too, none could really stay up all night.4 Besides, their temperament was all wrong: lacking the real bohemian’s frivolity, they were not just melancholic but truly depressed, with lives “as monotone as other Argentines’ in those years around 1900” (143). Most damningly of all, these “pseudobohemians”—among whom Gálvez counted playwright Florencio Sánchez, café philosopher Charles de Soussens, and future sociologist José Ingenieros—were passionate about not only art but also politics. When they congregated in cafés, they debated the latest permutations of anarchism and socialism as much as they discussed their literary work and journalism. Such leftist politics had many years earlier become anathema to Gálvez, and yet he seemed more to pity than to condemn this purported deviation from the bohemian ideal. In truth, he concluded, the fault belonged to Buenos Aires itself, for “bohemia cannot exist where collective and individual life is routine, monotonous, and spiritually poor” (143).

Gálvez was not alone among Argentines in his repudiation of local claims to bohemian authenticity, nor was this view confined to one end of the political spectrum. Raúl Larra, a younger Argentine intellectual whose commitment to Marxist revolution contrasted sharply with Gálvez’s quasi-fascist Catholic nationalism, agreed that the turn-of-the-century bohemia of Buenos Aires had been exaggerated. Thinking back on the nocturnal antics of writers such as novelist Roberto Payró and poet Rubén Darío from the vantage point of the late 1930s, he remarked that “those white nights, in which their excesses of energy spilled out, were not the expression of a bohemian life. They constituted instead an escape, an evasion of the scene, of the hectic everyday toil, which cornered them to the point of crushing them.”5 The literary gatherings of that time, thought Larra, were little more than attempts to savor moments of friendship and collective spirit amid the relentless routine of labor, which for aspiring authors was the daily grind of journalism. Like Gálvez, though for different reasons, Larra believed that the steady work these writers did by day belied their claim to the bohemian label and that their adoption of it could only be seen as a sad sort of yearning for something impossible in the remote, commercially minded metropolis that was Buenos Aires in 1900. Coming from critics of such different ideological stripes, the shared denial of a real bohemian subculture in what they felt to be an isolated and culturally impoverished corner of the South Atlantic would seem to echo Murger’s famous quip that bohemia “does not exist and is not possible anywhere but Paris.”6 [End Page 38]

To this day the skeptics have encountered little resistance, despite the fact that the texts left behind by the contributors to the cultural ferment of turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires return endlessly, even obsessively, to bohemian themes, characters, and identities.7 Darío, the Nicaraguan expatriate whose melodic poetry launched Hispanic literary modernismo, found the port city of the 1890s an ideal place to “make a nest / in the grove of Bohemia.” There he and his “wild” companions “wrote beautiful songs / of freedom and of lyricism / and crowned ourselves with stars / and saved ourselves from the abyss.”8 Many of these songs, including “‘Himno’ a Charles de Soussens” (1895), celebrated the idiosyncrasies of Darío’s fellow self-appointed bohemians, a theme also evident after 1900 in the restless poems of Evaristo Carriego, whose vignettes of the city’s humble outer districts were never far removed from his longing for the humble “liquor of bohemia” he shared with his café comrades downtown.9 Meanwhile, as such insiders came to feel that they were taking part in what dramatist José Antonio Saldías later called “the unforgettable porteño bohemia,” the broader Argentine public also began to show signs of fascination with bohemian antics.10 Not only had Gálvez decided to crack Murger’s novel at last, but short comedic plays such as Manuel Argerich’s Bohemia (1901) and Enrique De María’s Bohemia criolla (1902) debuted in quick succession on the Buenos Aires stage, inspiring both an early film short by Eugenio Py in 1901 and the tango records Bohemia criolla and Pilletes de bohemia criolla by Alfredo and Flora Gobbi in 1906.11 For his part, fellow traveler Juan José Soiza Reilly wrote so many popular magazine sketches of local artistic eccentrics in those years that he came to believe the Argentine capital was “replete with those bohemians of lyrical existence and noble lineage who live madly. They are legion.”12

Such exuberance is today met with silence. Judging by the scarcity of studies of bohemia in turn-of-the-century Latin American cities, it would seem that historians and critics agree that the phenomenon was illusory or superficial.13 Even when acknowledged as an element of the social life of the period or as an occasional personality type among writers, the bohemian does not yet occupy an important position in the cultural history of modern Latin America. This is not to say that scholars never talk about the existence of bohemia or bohemians in turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, or other major cultural capitals.14 They certainly do, but only in passing, treating bohemia as a matter of incidental background rather than a spur of the cultural modernization that took place in Latin America between roughly 1880 and 1920—a multilayered process that involved the erosion of elite control over high culture, the embrace of the metropolis as a new locus of cultural activity, creativity, and meaning, the acceleration of modernist artistic and linguistic “revolutions,” and the eruption of new forms of urban popular culture that increasingly cross-fertilized the traditional arts.15 If anything, bohemia remains a contextual sideshow in this drama—darting in here and there, occasionally grabbing our attention from the wings, but rarely occupying historical or conceptual center stage.

The goal of this article is to encourage scholars interested in bohemianism as a recurring element of modern culture and students of Latin America’s turn-of-the-century modernization process to pay closer attention to the social realities and cultural [End Page 39] contributions of bohemia in the region’s rapidly expanding urban centers after 1880. Rather than looking at self-professed local bohemians as isolated curiosities or mere imitators of European fads, we should ask what made cities such as Buenos Aires havens for new bohemian subcultures and what these groups expressed from their imagined position on the margins of both bourgeois society and transatlantic modernity. Comparing the Argentine experience with that of better-known cases, especially the archetypal bohemias of Paris (1830–50) and New York (1890–1910), will help us begin to separate the core characteristics from the local variations of this migratory historical phenomenon, as well as to identify the reasons for its resurgence in new guises and in new places over time. Within Latin American studies, the underutilized concept of bohemia has potential to break new theoretical ground in debates about the region’s cultural modernization, casting fresh light on such traditional topics as the aesthetics and practice of literary modernismo (which developed in and around an amorphous bohemian milieu), the flowering of anarchism (which inspired the radical politics and artistic ideals of many Latin American bohemians), the creation of new cultural institutions and popular entertainments in the city (for which bohemia acted as a fulcrum between high and low culture), and the dislocations of rapid urbanization and mass immigration (against which bohemia offered a peculiar pathway of assimilation). The empirical study of the region’s bohemian cultures also offers the tantalizing possibility of a truly interdisciplinary research effort spanning history, literature, and the fine arts—still a rare bird in the Latin American field.

The present circumstances for a direct and sustained investigation of bohemians in Latin America could not be better. Since the closing years of the twentieth century, the subject of bohemia has reemerged as a preoccupation of historians, sociologists, art historians, and literary critics interested in urban cultures and the problems of cultural modernity.16 Yet despite signs of interest in the transnational character of the bohemian phenomenon and a desire to put the classic Latin Quarter and Greenwich Village cases in broader geographical context, much of the new scholarship still focuses on Western Europe and the United States. Daniel Cottom’s otherwise wide-ranging International Bohemia (2013) sticks to these core regions, expanding them from within rather than without. Elizabeth Wilson, who does much the same in her richly comparative Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts (2000), explains why: “Bohemia is primarily a Western phenomenon, and for reasons of space I have left unexplored the Bohemias of, for example, Latin American cities. The question of whether these—and other bohemian enclaves that may have existed in certain African, Indian, and South East Asian cities—were the result of colonialism and Westernization is an important one that I have not felt competent to address” (12n8).17 We may presume that such work is now underway by those with the requisite knowledge of postcolonial cities worldwide—and indeed, some early fruits of its application to Latin America are now beginning to appear. Notable among these are the still untranslated books of Diogo de Castro Oliviera, who elaborates on the fin-de-siècle Brazilian bohemia that Jeffrey Needell only touches on in his study of Rio’s “tropical belle époque,” and Mónica [End Page 40] Bernabé, who examines the development of a Peruvian bohemia in Lima—by way of Buenos Aires—during the 1910s.18

Bernabé’s obligatory detour is a strong indication of the centrality of the Argentine case to the history of Latin American bohemias, at least among the Spanish-speaking cities of the hemisphere. Though significant bohemian circles appeared in Lima, Mexico City, Montevideo, and other turn-of-the-century capitals—not to mention provincial cities such as Villahermosa, in the Mexican state of Tabasco—Buenos Aires was home to arguably the most concentrated and sustained influence of bohemian culture and imagery in the region, so much so that it left a lasting impression on tango lyrics (from Roberto Firpo’s 1914 classic “Alma de bohemio” to Dante Linyera’s 1927 “Loca bohemia” and beyond), popular dramas (Saldías’s interwar plays La bohemia loca and El divino tesoro, for instance, as well as director Leopoldo Torres Río’s 1924 film Buenos Aires bohemia), and highbrow literature (one need look no further than novelist Julio Cortázar’s 1961 masterpiece Rayuela), not to mention student culture in and around Argentine universities from the late 1910s on. Only Rio and Bogotá (home to the famed Gruta Simbólica) rivaled it in terms of the subsequent impulse to memorialize a heroic bohemian chapter in the cultural history of the Latin American city.19 (Mexico City might have done the same if not for the very different heroism of the revolution.) The pace and intensity of Argentina’s turn-of-the-century urban modernization certainly exceeded that of its neighbors, creating equally strong political and cultural reactions that nurtured bohemian transgressions in an atmosphere of substantial middle-class influence and self-congratulation. More importantly, around 1900, Buenos Aires emerged as a transatlantic culture and entertainment capital on a par with Madrid, that other bohemian hotbed of the Hispanic world.20 As such, it became a focal point for aspiring popular musicians and other performers and, like New York, a premier destination for artistic and literary immigrants from Europe and elsewhere in the Americas—all thrust together in a milieu in which the public café was rapidly taking over from the private tertulia (salon) as a site of intellectual performance and cultural creation.

