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To begin a discussion of the figures of Ariel and Calibán in the work of José Enrique

Rodó and Roberto Fernández Retamar, we need to return to the kinds of issues we were discussing at the very beginning of term: the links between questions about nations and questions about narration, because I think that it is impossible without first thinking about the specificities of the experience of the national in Latin America.

1.2 When we think about the nation in Latin America we are faced with an initial difficulty

highlighted by Benedict Anderson in his Imagined Communities; a difficulty that is not at all specific to the Americas. What exactly is a nation? Answering this question with reference to geography, discussing borders, area, capitals, states and provinces may describe the nation but does not help us understand what this modern political entity might actually be. Anderson’s solution to what has become a conundrum of modern political philosophy is in an anthropological vein, he defines the nation as ‘an imagined political community’. ‘Imagined’ because no matter how small the nation, none of the individual members will ever meet or know all of the others, and so therefore the existence of some form of communion between a particular group of people must be imagined. A ‘community’ because no matter what the actual inequalities that exist within the nation it is at base ‘conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.’

1.3 A central way in which the nation is ‘imagined’ for its citizens is through narrative;

through tales of origin and identity narrated through time; through the narration of particular events and their employment within an overall ‘biography’ of the nation. We could say, then, that the modern nation is, in this sense, narrated into being. As Ernst Gellner puts it ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.’ But what tropes structure this narration? One of the most important in Latin America is that of the movement from barbarism to civilisation. Now beside the fact that nations often create for themselves a glorious antiquity, the nation itself is an extremely modern phenomenon and as such many of the legitimating narratives of the nation are tied to ideas of civilisation, progress, development, modernity. In the national narratives of Latin American nations it has been extremely important to emphasise the modernity of the nation, to catalogue and emphasise the specificities and the qualities of its civilisation and to narrate the defeat of barbarism, as we have seen. The importance of this particular trope becomes obvious when we understand that nationalism seeks to represent itself in the image of reason, of the enlightenment, yet reason and enlightenment in the assertion of their universal sovereignty require their Other. And that other has often been America. European nations can be secure in their claims for progress, civilisation and reason, for it is from Europe that the definitions of such concepts has come. America was always the brute, savage, unformed, amorphous Other to Europe’s rationality and refinement. The history of America, for Sarmiento, for example, is that of ‘toldos de razas abyectas,’ of ‘un gran continente abandonado a los salvajes incapaces de progreso’. For such a vision, the act of governing, of creating a nation is one of destruction and conquest. To govern is to subject the supposedly barbarous elements of America to the rule of a civilisation defined solely on European terms. And this is exactly the logic we follow when we speak of the “Third World” or of “underdeveloped” nations.


Nationalism and the founding of nations has therefore been primarily a criollo concern

(remember the criollos are Europeans born on American soil). Some exceptions aside it is not really until the Mexican Revolution that we see the prominent political involvement of indigenous and mestizo America and its non-European concerns in the forging of the nation. Even where an indigenous past is celebrated, such as that of the Aztecs in 19th century Mexico, its primary purpose has been to provide an equivalent to the civilised antiquity of Europe’s Greece and Rome, civilisation still being understood on European terms. For a criollo ruling elite, as we shall see with Rodó’s writing in a moment, the threat of engulfment by an autochthonous American barbarism appears ever present. Civilisation remains something implanted with difficulty on this ‘other’ world, and lives a potentially tenuous existence in the cities and on the margins of a still savage continent.

1.5 The perspective of these criollo elites reveals an essential ambivalence in the quest for

cultural and national identity in Latin America. As both Ernst Gellner and Benedict Anderson point out, the nation-state suffers the contradictory desire to both affirm its modernity while at the same time attesting to an authenticity grounded in a distant autochthonous past. In America this contradiction is amplified as the ‘civilised’ Latin American nation, as part of the process of self-legitimation, must somehow risk locating its foundations in precisely those ‘barbaric’ elements it has previously expelled in the process of becoming a nation. Yet the consequent attempt to dominate the ‘wild’ aspects of these autochthonous elements can only leave the nation struggling to conceal the rupture that divorces it from its own putative essence.

