- Introduction:Histories of Latin Americanisms
Thinking in terms of "Americas"-wide projects is a long-standing intellectual and political tradition in Latin America, with roots extending back to colonial times. In the twentieth century, a Latin American sensibility—or Latinamericanismo—became especially associated with the left-leaning goals of sovereign economic development, cultural autonomy, and anti-imperialist struggle. This sensibility was distinct from (though often intimately shaped by) the emergence of Latin American studies in the United States as a disciplinary field backed by U.S. government money and focused on fighting communism and shoring up U.S. regional power. Inside Latin America, in contrast, Latinamercanismo was more firmly tied to principles of Third World solidarity and hemispheric national liberation. Although there existed multiple, competing strands of Latinamericanismo—socialist, Catholic, revolutionary, developmentalist, and so on—they often shared points of critique about the detrimental impact of U.S. (or Western) capitalism and foreign policy and/or embraced similar fantasies about the cultural commonalities that bound "Latin Americans" together. In the last decade and a half, many of the assumptions that undergirded Latinamericanismo have been called into question. The end of the cold war and the triumph of neoliberal globalization particularly contributed to this, but so have social movements and cultural paradigms that stress Latin America's profound heterogeneity. Old questions reassert themselves: What is Latin America, or the Latin American? And what does it mean to embrace a Latin American sensibility?
In the following special forum, four leading Latin American intellectuals reflect on the relevance of Latinamericanismo, both in its past and in its possible [End Page 11] future. These essays were originally presented as a panel at the Twenty-Fourth International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in Dallas, held in March 2003. Special thanks to Arturo Arias, former LASA president, for facilitating the publication of the panel's proceedings.
Heidi Tinsman is on the faculty of the history department at the University of California, Irvine, and has authored Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor in the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950–1973 (2002). She is a member of the Radical History Review editorial collective.