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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY CARLOS FUENTES’S “THE TWO SHORES”: BETWEEN COUNTERFACTUALISM AND CULTURAL ALLEGORY ALBERTO RIBAS CARLOS Fuentes’s short story “The Two Shores” was written in 1991 and published in The Orange Tree in 1992. The Fifth Centennial of the Spanish arrival to the Americas compelled many Hispanophone intellectuals at the end of the 20th century to reinterrogate critically the significance of this event. In consonance with the discursive politics of postmodernism (see Hutcheon 66), such reinterrogation paid attention not only to its negative effects, but also showed an interest in recovering the voices and discourse of all those who were traditionally marginalized from or oppressed by historical and political processes. The clearest sign of this interest – far beyond the anthropological – for the marginal individual who had been victimized by established power structures in the Latin American nations, was the Nobel Foundation award of the 1992 Peace Prize to a Maya-Quiché woman named Rigoberta Menchú. In this intellectual context, “The Two Shores” represents Fuentes’s own contribution to revising the significance and impact of the Spanish arrival to the Americas. Fuentes’s marginal narrator is a talking dead man, a sort of Derridean revenant who casts a doubt over the conceptual foundations of the discourse of the present and to whom the reader owes a “hospitable” welcome as a way of doing justice to the voices that have disappeared from the historical record (Derrida 175). But this narrator is, remarkably enough, not a voice representative of the victims of the genocide, but a Spaniard. Having been captive among the Mayas, Jerónimo de Aguilar has become an acculturated subject, a traitor to the Spanish imperialistic project, and a self-appointed secret champion of the voices silenced by YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 301 history. Neither dead nor alive, neither Spanish nor Maya, rooted neither in the present nor in the past, and yet showing all these traits partially, Aguilar manifests the liminal, borderline condition of what Homi Bhabha calls the “freak social and cultural displacements” that epitomize contemporary literature (12). Through this “freak,” post-mortem voice of the transculturated Jerónimo de Aguilar, “The Two Shores” illustrates the dialectical conflict at the fictional foundation of post-Columbine culture. The story’s representation of the conquest of New Spain in a reverse narrative order portrays the birth of modern Mexico in terms of the clash between the Spanish invading force and the Mesoamerican tribes. Thus, the foundational act of the modern nation is represented as an inherently traumatic event: Europa le ha arañado el rostro para siempre a este Nuevo Mundo que, bien visto, es más viejo que el europeo (14) Dominick LaCapra defines “foundational trauma” as that extreme event, real or imaginary that, paradoxically, may turn into the basis of an individual or collective identity (57). LaCapra adds that this trauma may generate an identity-based communion between subjects and enable the vindication of history with a transformative finality over oppressions and abuses in the present: Insofar as [the foundational trauma] fixates one obsessively on old grievances or dubious dynamics and even induces a compulsive reenactment of them, it may also function to undermine the need to come to terms with the past in a manner that constructively engages existential, social, and political demands and possibilities of a current situation. (58) Chapter 0 narrates the “alternative possibility” of an indigenous American invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. The invasion, aiming to “edificar el templo de las cuatro religiones, inscrito con el verbo de Cristo, Mahoma, Abraham y Quetzalcóatl” (62) (“to edify the temple of the four religions, inscribed with the word of Christ, Muhammad, Abraham , and Quetzalcóatl”) has been diversely commented with an emphasis on the perception of “alternative history.” Alfred MacAdam sees the story as a consolation, a sort of “transitory refuge from facts,” (440), and Gonzalo Celorio perceives in it a tragically futile attempt to rewrite historical dialog that contrasts with an Aztec cosmology in which history is predetermined (294). Paul Jay sees the text as a performance 302 ROMANCE NOTES “inverting and unmaking [Bernal Díaz’s] earlier chronicle by rewriting it.” (408), which Julio Ortega describes as a festive gesture, “the merry probabilism of what could not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 301-311
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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