- Global Citizenship Made-in-Asturias: Xuan Bello’s Paniceiros
Simplistic portraits of global citizenship paint the world as a single hyper-modern non-place, a world of erased borders, flattened differences, and ceaseless market flows. In this brave new territory, transnational and nongovernmental powers whittle away at the sovereignty of old-fashioned nation states. Technology overcomes the old dictums of space and time. The global citizen, armed with Google translator and a smart phone, flows like the goods she purchases and the capital she employs to do so, across borders and in and out of markets – hyper, cyber, and occasionally flesh-and-blood, but ever emerging. In this new global reality, place would seem to hardly matter.
While this may hold true for some, contemporary human subjectivity in general still experiences material constraints. Regional cultures, for example, walk a sometimes violent line between the demands of proverbial local matter and global spirit. The cultures of the most historic of Spain’s autonomous communities provide outstanding examples. Each boasts globally savvy artists whose works manifest the tension between global and local and a sometimes desperate need to sustain, rescue, or even resuscitate local cultures long-belittled or even proscribed.
One of the most successful twenty-first century attempts to pull off this global/local balance in Spain comes, interestingly, not from either the more separatist or the more cosmopolitan of its autonomies, but from the very rural and the very seemingly “Spanish” (in its legendary status as the birthplace of the Christian Reconquista that gave rise to modern Spain) region of Asturias. Xuan Bello’s Paniceiros (2005) is simultaneously a model of regional and cosmopolitan writing. Deeply situated in a lovingly depicted rural idyll, Paniceiros nonetheless creates what we may call, borrowing from theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, an experience of smooth space and place appropriate to the demands and opportunities of globally savvy readers. [End Page 75]
Filled with old historical photographs, local folktales, lyric poetry, alphabetically ordered definitions of local key words, and personal and family memories, Paniceiros at first glance is the kind of nationalistic paean easily dismissed as inappropriate to fomenting effective global citizenship. In an introductory prologue, Bello describes the collection in the melancholic terms of “un viaje imposible a mi pasado,” a study of “un mundo que se muere” (9, 10). Like any self-respecting nationalist, Bello links his romantic longing for the forgotten homeland with a nostalgia for a magical mother tongue: “Aquella gramática y aquel vocabulario, leídos una y otra vez, fueron algo así como un conjuro que me abrió las puertas del alma” (10). He reflects on the personal loss felt when his family moved from the rural idyll of Paniceiros to the local capital of Oviedo where he and his sister found themselves “atrapados por las reglas de la ciudad” (11).
The collection’s first poem sustains this seemingly nationalist logic of loss. Entitled, like the name of the collection and the lost idyll, “Paniceiros,” the poem describes a once glorious realm on the verge of collapse:
Conozco un país donde el mundo se llama Zarréu Grandiella Picu la Mouta Paniceiros Un mundo que perdió sus caminos ... Un mundo que era alto luminoso esbeltoNaciente y fuente y vocación de río ... Un país donde la casa cae Cae el hórreo el puenteel molino la iglesia el hombre también cae ... Donde tan solo nos queda la memoriacorrompida de la infancia Nuestra soledadEste abandono nuestro.(39)
The five hundred-plus pages that follow appear to confirm the deep nationalistic nostalgia the poem and prologue suggest. Lovingly composed and compiled, Paniceiros is an aesthetic delight, a hymn as it were to lost places and lost times seemingly far in its intentions from answering the needs of global citizens.
Closer analysis of the poem and accompanying stories and photos tell a more complex tale. The first story of the collection, “Memoria del Capitán Bobes,” feels initially in the same spirit as the poem. It features three characters: a nomad, an exile, and a sailor. The former narrates an experience that a certain Víctor Fuentes once shared...