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Chapter Two The Voice of the Son in Jesús Lara’s Surumi En toda mi obra, a partir de Harawiy, harawiko, ha habido un hilo conductor permanente: mi propósito de escribir como un hijo de mi raza. In all my work, beginning with Harawiy, harawiko, there has been a constant thread: my resolve to write like a son of my race. — Jesús Lara, Tapuy Jayniy Close to eighty years old, Jesús Lara looks back on his life and sees continuity, a “guiding thread” to his life. This thread is a certain kind of writing, writing as identity: he writes as someone in particular, the son of the Indian race. The statement is itself a proclamation of identity: “I am mestizo.” As such, it might initially appear self-evident: if Lara is a mestizo, how else could he write, since mestizo identity implies, by definition, that one has Indian ancestry? Borges once asked this question about writing and identity but ingenuously so, in order to underscore its banality, its status as a “pseudo-problem”: what else could an Argentine’s writing be, but Argentine (426)? Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to approach Lara’s statement in the manner of Borges, with such matter-offactness about the stability of one’s given identity. Lara refers, implicitly, to a society in which the pressure to be or to become other than Indian was — is — almost inescapable. His statement raises the possibility of its negative, of a mestizo who refuses to be the son of the Indian race. His life’s work, Lara thus implicitly tells us, has been undertaken to refuse that refusal. Bolivian historian Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui suggests that double refusals such as this one — the refusal of a refusal of a name — may in fact be typical of all will-to-power in a society in which the power to name, profoundly differentiating, has always provided the justification 30 The Voice of the Son in Surumi  31 of hierarchy (because the power to name so insistently refers us, by way of 1492, to the foundations of colonialism). Names are fundamental, not incidental, to colonial hierarchies, which give rise to their own peculiar phenomenologies built around the question, “Am I that name?”1 The simple refusal of certain names — “indio,” “cholo,” “pongo” — is not enough, for it demonstrates the self-interiorization of the negative image.2 It is thus not a true refusal, because it accepts the underlying social hierarchy as natural. In order to challenge such terms, Rivera argues, one must “go through the looking glass” and claim the bad name as one’s own: “romper o atravesar este espejo para reencontrar un sentido afirmativo a lo que en principio no es sino un insulto o prejuicio racista y etnocéntrico” [shatter or go through the mirror in order to find an affirmative meaning to what is in principle nothing but an insult or a racist and ethnocentric prejudice] (“La raíz” 57). The double refusal aims to become, finally, a decolonizing affirmation and to vanquish the dialectics of recognition that make social identities unstable and provisional. Looking at Lara’s novel Surumi (1943) and the first edition of his anthology of Quechua literature, La poesía quechua (1947), this chapter will examine one such double refusal within the context of the construction of progressive indigenismo and populist nationalism in Bolivia during the 1940s. The double refusal is, I would argue, one of the most significant rhetorical elements of Bolivian mestizo nationalism. Rivera, writing in the 1990s, offers the practice of double refusal as one that resists the dominance of mestizo ideology, the pressure to negate one’s indigeneity. Nevertheless, as I will show here, analysis of Lara’s work suggests that in the 1940s this practice was itself instrumental to forging the ideology of the mestizo nation. For Lara and other nationalist thinkers, this passage was a crucial component of a notion of autonomy — both individual and national — concentrating modern liberation on the form of the sovereign first person who lies “beyond the looking glass.” Lara was one of Franz Tamayo’s youngest followers; still in his early twenties, he moved from Cochabamba to Oruro to work with Tamayo on the journal El hombre libre. A few years later, in 1927, he would publish the first fruits of his apprenticeship to Tamayo’s “national pedagogy.” This was an account of his journey to the Inca ruins of Incallajta, in...


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