el desierto la rodea por todas partes y se le insinúa
en las entrañas; la soledad, el despoblado sin una habitación
humana, son, por lo general, los límites incuestionables entre
unas y otras provinciasnote
The pampas are the Argentinian quintessential landscape, both in fiction and reality: a really flat (a perfect horizontal line of nothingness) and extremely wide (almost 800 kilometers of nothingness from Buenos Aires to the city of Córdoba... and we aren't counting Uruguay or anything to the south of the well-known Capital of Brazil...) endless grassland.
But actually, this is one of the most developed, fertile and productive lands in all the country, and one of the richest fields all over the world. This land is now very valuable, as the Argentine economy strongly depends in the soy and cereal crops, and the cattle.
Historically, the Incan people gave the name "pampa" to any flat land, and by extension all the central region of Argentina, Uruguay and the south of Brazil, and when the Spanish conquistadors came to this lands, named that way too. It was a scarcely inhabited region, mainly by hunters/foragers or fishers of the Guaraní family that dwelled near the rivers. This people welcomed and helped the first founders of Buenos Aires. But, due the finesse of the Spanish colonizers, that didn't last too long...
After the epic fail of the first foundation, that according to the landsknecht Ulric Schmidl ended with unusual gastronomy and the foundation of Asunción del Paraguay, the city of Buenos Aires was founded again, and the region slowly gained population. Also, the first colonizers freed many horses and cows in the region, that begin to reproduce insanely fast thanks to the lack of natural predators and the abundance of food (grass); and also, the settlers planted many trees near the population centers, hoping to create visible landmarks in an otherwise unremarkable region.
The pampas later became the home of the first successful revolution against Spain in the Americas (there were prior revolutions across the Americas, like the Tupac Amaru's revolt, but they didn't prosper), and became the central point of the South American revolution.
In fiction, the pampas are a wild and lawless territory, populated by brave Gauchos, skillfull and honourable riders and cattle-herders; or fearsome banditos, malevos (depending on the author) and murderous Indians. This perhaps was partly Truth in Television in the past, but today the pampas are mostly vast farmlands owned by the argentine oligarchy, highly man-modified, and interrupted by huge cities like Buenos Aires and Rosario, and medium towns like Paraná and La Plata in Argentina. Uruguay, on the other hand, is entirelly part of this region, with many characteristics (geographical and cultural, economical and historical) shared with Argentina.
This trope is for sure Older Than Radio, and most probably Older Than Steam, as the origins of the name date from the Incaic empire, and it was (sort of) present in the conquest chronicles (like the works of Ulrich Schmidl) and early poetry. As a side note, in many early works, as the Facundo, "the pampas" were more generically called "el desierto" (The Desert). But "pampas" is more widely recognized as the Argentine "desert" -not in the sandy, hot and dry meaning, but the not-a-fucking-soul one-, as even one province note is called "La Pampa".
This trope is very, very common in the Argentine Literature, and shared by many works depicting the South Cone countries. Compare to The Savage South; contrasts with Latin Land and the Mayincatec conceptions of Latin America and misconceptions like The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires.
Examples of this trope:
- In DC's Flash Annual Vol. 2 #13, Flash goes to Argentina to aid a superheroes group named Súper Malón, and of course, he runs the pampas in a blink.
- El Gaucho is an Argentinian superhero and Cattle Baron who raises horses in the pampas.
- Curiously averted in Batman Inc, issues 3, 4 and 5. While mundane things happen in Argentina, Batman and El Gaucho fight criminals in the Falklands War, in the Patagonic desert and in Buenos Aires instead of the generic pampas. Maybe because the unremarkable landscape isn't so epic after all.
- In El Eternauta, Juan Salvo and his group travel across a ominously snow-covered pampa near the end.
- Inodoro Pereyra (el renegáu), an Affectionate Parody of Martín Fierro written by the argentinian author Roberto Fontanarrosa, is a comic book about a lazy but fierce Gaucho that dwelles in the Argentinian pampas, and meets with several characters stereotipically attributed to the Pampas, like Indians, soldiers, and Ranchers.
- The animation film Saludos Amigos by Walt Disney features a short movie named "El gaucho Goofy", where Goofy travels to the Argentinian Pampas to learn the ways of the native gauchos.
- The sequel, The Three Caballeros, features "The Flying Gauchito", an Uruguayan gaucho that flies in his donkey "Burrito" over the Uruguayan pampas.
- Pampa Bárbara is a film that takes place in the early XIX century, between the frontier wars between Indians and Gauchos.
- Camila features a forbidden love between a priest and a young maiden in Buenos Aires. They run to the fields expecting to escape from prosecution and death from the Rosist's government and even their enemies, Sarmiento and the other unitarians.
- Many of Jorge Luis Borges' works, like The South, The End, Story of the Warrior and the Captive Maiden and A Biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz
- Works like Slaughterhouse and The Captive Maiden by Esteban Echeverría.
- Both official books of Martín Fierro, by José Hernández, occur in this place.
- Ricardo Guiraldes' Don Segundo Sombra
- Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's Facundo
- Jose Marmol's Amalia
- All the gauchesque literature, like the works of Bartolomé Hidalgo, Estanislao del Campo, and Antonio Lussich
- A Visit To The Ranquel Indians by the Magnificent Bastard Lucio V. Mansilla has an interesting deconstruction of this trope. He describes a diplomatic visit to many indian tribes, depicting the pampas not as savage or deserted hellhole, but instead a place were actual people, with flaws and virtues, live. He proposed a peaceful annexation of the Ranquel indians and their territory, instead of the savage massacre that was going to be the final "answer to the Indian question".
- Classic Disney Shorts: The Gallopin' Gaucho, one of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons, although this film takes place in a more desertic Patagonian-like landscape. But when the movie was released Walt Disney hadn't travelled to Argentina yet, and communications were far more difficult at that time.