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OPERA BUFFA AND THE DEBUNKING OF U.S. HEGEMONY IN NERUDA’S “LA UNITED FRUIT CO.” CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ A major tenet of Marx’s dialectical materialism is that every thing that exists (thesis) gives rise to its opposite (antithesis). In Pablo Neruda’s poem “La United Fruit Co.,” the opposing forces are good versus evil, or more specifically, capitalism and U.S.-backed military dictators versus the land and peoples of Latin America. In this composition we see the malevolent side of the U.S. capitalist machine pilfering the fruits and riches of Latin America. This capitalist exploitation sets up the redemption of the people by the inevitable communist revolution, which takes place at the end of Canto general. Thus this capitalist phase in Canto general is merely transitional, a necessary stage of evil that will give birth to the need for the revolution. This paper will show that the maleficent mythological world presented in “La United Fruit Co.” reflects an historical period in flux that mirrors the Western world’s economic and cultural march towards modernity. However, in the aesthetic realm, Neruda chooses to mock the nascent U.S. hegemony by employing the buffoonish, comic opera, rather than the serious Wagnerian opera that dominated the 19th century during the era of the rise of national literatures in Latin America . This paper will analyze the role of the trumpet in proclaiming the dawning of a new era in “La United Fruit Co.” as well as its connections to Apocalyptic literature of the Bible. From there we will draw parallels within the poem to the economic and cultural milieu of the mid 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. We will conclude with an analysis of the operatic and theatrical components of the poem, and how these serve to sharpen the poet’s critique of the United States. The poem opens with the blaring of a trumpet, which in Christianity has several meanings, most of which can be applied to Neruda’s poem. 185 In the Old Testament a trumpet is generally associated with a call to battle or the end of a battle,1 the beginning of a king’s reign2 or a signal of Yahweh’s presence.3 Several elements lend the poem a post-battle quality : the sleeping dead (line 13), the restless war heroes (lines 13-15), sanguinary flies (line 29), dead Indians (line 37) and rotting fruit (line 41). The new king whose reign is signaled is obviously the United States , and God’s presence is noted in this poem as Jehovah. In the New Testament trumpets appear primarily in Revelations and they are a signal or an alarm for the coming of Christ. Seven angels blare seven trumpets ,4 and each blast signals another phase of the Apocalypse, or the transition which marks the end of the physical world and the beginning of the spiritual world in which the dead will be resurrected and Christ will reign. In Neruda’s poem, the dead, of course, are represented in “La United Fruit Co.” by the “muertos dormidos” (line 12), “las tumbas populares” (line 26), and the “indios sepultados” (line 37). The first alludes to the founding fathers of the independent republics; the latter two are in reference to the peoples of Latin America, with the indigenous citation alluding to the hopeless economic future of Latin America after the exploitation of its natural resources. By pointing out the dead, the poet calls attention to their need for redemption, especially in a vile and evil world ruled by a ruthless, capitalist God and his despotic minions, characterized as blood-thirsty flies. Of further importance is that a salient element of Apocalyptic literature is the future salvation of the dead after the triumph of God over evil at the end of the present world, which in Canto general is paralleled by the messianic poet figure overcoming the malevolent capitalist world. In many regards, the creation myth presented in “La United Fruit Co.” mimics the biblical Genesis: both are characterized as a paradise before the arrival of sin; the fruit in the poem represents sin, as it does in the Bible; sin is the cause of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 185-190
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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