restricted access Chapter 3: “La hora ha llegado”: Hispanism, Pan-Americanism, and the Hope of Spanish/American Glory (1938–1948)
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62  3 “La hora ha llegado” Hispanism, Pan-Americanism, and the Hope of Spanish/American Glory (1938–1948)1 Sebastiaan Faber How does one justify writing fiction and poetry—or, for that matter, literary criticism—in a time of international crisis? What legitimacy does creating and studying literature have when the newspapers are full of war and death? NorthAmerican Hispanists and Spanish-speaking intellectuals facing these questions in the 1930s and ’40s had a confident, double answer to that dilemma. In the first place, as scholars and writers, they saw themselves as a powerful force for peace. After all, they were guardians of Culture, which they conceived of as a privileged realm of essential “spiritual values” not only transcending economics and politics, but also national borders. As representatives par excellence of this realm, they viewed themselves as major players in world history. In 1935 and 1937, for instance, hundreds of Western intellectuals concerned with the rise of fascism gathered in Paris and Valencia to join forces “In Defense of Culture”; and when in 1938 almost a hundred professors of Latin American literature united in Mexico City to found the “Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana” (IILI), they did so under the slogan “A la fraternidad por la cultura” (toward fraternity through culture). In the first case, “culture” was directly linked to antifascism, functioning as an umbrella concept that allowed for an alliance between the liberal bourgeois *MoranaFinalPages.indd 62 12/1/04 7:13:00 PM “LA HORA HA LLEGADO” 63 intelligentsia and the more radical leftist sectors associated with the Socialist and Communist parties—a phenomenon closely connected with the Popular Front strategy ratified in the summer of 1935 by the Communist International. The fraternity invoked in the second case, on the other hand, did not primarily refer to antifascism, nor to the universal brotherhood of man, but rather to the brotherhood of Spanish and English-speaking Americans. To be sure, the members of the newly founded IILI believed that studying literature was in itself a practice conducing to peace and progress; they also believed that this was especially true for the literature of the Americas. Two years after the Institute’s foundation, while the Second World War was raging through Europe, the IILI’s journal, the Revista Iberoamericana, optimistically predicted a great future for the American continent: “¿Quiénes habrán de recoger el tesoro de la cultura occidental para salvarlo y glorificarlo?” the editors asked, and their answer could not have been more confident: “¡La Hora de América ha llegado!” (“Hora” 13) (Who will recover the treasure of Western culture in order to safeguard and glorify it? . . . The Time of the Americas has come!). If culture was constructed in spiritual terms as a privileged space of peace and progress, then, for the members of the IILI, this space had its precise geographical equivalent in the Americas. The Revista’s editors were sure that “América ha de aceptar su augusto destino singular: realizar para siempre el ensueño de las edades y hacer posible el reino del Espíritu entre los pueblos” (The Americas will accept their singular, magnificent destiny: to realize for eternity the dream of all ages, and allow for the reign of the Spirit to rule among all peoples) (“Hora” 13–14). In other words, they saw culture both as a transcendental tool of peace and understanding, and as a specific source of pride and glory for their nation, their language, or, in this case, their continent. As we will see in the following, Popular Frontist intellectuals celebrated culture in much the same way as a positive force in both global and regional terms, as both a source of universal values and concrete, local prestige. Underlying both cases is an unresolved tension between a universalist, humanist, Enlightenment conception of culture, and a Romantic, essentialist, or exceptionalist one. In what follows, we will identify this tension as one of the main problems underlying the concept of Hispanism. The general purpose of this essay, however, is to discuss the ideological dimensions of Hispanism in the light of the transformations it underwent between 1938 and 1948, the turbulent decade preceding the outbreak of the Cold War. In these years, Hispanism was redefined by three major historical and political events in a crucial way: the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and its aftermath of intellectual exile; Roosevelt ’s Good Neighbor Policy and the accompanying revival of U.S.-sponsored *MoranaFinalPages.indd...