So if we are to begin taking bohemia seriously as a Latin American phenomenon, turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires is an obvious starting point. But what is the significance of the Argentine case in the broader history of bohemianism? What made it like bohemias in other times and places, and what made it distinctive? It is difficult to give a single clear answer, as Buenos Aires bohème rapidly became a multilayered and contested field, with self-designated local bohemians overlapping in space with an urban popular culture that was already ready to parody them, even to rival them as a source of eccentrics and performers on stages throughout the city. The ambivalent relationship between these two worlds was arguably more important here than the typical bohemian reaction against traditional or academic high culture was elsewhere. Rather than attack a still weak local academy, the porteño bohemians were eager to connect with what by 1900 could be considered a venerable countercultural tradition of European pedigree, replete with its own canon of outcast heroes. At the same time, like many neo-bohemias of this period, the Argentine variant was more than [End Page 41] just an “experiment in practical anarchism,” as one German contemporary described bohemianism.21 Though the port city rebels—men all—could be quite conventional in their own lives, committing only modest sexual and sartorial transgressions compared to other bohemian subcultures, most saw their work in the artistic realm as a direct complement to political anarchism, then on the rise in Buenos Aires.22 None of these features was entirely unique in the history of bohemia, but the Argentine case calls for greater focus on how bohemians of this later period drew energy from popular culture and popular politics even as they tried to set themselves up as a countercultural elite through connections back to Murger’s Paris.

Modernization or Mimicry?

When we talk about modern bohemianism, we really have in mind three distinct, though related, topics: the social phenomenon of bohemia, the cultural role of bohemian artists and writers, and the image or myth of bohemia in popular culture. The first concerns the origins of bohemian subcultures in modern society; their ongoing relationship to the state, the market, and other social groups (especially classes); the characteristic forms of expressing bohemian identity; and the development of urban institutions and networks that anchor bohemia in the modern city. The second focuses on the contents of bohemian culture—among other things, the themes explored in its art and literature; the postures bohemians adopt toward traditional sources of cultural or political authority; their alternative ideals, customs, and fashions; and the standards they use to judge cultural or artistic authenticity. Since a central part of the bohemian’s creativity focuses on his or her lifestyle and self-presentation, the cultural role of bohemia cannot be understood solely by examining works of art. Nevertheless, such works are important for examining the influence of bohemian cultural production on broader trends such as the breakdown of traditional high culture, the development of aesthetic modernism, the discovery of the modern city as an artistic subject, and the infusion of popular culture into avant-garde expression. The third topic picks up where the others come to an end, focusing on the afterlife of bohemia as a cultural symbol and commodity, used to suggest—or sell—nostalgic memories of youth, creativity, and rebellion in other times and places.

A central question that has puzzled historians and sociologists is how to explain the origins of bohemia. This undertaking is difficult enough for Paris during the July Monarchy (1830–48), still considered the prototypical case and wellspring of the phenomenon.23 The task becomes harder still for bohemian cultures that have emerged in other times and places, since later participants sought at least in part to emulate the French model and often measured their experience against it. Unfortunately, we have no example of a bohemian milieu outside France that took shape entirely unaware of the Parisian precursor—with its garrets and grisettes, its men of the Momus café, its Baudelaire and bottles and Henri III bonnets. If we did, we might be able to explain [End Page 42] the creation of bohemia as a natural by-product of modernization, bound to occur at a particular stage in the historical development of any large city. When the right objective conditions obtained, be they demographic, economic, institutional, or other, a new urban bohemia would come to life, ready to enact some of the same antibourgeois and modernist cultural roles that its precursors had played elsewhere in the past. But however comparable the structural or contextual factors that tend to produce bohemian cultures across space and time, they cannot account for the self-conscious manner in which newer bohemians celebrate, mimic, parody, or even disparage their ancestors. The very desire of later artists, writers, and musicians to be “bohemians of the moment,” even if the intention is not to deviate from the Parisian original, introduces a subjective element into the rise of each new bohemia.24 Put another way, the myth of an old bohemia always acts as a stimulus or guide for a new one, making it possible to recreate the bohemian experience under different social circumstances—though not just in any circumstances, surely.

The Argentine bohemia that took shape in the 1890s, matured in the following decade, and began to decline in the early 1910s did spring from some of the same kinds of large structural changes that nurtured the first French bohemia of the 1830s and 1840s. Buenos Aires was, like Paris, the dominant population and political center of the nation, a position that had been reinforced in 1880 when it was transformed into a federal capital. Already more than six times the size of the next largest municipality, the Argentine port city grew rapidly over the next two decades, reaching a population of nearly 775,000 in 1895 and crossing the million mark just after 1900. Metropolitan Paris had undergone a similar boom in the 1830s—the decade that spawned its earliest bohemians—jumping from a little over 860,000 residents in 1831 to more than one million in 1836.25 In the Argentine case, much of the growth came from immigration, and this fact certainly accentuated in Buenos Aires bohème an already strong bohemian tendency toward cosmopolitanism. Of those already mentioned, Soussens came from Switzerland, Darío from Nicaragua, and Ingenieros (as a child) from Italy; Sánchez, De María, Soiza Reilly, and Alfredo Gobbi all hailed from neighboring Uruguay. Like Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, however, Buenos Aires also had a significant influx of social and cultural aspirants from the provinces, identified by Pierre Bourdieu as a key group in the making of the original French bohemia.26 Payró, for instance, came from Bahía Blanca, while Carriego hailed originally from Entre Ríos.

Some Argentine-born newcomers moved to the city initially to attend the law or medical faculties at the University of Buenos Aires, but once there the writers among them had unprecedented opportunities to apply their literary talents in the expanding markets for popular theater and journalism. The Argentine capital, home to the most literate population in Latin America, already had some 35 theaters, 24 daily newspapers, and 78 magazines in circulation by 1887.27 Such figures compare roughly to the 21 theaters, 26 dailies, 13 literary journals, and 130 journals featuring cultural topics that appeared in Paris during the 1830s and 1840s.28 As it had for the French bohemians, the growth of the “little magazine” gave the aspiring literati of Buenos Aires a wide range of possible outlets for their writings in the 1890s and early 1900s. Nearly 60 literary [End Page 43] or cultural journals appeared and (mostly) disappeared in the port city between 1893 and 1914.29 These prestigious, often ephemeral publications promised unknown authors the hope of raising their intellectual profile. But it was the rise of “festive” illustrated magazines, directed toward a wider public, that gave precarious financial support and considerable publicity to the new bohemians. Reminiscent of the French satirical journals from the 1830s such as La Caricature and Le Charivari, but armed with the latest in international reportage and photogravure technology, the pioneering Argentine popular magazine Caras y Caretas and its many imitators—PBT and Fray Mocho especially—gave new life to the porteño bohemia after 1898.

Much more could be said (and studied) about the historical parallels between Paris in the 1830s and 1840 and Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, but the differences are equally apparent. Historians of the Parisian bohemia typically trace its origins to the declining prestige of the artist in the aftermath of the dual revolutions, industrial and political, that curtailed old patronage systems, propelled writers and painters into the marketplace, and endowed a new class—the bourgeoisie—with the money and self-confidence to project their values onto society and thereby onto art (Wilson, Bohemians, 15–19; Seigel, Bohemian Paris, 5–15). Bohemia emerged from the margins of romanticism, which shared in the revolutionary fervor of the age by challenging classical cultural models but which also resisted the encroachment of the market and other mundane realities on the artist. However, while leading romantic artists and writers resisted the multiple pressures of modernity by enacting a symbolic retreat from civilization, celebrating the wildness of nature and cultivating the image of the lone creative genius, the poorer and less individualistic bohemians carried out their rebellion by embracing the tumult of the modern city and melodramatically performing their opposition through their unconventional clothing and lifestyles.30 As a number of historians have noted, the rise of bohemia also presupposed the development of a bourgeoisie, without which it would have had no principal cultural antagonist. The two developed together, in a kind of symbiotic confrontation (Seigel, Bohemian Paris, 5–6, 10–11; Stansell, American Moderns, 18).

No part of this image fits easily with the Argentine case. The French Revolution indirectly helped trigger Argentine independence in the 1810s and became a symbol of modern politics for local liberals, but it had few deeper social or economic consequences. The landed class of large property owners actually took more definite shape in Argentina during the nineteenth century. Though some of them ran their estates with capitalist rigor, they mainly raised basic agropastoral products for export. Argentina also had more an industrial evolution than revolution; both in size and number, the factories of Buenos Aires grew slowly, and most still simply processed and packaged commodities by the end of the century.31 The sheer pace of economic growth and modernization after 1870 did produce a sizable and relatively prosperous urban middle class, but it was heavily composed of foreign-born merchants, native bureaucrats, and members of the liberal professions—not exactly the ingredients for a powerful national bourgeoisie against which bohemians might rail, though they certainly tried all the same. More importantly, nineteenth-century Argentina did not have a strong classical or academic [End Page 44] cultural inheritance that the decline of patronage and the rise of the market might threaten; if anything, the creation of traditional institutions of high culture remained an aspiration of the local elite as late as the 1890s, which saw the opening of the National Museum of Fine Arts (1895) and the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (1896). When romanticism did arrive on Argentine shores in the 1840s, it quickly became linked to a broader project of nation building, divested of its European emphasis on the creative individual at odds with bourgeois modernity. In Argentina, the romantic writer did not pull down the academy; from polemicist Domingo Sarmiento to poet Rafael Obligado, he helped erect it in the name of the nation.32

