Who are “the people”?

Posted by: | January 20, 2009 | Comments Off on Who are “the people”?

This week’s readings for the subject “the People” left me with a lot to consider.  Peronism as a political ideology has always been a little problematic for me in that (at least in my perception) its underlying philosophy, while supporting “the people” or the working-class, it does so at the expense of alienating a large portion of the privileged population.  It has always seemed to me that the political ideology of Peronism appears much better in theory than in execution.  The two pieces that we read this week only further contribute to this perception of Peronism for me. 

Eva Perón’s work, “My Message” also contributed to my own conflicted feelings regarding this particular controversial political figure.  Throughout the piece, her description of “the people” and the so-called “descamisados”  leads me to question her motivations for writing such a piece.  Who exactly are “the people” she writes so passionately for?  Obviously she is referring to the “race” of the lower/working-class (as opposed to the elite “race” of politicians, oligarchs, privileged clergy, etc.), yet beyond this huge generalization we get no more information about the identity of these “people” from whence she came.  These generalizations are problematic for me, not only in her use of the word “race” (a social construction in itself) to characterize groups divided by economic opportunity but in her attempt to polarize a broad spectrum of culture, backgrounded, belief, and political alignment.  I find Eva’s message to the people a bit contrived and theatricized; an attempt to unite people for a common goal which  ultimately divides a nation’s population and encourages passion without rationality, political extremists and fanaticism.  While I’m aware that Eva Perón represents a powerful political figure who attempted to represent the under-represented, this “Message” only confirms my previous assessment of her as a calculating, fervent demagogue with quite an agenda.  I’m aware that this is a controversial statement about such a famous figure, but I invite further discussion!  While I have my own impressions, she remains a mystery to me. 

In regards to the Borges piece, I have to admit that it left me a little confused.  Perhaps this is because I’m not totally used to reading Borges in English, or to reading his more political, non-fiction work.  I could probably do with a better understanding of the historical/political perspective for this piece, however I did find some parts very interesting.  I feel that in comparison to Eva’s “Message,” “In Celebration of the Monster” provides a significantly more colourful, complete image of “the people.”  The story creates an almost impressionistic image of (what I believe is) a descamisado, in a violent interaction with non-Peronists.  While the images in this piece are violent and slightly disturbing, they provide much deeper representation of human characteristics and emotion than Eva Perón’s stylized, stereotyped descamisado. 

I feel that both readings for this week, while portraying an extremely specific facet of the Latin American pueblo, give us some interesting material to think about.  These readings show how contentious terms like “the people” are and invite us to think a little more critically about our expectations for the course.  They demonstrate that in studying a topic so broad as Latin American popular culture, we cannot be satisfied with stereotypes and generalizations. 


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