1.6 Thus the fundamental problem for both Rodó and Fernández Retamar is narrating and

constructing the American nation’s identity. They both attempt to resolve in very different

ways the question of what is an American nation, what are the ideals such a nation should be moving towards. Can a ‘civilised’ nation be created on a ‘barbarous’ continent? What is the relationship between the nation and modernity and progress in America. Can you have an authentic American nation modelled on European ideals of civilisation, modernity, and progress? These questions remain problematic, especially for Rodó, hence his desperate attempts and ultimate failure to resolve the opposition between the civilised and the barbarous, the foreign (European) and the autochthonous, and as we shall see, Ariel and Calibán.

2 So who or what are Ariel and Calibán for these two American authors? We shall begin

with Rodó’s Ariel. This essay, published in 1900 and dedicated to ‘la juventud de América’ takes the form of an end of year lecture by a venerable old teacher ‘Prospero’ to his departing students. It is through this valetudinarian conceit that Rodó expounds his particular solution to the protracted Latin American search for identity and Ariel and Caliban are described on the first pages:

Ariel, genio del aire, representa, en el simbolismo de la obra de Shakespeare, la parte noble y alada del espíritu. Ariel es el imperio de la razón y el sentimiento sobre los bajos estímulos de la irracionalidad; es el entusiamo generoso, el móvil alto y desinteresado en la acción, la espiritualidad de la cultura, la vivacidad y la gracia de la inteligencia, — el término ideal a que asciende la selección humana, rectificando en el hombre superior los tenaces vestigios de Calibán, símbolo de sensualidad y de torpeza, con el cincel perseverante de la vida.’(22 /

Q13 – page refs with Q in front refer to edition used for the handout, so you can locate the quotations easily on it)

2.2 For Rodó, writing at the beginning of the 20th century the great danger facing the Latin

American nation is the seductive influence of a form of barbarity disguised as civilisation:

this is UTILITARIANISM, where material development becomes an end in itself and spiritual values are lost . For Rodó the rise of utilitarianism to a place of influence—to the detriment

of the truly civilised values of aestheticism and idealism—is due to two causes. The first is to

do with the discoveries of the natural sciences, that destroy idealism at its base (this cause Rodó leaves aside and does not discuss). The second cause that he identifies is the universal diffusion and triumph of democratic ideas which has lead humankind towards beatifying utilitarianism and in the process establishing a norm of mediocrity. The question immediately at stake for Rodó is the struggle between utilitarian democracy (which he denotes as Calibán) and truly spiritual values that can only be apprehended by a select few (represented by Ariel). And it is this question that returns us to the original problematic of the Latin American nation: civilización y barbarie. In the dénouement of Ernst Renan’s 19th century Caliban, continuación de La tempestad, a play of perhaps greater influence on Rodó than Shakespeare’s, Ariel, the symbol of elite ‘spiritual’ culture, abandons the world to become a spirit of the universe, leaving Prospero at the mercy of the victorious Calibán, the demagogic symbol of what Renan and Rodó saw as the vulgar masses. Although Rodó is highly suspicious of democracy he believes that it is impossible to ignore. He feels a great ‘disgust at the thought of an amorphous, undirected democracy choosing everything on a majority basis, blinded by brute utilitarianism to beauty and any possible meaning in life, and by its very nature stifling every breath of individual excellence.’(Carlos Fuentes)

2.3 Rodó’s response to this problem is to suggest that within a ‘democracy’ a principle of

natural selection should be allowed to operate. With the superior members of a society being allowed to rise to the top. A kind of meritocratic hierarchy would exist within society in which the stultifying static solution of an hereditary aristocratic model would be avoided.