Given these local conditions, the bohemians of turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires—like those of other contemporary Latin American cities—actually shared some of the general cultural frustrations of the local liberal elite. The problem was not, as it had been in France, that artists and writers felt besieged by the industrial city, bourgeois arrogance, or the new tyranny of the market for cultural goods, but that these creative spirits still continued to be anonymous in a developing, largely mercantile nation that had never paid them sufficient attention—and might never do so. Carriego’s close friend Juan Mas y Pí, a younger bohemian with strong anarchist leanings, remembered the 1890s as a decade when “art, poor art, that flower of civilizations on which noble and strong peoples pride themselves, remained in the most painful of silences, cast aside under the weight of its ‘practical uselessness.’” As for the city itself, Mas y Pí felt he and his fellow rebels were faced with “a somewhat monastic environment,” a Buenos Aires that was “still colonial in many ways.”33 This image of a culturally dead setting needing the spark of art to bring Argentina up to date with the modern world was not new or necessarily radical. The porteño bohemians’ answer to this problem, however, was not to retreat from the swelling city into invented rural traditions or European-style academies, as did the liberal elite, but to renovate Argentine culture by throwing themselves headlong into the bustle and mystery of the modern metropolis. In Buenos Aires, unlike Paris, London, Madrid, and even Rio de Janeiro, these two tendencies—the academic and the bohemian—grew up alongside each other. So rather than serving only as a stage of youthful artistic experimentation, Argentina’s bohemia occasionally lured established intellectuals and artists back out of the academy, as happened with sociologist Ingenieros and painter Pío Collivadino.34

Ultimately the idiosyncrasies of the Argentine case do not disprove the broad historical connection between modernization and bohemia, for the latter was, after all, both a modern urban social phenomenon and a pervasive if locally inflected cultural response to the condition of modernity. Rather, the distinctive features of bohemian Buenos Aires show that modernization was a necessary but not sufficient cause of bohemia, creating the social and institutional contexts that allowed it to flourish—rapid and massive metropolitan expansion, the accelerated long-distance migration of people and ideas, the emergence of some kind of middle class, the growth of a literate audience for myriad popular and special-interest publications, and so forth—but not automatically producing a prominent bohemian subculture of the type first launched in Paris. In this regard, the Argentine example reinforces the lesson of London, which [End Page 45] underwent an earlier metropolitan transition and more intensive modernization process than the French capital but did not cultivate a self-conscious bohemia until the first decade of the twentieth century.35 To be sure, nineteenth-century London had its own community of hack writers and intellectual-artistic aspirants—another modern prerequisite of bohemia—but this so-called Grub Street never really dramatized itself as a counterculture. As Malcolm Cowley once famously explained, “Grub Street is a way of life unwillingly followed by the intellectual proletariat” whereas “Bohemia is Grub Street romanticized, doctrinalized, and rendered self-conscious; it is Grub Street on parade.”36 If objective conditions mattered more than this subjective self-fashioning, modern London would have been overrun with bohemians long before Buenos Aires, New York, and perhaps even Paris; as it was, English cultural rebels were among the last to seek out bohemia at home rather than across the channel.

Bohemia’s American Coasts

Instead of seeing the Argentine bohemia as a delayed rerun of the French experience, then, we should interpret it as a local case of what we might call the transatlantic bohemian renaissance of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Just as successive generations of Parisian artists and writers attempted to recreate the world of Murger for their own purposes, their colleagues elsewhere—especially in the Americas—did the same. Beginning in New York in the 1850s and San Francisco in the 1860s, the United States reenacted bohemia on a surprisingly vast geographical scale over the following decades, so much so that bohemianism became compatible with respectable bourgeois idealism in smaller cities such as Richmond, Cincinnati, and Fort Worth by the 1880s (Levin, Bohemia in America, 125–96, 243–84).37 Further research would be needed to determine if the same occurred in Latin America—the strong regionalism of Mexican bohemian circles and publications, which eventually popped up in such far-flung provinces as Tabasco and Sinaloa, created perhaps the closest parallel to the U.S. case. However, the popularization and bourgeoisification of bohemia in North America after the Civil War should not be confused with the real bohemian renaissance of the 1890s and early 1900s, which provided the social context for the development of literary-artistic modernism and other forms of cultural radicalism that renewed the classic oppositional posture of bohemian subcultures in major metropolises such as Buenos Aires, New York, Bogotá, Chicago, Madrid, and London. Though also inspired by the popular late nineteenth-century rediscovery of the original ragtag Parisian bohemia, which George du Maurier’s serialized novel Trilby (1894) and Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème (1896) helped accelerate, these new countercultural circles were more avowedly political, multicultural, and nonconformist than their contemporary “bourgeois-bohemian” counterparts.38

In this sense, future students of Latin American bohemia as a social phenomenon should begin by comparing it with contemporary expressions of this revitalized bohemianism, [End Page 46] especially with the new archetype of Greenwich Village. Christine Stansell identifies three stages in the development of New York’s prewar bohemian culture. First came a kind of “gentleman’s bohemia,” small clubs and coteries of elite men who entertained themselves in the 1880s by flaunting conventions at private parties. These were not starving artists or writers, still less urban explorers; their gatherings were large, boisterous banquets or planned outings to parks, gardens, and woods. In the 1890s, a more public café culture, modeled on that of Paris, became the setting for a second wave of New York bohemians, now composed of journalists, artists, and musicians. Still predominantly male, this new group had more complex social origins. Many were young rebels from the local upper class, others came from provincial middle-class backgrounds, and a small few were workers who had escaped the factory, if not the threat of poverty, through their musical or artistic talents. For this new crowd, bohemia was largely a destination—a place to congregate after the workday had finished (whether paid or not), where a nonutilitarian, authentic self, rebelliously attuned to artistic creation and social criticism, could be enjoyed in the company of like-minded spirits. Finally, in the new century, this bohemian culture took root in a particular neighborhood, Greenwich Village, which—like the Latin Quarter before it—housed a growing population of young men and women whose radical politics and rejection of bourgeois conventions had become a collective countercultural lifestyle (Stansell, American Moderns, 12–14, 26–34).

How well does this pattern map onto the Argentine experience? Although the francophile elite “gentlemen writers” of the 1880s professed a quaint fondness for Murger and his bohemia, there is little evidence that they emulated it themselves. Miguel Cané, perhaps the most prominent cultural critic among that era’s liberal statesmen, disparagingly called it “the intellectual safety valve of all those who have lost their way on the normal tracks of the land”—a place where the fallen man of talent and privilege “passed his nights, … in the dense atmosphere of a tavern, searching for the happiness that the purest sources had denied him in the false excitement of wine” instead of making the “effort to enter once again into normal life and joining our ascendant march.”39 Anxious to prove their modernity and cultural refinement, the Argentine elite tolerated the odd individual bohemian, such as romantic poet Carlos Guido y Spano, but intellectual communalism was restricted to distinguished private gatherings such as the banquets of the Círculo Científico Literario and the tertulias of Obligado’s Salón Literario. The proverbial exception that proves the rule did exist, however. In early 1880, Elias F. Bori announced in the mainstream press that a new group of eccentrics calling itself Bohemia had formed “to inaugurate a new life.”40 Bori was actually Belisario Arana, a large landowner, provincial police official, and member of the Círculo, of which Bohemia was a youthful offshoot. His fellow travelers likewise went by pseudonyms designed to conceal privileged identities behind a luster of Murger-esque bohemianism: the “Gran Bohemio” Eduardo, Hermann Beck, Oscar Weber, and even Rodolfo. Though full of philosophical and political idealism, as well as deliberately peculiar enthusiasms (such as a proposal to treat incurable diseases with a special dental powder), the group had surprisingly little to say about art. This self-titled [End Page 47] Bohemia quickly and quietly faded away, failing to dislodge the elite’s perception of bohemianism as a “dangerous and infertile” dead end.41

While Arana’s circle only faintly resembled the high society bohemias so common in New York and elsewhere in the United States in the 1870s and 1880s, the next two decades would see the full development of an “after hours,” café-centered bohemian culture in Buenos Aires. Many have singled out the arrival of Darío in late 1893 as the turning point in this story, and certainly the maestro of modernismo helped galvanize a younger generation of Argentine writers looking to escape the classicism and romanticism of their elders. But Darío himself was once notoriously ambivalent about being identified as a bohemian. Not only did he come to Buenos Aires as a minor diplomat with professed aristocratic tastes, but his literary canonization was advanced enough to open whatever doors to elite culture he chose to walk through, including those of the newly formed Ateneo—a precursor to the academic art and literary institutions established later in the 1890s. Like Gálvez, Darío initially saw bohemia as a thing of the past, impossible to recreate in fin-de-siècle Latin America, and bohemians themselves, he maintained, “no longer exist except in jails and hospitals.”42 Since his attitude only changed after his arrival in Argentina, where he threw himself into café culture and reluctantly embraced his “unwanted bohemia” alongside such local characters as Soussens, Sánchez, Martín Goycoechea Menéndez, Antonio Monteavaro, Antonino Lamberti, and Diego Fernández Espiro, we might hypothesize that Darío did not so much make Buenos Aires bohemian as vice-versa. This was in fact a common pattern during the initial heyday of the porteño bohemia: whether hailing from abroad or from the Argentine provinces, many young middle- and upper-class men came to the metropolis with conventional professional or commercial ambitions, only to suspend or even abandon them in favor of a literary-artistic life made possible by the city and its vibrant popular culture.

