The pre-Hispanic tradition in Ricardo RojasAmericanist proposal: an analysis of El Silabario de la Decoración americana (The Syllabary of American Decoration) [1]

María Alba Bovisio [2]

BOVISIO, María Alba. The pre-Hispanic tradition in Ricardo Rojas’ Americanist proposal: an analysis of El Silabario de la Decoración americana (The Syllabary of American Decoration). 19&20, Rio de Janeiro, v. X, n. 1, jan./jun. 2015. [Español]

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1.      In this paper we present some aspects of the discussion developed during the seminar Unfolding Art History in Latin America, in the non-Western traditionssection, on the role of pre-Hispanic Amerindian traditions in the Americanist proposal of the writer and theorist Ricardo Rojas. We focus our analysis on a work specifically devoted to Amerindian art: The Syllabary of the American Decoration.

2.      When does the history of the Argentine nation begin? Who were their founding fathers? What is the cultural identity that defines it? Rojas plays a key role among the nationalist intellectuals who provided answers to these questions by assigning the indigenous people and the Spaniards the role of architects of our homeland; a position which responds to a dominant trend in redefining the Latin American political map in the early 19th century triggered by Spain having lost its former colonies. Spain, commonly referred to asla Madre Patria, emerges as a possible ally against the country which, from that moment on, would be seen as the really powerful potential enemy: the United States. In this context, the idea of nation is founded not only on the acceptance, but also in the exaltation of the virtues of the miscegenation between Spaniards and indigenous peoples. In this regard, in Eurindia, published in 1924, Rojas proclaims:

3.                                    Exoticism is necessary for our political growth as Indigenism is necessary for our aesthetic culture. We do not want gaucho savagery or cosmopolitan barbarism. We want a national culture, as a source of a national civilization, an art that is the expression of both. Eurindia is the name of this ambition.[3]

4.      These ideas had already been present in his thoughts since the beginning of the century; La Restauración Nacionalista, a report on the teaching of History written in 1909 at the Ministry of Justice and Public Instructions request, highlights the need for an American aesthetic education, where Americancan be understood as the result of this miscegenation. Accordingly, only a systematic educational program aimed at the formation of a national consciousness conjugating tradition (Spanish-indigenous heritage) and modernity, would allow the development of an American aesthetic sensibility. Based on these goals, around 1914, Rojas plans the foundation of a School of Indigenous Arts for the University of Tucumán, where students would be trained in the stylization of regional models and images of indigenous archaeology, adapting them to the needs of industries and modern life.[4] Since the Spanish heritage is the one learned and apprehended by all (language, religion, customs), it is urgent that the forgotten heritage - the indigenous past - be rescued. In that sense, Rojas aims to encourage both the aestheticand the historical knowledge of the indigenous cultures. The former, by means of the analysis of their art (techniques, design, composition, symbology), and the latter, through archaeological research.

5.      A connoisseur of both archeology and local and American folklore, Rojas reclaims the importance of researchers, not only in the specific field of these disciplines, but of culture in general. In his Historia de la literatura argentina. Ensayos filosóficos sobre la evolución de la cultura en el Plata[5] (History of Argentinian literature. Philosophical essays on the evolution of culture in the Plata) he includes, in the volume dedicated toThe Modern, Juan Ambrosetti, Adán Quiroga, and Samuel Lafone Quevedo.[6] Pioneers in studies on calchaqui archaeology and folklore as from the last third of the 19th century, they understood the pre-Columbian images as ideograms conveying messages to be deciphered, a task that they undertook transcending the exclusively local context and inserting the Argentine Northwest in the Andean and American cultural tradition in general[7].