And here we can approach Prospero’s speech as a call to action, a call to the youth of America, or rather the educated youth of the governing classes, to become an ‘especie

profética’, whose ‘energía viril’ could bring about a newly renovated civilised society rejecting utilitarian values in favour of spiritual ones. For the influence of Ariel to be truly felt, the youth of America (Rodó/Prospero’s audience) would need to expend great force, in

a battle for souls and minds, a battle against barbarity they would need to re-conquer

America with the same ‘esfuerzo viril’ that had subjected these once new, ‘unknown’ worlds

to Spanish rule.

2.4 It is as if for Rodó, the supposed barbarity of America’s past leaves it more susceptible

to the seductions of utilitarianism’s production of great material wealth. Material wealth serves only one purpose for Rodó: to provide the material basis for the lives dedicated to the higher values of the privileged few (89). Rodó’s advice to the young is therefore to resist the allure of utilitarianism and to focus on developing the [rasgos] of true civilisation. Rodó attempts to provide his readers with a path from which the Latin American nation could emerge as a paragon of civilisation – close to his ideal of the ancient Greek polis. Abandoning the ‘barbarous’ past of America altogether Rodó’s ideal Latin American nation is connected directly to a European antiquity; to a Latin American spirit deriving from the Greeks and

Romans through the Italian Renaissance and the French Enlightenment. This is what Rodó is referring to when he states ‘tenemos—los americanos latinos—una herencia de raza, una gran tradición étnica que mantener, un vínculo sagrado que nos une a inmortales páginas de la historia, confiando a nuestro honor su continuación en lo futuro’(72 / Q66) Rodó’s Latin America will avoid the taint of barbarity by locating its true spiritual origins not in Spain, nor in the indigenous civilisations of the Americas, but in the European epitome of ‘civilisation’, an idealised ancient Greece.

2.5 It is from this position that we must examine the fifth and most commented upon

section of Prospero’s speech: the examination of the United States. Within the context of the entire work Rodó’s comments on the US cannot be seen as simply an indictment of the county to the north. Ariel is not the Latin countries to the south, nor is Calibán the United States. Rodó is certainly concerned to demonstrate that the United States represents a radically distinct cultural reality from that found further South, and to outline the specific nature of the difference. In doing so he is also attempting to provide a cultural bulwark against US hegemony by affirming a unique Latin American identity. But Ariel and Calibán are qualities present in both societies. Ariel provides the symbol, for Rodó, of all that Latin American societies should strive towards; Calibán, all that they should reject and suppress in themselves. In this section of the essay, the United States simply provides examples of the Calibánesque, utilitarian tendencies that Latin American nations should strive to avoid. However, Ariel has sometimes been read as a manifesto of ‘yankeephobia’, and this reading of the essay has more to do with the political climate in which it was published. By 1900 when Ariel was published Latin American opinion of the US had shifted from the admiration found in Sarmiento’s Facundo of a young nation that had successfully rebelled against a colonial oppressor, to an awareness of the danger posed by the ambitions of a powerful, aggressive nation seeking not only to wield influence throughout the entire Western hemisphere, but also to forge an empire of its own. In 1847 the US expressed these ambitions, invading Mexico and during the war that followed annexed the area that now comprises Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California, and parts of Utah and Oregon. By 1898 the US had successfully gone to war with Spain and as a result the Philippines and Puerto Rico had become North American colonies, Cuba a subject state. Within such a climate Rodó’s discussion of the US became famous as a manifesto of anti- North American sentiment, and encouraged the view that the barbarous Calibán of the essay was the United States. Rodó divorces himself from this reading.

