Antonio Machado y Álvarez (1846-1893), also known as Demófilo, was a pioneering collector and interpreter of folkloristic material from Andalusia and Spain. He wrote on popular dialects, literature, tales, sayings, music, flamenco and other expressions of popular culture. In this contribution I bring his writings of the end of the 19th century in conversation with debates at the end of the 20th century. At that moment, different readings of Demófilo, and of the Spanish folklore tradition in general, played a prominent role within an evolving anthropological discourse in and on Spain. In particular, I focus on the three related themes both in the writings of Demófilo and the commentators of the “folklore tradition” in more recent times. First, I look at the discussions over the “scientific quality” and the “subaltern” status of Spanish or otherwise regional or national anthropological traditions. Second, I discuss the relationship between cultural (identity) studies and the interplay between central and peripheral ethno-nationalisms in Spain. Finally, I reflect on the academic dispute over the differences between contributions of “foreign” and “local” scholars to the analysis of the Spanish cultural reality.