By the 1890s Buenos Aires, like New York, offered many advantages that nurtured the growth of bohemia as a social phenomenon. In addition to its dynamic publishing scene, the city was rife with cafés—considered by Marigay Graña to be one of two essential components of the bohemian experience whenever and wherever it has appeared.43 In 1893, the year that Darío arrived in Buenos Aires, some 1,770 cafés and bars dotted the urban landscape and served as a primary space of leisured sociability for men of all classes.44 By providing informal space for intellectual conversation, cultural performance, and literary labor, this “home away from home” and substitute university was crucial to the formation of Argentina’s antiacademic bohemian community. In 1914 Soussens, by that time celebrated as the primus inter pares of Buenos Aires bohemians, happily recalled “rowdy gatherings” at cafés such as Luzio, Monti, and Aue’s Keller, “which contrasted fiercely with the etiquette of the Ateneo.”45 As these examples suggest, the establishments that most attracted young, penniless artists and writers were often owned by expatriates, much as the ethnic restaurant was central to the bohemian renaissance in Anglo-American cities (Levin, Bohemia in America, 294–312).46 Drinking a chopp (draft beer) at Otto Haemmerling’s Aue’s Keller, the ground zero of Buenos Aires bohème in the 1890s, simultaneously allowed the patron to get drunk, to identify [End Page 48] with immigrants, and to celebrate Old World charm, all of which indicated an unruly cosmopolitanism and embrace of the multicultural metropolis. This café-bar-restaurant also served food, though poor bohemians were reassured by an 1898 advertisement that they could come to Aue’s Keller seeking only spiritual nourishment, since “just taking a whiff by the door, one feels the illusion of having eaten.”47

Although cafés were absolutely key to the institutionalization of bohemia in Buenos Aires, they were not new to the city in the 1890s, nor was their average patron a self-styled bohemian, whatever casual philosophizing he engaged in with the men at his table. Something else must have changed in that decade to produce a full-blown “after hours” bohemian culture on par with that of Madrid, Chicago, and New York. We enter here into the realm of conjecture—informed conjecture, perhaps, but conjecture nonetheless. Since we now know that bourgeois idealists who dubbed themselves bohemians were a dime a dozen on both sides of the Atlantic after 1850, it may be hypothesized that a genuinely countercultural literary-artistic bohemia can only thrive if it rides the crest of an upswell in popular politics and popular culture—both of which were on the rise in Buenos Aires at the end of the nineteenth century. The Baring financial crisis of 1890, global in reach but connected directly to the bank’s Argentine holdings, produced a sharp economic downturn and an aborted revolution in Buenos Aires, raising the “social question” locally for the first time.48 As a modern politics of worker organization and agitation emerged, so too did numerous political and cultural radicalisms. From the mid-1890s on, anarchism became the guiding ideology of both popular politics and antibourgeois bohemianism in the Argentine capital.49 Though few porteño bohemians were actively involved in working-class politics at this stage, their self-identification as anarchists predisposed them to seek out examples of creativity and eccentricity among the broader urban populace. What they found was a city undergoing a veritable explosion of popular arts and entertainments, led by music and theater and focused on exploring the modern urban environment as if it were a new and intriguing human wilderness, full of unusual characters, settings, and social groups never seen before. They did not have to look far: even downtown cafés such as Aue’s Keller regularly hosted not only bohemian writers, painters, and their hangers-on but also popular musicians performing an eclectic mix of new tangos and old rural songs updated for city audiences.50

Without this cultural vibrancy and the presence of supposedly “real” bohemians—urban payadores (troubadours), small-stage actors, offbeat café owners, compadritos (stylish street toughs), atorrantes (hobos), and other popular artists and eccentrics who rarely adopted this label but were occasionally identified as such by those who did—the young literati of Buenos Aires would not have been able to situate themselves at the pinnacle of a blossoming counterculture. The same was true in New York, where the intellectual radicals of Greenwich Village relied on the more anonymous bohemia of surrounding downtown neighborhoods, especially the Lower East Side, to create an atmosphere of authentic cultural dynamism (Stansell, American Moderns, 6, 21–26). Though much more research needs to be done on this issue, especially for Latin America, it would seem that bohemia flourishes not just when artists and writers say [End Page 49] so but when multiple bohemias—high and low, self-proclaimed and nameless, avant-garde and sentimental, literary and plastic—coexist in the modern city. Murger himself had spoken of the “unknown” Parisian bohemians whose fortunes were obscured by an “official” bohemia of intellectual groups such as the “Water Drinkers” (Scènes, 6–7), and Marx famously if disparagingly wrote of “the whole indeterminate, disintegrated, fluctuating mass that the French call la bohème.”51 More recently, Jerrold Seigel has argued that bohemia always comprised multiple overlapping and even competing groups, of which artists and writers calling themselves bohemians were only a fraction.52 In Buenos Aires, the “after hours” bohemia of the 1890s consisted of at least two clusters of artists, the young cultural rebels surrounding Darío and Soussens and the pioneers of urban popular culture, such as songwriters Manuel Cientofante and Ángel Villoldo. By all accounts, there was considerable connection and even camaraderie between these two worlds, though they also remained distinct—clearly a subject that deserves greater attention if we are to understand the origins of bohemia outside Paris.53

Since writers were not the sole creators of the bohemian spirit in turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires, it is hardly surprising that Darío’s departure in 1898 did little to interrupt its advance. The porteño love affair with bohemia, like that of contemporary New Yorkers, only seemed to deepen and broaden in the first decade of the twentieth century. With the arrival of Caras y Caretas and other illustrated magazines, bohemians gained not only a possible outlet for their creative work but also considerable press coverage for their attics and antics. The resulting craze tempted even such young cultural elitists as Gálvez and Leopoldo Lugones to frequent bohemian gatherings, though the only member of their privileged intellectual Generation of 1900 who remained identified with bohemia for long was Emilio Becher—no doubt because his ample erudition never translated into literary success (Chiáppori, Recuerdos, 110–11).54 It also meant that Aue’s Keller became too fashionable to retain its bohemian credentials. In the new century, the center of Buenos Aires bohème would shift by a few blocks to the Café de los Inmortales, where committed anarchists such as Alberto Ghiraldo, Carriego, Mas y Pí, and Alejandro Sux gained a more prominent voice than before, at times intimidating the aesthetes around them (Ansolabehere, Literatura y anarquismo, 167–78).55 In general, Argentina’s bohemian circles became progressively more political between 1900 and 1910, just as they did in Greenwich Village. As workers began to strike (the first major wave came in 1902) and the state attempted to crack down on dissent, some artists and writers gradually distanced themselves from bohemia. Those who remained were increasingly likely to see themselves as revolutionaries in both art and politics, a trend encapsulated by the early poetry of Carriego and by Sux’s novel Bohemia revolucionaria (1909), which fictionalized this new scene.56

Yet even though this development indicates a parallel between the porteño experience after 1900 and the third phase of New York’s bohemian history, we also must acknowledge two fundamental differences. The first is that Buenos Aires never developed a truly residential bohemian neighborhood—no “village” within the metropolis like Greenwich Village or Montmartre. Bohemia remained, for most Argentine participants, an “after hours” destination. All of the cafés I have mentioned were located [End Page 50] on the north side of downtown Buenos Aires, in a bourgeoning entertainment district just beyond the city’s financial center. The cheap rents that normally sustain bohemia were not available here but in the south-side conventillos (tenements) that once served as elite townhouses. As far as we know, though, no bohemian quarter developed there or anywhere in Buenos Aires before the outlying neighborhoods of Boedo, Boca, and Barracas began to attract cultural aspirants in the late 1910s. In this regard, Argentina’s bohemia more closely resembled that of Chicago, which was based around the shops and studios of Towertown, north of the downtown Loop. But even the Windy City had specific far-flung neighborhoods that housed bohemians, notably the area near Jackson Park to the south, where the 1893 World’s Fair left behind cheap new dwellings. Thus while scholars have long debated whether bohemia is more a geographical reality or an imagined territory, the porteño case seems to challenge sociologist Richard Lloyd’s assertion that “bohemias old and new are nested communities, embedded initially in poor or working-class neighborhoods where the bohemian participants are a minority of the overall population” (Neo-Bohemia, 242).57 It remains to be seen whether the lack of a core residential neighborhood is typical of early Latin American bohemias or whether we simply need to look beyond the well-known literati to locate this expected setting among popular musicians and artists living on the margins of urban society.

To be fair, Greenwich Village was a more geographically concentrated bohemian community than even the original Latin Quarter, a fact that Ross Wetzsteon attributes to the long American tradition of utopian communalism.58 A fuller explanation must take into account the second major difference between Buenos Aires bohème and Greenwich Village, namely the near absence of female protagonists in Argentine bohemian circles before 1910. Women were certainly present in porteño café culture and in the participants’ accounts of their escapades, but they remained on the fringes of what was ultimately a rather predominantly homosocial male bohemia. There was no Mabel Dodge, no Emma Goldman, no Louise Bryant—women who played such a strong role in New York’s bohemia and helped make Greenwich Village a true countercultural community. (Alfonsina Storni, the closest parallel, only arrived in Buenos Aires in 1911.) Argentine bohemians were perhaps no less committed than their Manhattan counterparts to escaping bourgeois conventions of sex and marriage, but without female leaders in their midst, fewer “open” relationships among equals could form and the pursuit of sexual liberation was often reduced to temporary liaisons with prostitutes and eccentric women beyond the pale of middle- and upper-class society. In one sense, this absence makes the Argentine bohemia look far more conventional, even patriarchal, than that of New York. In another sense, however, Buenos Aires bohème was less “domesticated” than Greenwich Village, where the heterosexual relationship, however complex and reimagined, remained an anchor of prewar bohemian social life. While the coupling of men and women in the Village was often more akin to bourgeois gender relations than the New York radicals would admit, it also allowed them to build a community around a complete bohemian lifestyle, morning to night. This never occurred in contemporary Buenos Aires. [End Page 51]

Beyond Frivolity: Buenos Aires Bohème as a Cultural Phenomenon

Bohemia was not just a characteristic social phenomenon of urban modernity, visible from Paris to San Francisco to Buenos Aires and beyond. It was also a key actor in the development of modern culture, including the rise of aesthetic modernism, the discovery of the metropolis as wilds and wasteland, the celebration of marginality and ephemera, the growth of the “plebeian arts” as a counterweight to high culture, the idealization of the penniless artistic community and its characters, the ridicule of bourgeois mores and commercial philistinism, the ironic aestheticization of everyday life, the cultivation of sartorial eccentricity, and the persistent anticipation of revolutionary change. Even when bohemians were not at the forefront of these cultural innovations, their milieu was never far away, offering at the very least a space for experimentation denied by the academy, the university, the great hall, the high-end advertisement, and the government grant. The history of modernism, broadly understood, is virtually inconceivable without bohemia, though the two are not identical. The same may be said in a Latin American context about the narrower though still momentous literary phenomenon of modernismo. Visual art, largely underdeveloped in nineteenth-century Latin America, enjoyed greater prominence and prestige once the studio became identified as a site of bohemian creativity, even mystique, after 1900. The popular musicians who subsequently became chief spokesmen of urban and national identity across the region likewise sang often of their own cultural vagabondage, infusing modern nightlife with images of bohemia. Most broadly of all, the countercultural ethos first nurtured among turn-of-the-century bohemians in Buenos Aires and other Latin American cities survived as an ideal among new generations of young urbanites—not all of whom were artists, but all of whom certainly could talk culture and politics in cafés.59

In order to unpack this considerable legacy, we need both to address bohemia explicitly as an important context and conduit of modern Latin American culture and to recognize that it was more than a passing phase in the region’s cultural history. It is all too easy to dismiss the ironic rebelliousness and spectacular gestures of bohemians as signs of youthful immaturity or self-indulgence. While such an interpretation may sometimes be justified at the level of the individual, it should not be applied wholesale to periods of bohemian efflorescence. To the degree that they have written overtly about Buenos Aires bohème, Argentine scholars have largely judged it to be a transitional phenomenon—either a prelude to genuine social consciousness and literary-artistic commitment or, as one influential critic puts it, “yet another luxury of the oligarchy.”60 Given the growing interdisciplinary and transnational interest in bohemia today, this assessment seems premature at best, anachronistic at worst. Its assumption that the Argentine bohemians were destined to fade away or grow up once more serious intellectual positions were available belongs to an outdated teleological reasoning that can only distort our understanding of cultural history. Whether to comprehend a particular moment of creative expression in itself or to trace the impact of its texts and practices on later periods, we should begin instead from the point of view that bohemian culture had its own multivalent logic and significance. What follows is a start in this direction: [End Page 52] a brief account of five cultural facets of bohemian Buenos Aires that deserve greater study and that ought to be compared with the characteristics of other Latin American and transatlantic cases in the future.