6.      On the other hand, it is Rojas who, as the head of the University of Buenos Aires, promotes, in 1929, the publication of the posthumous work of Adán Quiroga, Folklore Calchaquí (Calchaqui Folklore), in which archaeological pieces of the Argentine Northwest are analysed in the light of myths, rites, and beliefs prevailing at the end of the previous century. In the preface he emphasizes the originality of Quiroga’s methodology: [For his] idea of confronting Andean icons with local folklore. Here, archaeology, chronicles and the vernacular provide mutual assistance, and some ethnographic and historical problems are cleverly clarified, if not definitively resolved.[8]

7.      Shortly afterwards, Rojas encourages the head of the University of Tucumán, Juan Teran, to publish another of Quiroga’s then still unpublished works, Petrografías y Petroglifos (Petrographies and Petroglyphs), in which Argentine Northwest specimens still unkown at that time are described and illustrated.[9]

8.      We concur with Amigos statement[10] that for Rojas images are involved in the formation of historical meaning, since they contribute to the formation of a national consciousness from elements of tradition. The iconologicdirection in the works of Quiroga, Ambrosetti and Lafone Quevedo, concerned with deciphering the deeper meanings of images, responded to Rojasdemand in so far as they disseminated images charged with the indigenous spirit. These images, integrated into modern life through design, would sustain the development of an American aesthetic sensibility.

The American aesthetic sensibility: between tradition and modernity, between the American and the Universal

9.      In the foreword of the Silabario, Rojas resumes the goals proposed decades before:

10.                                  Folklore and archaeology are my starting points; education and industry are my means; nationality and beauty are my ends [...] the main objective of this book [is] to show the content of the indigenous art and the aspects that can be seized on by modern industrial arts.[11]

11.    However, Rojasnationalism manifests two basic tensions from the beginning of the book: tradition versus modernity; Americanism versus Universalism. On the one hand, he highlights the need of an aesthetics based on indigenous art; on the other hand, he defends the use of European aesthetic categories in his analysis. He insists on the need to address the study of all art from the perspective of a modern eyeand at the same time postulates the universality of the aesthetic dimension. He is interested in highlighting the specific significance of American symbology but simultaneously sustains that their designs must be adapted to the industrial manufacturing settings. He proposes, as a starting point, to consolidate a national identity with an American consciousness, but he ends up dissolving American history in the history of humankind.[12]

12.    In his book, Rojas says that his study combines several intentions, an aesthetic and purely descriptive one, and two converging others: to penetrate into the secret nature of symbols and to incorporate this revived art into everyday life.[13] However, as it will be discussed below, the purely descriptive intention hides a universalist conception of symbols, while the converging aspects of his proposal cause a first tension: what happens to the content of the symbols once they become stylized and adapted to industrial design?

13.    When interpreting the symbolic meaning of the signs of indigenous art, Rojas turns to his specialized readings, referring to prestigious americanists, historians and archaeologists[14], in order to propose that these signs be adapted to industrial life without losing their original meaning. This should be maintained in order for indigenous art to fulfil its function ... [Of being] the aesthetic means for invigorating our racial consciousness, where race should be understood asa spiritual type, not a physical ethnos[15]. Further on, he explicitly states that [...] I employ the word race not with the meaning which it has been ascribed by materialist anthropology, but with the old romantic meaning of collective personality, historical grouping, cultural awareness.[16] It is in this spiritual typeexpressed in indigenous art that the national consciousness is immersed in the American one. Rojas solves the evident dichotomy between the original meanings typical of non-Western cultures and the latent connotations in industrial designs through an esoteric[17] universalism which posits that all images of all times and places are archetypal images: from nationalism we go to Americanism and then to the universality of human prehistory. Symbols of our homeland and our world: this is what I am offering here.[18] Analysing pre-Hispanic art aesthetically involves substantiating everything that is beautiful and essentialbeyond their historical conjuncture.

