Pursuit of Identity

        I.            The problem of the imagined community

A.      European conquests produced mixed societies and mixed social groups

1.  Efforts by imperial powers to separate racial groups rapidly proves unworkable

2. Mixed-race castas emerge immediately, along with cultural mixing

3. Rigid hierarchies define official social roles, but significant resistance always present

B.      Creole identities emerge as most important in determining regional identity in late colonial period and early nation-building

1. Gives significantly more importance to European heritage

2. Tends to deny other heritages as part of national identity, though will use symbols of those cultures

C.      Liberals in early national period will seek to homogenize societies along European models, but proves impossible

      II.            Romantic Nationalism

A.      Romanticism emerges in Europe in late 1700s, just as Iberian empires are beginning to collapse

1. Primarily an artistic movement, though with significant political impact

2. Served as a counterculture to the rationalism and classicism of the Enlightenment

3. Emphasized emotion, power of nature, and heroic individualism

4. Romantic Nationalism holds that a nation is a culturally united whole, that is indissoluble and should rule itself

B.      Peak of influence in Latin America c. 1820-1880

C.      Produces early examples of national fiction

1. Frequently weepy romance novels, clearly set in local, contemporaneous culture

2. Authors use regional dialects and often feature intercaste/class relationships

3. Use of regional dialects helps to legitimize them as “real” Spanish and Portuguese

4. Also produces conflicted celebrations of heroic rural casta culture

a.       Facundo by Sarmiento is sympathetic to the culture of the Argentine interior but ultimately condemns it as barbarism

b.      Martin Fierro (Jose Martinez – 1872) is an epic poem celebrating gaucho culture, even as that culture is disappearing (and written in opposition to Sarmiento’s modernizing presidency)

c.       Both works will become key elements of Argentine national identity, a belief in a mythical lost heroic past (like the Old West in the United States)

    III.            Realism and Naturalism

A.      Becomes important in mid and late 1800s, as Liberals gain ascendency

B.      A strong focus on gritty reality

1. Novels mainly, which focus on the lives of the lower classes

2. Similar in their stark portrayal of lower class life to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906), which depicted life early twentieth century slaughterhouses

3. Denounced the exploitation and oppression visited on these people by national elites

4. A particular focus on racism and the exploitation of the Amerindians

5. Assert that the lower classes, with their mixture of races and cultures, were in fact part of the national identify of Latin American countries

C.      Significant internal conflict

1.  These writers recognized the poor and non-white as the nation, but also believed progress required Europeanization

2.  Euclides de Cunha’s 1902 Os sertoes (Rebellion in the Backlands)  

a.       Extraordinarily detailed account of the rebellion led by Antonio Conselhiero

a.       Inhabitants of the sertao, one of Brazil’s poorest regions, rebel against local authorities and the modernizing efforts of the Positivists (1893-97)

b.      De Cunha was a military engineer in the army that put down the rebellion

c.       Saw these mixed race rebels of the interior as the only true Brazilians uncontaminated by foreign influence

d.      But also believed that Brazil could only progress if these people were gradually eliminated and replaced by European immigration

    IV.            Modernism

A.      Arises as a reaction against the positivists

1.  As the Romantics rejected the rationalism and utilitarianism of the Enlightenment, the Modernists did the same with the Positivists

2. Emphasized mysticism, magic, spirituality, and emotion, distinguishing them also from the Realists and Naturalists

3. Modernist authors rejected the values and example of the United States, seen as overly materialistic and utilitarian

B.      Ruben Dario (1867-1916) – Nicaragua

1. One of the founders of Modernist poetry

2. While he wrote on many other themes, expressed concern about growing U.S. power and the materialism of Latin American elites and middle class

3. Widely regarded as one of the best Spanish-language poets, his work encouraged people to not think of Latin American culture as inherently inferior

C.      Jose Enrique Rodo (1871-1917) – Uruguay

1. Ariel (1900) written in response to U.S. triumph in Spanish-American War of 1898

2. Deeply concerned about threat posed by U.S. to Latin America

3. Ariel, using the imagery of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, depicts the United States as power-mad and crassly materialistic, while Latin America is seen as spiritual and noble, a keeper of deeper truths and traditions

4. This dichotomy becomes very influential in the self-image of many Latin Americans, right up to the present

D.      Brazilian Modernism

1. Positivist governments that had replaced the monarchy looked to United States and Europe as a model of progress

2. In the 1920s, Brazilian modernists reject this model, arguing instead that instead the fluid mixture of races and cultures in Brazil enabled a more dynamic future.

E.       Indigenismo

1. Develops in regions of large Amerindian and mestizo populations, such as Mexico and the Andean countries

2. Rejects traditional view that Amerindian culture was detrimental and instead saw at as a strength and a key part of national identities

      V.            Modernist synthesis and the new nationalism

A.      Brazilian ideas of the dynamism of mixed cultures blends with indgenismo to produce new understandings of national identity

B.      Jose Vasconselos (1882-1959) and the raza cosmic (cosmic race)

1. Becomes education minister in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution

2. Mexico had been shattered by the war, and the resulting government (Sonoran Dynasty) saw the need for unifying themes

3. Vasconselos promotes the raza cosmic

a.       Sees the thee main contributing races to Mexico’s population as sources of strength – European, Amerindian, African

b.      Promotes indigenismo, where all previous governments had seen Amerindians as source of weakness

c.       Argued that the fusion of cultures and races produced a stronger race and culture, unlike traditional belief in degeneracy of mixture

4. Put the power of the government behind this idea

a.       Artists, mainly muralists, where hired to depict these themes in public settings

b.      Diego Rivera (1886-1957) is particularly influential, creating a new visual language for Mexico

c.       School teachers were used to promote them in the schools

d.      Various media productions (radio, pamphlets, etc.) used to spread these ideas as well

e.      Becomes a critical element of Mexican self-identity (and elsewhere), though often not acted out in practice

5. Yet still used by government to try to pull the rural Amerindians into a modern economy, as in the old Liberal program

C.      Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987) and Luso-tropical civilization

1. Sees African culture and mixed race peoples of Brazil as source of strength

2.  Argued that Portuguese culture never would have survived in Brazil without support of African people and culture

3. Mixing of cultures and races had created a new Luso-tropical civilization

4. Comparing race relations to those of early 1900s United States culture, Freyre  argued that Brazil was a racial paradise of equality and harmony

5. Believed Brazil could bridge gap between European industrial societies of the Northern hemisphere with agricultural non-White South

6. Brazil as a model for the modern world

7. Becomes very important in Brazilian national self-identity.