To begin, the most essential contribution of bohemia to Argentine culture was its sustained attention to the physiognomy of the modern city, especially its defects, oddities, margins, and hidden secrets—madmen, floods, hovels, gypsies, prostitutes, trash heaps, vagabonds, basically anything that seemed to contradict or flaunt the official liberal ideology of progress and civilization. Like Baudelaire, Alexandre Privat d’Anglemont, and Jean-François Raffaëlli before them, as well as their contemporaries the Ashcan artists, the porteño bohemians were at heart urban scavengers. In Misas herejes (1908), Carriego likened his comrades to neighborhood “dogs,” one of the notable keywords in the Argentine bohemian lexicon that stood in stark contrast to the swans, castles, and other rarified symbols of modernista poetry (Bockelman, “Evaristo Carriego,” 127). This seemingly small detail—repeated in the title of Soiza Reilly’s widely read El alma de los perros (1907)—actually suggests a key dissonance in the otherwise overlapping worlds of modernismo and bohemia. At least as a poetic form, modernismo encouraged retreat from the material world into the interior realms of imagination and spirit, where the harmony denied by urban modernity could be recouped.61 For all its apparent flights of fancy, bohemia was a this-worldly communal experience that unapologetically if sardonically made art or spectacle out of the unreformed, “wild” metropolis. More prone to parody and romance, bohemians showed little of the “terror” or “anxiety-ridden claims to purity” that Julio Ramos has identified as the hallmark of modernista chronicles about the city (Divergent Modernities, 134, 140). Nor did they typically point out sordid urban realities in order to call for their eradication through further modernization, as contemporary reformers and hygienists such as Eusebio Gómez did in La mala vida en Buenos Aires (1908).62 Quite apart from the social criticism they leveled at the powerful when discussing politics, bohemians sought to uncover the mysteries of modern Buenos Aires as it already was, warts and all.63

The literary-artistic exploration of the inner dynamics of the metropolis was not only relatively new in Argentine high culture but also came at a time when some intellectuals were shunning what they saw as the multicultural Babel of the modern city and insisting that truly national traditions could only be found in the countryside and the figure of the rural gaucho. Bohemians rejected this path, aligning themselves consciously or unconsciously with the new payadores, tango singers, and lowbrow dramatists who searched instead for Argentine identity in the roiling cauldron of urban life and popular culture. As Becher explained in “Problemas literarias” (1906), a piece that would separate him from his increasingly conservative colleague Gálvez, “the city of Buenos Aires itself offers in the disorder of its cosmopolitan population profoundly national phenomena.”64 Thus a second premise of porteño bohemians, both high and low, was to identify modern Argentina with the cultural hybridity of the metropolis—much as Randolph Bourne, the Seven Arts circle, and the Others poets were soon to search for the real “transnational” America on the streets of multiethnic New York (Stansell, American Moderns, 60–68, 209–21; Levin, Bohemia in America, 295, 337–38).65 One [End Page 53] representative Argentine leitmotif was the portrayal of Buenos Aires as home to a new bohemia criolla (“creole bohemia”), where echoes of the Parisian experience reverberated amid the unique sights and sounds of the port city, sometimes even bouncing back to the Old World. In his chronicles of this subculture for Caras y Caretas, for instance, Soiza Reilly told stories not only of bohemian exiles of vague continental origin living in the hidden recesses of Buenos Aires but also of Argentines who were keeping the spirit of Murger and Balzac alive in post-bohemian Europe.66

By invoking this “creole bohemia,” locals seemed to suggest that Argentina was adding a sequel to the bohemian story by giving it a national twist—in effect hybridizing bohemia itself, but not so radically as to break free from its earlier chapters. “If Murger had lived,” began one wry vignette about a migrant tent community in a peripheral porteño neighborhood, “he could now write Scenes of Bohemian Life … in Saavedra.”67 De María’s Bohemia criolla—a sort of La bohème meets the Buenos Aires underworld—did in fact attempt this extension-by-amalgamation. The play’s opening “garret” scene is typical of the Murger tradition: three starving artists philosophize and joke about their plight in a barren room, only this time one wears a copy of La Prensa as his pants, getting a knowing laugh when he quips that this well-known elite Argentine newspaper has the widest “coverage” (6). Soon after we learn that these penniless writers and painters actually see their neighborhood tough, a compadrito named Sinforoso, as “the real creole bohemian of [the] land,” embodying noble Argentine virtues despite his life on the margins of the law (8). The rest of the play develops this idea through a series of characteristically Argentine street and conventillo scenes showcasing popular urban nightlife—gambling, partying, dancing, singing, conning, fighting—and illustrating Sinforoso’s alternative bohemianism, wherein the evasion of landlords and police is elevated into an art form and the robbing of neighbors is dignified by giving away ill-gotten gains and living “naked like Eve in paradise” (33). For their part, the bohemians see their misadventures with Sinforoso—which lands them all in police custody—as fodder for that great novel or poem they had always dreamed of composing, but the cop booking them is unimpressed. If all you do is write, he retorts, “you are in a sense a vagrant, … an atorrante!” (44–45).

As this example suggests, a third theme of Buenos Aires bohème was its awkward alliance between a breakaway faction of artistic radicals and the marginal people and places they excavated from the urban landscape. Both groups were outcasts, but only the first was self-appointed—recalling Benjamin’s dictum that “a ragpicker cannot, of course, be a part of the bohème, … [but] everyone who belonged to the bohème could recognize a bit of himself in the ragpicker” (Charles Baudelaire, 20). Though the porteño bohemian literati professed themselves to be anarchists and were intrigued by compadritos, atorrantes, prostitutes, and other metropolitan eccentrics, most still recoiled from total identification with urban popular culture—a “border policing” tradition in bohemianism that went back to the days of Murger and Baudelaire and could still be seen in attempts by early twentieth-century Chicago and New York bohemians to differentiate themselves from a surrounding “hobohemia” (Cottom, International Bohemia, 10; Seigel, Bohemian Paris, 125–49).68 A character in a Soussens story might [End Page 54] decide at the last minute to dedicate his latest poem to an up-and-coming payador from the Corrales neighborhood instead of to Camille Saint-Saëns, but only as an ironic gesture that preserved his right to judge popular taste as artless.69 A reporter could be excited to visit an “encampment of bohemians” in flooded Barracas, but only until he got there: “Bohemians might be [good] material for paintings and operas, but as these ones are of flesh and bone, they smell really bad.”70 Yet to condemn this generation for its false “democratic masks,” as Ángel Rama does in Las máscaras democráticas del modernismo, misses the point. From Soiza Reilly’s feuilleton “Un pueblo misterioso” (1905) to Carriego’s poem cycle “El alma del suburbio” (1908) to Collivadino’s painting Futura avenida (1917), the porteño radicals brought the outcast elements of urban society into high culture for the first time, establishing a connection with popular culture that would endure in later decades and ultimately help transform the downtrodden arrabales into a centerpiece of Argentine identity (Ansolabehere, Literatura y anarquismo, 181–84; Bockelman, “Evaristo Carriego,” 122–27; Bockelman, “Return of Pío Collivadino,” 116–18).71

This ambivalent identification with the margins of urban popular culture only complicated a fourth tendency for the cultural rebels of Buenos Aires: the perceived obligation to establish their authenticity as bohemian artists. Not only were they claiming this identity in a New World city far from Murger’s Paris in space and time, but the very idea of bohemia had become—even in the eyes of those seeking to recuperate it—anachronistic and clichéd (Gluck, “Theorizing the Cultural Roots,” 373–74). Thus the latter-day bohemians’ need to create a spectacle of themselves in the press—already evident in the use of Vanity Fair by Whitman and his colleagues in New York’s early bohemia—automatically invited ridicule and repudiation.72 Darío was not alone in questioning the possibility of recreating bohemia in turn-of-the-century Latin America. Alberto Tena, another participant in porteño café culture, proclaimed in Caras y Caretas that “gone is the time of singing to the moon and to the dying Mimi, two things that are no longer taken seriously, still less writing hendecasyllable verses in Tegucigalpa or Chascomús. … The bohemian of today is indistinguishable from the shameless atorrante.”73 This was a particularly sensitive barb, as even the end of De María’s Bohemia criolla made plain, because while the radical literati were unabashed in their fascination with the atorrante, seen as “a lover of bohemian life,” they were also anxious to prove that their vagabondage was somehow more cultured than his.74 So, for example, Soiza Reilly took pains to memorialize his co-conspirator Goycoechea Menéndez not as a simple atorrante but as an atorrante lírico. Writing yet again in Caras y Caretas, he vividly explained the differences. Sure, Goycoechea Menéndez stole and lied, but “with the bare haughtiness of an artist. He was an aesthete of farce.” He likewise “slept in corners, on benches, in shadows. But always dreaming. Always living an enviable life of dream.”75