14.    But where does that which is Americanpersist if it is dissolved in the universal soul? The esoteric aspects of Rojasthought leave this question with neither sense nor answer: through the Native-Americans we are connected with the eternal and universal human dimension, since it is due to its indigenous past that America belongs to the great civilizations of Antiquity. In his intention of rehabilitating the indigenous peoples as the ancestors of our history and the salt of our civilization [...], he intends to demonstrate [...] that not all of the indians were savages and through them America binds us to the oldest lineage of our species, to the prehistory of the world, to the age of semigods and deluges, like Israel, Assyria, Egypt, and all the legendary ancient peoples.[19] Such a statement reveals his observance to evolutionism, typical of the dominant thought at the timeby expressing the idea that not all indians were savages, he means, in other words, that some of them  indeed were. But how do we reconcile this proposal with the idea of a single, universal and eternal human essence? Do both the savage and the civilized participate in this essence? The truth is that Rojas does not even mention the need to produce some kind of answer. In several passages of the book we come upon expressions such as rudimentary tribeswith a schematic artaccording to their degree of evolution. In this line of thought (which he shares with many of his contemporaries) he compares the primitive manto a child, equating the intellectual and creative processes of the indigenous peoples with those corresponding to an earlier stage of human development.[20] In a similar sense, he interprets as a deficiency the lack of conformity with the anatomical reality in the treatment indigenous artists gave the human figure: unlike Europeans, they did not attain what we might call the fulfilled aesthetic autonomy of the human form.[21]

15.    Resuming Rojas esoteric answer to the issue of the dissolution of that which is American in that which is Universal, it is interesting to note that in the fourth part of the book, dedicated to Symbols,[22] lies the key to his foundations: a belief in the existence of Atlantis. In the seventh chapter, he states:

16.                                  If the internal analogies among several continental cultures surprise the scholar in the New World, imposing the necessary hypothesis of prehistoric contacts or references to a common primordial source, then no less surprising is the abundance of analogies between these archaeological sites in America and those in Chaldea, Egypt, Mycenae, Etruria, Persia, India, China, Ireland and even primitive Spain, imposing the geological hypotheses of a former continent - the fabulous Atlantis - increasingly necessary for explaining similarities among those antique civilizations.[23]

17.    In the epilogue, From Atlantis to Eurindia, he presents this thesis, insisting on the intercontinental analogies which become manifest in art: scenes of the Great Deluge, Prometheus devoured by vultures, two-headed eagles and snakes, crosses and frets. He also appeals to their scientific, philosophical and esoteric sources: he highlights the references to the lost continent in Platos Timaeus,[24] resorting then to modern occultistssuch as Scott Elliot, who in his The Story of Atlantis studies the disappearance of the continent due to successive floods.[25] In the theosophist Mme. Blavatskys predictions he finds a privileged place for America. In her book Secret Doctrine, she maintains that:The humankind of the New World, in many ways much older than the Old World [...] is the one with the mission and karma of sowing the seeds of a future race, more glorious than all those ever known so far.[26]

18.    Knowing that esotericism is labelled as non-scientific, Rojas turns to the voice of a man of science, Florentino Ameghino, who suggests in his book Antigüedad del hombre en el Plata the pre-diluvium existence of submerged continents in the Atlantic Ocean.[27] Therefore, legitimized by positive science and Platonic philosophy, he advances his boldest hypothesis: [...] if humankind, according to Ameghino, may have been born in America, then America may have been the cradle of civilization.[28] Rojas, who acknowledges the existence of [...] mutual misunderstanding and centuries-long antipathies [between native indians and Europeans] which we need to suppress[29], assignsautochthonous arta key role in this mission because it would be useful in rebuilding the unity of our America, affirming its participation in the concert of human civilization, including its birth.

19.    However, although he conceives autochthonous art as a way to put an end to the conflicts between indigenous peoples and Europeans, thanks to the development of an American aesthetic sensibility, he is not at all interested in the art produced by the living indigenous peoples or the living mestizos, nor does he consider that this may contribute to the construction of such a sensibility. In fact, for Rojas the national value does not reside in the contemporary indigenous culture but in that of a distant past. Rojas subscribes to the historical reconstruction proposed by Quiroga, Lafone Quevedo, and Ambrosetti, who argue that the indians the Spaniards met (who are the ancestors of todays indigenous peoples) were barbarian tribeswhich ravaged the great civilizations of the Argentine Northwest:

20.                                  The issue has been resolved that barbarian nations made a big incursion, not many centuries ago, which, like the barbarians who overran Europe, defeated the primitive civilization of the valley [...] the remains of the peoples which are today beginning to be exhumed, the art objects found day after day, are the precious remains of a lost civilization, destroyed by barbarians who were probably the calchaquinos.[30]

