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Ernesto Semán

Here I compare two different literary approaches to political caudillismo: one by Miguel de Cervantes in a few chapters of Don Quixote, and the other by Argentinan Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in his work Facundo. The chapter explores how fiction has been a productive realm for the production of political thought and speculates on the impact of fictional writing in liberal tradition. While Cervantes developed a playful approach to social bandits in seventeenth-century Catalonia, Sarmiento laid the basis for political liberalism in nineteenth-century Latin America with a frantic denunciation of caudillos as the main obstacle for modernization in the region. In line with Anthony Cascardi and others, I consider how we would think of democratic politics (and the role of courage and of personalistic leadership) if the cannon of modern political philosophy in Latin America were structured around Don Quixote’s gracefulness instead of Facundo’s inflexibility.