A more common and reliable discursive solution to the problem of bohemian legitimacy was to imagine mythical ties between Buenos Aires bohème and the Latin Quarter. Beyond the many references to Murger and the invention of a “creole bohemia,” a whole series of authenticating legends grew up around some Argentine [End Page 55] bohemians, especially Swiss-born Soussens, who—like central European Hippolyte Havel in Greenwich Village—seemed to embody a bridge of tradition between Old and New World bohemias.76 In one such legend, he styled himself the local “avatar” of Paul Verlaine; in another, he “baptized” a young bohemian aspirant by offering to share the kiss he once received on the cheek from Victor Hugo.77 Darío artfully dubbed him “Soussens sans sou,” a phrase associated with penniless French bohemians since at least the 1850s, and Carriego prophesied on his behalf that “you too will have your Murger, and the Latin Quarter will see / your bohemia perpetuated” (“‘Himno,’” 796; “A Carlos de Soussens,” in Misas herejes, 35). For those not already blessed by this storied blood relation to bohemias past, an alternative pathway of legitimation was by pilgrimage to the sacred city of bohemian origins. Legend had it, wrote Soiza Reilly, that Goycoechea Menéndez capped a series of improbable and mysterious adventures around the world with a romp through the French capital, where “for a week he was the hero of the Parisian boulevards.” Thus feted in the bohemian birthplace, the cycle of his original journey to “recreate the bohemia of Rodolphe and Marcel” on the streets of Buenos Aires was complete (“Un atorrante lírico,” 79).

Such stories, like John Reed’s whimsical Village send-up “The Day in Bohemia, or Life Among the Artists” (1912), are deceptively colorful.78 Behind their apparent trivia hides a crucial fifth cultural innovation of the porteño bohemian renaissance, namely the reinvention of what it meant to be an Argentine artist in modern Buenos Aires. Many have written about how the expanding market for journalism and serialized fiction around 1900 allowed an incipient professionalization among Argentine writers, who for the first time were able to pursue literature for its own sake rather than as an adjunct of political statecraft.79 But this is only part of the story. Bohemia not only helped nurture this new identity; it also demanded that all true artists, whatever their métier, belong to a nebulous community of savants and creators diffused throughout the city rather than embedded in the academy. Membership in this fragile countercultural world could not be earned through degrees, and even a recognized masterpiece was not enough on its own. The key to admission was a total but ironic commitment to art that extended well beyond the canvas or page into life itself. To be an artist was to be a character. “What attracts me is the tormented, enviable, apostolic life of this nomadic pilgrim of art,” wrote Soiza Reilly about one bohemian.80 The adoption of eccentric clothing was a relatively minor facet of Argentine bohemia, but there were other ways to stand out. Wit was essential and bombast helped, but the true bohemian cultivated a sordid mystery about his daily exploits, occupations, and wanderings. Buenos Aires bohème, in turn, built itself around the ability to tell stories about these characters—the disappearance of Goycoechea Menéndez, the death of Florencio Sánchez, the discovery of Carriego by Soussens.81 For Darío and Soiza Reilly no less than Reed, caricature consecrated the artist, but it also consolidated the uncertain fraternity of bohemia. [End Page 56]


There is nothing exhaustive, much less definitive, in the foregoing observations and comparisons. Though it has always been on the margins of our consciousness, the concerted study of Latin American bohemia and neo-bohemia still lies in the future. Sustained research will no doubt modify, perhaps even overturn, some of the preliminary hypotheses advanced here about Buenos Aires: namely, that a genuine and significant artistic bohemia existed in the Argentine capital between 1890 and 1910, representing one branch of a broader transatlantic turn-of-the-century bohemian renaissance; that the bohemians of Buenos Aires were less than hostile toward a local academic culture still under construction and occasionally ambivalent about embracing the bohemian label; that a popular porteño bohemia underlay and perhaps even underwrote the self-declared bohemian intelligentsia of downtown cafés; that such self-declarations, including rhetorical immersion in the mythology of Old World bohemias, were ideologically important to the crystallization of a new bohemian identity in fin-de-siècle South America, offering proof that urban modernization alone was not enough to foster later offshoots of the original Parisian subculture; that Buenos Aires bohème had neither female protagonists nor a residential bohemian quarter, two perplexing but seemingly interrelated absences; that countercultural behavior was more important than fashion to securing the legitimacy and cohesion of this essentially “after hours” bohemia; and, not to be overlooked, that local bohemians helped stimulate such key twentieth-century cultural changes as the discovery of the hybrid city as a site of Argentine identity, the development of a Hispanic urban modernism that overlapped with but was not identical to literary modernismo, and the gradual, almost collateral dissolution of traditional boundaries between high and popular culture. Of course, there is also much to learn about Argentine and other Latin American bohemias that these embryonic conclusions fail to address.

The time is ripe to move bohemia into the foreground of Latin American cultural history and to situate the Argentine case in the comparative study of this transatlantic phenomenon. Not only are Latin America’s ties to European culture being rediscovered as essential rather than artificial, despite their colonial taint, but scholars of the region are beginning to question the long-standing perception of high and popular culture as two clearly distinct and antagonistic realms. The real complexity of modern Latin American culture demands that we focus ever more on the cultural intermediaries that crossed these boundaries, from the provincial intellectuals who Florencia Mallon sees as linchpins of peasant nationalism to the urban bohemians who both appropriated popular idioms and, according to Bernabé, helped consolidate national literatures by metamorphosing European antecedents (Vidas de artista, 27).82 Equally as important, the direct study of bohemia in places such as Buenos Aires will bring us closer to the everyday social and cultural reality of the turn-of-the-century Latin American metropolis—and by extension to the modernizing urban environments that have always given life to bohemianism and whose very modernity would seem to be confirmed by its presence. When early twentieth-century Argentine poet Rodolfo González Pacheco [End Page 57] compared provincial Bahía Blanca unfavorably to the port city, he found it lacking not only in trees, libraries, and flowerboxes. “It has no bohemians either,” rang his loudest lament.83 When a couple of bohemian reporters asked their long-lost “colleague” J. López Franco, a popular poet-payador, to leave a Salvation Army shelter and “reinte-grate into intellectual life,” his reply was unerring: “Naturally! I’ll begin by frequenting the Café de los Inmortales” (“El poeta López Franco en el Ejército de Salvación,” 71). It is impossible to immerse oneself in the texts and images of the period without encountering such bohemian references. But what to do with that fact? Gálvez chose to dismiss it, but we do not have to follow his lead.

Brian Bockelman

Brian Bockelman is Associate Professor of History at Ripon College in Wisconsin. His writings on the intellectual and cultural history of modern Argentina have appeared in Clio, the American Historical Review, the Journal of Latin American Geography, and other comparative or interdisciplinary publications.


1. Manuel Gálvez, Amigos y maestros de mi juventud (Buenos Aires: Kraft, 1944), 134. Note that this book later became the first volume of Gálvez’s Recuerdos de la vida literaria, 4 vols. (Buenos Aires: Hachette, 1961–65).

2. Gálvez was Argentina’s first successful professional novelist and an important early ideologue of radical right-wing nationalism. A still useful survey of his literary work is Myron I. Lichtblau’s Manuel Gálvez (New York: Twayne, 1972). For his conservative politics, see Eduardo José Cárdenas and Carlos Manuel Payá, El primer nacionalismo argentino en Manuel Gálvez y Ricardo Rojas (Buenos Aires: A. Peña Lillo, 1978), and David Rock, Authoritarian Argentina: The Nationalist Movement, Its History, and Its Impact (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 26–54.

3. Daniel Cottom, International Bohemia: Scenes of Nineteenth-Century Life (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 11–17.

4. Note that “porteño/a” can also be used as an adjective to describe anything typical of or unique to Buenos Aires.

5. Raúl Larra, “Payró y la bohemia literaria,” Nosotros, 2nd ser., 3, no. 24 (1938): 305.

6. Henri Murger, Scènes de la vie de bohème, new ed. (Paris: Michel Lévy, 1859), 6.

7. Gálvez’s influence on subsequent Argentine appraisals of bohemia can be seen in Atilio Chiáppori, Recuerdos de la vida literaria y artística (Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1944), 12–13, and Jorge B. Rivera, Los bohemios (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1971), 11.

8. Rubén Darío, “Versos de Año Nuevo,” in Poesías completas (Buenos Aires: Antonio Zamora, 1967), 815, 817. Modernismo was a stylistic revolution in Hispanic letters resembling late nineteenth-century European—especially French—symbolism. It should not be confused with the Anglo-American literary modernism of the early twentieth century, which in post-1914 Latin American cultural history goes by the name vanguardismo and includes local echoes of futurism, surrealism, and expressionism as well.

9. Rubén Darío, “‘Himno’ a Charles de Soussens,” in Poesías completas, 796; Evaristo Carriego, “Tu risa,” in Misas herejes (Buenos Aires: A. Monkes, 1908), 67. I develop this reading of Carriego’s poetry in “Evaristo Carriego: An Argentine Bohemian Discovers the Urban Fringe,” Brújula 5, no. 1 (2006): 114–34.

10. José António Saldías, La inolvidable bohemia porteña: Radiografía ciudadana del primer cuarto del siglo (Buenos Aires: Freeland, 1968).

