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Radical History Review 89 (2004) 49-55
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Personal Stories of Latin Americanism
To be a Central American author is an oxymoron. To be a Central American writer is to be a writer from a region that is not only marginalized in relation to a metropolitan hegemonic center but even marginal to other marginal centers of cultural thought. It is a marginality within a marginality. That is why our voices often go unheard, as if we were mouthing words into emptiness, or producing signs to which very few attribute any relevance. The only exception to this uncanny situation has been when we speak in the name of a revolutionary political organization that has triumphed, or perhaps, carries the hope of a potential triumph. This happened in the 1980s. However, beginning with the 1990s, our voices returned to the realm of the forgettable, to that corner which does not have any influence, nor inserts itself within what could be considered the transcendental debates of our time. A clear example is the case of Rigoberta Menchú. The debate in the hegemonic centers has not necessarily been about Menchú as a person, nor even about her distinctiveness as a Mayan subject. The debates have been, rather, about academics in the globalized center that, using Menchú as a trope, try to advance their own theoretical positions as part of a power play taking place chiefly within U.S. academic centers. The truth of the matter, in large measure, is that very few of the protagonists of this debate are genuinely interested in the daily reality of the Maya, their women, their survivors, or even their pain and suffering. What they are truly concerned about are the professional benefits they could potentially enjoy as a result of their particular theorization of Menchú. [End Page 49]
Relating to that thought, I once observed that our greatest tragedy is precisely that our drama does not matter to anyone. "The repression in Guatemala is worse than the others," wrote Gabriel García Márquez in 1976, "not so much for its insatiable intensity, nor for its heartless ferocity, nor its long-lasting duration, but because there already is almost no one left in the world that remembers it."1 Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, very little has changed. Nevertheless, I prefer to visualize as comical a situation that could well be viewed as melodramatically pathetic. It does not make sense to beat yourself up over things that are out of your control, as evidenced by some literary citations. Augusto Monterroso, for example, reminds us of how resourceful the little guy can be. The duty of the offended, Roque Dalton exhorts, is also to make those that oppress us die laughing. For another example, Eduardo Torres says that poets should be prohibited by law from publishing a second book until they have proven that the first is bad enough for them to deserve a second chance.
In this context, and referring in a literal way to the title of this forum, I will make reference to some personal anecdotes before commenting on the presentations in question. For me, Latin Americanism began when I was a child in Guatemala. I was eight years old and was listening, with my father, to the soccer World Cup transmitted from Sweden on the radio. When Argentina lost in the quarterfinals, my father told me: "Now, we root for Brazil." I asked him why, and he responded, "Because they are the only Latin American team that remains in contention." It is within these contexts that identity is shaped. As a writer, I locate myself more in those affective spaces and consider them the places where my personal story of Latin Americanism begins, rather than in any type of discursive theoretical ideology.
In this sense, I could also relate an entire genealogy based on personal anecdotes that would include the acquisition of a political consciousness as a result of an attempted coup d'état on November 13, 1960, put down by an air force that, in those days, was only two blocks away from my...