21.    Thus, the most remote pre-Hispanic art will be used to develop designs customizedfor modern times in order to help develop the so-called American aesthetic sensibility. Rojas dedicates the seventh part of his book to demonstrating that it is possible to adapt the indigenous ornamentation, which is capable of satisfying the aesthetic demands of our modern soulto the needs of our cosmopolitan life. By means of his esoteric and universalist conception, he understands that the American past provides us with an eternal and universal sensibility that reconciles its supernatural and mystical content with the aesthetic and functional needs of modern industry:

22.                                  It will be objected that once the Silabario had been integrated and its industrial adaptation renewed, nothing would remain of its archaeological character. But yes, its geometric designs, its rhythm, its spirit and even its intact themes would remain [...] for modern integration would coincide with ancient symbolism more than what it is believed.[31]

23.    Modern humans receive from ancient humans the supreme knowledge existing in nature (an extension of the Divine), which is expressed in the signs of their art. Rojas supports an American modernity constructed from this inherited wisdom that will allow us torebuild the broken unity between the two continents.[32]

24.    It is with this esoteric universalism that he resolves, in his conception of a national culture, the conflicts between Europe and America, latent since the conquest and re-actualized in the dichotomy between a pre-modern past and a modern present. The culture clash, the conflictual miscegenation and the need to reaffirm an identity that inevitably faces difference and otherness are issues that are invalidated by the existence of that original moment in which everyone belonged to a single continent, to a single civilization. Moreover, Rojas reserves America the role of being the birthplace of that civilization, reinforcing a national pridebuilt upon the American consciousness and offering the continent (following Blavatskys predictions) a key role in the future history of humankind.

The pre-Hispanic images in the Silabario

25.    As previously observed, in the Silabario, Rojas proposes an aesthetic description as well as an investigation into the symbolism of American art in order to incorporate it to contemporary life. However, he does not address this description or this investigation by making an analysis of the art produced by the different cultures defined so far. Instead, he bases his analysis on the many variables concerning plastic production, establishing general principles for all American art. Accordingly, he organizes the book into parts that correspond to descriptive items that he illustrates with examples from pre-Hispanic America, from Mesoamerica to the Argentine Northwest. In other words, he builds the category American art[33]: Nevertheless, I believe that above and beyond all regional characterizations, all American decoration shares similarities stemming from the predilection for certain signs, the emphasis with which they are treated and the rhythm which rules the compositions.[34] The images included throughout the book operate as illustrationswith no spatial-temporal indications whatsoever [Figure 1], or with epigraphs that vaguely locate them in their original contexts [Figure 2]. At the end of the book, Rojas includes a note declaring, The illustrations in this book have been presented as a stimulus for the readers aesthetic emotion and intellectual curiosity. [35]

26.    In the first part, Los Signos (Signs), he enumerates iconographic themes, such as phytomorphic, zoomorphic, mythomorphic, etc.; in the second, La Técnica (Technique), different technologies and materials, such as clay, textiles, stone, etc. are mentioned; in the third, La Composición (Composition), he systematizes the type of proportions, rhythms, repetitions, etc. found in this art; in the fourth, Los Símbolos (Symbols), he lists those archetypal images, such as world, god, man, race and beauty, that he considers to be the expression of an essential nature of human spirit, where mystical sensibilityis one with aesthetic sensibility. In this chapter, located in the centre of the sevenfold structure and expressing his adherence to the thesis of the existence of the lost continent, an inflection takes place from the descriptive to the interpretative, founded in the idealistic principle of universal archetypes. In the fifth part of the book, Los Estilos (Styles), he introduces the historical and social variable, characterizing the styles corresponding to cultures developed at different times, in different places,[36] but always in the light of universalist comparisons. Basically, these comparisons take the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans as a defining parameter for ancient civilization, namely: societies that had a written language and a significantly developed material culture based on a complex socio-political organization. In the sixth part, La Vida (Life), he summarizes the social, economic, and political conditions of the American cultures, and in the seventh, El Ideal (Ideal), he develops his proposal for integrating the American symbols to modern life through their use in the ornamentation of cities, people, houses, and books. For example, he says, [...] the mere contemplation of certain archaeological figures is enough to suggest its adoption as a motif for utensils.[37] The last chapter of this part is dedicated toAmericas primitive writings and ornaments:

27.                                  We finally arrive [...] to the justification of the title given to this work, Silabario: the need to decipher American ornaments, to discover any possible concrete phonetic or ideographic expression in its decorative arts, whose images, being more than ornaments, usually symbolize ideas and numbers.[38]

28.    The thesis that there would be ideographic writing systems concealedin ancientAmerican decoration, which is one of the central themes pervading the book, is precisely the necessary and unavoidable condition for the author to be able to affirm not only the participation of our continent in the concert of the Great Civilizations of Antiquity, but also its role as the Cradle of Civilization.[39] In the aforementioned chapter, he draws comparisons among prehistoric ideographic signs [Figure 3] taken almost entirely from books on magic and occultism,[40] Egyptian hieroglyphs [Figure 4], Mayan alphabet [Figure 5], and motifs taken from the Tiwanaku [Figure 6] and Calchaquí iconographies [Figura 7], to which he ascribes the value of ideographic signs.[41] He goes on to conclude thatAmerican ornaments [...] express ideas about the mystery of the world, the tradition of the continent and the destiny of Humankind.[42]

29.    Although Rojass Americanism is subsumed in an esoteric-universalist conception which excludes the possibility to account for the aesthetic, functional and symbolic particularities of the various manifestations of pre-Hispanic art, there are defendable aspects of his analysis that we consider absolutely valid: 1) the interaction between means and techniques in the construction of signs; 2) the mythical-religious function of pre-modern art; 3) the notion of plastic signs as a particular mode of language; 4) the value of compositional systems as an expression of the prevailing rules and logic of a culture; 5) The link between natural referents and modes of representation of supernatural beings.

30.    As a historical document, an aesthetic repertoire, a theoretical essay, and an academic text, the Silabario plays a fundamental role when reviewing the historiography of pre-Hispanic art in Argentina. Undoubtedly, it deserves to be studied and analysed in depth. The work here presented represents the starting point of this mission.[43]


AMEGHINO, Florentino. Inscripciones antecolombinas encontradas en la República Argentina. Obras Completas, vol II: Primeros trabajos científicos. La Plata: Gobierno de la pcia. de Buenos Aires, 1914 (1880), pp. 403-420.

_____. La antigüedad del Hombre en el Plata. Buenos Aires: La Cultura Argentina, 1918 (1881).

AMIGO, Roberto. La pintura de Historia: imágenes de la República Conservadora. Informe Final de Investigación, UBACYT. Buenos Aires: mimeo, 1996.

BOTANA, Natalio. El orden conservador. Buenos Aires: Hyspamerica, 1986.

BOVISIO, María Alba. ¿Qué es esa cosa llamada “arte...primitivo? Acerca del nacimiento de una categoría. Epílogos y prólogos para un fin de siglo: VIII Jornadas de Teoría e Historia de las Artes.  Buenos Aires: Centro Argentino de Investigadores en Artes, 1999.

_____. Universalismo y americanismo en el Silabario de la Decoración Americana de Ricardo Rojas. Terceras Jornadas de Estudios e Investigaciones. Instituto de Teoría e Historia del Arte "Julio E. Payró", Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UBA), Buenos Aires, 2000, CD-ROM.

_____. Supuestos y conceptos acerca de la imagen precolombina del noroeste argentino en la obra de Samuel Lafone Quevedo, Adán Quiroga y Juan Ambrosetti. Estudios Sociales del NOA, nº 14, diciembre 2014, Jujuy.

BOVISIO, María Alba; PENHOS, Marta. La construcción de “América” en la obra de Ricardo Rojas y Ángel Guido. Actas III Jornadas de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea, (cd). Facultad de Humanidades y Artes, UNR, Rosario, 2002, pp.25-40.

