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  • El 98 y su impacto en Latinoamérica
  • Carlos González-Herrera
El 98 y su impacto en Latinoamérica. Edited by Leopoldo Zea and Adalberto Santana . Latinoamérica Fin de Milenio, no. 9. Mexico City: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia; Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001. Tables. Bibliographies. Index. 125 pp. Paper.

The Latinoamérica Fin de Milenio series constitutes the most recent undertaking of Leopoldo Zea, one of the most acclaimed and influential Latin American intellectuals of the past decades. This particular volume gathers eight short essays intended to deal with the long-lasting impact of events at the end of the nineteenth century: the fall of Spain's last colonial domains and the confirmation of the United States as the novel star of the new global order. The national spaces covered by the 12 authors are limited to Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, and Spain. The exception is Eduardo Devés, who writes a sharp and provocative text denying that Latin American thought had really understood the political implications of 1898.

The 1898 Treaty of Paris, through which Cuba obtained its independence and Puerto Rico and the Philippines were surrendered to the United States, did not [End Page 509] provoke strong allegiances or solidarity toward the decadent Spain in Latin America. Instead, it helped to unseat the mid-nineteenth-century sympathies of liberals such as Argentine Domingo F. Sarmiento toward the United States. Admiration was replaced with strong opposition, which took the form of an anti-Yanqui cultural sentiment best expressed by Rubén Darío in his 1898 "El triunfo de Calibán" (quoted by Devés): "I cannot, nor do I want to be, one of those silver-toothed buffaloes; they are my enemies, and they detest Hispanic blood" (p. 32 ).

The book provides some sketchy ideas, which will need to be developed in the future by deep research, on the most significant result of the '98 crisis: a reconciliation process between the Latin American countries and Spain, their former colonial metropolis. Most of the essays agree that when the colonial bondage was finally broken, a new era of relations was feasible for those countries. However, as a whole, the volume fails to explain this occurrence. The authors fail to recognize the role of '98 in triggering a profound crisis of identity for Spain. The Generación del '98 redefined Spain, generating feelings of insecurity and anger about its past and uncertainty and restlessness about its future. Spain's new image, modest and humble, forced the former colonial power to look at its former colonies as equals. From Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, or even Cuba, a new vision of Spain emerged: one of evenness. Iberoamerica was then likely. The exception to this assessment is Javier Pinedo's "Ser otro sin dejar de ser uno mismo: España, identidad y modernidad en la Generación del 98." Pinedo recognizes the building of an intellectual bridge. On one extreme, the pillars of the '98 literary movement (Miguel de Unamuno, Antonio Machado, Ramón del Valle Inclán, Pio Baroja, and José Ortega y Gasset, among others) understood that Spain's salvation from total isolation lay in Latin America, with which it shared a common culture and civilization. On the other extreme, a significant group of intellectuals, such as Rubén Darío, José Enrique Rodó, and José Vasconcelos, made Hispanismo a strong bulwark with with to confront the Yankees, "[who] represent a threat to civilization, being composed of ungodly plebeians who would conquer the world guided by their only national religion—the cult of the dollar—and with their only legal system: the voice of cannons" (p. 18 ).

Faster than this transatlantic meeting, the United States imposed its presence through politics, economics, and military tactics when necessary. Latin America, especially Central America and the Caribbean, became the new frontier for American expansionism. Between 1898 and 1908 , the United States secured political control of Cuba and Puerto Rico, intervened militarily in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Cuba, and expended its economic influence in Central America through the United Fruit Company and the Panama Canal.

This collection is enjoyable, and it furnishes many ideas for further...


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pp. 509-510
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2004
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