Theories of Mixture II: Transculturation

Posted by: | March 10, 2009 | Comments Off on Theories of Mixture II: Transculturation

The first article by Ortiz is a fantastic overview of how Cuba has morphed, rather dramatically, into the country it has become today. He discusses how Cuba experienced so much change is such a small amount of time by stating “The whole Gamut of culture run by Europe in a span of more than four millenniums took place in Cuba in less than four centuries” (Pg. 99). An intrinsic throughout all this change was the idea of Transculturation. This term is used to describe the extremely complex transmutations that have taken place in Cuba with regards to culture, economics, institutions, legal, ethical, religious, artistic, linguistic, psychological, sexual, and numerous other aspects of life. Cuba is so unique because it was settled by people from all over Europe and Africa intertwined by the Indians that were already there. The result has been a culture that is truly unique and reflective of all the different backgrounds involved. Ortiz sums it up perfectly near the end of the article “…the result of every union of cultures is similar to that of the reproductive process between individuals: the offspring always has something of both parents but is always different from each of them” (Pg. 103). I enjoyed this article, it was an excellent read and provided me with a great synopsis of how Cuba has come to be such a unique and diverse nation.

The second article was much different than the first, In Polar”s Indidgenismo and Heterogeneous Literatures: Their Double Sociocultural statute, the idea of universal (or National) literature is discussed. This article was much more complex and I must admit, I am not 100% sure if I have a complete understanding of its thesis but I will give it a try. Polar uses the term Indigenismo as a sort of literary Mestizaje. The term Indigenismo is a mixture of indigenous literature (or oral literature) and Mestizo literature, or in Polar’s terms, literature’s that are situated in conflicting crossings between two societies and two cultures. He then moves on to discuss Heterogeneity and how it has effected Latin American literature. What I was able to gather from the article is that even though literature was created in Latin America by either indigenous or mestizo people, it often was written in a way that the European elite would best understand.  He describes this on page 106 “Although written about the Indies, the chronicles nevertheless are realized when they manage to captivate the metropolitan reader. The fact that the almost unanimously appeal to the king, or to other instances of peninsular power, is a courtesan gesture, but also more profoundly, it is a sign of a system of communication that prevails in the chroniclers’ statements: the King or the metropolis is their reader”. I think what Polar is getting at is that these chronicles and literature were written for different reasons (he talks about the referent), and it is wrong to condemn them and say they are not genuine Indigenismo literature, because it is a true representation of where Latin America was heading, to a Mestizaje perspective and those writing reflected that. I may have missed some other key points but this is the best I could do to try and articulate my understanding of the essay. I look forward to hearing some feedback in class.


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