|© Farrar Strauss & Giroux|
By Mario Vargas Llosa
Entire essay worth reading, but I can't find it anywhere (in English or Spanish).
"Observed in this way, without the deforming goggles of mythology and utopia, Latin America is neither paradise nor inferno, although for millions of its poor and marginalized it is closer to the latter than the former. It is, pure and simple, a continent that has still not overcome basic obstacles that impede development or deform it and that, in contrast to what is already luckily happening in all of North America, nearly all of Europe, and a good part of Asia and Oceania, has not yet accepted itself for what it is, preferring, in the manner of those who would still like to find in it the Seven Cities of Cibola, the Fountain of Youth, or the Paradise of Leon Pinelo, the visions of the marvelous real over simple reality.
Let's try to approach the reality of Latin America that lies beneath the phosphorescence of images, witches, or horrendousness with which ideology, religion, and literature have dressed Latin America, making an effort to be rational—and knowing that this is difficult, since we Latin Americans, whether we like it or not, are infected with mythology and utopianism.
Let's start with a very simple question that throughout our history has received contradictory answers. What does it mean to feel Latin American? Above all, it means feeling beyond national borders, like an active member of a transnational community. To be conscious that the territorial demarcations dividing our countries are artificial, arbitrarily imposed during the colonial years and that, instead of repairing them, the leaders of the emancipation and republican governments legitimized and sometimes aggravated them, dividing and isolating societies in which the common denominator went deeper than particular differences. The Balkanization of Latin America, as opposed to what happened in North America, where the thirteen colonies united and their union set the United States on its way, has been one of the conspicuous factors of our underdevelopment, since it stimulated nationalisms, wars, and conflicts in which Latin American countries have bled, wasting huge resources that could have served for their modernization and progress. Only in the field of culture has Latin American integration come to be something real, a product of experience and necessity—everyone who writes, composes, paints, or carries out any other creative task discovers that what unites them with other Latin Americans is more important than what separates them from other Latin Americans—while in other realms, politics, economics, and especially attempts to unify governing and market actions have always been restrained by nationalist reflexes, very deep-rooted in the continent: this is the reason for which all of the organisms conceived to unite the region have never prospered."
"The richness of Latin America lies in being many things at once, so many that they make of it a microcosm in which almost all the races and cultures of the world coexist. Five centuries after the arrival of the Europeans on its shores and mountain ranges and in its jungles, Latin Americans of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, African, Chinese, or Japanese origins are as much natives of the continent as those who have ancestors in the ancient Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayas, Quechuas, Aymaras, or Caribs. And the mark that Africans have left on the continent where they have also been for five centuries is present everywhere: in human beings, in ways of speaking, in music, in food, and even in certain ways of practicing religion. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no tradition, culture, language, or race that has not contributed something to that vortex of mixtures and alliances that can be seen in all aspects of life in America. This amalgam is our best patrimony. To be a continent that lacks one identity because it has them all. And because, thanks to its creators, it keeps transforming, every day."
(pp. 177-9; 183 "Dreams And Reality in Latin America"; Mexico, April 2007)