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Latin American Literature.


Three Important Factors ln Postcolonial Latin American Literature.


Latin America is not a country; it is a nation that comprises of twenty states. So Latin America has not any single origin and it is the land of several civilizations like Inca, Maya etc. The term ‘Latin America’ itself is very oxymoronic because the name implies the notion that how it is colonized over several periods. Latin America is colonized by Spanish. They come to conquer the land and destroy the ancient civilizations. After the colonization Latin America becomes a land of mixed culture because slaves are brought in from different regions of Africa. So Latin America has the population of Indians and Africans. But these slaves who come from different parts of Africa have their own ethnic identities because they belong to a certain community. By the time they are taken together and they are made as laborers then their ethnic identity gets wiped out and they become a homogenous mask. Over the time they even forget their mother tongue because European Spanish language is imposed upon them. And they just know that they have to speak in that language, understand the language and follow orders in that language. So it is very clear that after colonization an inter-racial mixing is taken place in Latin America. Mestizo, Creole , Mulatto these three groups coexist with Indigenous populations in Latin America.

1. Culture

When we discuss the tenets of post colonialism in Latin American literature at first we have to focus on certain tropes of Latin American literature. Neutralizing binaries is one important trope. Often in post colonial literature we can see several kinds of binaries like the center and the margin, the regional and the universal, provincial and metropolitan and so on. Latin American literature tries to neutralize binaries because the literature or the Latin American aesthetic itself is heterogeneous in nature. So it wants to celebrate pluralistic heterogeneous culture, society, politics etc. As a result of racial hierarchy a cultural assimilation takes place which is very plural in nature. Several writings in different languages emerge. One important aesthetic of Latin American literature is the idea of self-fashioning which is noticed in Afro-Cuban poetry. One kind of agenda of self-fashioning is to contest and contradict European aesthetics. But when the Afro-Cuban writers contradict European aesthetics of course they also question western modernity. But when Creole writers write poetry or try to concentrate on the idea of self-fashioning they in a way try to talk about oppression of the black and glorify their mythology, songs, dances that are in the heart of black community. So there emerges a coexistence of two cultures. Creole writers talk about the oppression of black but not at the behest of glorifying the black culture but at the behest of European culture. Sometimes in these poems the poets focus upon some antirational perspectives like intellectual progress at the cost of repressing emotion. This is the way they contest rationality. Pablo Neruda’s poem ‘The Heights of Macchu Picchu’ is a good example where he not only talks about lost Inca civilization and remembers the glorifying past but also focuses on the isolation he has to face.

2. Language

Another important factor in Latin American literature is the aspect of language. Latin American writers want to set up parallel discourse like for instance interior monologue but to question the canon (this is what Caliban in Shakespeare’s Tempest wants to attempt that he knows Prospero’s language already and therefore he has the ability to curse back or question the colonizer in his language). Language is basically the reflection of culture, life style, individual world. Latin American writers have felt that Indigenous language that is spoken by the Indians of Maya civilization that is more culturally specific to the environment of Latin America. The language of colonizers is restricted and delimitated because it fails to talk about the culture environment specific to Latin America. Then they bring new words from Indigenous language, African language and incorporate those words into the traditional Spanish language and thus the Pidgin language is born in Latin America. So in the Spanish language new words are being added. Another important fact is there are different kinds of communities in Latin America and the Latin American writers deal with basic kind of restructuring and refashioning in language. Reflecting of experiences is come up in the language. Latin American writers think that how to make reality credible in their writings. When the Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez gives his noble winning speech he talks about his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude and the trope of magic realism. One point he raises that the language that they speak or that they understand is not sufficient enough to express their reality or in that language they cannot make their reality credible or believable because the language doesn’t have sufficient vocabulary through which they can express their reality. This is one of the major problems Marquez speaks off. Therefore he says that magic realism is a trope that time and again Latin American writers have used.


To make the reality credible, to talk about alternative rationalities it is important to use a different mode of expression and that mode of expression is magic realism where fantasy and reality can coexist together. In this regard Marquez’s idea of Banana Republic is very important. Banana Republic is a united food company which is established in several parts of Latin America. Eduardo Hughes Galeano in his Open Veins of Latin America says that Europe and America suddenly want to eat banana and so they fit this banana in the Latin American soil. US set up these food companies and spreads branches in places like Venezuela and other countries. Sometimes peasants bring revolutions against these food companies because they are not paid properly and they are being exploited. Marquez in his magic realism says that these kinds of incidents are taken place when on a day thousands of peasants are killed and nothing official records exist and this is a process of erasing memories from peoples’ minds. Therefore magic realism is a trope that is used in describing these kinds of incidents where the Latin American writers talk about nightmares and dreams. So reclaiming these kinds of memories is the main work of magic realism. In One Hundred Years of Solitude we can see that the protagonist Aureliano finds a manuscript and when he goes through that manuscript he sees that the script is written in Sanskrit but he doesn’t know the Sanskrit language at all and he reads it as if it is being written in Portuguese. He gets to see that once upon a time going by several centuries ago an authoritative ruler attempts to erase the memory and stamps upon each and every creature they see. So in this novel we can see that the rediscover the past is an important factor of magic realism. But it is very important that the Latin American writers do not solely dwell with the past. Several authors say that magic realism is nostalgia for the future. Going back to the past represents how they can think about their better future. They want to create a violent-free future and that’s why they reclaim the past. Magic realism tries to talk about that memory which we don’t see in history books rather it is the memory of community and importantly of the individual persona. In Marquez’s short story “Blacaman the Good, Vendor of Miracles” we see that his uses the trope of magic realism to question western rationality and he tries to focus upon the agenda of socialism and not capitalism. Blacaman is a victim of science and western Enlightenment rationality and the author shows that anyone who takes help from western science and technology he or she goes through immense pain( just like Blacaman) Another important aspect of magic realism is that it has a mosaic structure and so it spans across a spatio-temporal phenomena. So it is not just one century that it considers.


To conclude, we can say that through the post colonial tenets in Latin American literature we can also find a kind of solidarity in Latin American literature. And this solidarity refers to the similar experience of colonization and similar kind of economic exploitation that the Latin American people have gone through. The story of oppression is not only noticed in novels or stories. In the comedy like Donald Duck Latin Americans are portrayed in a trivial way. The alienation that the Latin American people face is portrayed in Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized. With reclaiming the past and portraying the idea of self-fashioning, Latin American writers successfully describe the pluralistic heterogeneous and colonial imperialism which keep on controlling the economy, politics and the whole society of Latin America.

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