Syukhtun Editions

Francisco Martín Barrios with his brother Agustín
(hotel room in Buenos Aires 1921)


Francisco Martín Barrios was a major Paraguayan poet who often orated on stage to the soft accompaniment of his brother Agustín on the guitar. Martín composed verses in Guaraní, the lingua geral of the southern part of native South America. I have been able to find very little about his life. Several of his plays and other works in the Guaraní tongue have been lost in the tumult of his agitated life. The Paraguayan writer Jorge Báez wrote: "(Martín) Barrios deluded himself in our little metropolitan world that he could live from his art. This error was as fatal to his opus as to his life. Daily subsistence obliged him to produce with speed, and to present his works without the necessary maturity, being quite able to realize them with more substance taking into account his unequaled talent."

The above information is translated from the Spanish/Guaraní website Musica Paraguaya Unfortunately, little biographical information is provided, not even dates of birth and death.

The Guaraní people first came into contact with the Portuguese in the 16th century, when they became the best known of the southern tribes because of their agile synthesis of European and Guaraní cultures. They had been practicing horticulture long before the jesuit priests established missions in Paraguay and Brazil, where the Guaraní language became the official language of all the missions, the lingua geral. Barrios’ keen understanding of baroque music was part of a long Guaraní cooperation with the jesuits and their instructions in European art forms. But this cooperation was cursed more than it was blessed. The Guaraní assisted in their own demise in converting to christianity. The traditional spiritual leaders among them were imprisoned or executed by the Portuguese. Some sorcerers escaped back into the forest to try and resume the ancient ways. But there was little they could do to escape the annihilation destined for most of the tribes in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and elsewhere. The carnage was even worse than that of North America. Those not killed in the wars or from mistreatment and disease were forever banished from their homeland, Brazil, leaving behind the fertile gardens and works of art they had created. But they did not leave without a fight. The Guaraní War of 1756 did not last long, and after a gruesome slaughter that left two thousand Guaraní dead, the remainder crossed the Uruguay river from Brazil into Paraguay. Martín and Agustín Barrios were the carriers of this tradition. (Excerpt from The Whetting Stone)

Any information about Francisco Martín Barrios would be greatly appreciated. Please email me at the email address below.

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