2.6 In discussing the United States Rodó states, ‘aunque no les amo, les admiro’(76). Far

from simply rejecting the U.S. his criticisms are paralleled by an enumeration of North American successes. Rodó’s criticism of the United States centres around his perception of the centrality of the doctrine of utilitarianism to North American society. For Rodó ‘Los Estados Unidios pueden ser considerados la encarnación del verbo utilitario.’(69 / Q64) While he recognises the great successes of a utilitarian north, Rodó’s fear is that such success will prove seductive for the young nations of the south and that their quest for national identity will be abandoned for slavish imitation. He states, ‘La poderosa federación va realizando entre nosotros una suerte de conquista moral […]’ (Q64) and he fears, ‘la visión de una América deslatinizada por propia voluntad, sin la extorsión de la conquista, y regenerada luego a imagen y semejanza del arquetipo del Norte, [que] flota ya sobre los sueños de muchos sinceros interesados por nuestro porvenir’(69 / Q64). Thus it is the

reaction of Latin America’s governing elites to the utilitarian successes of the United States, rather than its imperialistic designs that is the crux of Rodó’s arguments. He is concerned to reject the nordomanía of some of his contemporaries, not solely because he viewed the United States as representing a form of mistaken social development, but more importantly because the possibility of servile imitation would vitiate the possibility of the nations of the south remaining true to their national personalities or reaching the true potential of their ‘herencia de raza’(72). He says, ‘no veo la gloria, ni en el propósito de desnaturalizar el carácter de los pueblos,—su genio personal,—para imponerles la identificación con un modelo extraño al que ellos sacrifiquen la originalidad irreemplazable de su espíritu […] El cuidado de la independencia interior, —la de la personalidad, la del criterio,— es una principalísima forma del respeto propio.’(70-1) Therefore, Rodó declares that Latin American nations should not follow the model of the United States, but instead should remain true to their authentic national ‘personalities’ as a form of national self-respect.Latin American nations should follow their own authentic ‘racial’ heritage – that elite European lineage that moves from Greece, to Rome through the Renaissance and the French Enlightenment into the fertile soil of the Americas.

2.7 It is in this section that the fundamental ambivalence of Rodó’s work is most obvious:

he both wishes to reject and emulate the foreign. He rejects the United States as a model on the grounds that slavish imitation is a betrayal of the nation’s ‘true’ personality, only to construct a fantasy based in a series of idealised 19th century French values. ‘Latin America can only become itself by becoming European’(Fuentes). The authenticity of its racial heritage is not grounded in the indigenous or the mestizo, peoples hardly mentioned by Rodó, but in the connection of an immigrant criollo elite to an idealised European past. Rodó is ultimately far more interested in attempting to suppress the barbarity of his America—as viewed from Europe—than keeping that from outside at bay. For Rodó Latin America must (misquoting Fanon): become European or disappear (71). Civilisation, modernity and the nation are all defined by Europe, not only is Ariel the spirit of Europe, ‘él es el héroe epónimo en la epopeya de la especie; él es el inmortal protagonista […] sus alas avivó la hoguera sagrada que el arya primitivo, progenitor de los pueblos civilizadores, amigo de la luz […] encendía […] para forjar con su fuego divino el cetro de la majestad humana, —hasta que, dentro ya de las razas superiores, se cierne, deslumbrante sobre las almas que han extra limitado las cimas naturales de la humanidad.’(100-101 / Q95) If Ariel is the spirit of the Aryan peoples, the progenitors of civilisation in this view, then it can again be seen that the ‘indomable rebelión de Calibán’(101 / Q96), the dangers of ‘la barbarie vencedora’(101 / Q96), the ‘eterno estercolero de Job’(101 / Q96) can only be the original, autochthonous state of the Americas. Rodó’s search for national authenticity, the authenticity of race is a attempt to impose the cultural dominance of a ‘white’, criollo elite newly arrived in the Americas. His fear of ‘las fuerzas ciegas del mal y la barbarie’(101), is a fear of America, fear of the barbarity he believes to be inherent in a continent so far removed from Europe. At the same time, given that civilisation and the nation find their being in Europe, for Rodó’s paternalistic Prospero, America will only have a future, will only be able to join the ranks of the civilised, ‘first’, world by the successful implementation of a criollo racial heritage and the suppression or the destruction of unformed, savage, barbarous America. The process of conquest in America must continue, now led by a youthful, modern elite inspired by the spirit of Ariel and ‘las crónica heroicas de los conquistadores’(24).