KUON ARCE, Elisabeth et al. Cuzco-Buenos Aires, ruta de intelectualidad americana 1900-1950. Lima: Universidad San Martín de Porres, Fondo Editorial, 2009.

MUÑOZ, Miguel. Nacionalismo y esoterismo en la estética de Ricardo Rojas. Las Artes en el Debate del Quinto Centenario. CAIA/Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UBA, Buenos Aires, 1992.

PAYA, Carlos; CARDENAS, Eduardo. El primer nacionalismo argentino en Manuel Gálvez y Ricardo Rojas. Buenos Aires: Peña Lillo, 1978.

QUIROGA, Adán. Calchaquí y la epopeya de las Cumbres. Revista del Museo Nacional de La Plata, vol.5, La Plata, 1893.

ROJAS, Ricardo. La Restauración Nacionalista. Informe sobre educación. Buenos Aires: Ministerio de Justicia e Instrucción Pública, 1909.

_____. La Universidad de Tucumán. Tres conferencias. Buenos Aires: Librería Argentina de Enrique García, 1915.

_____. Historia de la literatura argentina. Ensayos filosóficos sobre la evolución de la cultura en el Plata. Vol. VII/VIII: Los modernos, Buenos Aires: 1922.

_____. Eurindia. Buenos Aires: Losada, 1951 (1924).

_____. Silabario de la decoración americana. Buenos Aires: Losada, 1953 (1930).

_____. Prólogo a Folklore Calchaquí de Adán Quiroga. Revista de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 1929.

ROMERO, José Luis. Las ideologías de la cultura nacional y otros ensayos. Buenos Aires: CEAL, 1982.


[1] English translation by Elena O’Neill.


[3] ROJAS, Ricardo. La Restauración Nacionalista. Informe sobre educación. Buenos Aires: Ministerio de Justicia e Instrucción Pública, 1909, p. 20.

[4] ROJAS, Ricardo. La Universidad de Tucumán. Tres conferencias. Buenos Aires: Librería Argentina de Enrique García, 1915.

[5] ROJAS, Ricardo. Historia de la literatura argentina. Ensayos filosóficos sobre la evolución de la cultura en el Plata. Vol. VII/VIII: Los modernos. Buenos Aires: Kraft, 1922.

[6] Samuel Lafone Quevedo (Montevideo, 1835 – La Plata, 1920) graduated from the University of Cambridge as Magister Artum in 1848. In 1859 he took charge of the exploitation of mines in Las Capillitas Andalgalá, Catamarca, which allowed him to develop his research in the region. He was appointed professor of American Archaeology at the University of Buenos Aires in 1898 and, in 1906, director of the Museum of Natural Sciences, National University of La Plata, a position he held until his death. Adán Quiroga (San Juan 1863 – Buenos Aires, 1904) completed a Law degree from the University of Cordoba in 1886. He worked as a journalist and lawyer in Catamarca and Tucumán. In the late 1890s the Argentine Geographic Institute entrusted him with expeditions around the Calchaquí Valleys, which will be published by that academic institution. Juan Bautista Ambrosetti (Entre Ríos, 1861 – Buenos Aires, 1917) finished his secondary education at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires and, in 1886, joined the Expedition of natural scientists who travelled across the Chaco. In 1890, the Argentine Geographic Institute entrusted him with archaeological and ethnological explorations in northwestern Argentina and the Rio de La Plata. In 1902 he excavated the Paya site in Salta. He was director of the Ethnographic Museum of the School of Philosophy and Literature of the University of Buenos Aires from 1905 until his death.

[7] We have elaborated an extensive analysis of the contributions of these researchers with developing the study of prehispanic images in: Supuestos y conceptos acerca de la imagen precolombina del noroeste argentino en la obra de Samuel Lafone Quevedo, Adán Quiroga y Juan Ambrosetti. Estudios Sociales del NOA, nº 14, diciembre 2014, Jujuy.

