Several literary critics have determined that Juan José Nieto Gil’s Ingermina o la hija de Calamar (1844) was the first Colombian novel (Arango Ferrer, Curcio Altamar, Zapata Olivella). Nieto Gil, whose status as Afro-Colombian author is singular, is also unique as Colombia’s only Afro-descendant president to date. The novel narrates a love story between a Spaniard conqueror and an Indigenous princess, while also depicting the conquest of Cartagena’s territory and the subjugation of the native population. In this article, the concept of good governance functions to reinterpret the first Colombian novel as a discussion about power, miscegenation, and hegemony. By closely reading the novel, I define good governance as a political force that controls people without hurting them, and I analyze how the novel features Manichaean masculine characters who discuss how to administer power, while defending mestizaje as a whitening tool for a prosperous nation. However, Ingermina’s tension about what good governance is also allows Nieto to create an Indigenous rebel voice that challenges the hegemonic logic of such benevolence. The concept of good governance and the invisibility of Nieto’s legacy in Colombia trigger historical discussions about race, political fragmentation, and governance in the country from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.


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pp. 145-167
Launched on MUSE
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