For Rodó, ‘Latin America can only become itself by becoming European’(Carlos

Fuentes). Yet, although it might seem to be stating the obvious, Latin America is not Europe. This is the great flaw at the base of Rodó’s project. In his desperate attempts to fulfil a European ideality, Rodó’s Latin America will always be ‘incomplete’, a copy that fails to ‘truly’ conform to the European norm. It will always remain in a state of tutelage or ‘apprenticeship’ it will always be ‘a rough draft, a poor copy of a European bourgeois culture’ (Fernández Retamar). Rodó’s America can never be true to its ‘genio personal’, its identity will always be ‘desnaturalizado’. In his slavish worship of a European Ariel, Rodó sacrifices the ‘originalidad irreemplazable’ of America that he claims to uphold; he denies American nations the ‘respeto propio’ that he claims arises from ‘el cuidado de la independencia interior.’ For, as Rodó himself continually states, there can be no independence or authenticity in a nation that is but a mere copy, nothing to be gained from ‘la creencia ingenua de que eso pueda obtenerse alguna vez por procedimientos artificiales e improvisados de imitación.’(70)

3.1 With this understanding of Rodó’s writing we are now able to approach Roberto

Fernández Retamar’s Calibán, written not in 1900, but in 1971, not from the supposedly ‘white’ Uruguay of Rodó, but from a revolutionary Cuba that had become Latin America’s symbol of liberation from colonial and neo-colonial rule. Rodó’s vision of culture in the Americas legitimates the question that Fernández Retamar rejects – ‘¿existe una cultura latinoamericana?’. Rodó’s position, despite his own protests, denies Latin America the possibility of its own, autochthonous culture and identity, any ‘civilized’ culture in the Americas worthy of the name arises, for Rodó, from a European heritage. Ariel, the spirit of Rodó’s ideals is European. So who is Calibán? Calibán, as we have discussed is Rodó’s negative principle, all that Rodó wishes to exclude. He is the utilitarianism that threatens the spiritual; he is the vulgar masses; he is the mediocrity of uncontrolled democracy and the savagery of an undiscovered, unconquered America. Fernández Retamar is not content to accept Rodó’s definition. He seeks his own and begins the search with the etymological origins of the name “Caliban”. He returns to Shakespeare. Calibán is, of course, Shakespeare’s ‘savage and deformed slave’, the original inhabitant of the island that Prospero now rules. ‘Calibán’ is Shakespeare’s anagram of ‘cannibal’, and ‘cannibal’ derives from the Spanish deformation of ‘carib’ the original, warlike and supposedly anthropophagus inhabitants of parts of the West Indies. A people extinguished by Spanish genocide. For Fernández Retamar there is no doubt that The Tempest refers to America, that its island is one of America’s, and that Calibán is America’s Carib. To a certain extent then Fernández Retamar concurs with Rodó’s conception of Calibán. Like Rodó, and his model Renan, Calibán is identified with the people, the ‘suffering masses’; but unlike Rodó and

Renan there is no elitist rejection of Calibán for an idealised, European Ariel. Calibán is truly America; indigenous and mestiza, no longer the provenance of a criollo elite. He quotes Simón Bolívar: ‘nuestro pueblo no es el europeo, ni el americano del norte, que más bien es un compuesto de África y de América que una emanación de Europa’(10) Concurring with Bolívar Fernández Retamar states: ‘Nuestro símbolo no es pues Ariel, como pensó Rodó, sino Calibán […] Próspero invadió las islas, mató a nuestros ancestros, esclavizó a Calibán y le enseñó su idioma para poder entenderse con él: ¿qué otra cosa puede hacer Calibán sino utilizar ese mismo idioma—hoy no tiene otro—para maldecirlo, para desear que caiga sobre él la “roja plaga”? No conozco otra metáfora más acertada de nuestra situación cultural, de