[8] ROJAS, Ricardo. Prólogo a Folklore Calchaquí de Adán Quiroga. Revista de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 1929, p.4.

[9] The head of the University of Tucumán entrusted the preparing of the edition to Ernesto Padilla, which was printed at the University of Buenos Aires Print in 1931.

[10] AMIGO, Roberto. La pintura de Historia: imágenes de la República Conservadora. Informe Final de Investigación, UBACYT. Buenos Aires: mimeo, 1996.

[11] ROJAS, Ricardo. Silabario de la decoración americana. Buenos Aires: Losada, 1953 (1930), pp. 20-21.

[12] Although on the one hand Rojas’ “indigenisminvolves the rescue of a local tradition, on the other hand, it corresponds to the exoticism of modern Europe, eager to find new art forms for a new society in constant transformation and progress.

[13] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 20.

[14] See ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., 22.

[15] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit, p. 23.

[16] Ibidem, p. 151.

[17] Concerning the esoteric elements in Rojas’ nationalism, see MUÑOZ, Miguel. Nacionalismo y esoterismo en la estética de Ricardo Rojas. Las Artes en el Debate del Quinto Centenario, CAIA/Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UBA, Buenos Aires, 1992.

[18] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p.20.

[19] Ibidem, p. 23.

[20] Ibidem, p. 59.

[21] Ibidem, p. 48.

[22] In the prologue, Rojas highlights the sevenfold structure of the Silabario ... organized in 7 parts with 7 chapters each. “This is a magic number which results from adding 3, which symbolizes the invisible spirit, and 4, the symbol of visible matter”. ROJAS, 1953, op cit, p. 19. At the beginning of the fourth part he refers to the central location of the chapter of symbols: “by occupying the center of the sevenfold structure of the book, it functions as the keystone at the apex of an arch, locking its parts together”. ROJAS, 1953, op cit, p.129.

[23] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p.162.

[24] Ibidem, pp. 298-302.

[25] Ibidem, pp. 303-304.

[26] Cited in ROJAS, op. cit., p. 304.

[27] ROJAS, op. cit., p. 308.

[28] Ibidem, p. 312.

[29] Ibidem, p. 204.

[30] QUIROGA, Adán. Calchaquí y la epopeya de las Cumbres. Revista del Museo Nacional de La Plata, vol.5, La Plata, 1893, p. 191.

[31] ROJAS, op. cit., p.240.

[32] Ibidem, p. 314.              

[33] It is significant that a few years earlier, in 1927, Franz Boas published, with a similar structure, Primitive Art, a work that in our view constitutes the consolidation of the category of “primitive art”. In: BOVISIO, María Alba. ¿Qué es esa cosa llamada “arte...primitivo? Acerca del nacimiento de una categoría. Epílogos y prólogos para un fin de siglo: VIII Jornadas de Teoría e Historia de las Artes. Buenos Aires: Centro Argentino de Investigadores en Artes, 1999.

[34]  ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 170.

[35] Ibidem, p. 315.

[36] With the limitations imposed by the development of knowledge in 1930, he distinguishes five cultural areas with distinct styles: Tawantisuyu, Tiahuanaco, Peruvian Coast, Calchaquí, Mexico, and neighbouring regions.

[37] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 265.

[38] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 262.

[39] Ameghino is a pioneer in defending this thesis: in 1878 he presented, at the International Congress of Americanists in Brussels, his work Inscripciones antecolombinas encontradas en la República Argentina” (Pre-Columbian inscriptions found in the Republic of Argentina), in which he sustains that the pictographs found in various parts of the country, to which he attributes a remote antiquity, are of hieroglyphic character. He takes up the issue in the first part of La Antigüedad del hombre en el Plata.

[40] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 265.

[41] Rojas needs to prove that the cultures of Andean America were “literate civilizations” in order to be equate it to those of Mesoamerica, particularly the Mayans, which by then was known to have developed writing systems and numeric notation.

[42] ROJAS, 1953, op. cit., p. 292.

[43] I would like to thank teachers, students and seminar organizers for their comments, contributions and presentations, which enriched me as an academic and as a person.