Through an examination of the travel works of William Bulfin, Tales of the Pampas (1900) and Rambles in Eireann (1907), this paper considers the contribution of emigrant (diasporic) travel narratives in the construction of identity and the reconstruction of the emigrant identity into an exilic one.
Escaping one colonial framework (Britain/Ireland), travelling to and writing from within another postcolonial construct (Argentina and the Spanish Empire), this paper analyses how Bulfin uses language his Tales of the Pampas, as a tool to construct, and even invent, an Irish identity. This identity is inextricably linked to the concept of querencia: home and the desire to return there. Despite this desire, Argentina did become internalised to some extent, which can be seen in the mix of the Spanish, English and Irish languages in his stories, highlighting that the Irish were doing with language what they had already done with their lives; trying to adapt it to their new situation. Bulfin was an emigrant success story, becoming the editor of an Irish newspaper in Buenos Aires called The Southern Cross. As an additional aspect of this paper, I examine how, in his role as editor, he encoded signs in his editorials and stories in an attempts to awaken or rekindle a political consciousness among emigrants in the hope of ensuring support for the independence struggle in Ireland, and in the process attempts to shape an exilic rather than emigrant mentality. Through his stories I analyse how Argentina never quite becomes a new home, but a place where Irish identity is played out and acquires form.
In a complex shifting of roles, Bulfin moves from part of an Imperial centre to a periphery, and then back again. Unlike the majority of emigrants, he actually returned home. His travels around Ireland in the early 1900s, at a time when Ireland was struggling for its own independence, and his subsequent travel narrative, Rambles in Eireann, (first serialised in newspapers in Argentina, then published as a novel) underscores the use made of travel writing by those with a political agenda.