On Juan José Saer’s Backwater Modernism

Will Noah at The Baffler:

IN 1527, THE VENETIAN EXPLORER Sebastian Cabot established the Sancti Spíritus fort at the mouth of the Carcarañá River, founding Spain’s first settlement in the territory that would become known as Argentina. In charge of an expedition bound for the Maluku islands in the Pacific, Cabot diverted course on hearing that the Paraná river led to mountains rich with silver and gold. Some historical accounts suggest that these rumors came from a sailor named Francisco del Puerto, who was part of Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís’s previous expedition, brought to an end when the landing party were killed by Indigenous people within sight of the ships. The story goes that del Puerto was the only man spared, and that he lived for ten years among the natives. Cabot lived to return to Spain, but his ships carried back no precious metals, and his fort wasn’t fated to become the site of a major city—unlike Buenos Aires, first settled by the Spanish in 1536.

In his book-length reflection on the Río de la Plata and its tributaries, El río sin orillas (The Boundless River), Juan José Saer claims that, “almost without exaggeration,” Sancti Spiritus was founded across the street from his childhood home.

more here.