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59 Chapter 2 Culture, Modernity, and the South, 1898–­ 1936 Andalucismo, arabismo, and africanismo ran parallel to attempts at cultural modernization and Europeanization after the colonial losses of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines in 1898. For those involved, ranging from philosophers and linguists to poets and painters,Andalusia was less real than imagined, less place than commonplace, less history than cliché. Nonetheless, they asked the same basic question as their contemporary regionalists,Arabists, and colonists : what is the south’s significance for the reinvention of Spain as a modern nation? José Ortega y Gasset, a leading Europeizante, or “Europeanizer,” felt that the subject had not received the critical attention it deserved. On March 5, 1927, he published his book proposal in the liberal Madrid daily El Sol. He never wrote the book, but its rationale summarizes how many early twentieth-​ century Spanish writers and artists assessed Andalusia. The region’s mysteries, Ortega y Gasset proposes, could be unlocked by considering oriental peoples, to whom Andalusians are closer in character than to Europeans. As a people with millennial roots but no history, southerners are akin to the stock Persians, Indians, and Egyptians imagined by Europeans from Montesquieu to Hegel. They inhabit a lush environment, reminiscent of distant Araby, which requires minimal physical and intellectual effort. Art, literature, science, and religion, essential building blocks of Western civilization, are not their concern, in Ortega y Gasset’s view.1 The message is understated yet clear for those familiar with his Europeanizing endeavors: to find a place among its northern neighbors, Spain should look away from its south. Just a few weeks after this short piece, El Sol published Ortega y Gasset ’s “Teoría de Andalucía” (“Theory of Andalusia”). Here, he opens with sweeping hyperbole: nineteenth-​ century Spain was Andalusian. Andalusian politicians, historical events, and stereotypes shaped Spain’s image at home and abroad until 1900, when the cultural manifestations of the industrializing north gained momentum, shifting the country’s center of gravity.2 This is a welcome change. Ortega y Gasset insists that southern stereotypes, seen as a deplorable bric-​ a-​ brac of wayward bandits, flamenco singers, and carefree merrymakers, must be discarded if Spaniards wish to attain cultural parity 60 Chapter 2 with Europe. To reach this goal, they must also fight off the oriental indolence of the Andalusian peasants, who are imagined as lazy hedonists ruled by a “vegetative ideal,” in stark contrast to the actual living conditions of the landless poor in the region.3 Unlike vigorous and creative Castilians, who have been the vanguard of historical change in Spain since the Middle Ages, Andalusians are seen as plantlike organisms who indulge in pleasures that are neither “spiritual nor founded on historical principles.”4 These views were far from idiosyncratic. Along with the desire to Europeanize the country and the cult of Castile as the locus of national essence, determining the place of Andalusia in the modern nation was a persistent preoccupation of Madrid’s pre–Civil War intelligentsia. In the minds of liberal reformers like Ortega y Gasset, Andalusian Spain, a land more exposed to oriental traditions than enlightened ideas, was the iconic image of a country that fell to pieces after 1898. This chapter contextualizes Ortega y Gasset’s theory of Andalusia by exploring its ties not only to other contemporary expressions of anti-​ Andalusian nationalism (whether centralizing or peripheral), but also to critical voices who opposed the region’s marginalization as antimodern. Artists and intellectuals who shared Ortega y Gasset’s modernizing spirit, from the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez to the composer Manuel de Falla, highlighted the importance of their region’s oriental heritage to progressive cultural nationalism. Surprisingly, they did so by revising rather than rejecting Ortega y Gasset’s views. Their feat was to redraw established hierarchies, transforming the perceived degenerative effects of southern culture into a way for Spain to claim a place among civilized nations. Taken together, their alternative theories of Andalusia saw the region neither as an exotic icon nor as a backwater , but as an imagined space that reconciled Spain’s orientalism with its modernizing aspirations. Against Andalusia Nineteenth-​ century Spain had an Andalusian accent. Painting and literature were infused with stock images of the south, from colorful flowerpots under blue skies to brave bullfighters to traditional rituals and festivities. Popular novels by Juan Valera, Fernán Caballero, and Pedro Antonio de Alarcón and costumbrista paintings by Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer and Manuel Rodr...


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