11. Enrique De María, Bohemia criolla (Buenos Aires: A. Borzone, 1903), reprinted in Luis Ordaz, Siete sainetes porteños (Buenos Aires: Losange, 1958), 49–100. On Py’s short film, see Jorge Finkielman, The Film Industry in Argentina: An Illustrated Cultural History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004), 8. The record singles mentioned appear in the Discography of American Historical Recordings, listed under Victor matrix C-3641 and Victor matrix E-3705. See http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/talent/detail/43392/de_Gobbi_Alfredo_Eusebio_vocalist_tenor_vocal. Other bohemian parodies in turn-of-the-century Hispanic theater—an interesting topic for further research—are listed in Kristen McCleary, “Mass, Popular, and Elite Culture? The Spanish Zarzuela in Buenos Aires, 1890–1900,” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 21 (2002): 7. [End Page 58]

12. Juan José Soiza Reilly, “La locura bohemia,” in Confidencias literarias (Buenos Aires: M. Giles, 1908), 238.

13. Bohemia receives no significant mention in such important general studies of modern Latin American intellectual, cultural, and literary history as Ángel Rama, The Lettered City (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), Leslie Bethell, ed., Ideas and Ideologies in Twentieth-Century Latin America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Leslie Bethell, ed., A Cultural History of Latin America: Literature, Music, and the Visual Arts in the 19th and 20th Centuries (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Carlos Alonso, The Burden of Modernity: The Rhetoric of Cultural Discourse in Spanish America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), Julio Ramos, Divergent Modernities: Culture and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), or Nicola Miller, Reinventing Modernity in Latin America: Intellectuals Imagine the Future (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008). The phenomenon is better studied for Argentina; even so, only one small book has made bohemian Buenos Aires its primary subject: Rivera, Los bohemios.

14. Jean Franco, for example, notes that “the Modernists also played to the hilt the part of the poet as bohemian and eccentric,” and Ángel Rama points out that “bohemia was an imposition [on the circle surrounding Darío], not a choice.” See Jean Franco, The Modern Culture of Latin America: Society and the Artist (New York: Praeger, 1967, 26), and Ángel Rama, Las máscaras democráticas del modernismo (Montevideo: Fundación Ángel Rama, 1985), 122.

15. William Rowe and Vivian Schelling, Memory and Modernity: Popular Culture in Latin America (London: Verso, 1991), especially 97–105 and 193–226; Vivian Schelling, Through the Kaleidoscope: The Experience of Modernity in Latin America (London: Verso, 2000).

16. Christine Stansell, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000); Elizabeth Wilson, Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000); Peter Brooker, Bohemia in London: The Social Scene of Early Modernism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Mary Gluck, Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005); Richard Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (New York: Routledge, 2006); Joanna Levin, Bohemia in America, 1858–1920 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010); Pascal Brissette and Anthony Glinoer, eds., Bohème sans frontière (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010). For better or worse, this renewed interest parallels a consumption-oriented fascination with bohemian lifestyles and emblems among the “new economy” bourgeoisie. See David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), and Richard Florida, “Bohemia and Economic Geography,” Journal of Economic Geography 2, no. 1 (2002): 55–71. The success of the musical Rent (1996), written by Jonathan Larson and based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème (1896), reveals a similar neo-bohemian resurgence in contemporary mass culture.

17. An important recent exception to the general pattern is a special issue of ARS: Journal of the Institute of Art History of the Slovak Academy on bohemianism in Central and Eastern Europe. Among the other fine articles in that volume, see Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, “Bohemianism outside Paris: Central Europe and Beyond,” ARS 45, no. 2 (2012): 87–93.

18. Diogo de Castro Oliveira, Onosarquistas e patafísicos: A boemia literária no Rio de Janeiro finde-siècle (Rio de Janeiro: 7Letras, 2008); Jeffrey D. Needell, A Tropical Belle Époque: Elite Culture and Society in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 188–196; Mónica Bernabé, Vidas de artista: Bohemia y dandismo en Mariátegui, Valdelomar y Eguren (Lima, 1911–1922) (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo, 2006).

19. On Bogotá, see Fabio Peñarete Villamil, Así fue la Gruta Simbólica (Bogotá: Hispana Bogotá, 1969), and Ricardo Rodríguez Morales, “De tertulias y bohemia,” in Voces de bohemia: Doce textimonios sobre una vida sin reglas, ed. Hugo Sabogal (Bogotá: Norma, 1995), 29–53. A brief but good introduction to bohemian Montevideo can be found in Fernando Ainsa, “Del escritor dandi y bohemio al intellectual comprometido en el Uruguay del 900,” Cuadernos Americanos 12, no. 6 (1998): 26–42. For Mexican cases, see Sergio González Rodríguez, Los bajos fondos: El antro, la bohemia, el café, 2nd ed. (Mexico City: Cal y Arena, 1989) on Mexico City, and Gerardo Rivera, ed., La bohemia tabasqueña: Autores y obras (Villahermosa: Gobierno del Estado de Tabasco, 1986) on Tabasco. [End Page 59]

20. On Madrid, see Michael Ugarte, Madrid 1900: The Capital as Cradle of Literature and Culture (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1996), especially 131–55. From the bohemian mock opera La Golfemía (1900) to the novels of bohemian cult hero Alejandro Sawa to Ramón Valle-Inclán’s well-known play Luces de bohemia (1924), rich materials exist for an examination of the parallels and connections between the madrileño and porteño bohemias in this period.

21. Julius Bab, Die Berliner Bohème (1904), quoted in Cottom, International Bohemia, 266.

22. On the multidimensional importance of anarchism in turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires, see Juan Suriano, Paradoxes of Utopia: Anarchist Culture and Politics in Buenos Aires, 1890–1910 (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2010), and the many works of José C. Moya, including “Anarchism in Belle-Époque Buenos Aires in International Perspective,” paper presented at “A Century of Transnationalism,” International Institute, UCLA, Los Angeles, April 26, 2013, and “Italians in Buenos Aires’ Anarchist Movement: Gender Ideology and Women’s Participation,” in Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Women around the World, ed. Donna Gabaccia and Franca Iacovetta (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 189–216.

23. The best social history in English of the original Parisian bohemia remains Jerrold Seigel’s Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830–1930 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1986). For a more recent cultural approach, see Gluck, Popular Bohemia. Robert Darnton examines France’s proto-bohemian antecedents, stretching back to the late eighteenth century, in his introduction to Anne–Gédéon La Fitte’s The Bohemians: A Novel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), ix–xliii.

24. The phrase belongs to Hugh David, who uses it to discuss the late appearance of bohemia in England, The Fitzrovians: A Portrait of Bohemian Society, 1900–1955 (London: Michael Joseph, 1988), 8.

25. These figures are for Greater Buenos Aires, which includes urban residents living outside the limits of the federal district, and for metropolitan Paris, which includes the peripheral communes annexed to the city in 1860. For Buenos Aires, see Charles S. Sargent, The Spatial Evolution of Greater Buenos Aires, 1870–1930 (Tempe: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1974), 146. For Paris, see David Harvey, Paris, Capital of Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2003), 95.

26. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 194–95.

27. Censo general de población, edificación, comercio é industrias de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, levantado en los dias 17 de Agosto, 15 y 30 de Septiembre 1887, vol. 2 (Buenos Aires: Compañía Sud-Americana de Billetes de Banco, 1889), 523, 547–49.

28. César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois: French Society and the French Man of Letters in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Basic Books, 1964), 32; Christophe Charle, ed., Capitales européennes et rayonnement culturel (Paris: Éditions Rue d’Ulm, 2004), 155. The figure for Paris theaters, still rebounding from a Napoleonic-era censorship law, is actually from 1851.

29. See the list in Héctor René Lafleur, et al., Las revistas literarias argentinas, 1893–1967, rev. ed. (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1968), 49–57.

30. For more on the relationship between romanticism, bohemia, and melodrama, see Mary Gluck, “Theorizing the Cultural Roots of the Bohemian Artist,” Modernism/modernity 7, no. 3 (2000): 351–78, and Gluck, Popular Bohemia, 24–64.

31. Good starting points within a truly vast literature on these subjects in Argentine socioeconomic history are Roy Hora, The Landowners of the Argentine Pampas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), and Fernando Rocchi, Chimneys in the Desert: Industrialization in Argentina during the Export Boom Years (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006).

32. A useful introduction to the hybrid forms of Argentine romanticism is Graciela Batticuore et al., eds., Resonancias románticas: Ensayos sobre historia de la cultura argentina (1820–1890) (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2005).

33. Juan Mas y Pí, Alberto Ghiraldo (Buenos Aires: E. Malena, n.d. [ca. 1911]), 8, 18.

34. On this curious trajectory in the artistic work of Collivadino, who became an established academic painter first but later adopted a Carriego-style interest in the ragged outskirts of modern Buenos [End Page 60] Aires, see my “The Return of Pío Collivadino: An Argentine Master Painter Reinvents Himself,” in Imagination and Commitment: Changes in the Perception of the Social Question, ed. Ilja van den Broek et al. (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010), 101–19. The reason for Rio’s earlier institutionalization of academic high culture was its improvised role as the Portuguese imperial capital after Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1807–8. See Kirsten Schultz, Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821 (New York: Routledge, 2001).

35. Patrick Brantlinger, “Bohemia vs. Grub Street: Artists’ and Writers’ Communities in Nineteenth Century Paris and London,” Mosaic 16, no. 4 (1983): 25–42; Brooker, Bohemia in London, 27–51; Evan Horowitz, “London: Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” New Literary History 41, no. 1 (2010): 111–18. This did not, of course, stop some chroniclers from looking for a London bohemia as early as the 1850s; see, for instance, E. M. Whitty, Friends of Bohemia, or Phases of London Life, 2 vols. (London: Smith, Elder, 1857).

36. Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Narrative of Ideas (New York: Norton, 1934), 64–65.

37. See also Alfred Parry, Garrets and Pretenders: A History of Bohemianism in America, rev. ed. (New York: Dover, 1960).

38. Puccini’s opera made its first stop outside Italy in Buenos Aires, where it debuted in June 1896—just over four months after it premiered in Turin and some two years before it reached Paris or New York. See William Ashbrook, “A Brief Stage History,” in Arthur Groos and Roger Parker, Giacomo Puccini, La bohème (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 115–28.

39. Miguel Cané, Juvenilia (Vienna: Karl Gerold, 1884), 9–11. Cané was thinking of a particular man, Matías Behety, who along with Dalmiro Castro went on to symbolize this early, individualized bohemia in Argentine cultural history. See “Necrología,” Caras y Caretas 150 (August 17,1901): 18–19. Note that Caras y Caretas, which I cite often, was not paginated in this era; the page numbers given here and throughout the article are my own estimates, for which I always counted the first page after the front cover (both front and back of the sheet) as page 1.