But as Fernández Retamar continues, even in proposing Calibán as America’s symbol it

is impossible to escape European formulations in favour of local, autochthonous ones, Calibán is an ‘alien elaboration’. The very language that narrates the Latin American nation into existence is European:

Y es que en la raíz misma está la confusión, porque descendientes de numerosas comunidades indígenas, africanas, europeas, tenemos, para entendernos, unas pocas lenguas: las de los colonizadores. Mientras otros coloniales o excoloniales, en medio de metropolitanos, se ponen a hablar entre sí en su lengua, nosotros, los latinoamericanos, seguimos con nuestros idiomas de colonizadores […] Ahora misnmo, que estamos discutiendo, que esto discutiendo con esos colonizadores, ¿de qué otra manera puedo hacerlo sino en una de sus lenguas, que es ya también nuestra lengua, y con tantos de sus instrumentos conceptuales, que también son ya nuestros instrumentos conceptuales?’ (11-


The lack, absence and incompleteness, we discussed with reference to Rodó’s Arielist conception of Europe remains. In a culture expressed (in the main, at least) in the language of the colonizer the Latin American nation cannot abandon Europe in order to discover its autochthonous truth. Its history and its being are articulated in the languages of Europe, Europe remains the sovereign, theoretical subject of this nation and its history. There is a peculiar and insidious way in which all these other histories and nations tend to become variations on a European master narrative. In this sense, Latin American national identity itself is in a position of subalternity; one can only articulate subaltern subject positions in the name of this identity, named by Europe. Latin American states, in affirming their national identity, must constantly refer to models provided by Europe. The nation-state is ultimately a European construction, its language, its theories, its questions are all formulated within a European context and then transplanted elsewhere. As such, even in the most dedicated Americanist hands, the search for a Latin American identity, an authentic national personality, remains a mimicry of a certain modern European model and is bound to represent a sad figure of lack and failure.

3.3 To understand Fernández Retamar’s point here we must read him with the idea of

language as a medium intertwined with power. Despite Latin American ‘independence’ the languages of the nation remain inextricably bound to the workings of European (and North American) power. New voices are neither liberated, nor discovered, but rather subsumed into the continuing narrative of the West. The claim to have discovered the nation itself is unjustifiable. The post-colonial nation cannot be narrated without the use of the languages of the coloniser. Prospero, taught his language to Calibán and gave him his name. But does he have a true name, one other than that imposed by Prospero? Not according to Fidel Castro, whom Retamar quotes from his 10th anniversary speech of the victory at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs):

Todavía, con toda precisión, no tenemos siquiera un nombre, todavía no tenemos un nombre, estamos prácticamente sin bautizar: que si latinoamericanos, que si iberoamericanos, que si indoamericanos. Para los imperialistas no somos más que pueblos

despreciados y despreciables […] Ser criollo, ser mestizo, ser negro, ser, sencillamente, latinoamericano, es para ellos desprecio.’ (35)

Yet the remainder of Fernández Retamar’s essay reminds us that the dominance of the coloniser’s language is not total. Indeed it may be possible that, as Foucault points out, effective emancipatory strategies may not involve the overthrowing of the dominance of a colonising Europe, or the discovery of a true and authentic America behind or beneath the assorted debris left behind by the colonizer, but rather that,

‘The successes of history belong to those who are capable of seizing these rules, to replace those who had used them, to disguise themselves so as to pervert them, invert their meaning, and redirect them against those who had initially imposed them; controlling this complex mechanism, they will make it function so as to overcome the rulers through their own rules.’

