Lucio Victorio Mansilla was, like Ascasubi, a man whose life could have been a novel. Mansilla embodied the Romantic character: military man, writer, traveler, bon vivant.
Mansilla was born in Buenos Aires in 1831… son of Coronel Lucio Mansilla & Agustina Rozas, sister of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who they called “the star of the Federation.” As a teenager, his parents sent him on a trip to Asia, the Middle East & Europe in order to discourage a love “that was not to his convenience.” Young Lucio traveled through India, Egypt & Turkey as well as France, Italy & England. Those travels would later become material for future works of literature.
After the fall of Rosas, Mansilla’s family moved to France for a year. Lucio married his cousin, Catalina Ortiz de Rosas y Almada, after their return. He challenged José Mármol to a duel in 1856, thinking that the writer had offended his father in the novel “Amália.” The future author was exiled for three years & later sent to fight in the war against Paraguay:
In 1868 Mansilla supported Sarmiento in his bid for President, who later designated him as frontier commander in Río IV, Córdoba. From there, he embarked on a journey south to defend a peace treaty with the ranquel/rankülche tribe. Mansilla spent six months with them & wrote his experiences down to be published in the “La Tribuna” newspaper. His style was colloquial & included many stories, even those told by the campfire. They were published together as “Una excursión a los indios ranqueles,” one of the most striking works of Argentine literature.
Below is an 1868 photo of Mansilla (center, wearing a cape) in what is now Plaza Roca in Río IV… two years before leaving for ranquel territory:
From 1876 until his 1913 death in Paris, Mansilla occupied a large number of political positions & published a number of books. But the most important experience of his life—living through & telling his time among the indigenous people of Argentina—had already passed. Mansilla rests in peace in the family vault with his mother & father, & this vault was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946:
Update (29 Aug 2012): Interestingly, David William Foster of Arizona State University considers Mansilla’s tales of the ranqueles as ”one of the great classics of nineteenth-century Argentine prose, ranking perhaps only behind Sarmiento’s Facundo.” More info can be found here.
Photo of Mansilla in Río IV courtesy of the area’s Regional Historic Museum.