40. Martin García Mérou, Recuerdos literarios (Buenos Aires: Félix Lajouane, 1891), 304–16.

41. Ernesto Quesada, Reseñas y criticas (Buenos Aires: Félix Lajouane, 1893), 265. Note that the passages in this text comparing the Círculo to Murger, Gautier, and the French bohemia of the 1830s and 1840s did not appear in its initial 1887 version, published in Nueva Revista de Buenos Aires. Their insertion in the 1893 edition may indicate a growing elite concern about the newer bohemian circles taking shape in the early 1890s as much as a critique of Arana’s false start a decade earlier.

42. Enrique Gómez Carrillo, Bohemia sentimental, 2nd ed. (Barcelona: Ramón Sopena, 1900), 6. See also Ignacio López-Calvo, “La ‘inquerida bohemia’ de Rubén Darío,” Cuadernos del CILHA 10, no. 11 (2010): 84–99.

43. Marigay Graña, preface to Bohemia: The Code of the Self-Exiled, ed. César Graña and Marigay Graña (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990), xv. The other is “an attitude of dissent from the prevailing values of middle-class society—artistic, political, utilitarian, sexual—usually expressed in life-style and through a medium of the arts.” See also Wilson, Bohemians, 34–38.

44. Sandra V. Gayol, “Ambitos de sociabilidad en Buenos Aires: Despachos de bebidas y cafés, 1860–1900,” Anuario de IEHS 8 (1993): 257–73. For the numbers, see 259–60n8.

45. Lysandro Z. D. Galtier, Carlos de Soussens y la bohemia porteña (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Culturales Argentinas), 42.

46. Judith R. Walkowitz, Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 31–37, 92–107.

47. See Caras y Caretas 1 (October 8, 1898): 1.

48. H. S. Ferns, “The Barings Crisis Revisited,” Journal of Latin American Studies 24, no. 2 (1992): 241–73; Paula Alonso, Between Revolution and the Ballot Box: The Origins of the Argentine Radical Party (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 47–68; Eduardo A. Zimmermann, Los liberales reformistas: La cuestión social en la Argentina, 1890–1916 (Buenos Aires: Sudaméricana, 1995). Readers should note that the “social question,” conceived by the middle and upper classes as the challenge of incorporating workers into politics and public space without disrupting social order, did not become a pressing concern in Argentina until about fifty years after it arose in the more industrialized cities [End Page 61] of Western Europe and North America—largely because of a similar delay in the formation of viable anarchist and socialist movements. From the 1890s on, when the “question” both appeared in Latin America and resurged in these original locales, it became a problem of truly transatlantic scope and cosmopolitan interest. See Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 52–59.

49. Pablo Ansolabehere, Literatura y anarquismo en Argentina (1879–1919) (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo, 2011), 141–42, 165–66.

50. Jorge A. Bossio, Los cafés de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires: Shapire, 1968), 166–173. On the urban payador and the early tango, see my “Between the Gaucho and the Tango: Popular Songs and the Shifting Landscape of Modern Argentine Identity, 1895–1915,” American Historical Review 116, no. 3 (2011): 577–601. Evidence of the participation of painters in bohemian café life is attested by Carlos P. Ripamonte in Vida: Causas y efectos de la evolución artística argentina (Buenos Aires: M. Gleizer, 1930), 81–94.

51. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), quoted in Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (New York: Verso, 1983), 12.

52. Seigel, “Putting Bohemia on the Map,” in Bohème sans frontière, 39–56. Since Seigel elsewhere contends that gestures associated with bohemianism always occurred in other social realms and were only considered “Bohemian or not according to how they were meant or how they were taken” (12), scholars will have to devise strategies for distinguishing popular bohemian subcultures—even when the word “bohemia” was not used from within—both from self-designated circles of artists and writers claiming this identity and from other individualized expressions of an alternative lifestyle. The way forward may be to disentangle “bohemia” as a particular kind of urban space or network from “bohemianism” as a conscious set of beliefs or behaviors, all the while recognizing the dialectal relationship between them.

53. Ismael Moya, El arte de los payadores (Buenos Aires: P. Berruti, 1959), 7; “El poeta López Franco en el Ejército de Salvación,” Caras y Caretas 611 (June 18, 1910): 70–71; José Gobello and Eduardo Stilman, eds., Diálogos de Villoldo (Buenos Aires: Freeland, 1964), 7–13.

54. Jesús Méndez, “Argentine Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century, 1900–1943” (PhD diss., University of Texas, 1980), 56–62.

55. Roberto Giusti, Momentos y aspectos de la cultura argentina (Buenos Aires: Raigal, 1954), 115.

56. Juan Mas y Pí, “Evaristo Carriego,” Renacimiento (May–July 1913): 130–35; Alejandro Sux, Bohemia revolucionaria (Barcelona: Biblioteca de la Vida, 1909).

57. For the imagined territory position, see Meryl Tyers, “Beyond Words: In Search of Bohemia,” Romance Studies 13, no. 1 (1995): 85–97.

58. Ross Wetzsteon, Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village, the American Bohemia, 1910–1940 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 13.

59. Hugo E. Biagini, “Bohemia y juventud,” Cuadernos Americanos 13, no. 2 (1999): 63–71; Hugo E. Biagini, Utopías juveniles: De la bohemia al Che (Buenos Aires: Leviatan, 2000).

60. David Viñas, Literatura argentina y realidad política (Buenos Aires: Jorge Álvarez, 1964), 307.

61. Gwen Kirkpatrick, The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo: Lugones, Herrera y Reissig, and the Voices of Spanish American Poetry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 45–47; Juan José Soiza Reilly, El alma de los perros (Valencia: Sempere, [ca. 1907]).

62. Eusebio Gómez, La mala vida en Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires: Juan Roldán, 1908).

63. Agapito Candileja [Juan José Soiza Reilly], “Aventuras de un personaje del gran mundo,” Caras y Caretas 440 (March 9, 1907): 50.

64. Jorge B. Rivera, ed., Monteavaro, Becher y Soussens: Textos y protagonistas de la bohemia porteña (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1980), 35. The nationalist rehabilitation of the rural gaucho as an antidote to the modern city is traced in Richard Slatta, “The Gaucho in Argentina’s Quest for National Identity,” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 12, no. 1 (1985): 99–122.

65. On the Others project, see Suzanne W. Churchill, “Making Space for Others: A History of a Modernist Little Magazine,” Journal of Modern Literature 22, no. 1 (1998): 47–67. [End Page 62]

66. Juan José Soiza Reilly, “Bohemia criolla,” Caras y Caretas 425 (November 24, 1906): 49; Juan José Soiza Reilly, “La bohemia europea de las artistas criollos,” Caras y Caretas 464 (August 24, 1907): 66–67. In turn-of-the-century Argentine parlance, “criollo” referred to people and customs native to Argentina as opposed to all things gringo or foreign, but it also applied to anything that had been made distinctly Argentine upon entering the country from abroad.

67. “En el campamento de los bohemios,” Caras y Caretas 113 (December 1, 1900): 28.

68. William Brevda, “At the Crossroads of Vagabondia, Hobohemia, and Bohemia: Harry Kemp’s Tramping on Life,” Markham Review 11 (1982): 46–50.

69. Carlos de Soussens, “Opiniones artísticas,” Caras y Caretas 308 (August 27, 1904): 33.

70. “Inundaciones,” Caras y Caretas 79 (April 7, 1900): 27.

71. On Soiza Reilly’s “Un pueblo misterioso,” see Brian Bockelman, “Prophets of the Arrabal: Remaking Argentine Culture in Buenos Aires, 1880–1930” (PhD diss., Brown University, 2004), 137–41.

72. Robert Scholnick, “‘An Unusually Active Market for Calamus’: Whitman, Vanity Fair, and the Fate of Humor in a Time of War, 1860–1863,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 19, no. 3 (2002), 148–81.

73. Alberto Tena, “El ultimo bohemio,” Caras y Caretas 452 (June 1, 1907): 45. Soiza Reilly at times also foreswore the label, despite being the group’s most avid chronicler.

74. Fabio Carrizo, “Los atorrantes,” Caras y Caretas 113 (December 1, 1900): 32.

75. Juan José Soiza Reilly, “Un atorrante lírico,” Caras y Caretas 419 (October 13, 1906): 79.

76. On Havel’s legitimating role for his fellow villagers, see Levin, Bohemia in America, 344–45.

77. Vicente Martínez Cuitiño, El Café de los Inmortales (Buenos Aires: Guillermo Kraft, 1954), 19, 80. See also Jorge Monteleone, “Soussens sans sou,” in Atípicos en la literatura latinoamericana, ed. Noé Jitrik (Buenos Aires: Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1996), 37–38.

78. John Reed, The Day in Bohemia; or, Life Among the Artists (New York: Hillacre, 1913).

79. Jorge B. Rivera, “La forja del escritor profesional (1900–1930): Los escritores y los nuevos medios masivos,” in Historia de la literatura argentina, vol. 3 (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1981), 337–84; Carlos Altamirano and Beatriz Sarlo, “La Argentina del Centenario: Campo intelectual, vida literaria y temas ideológicos,” in Ensayos argentinos: De Sarmiento a la vanguardia (Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1983), 69–106.

80. Juan José Soiza Reilly, “Un artista misterioso,” Caras y Caretas 413 (September 1, 1906): 50.

81. On Goycoechea Menéndez’s disappearance, see Antonio Monteavaro, “Martín Goycoechea Menéndez” (1911), in Monteavaro, Becher y Soussens, 75–76. On the death of Florencio Sánchez, see Saldías, La inolvidable bohemia porteña, 76. For Soussens’s discovery of Carrriego, see Marcela Ciruzzi, Evaristo Carriego, vida y obra (Buenos Aires: Plus Ultra, 1978), 48.

82. Florencia Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

83. Rodolfo González Pacheco, “Bahía Blanca,” reproduced in Álvaro Yunque, Poetas sociales de la Argentina (1810–1943), vol. 1 (Buenos Aires: Problemas, 1943), 95. [End Page 63]