If we understand language as power, as the ‘rules’ of the above paragraph, and return to the language of Shakespeare this means taking up Prospero’s language and his power of naming in order to wield it against him. This is, of course, the point of Caliban’s curse:

“You taught me your language, and my profit on’t / Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you / for learning me your language!”(1.2.362-64)

3.4 The work of Homi Bhabha, a contemporary post-colonial theorist, some of whose ideas

we looked at in the first lecture of this term, provides a useful gloss here. The languages in which Latin American nations are narrated may well be those of European colonisers. However, Bhabha highlights the possibilities of utilising the coloniser’s language as a tool of liberation because of what he terms the ‘ambivalence’ of dominant discourses. This ambivalence fractures the attempts of colonisers, or criollo elites to create a totally hegemonic national discourse. According to Bhabha, the colonial construction of a colonised identity (the ‘naming’ of Caliban) is never complete, and the very process of constructing a subaltern, colonial identity is grounded in an essential contradiction within the discourse of the coloniser: the colonised subject is not simply imagined as a rough or incomplete copy of the European, civilised subject, but, contradictorily this ‘copy’ is imagined as simultaneously resembling the coloniser (mimicry: a difference almost the same but not quite) and remaining radically different (a menace in a difference that is almost total, but not quite). Here we can see a parallel to the ambivalent and unresolved trope of civilisation and barbarity. Bhabha’s point, however, is that this ambivalence contaminates the discourse of the coloniser, or the criollo elite, establishing the potential for resistance in the very attempt to impose a hegemonic identity. For Bhabha, resistance is born, not so much in the ‘discovery’ or invention of an essentialised oppositional identity (an ‘authentic’ America) but rather in the high-jacking of colonial discourse, in exploiting this ‘problematic of colonial representation' in order to allow 'other “denied” knowledges to enter into the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority.’

3.5 By rejecting, or attempting to reject long established European models of civilisation

we do not arrive at a vision that more accurately represents America’s authentic

autochthonous ‘reality’. What Fernandez Retamar provides is an analysis that demonstrates the ways in which no dominant discourse is totally hegemonic. He provides a means of at least thinking what Bhabha refers to as the ‘provincialisation’ of Europe. Or as Fernández Retamar states in the realm of eduction, referring to a speech of Che Guevara’s to the professors and students of the University of Las Villas, ‘Es decir, el Che le propuso a la “universidad europea”, como hubiera dicho Martí, que cediera ante la “universidad americana”; le propuso a Ariel, con su propio ejemplo luminoso y aéreo si los ha habido, que pidiera a Calibán el privilegio du un puesto en sus filas revueltas y gloriosas.’

3.6 It is thus in a resistance that works through the interstices of colonial discourse that

America begins to exist, and it is here that Rodó and Fernandez Retamar, despite the radical differences in their work, strangely, coincide. Like Rodó, Fernandez Retamar also rejects any attempt simply to imitate a more powerful cultural and national order. As he says ‘La pretensión de englobarnos en el “mundo libre”—nombre regocijado que se dan hoy a sí mismos los países capitalistas, y de paso regalan a sus oprimidas colonias y neocolonias— es la versión moderna de la pretensión decimonónica de las clases criollas explotadoras de someternos a la supuesta “civilización”; y esta última pretensión, a su vez, retoma los propósitos de los conquistadores europeos. En todos estos casos, con ligeras variantes, es claro que la América Latina no existe sino, a los más, como una resistencia que es menester vencer para implantar sobre ella la verdadera cultura, la de “los pueblos modernos que se gratifican a ellos mismos con el epíteto de civilizados.” The difference between these two authors is that Fernandez Retamar realises that there is no gloriously authentic past to be resurrected in the creation of the liberated Latin American nation - whether that past be European or American. Rodó’s mistake, his great act of ingenuousness, is that in his desperate attempt not to locate an authentic America in imitation, he does just that. In avoiding one model, he adopts another. Fernández Retamar realises that America’s ‘authenticity’ is to be found in the act of rebellion and resistance, ‘Con los oprimidos había que hacer cause común, para afianzar el sistema opuesto a los intereses y hábitos de los opresores.’ America’s authenticity consists in turning the colonisers’ languages against them, and in learning like Caliban, to curse.

© Rod Marsh, 1998