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Indigenismo - The 1920s And 1930s, Bibliography

peoples indigenous indian century

The term indigenismo encompasses a diverse array of intellectual production concerning the indigenous peoples of Latin America. The twentieth century in particular witnessed an explosion of literary, critical, and visual work on the figure of the Indian. It should be made clear from the outset that the term, although most closely associated with Mexico and Guatemala and especially with the Andean region during the first half of the twentieth century, is applicable to Latin America's diverse nations and histories, including those not typically viewed as influenced by indigenismo. This broad geographical and historical scope stems from the wide appeal of indigenismo's central, self-declared objective: the defense and vindication of the continent's indigenous peoples. This objective distinguishes indigenismo from idyllic and idealized representations of the Indian with which Latin American cultural history is rife, as evidenced by, for example, Romanticisminflected Indianist works of the nineteenth century. Indianism tended to portray the Indian in a sentimental light and did not address the social plight of indigenous peoples in modern Latin America. Cumandá (1879) by Ecuador's Juan León Mera (1832–1894) illustrates Indianism's tendency to portray the Indians as part of an idealized past and thus to ignore their contemporary presence.

In contrast to Indianism, indigenismo defines itself through its critical stance vis-à-vis the dominant society that exploits and debases indigenous peoples and their cultures. Clearly, this perspective has not been unique to modernity. Indigenismo finds foundational antecedents in the accounts of figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas (1474–1566) and el Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539–1616), who, respectively, denounced the ills visited upon Indians by the Spanish colonizers and praised the integrity and complexity of the Inca Empire in the face of accusations of its barbarity. Other sympathetic works on the Indian can be found in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Clorinda Matto de Turner's (1854–1909) Aves sin nido (1889; Birds without a nest) and Narciso Aréstegui's (1818–1892) El Padre Horán (1848). The critic Efraín Kristal considered the latter to be the first indigenista work. These works evidence the outrage typical of indigenista works as well as their authors' willingness to challenge such structures of authority as the church and the government. Thus, the vindication of the Indian through the indictment of social and political institutions was already in place at least as early as the mid-nineteenth century. Later indigenistas were equally in debt to figures such as Manuel González Prada (1848–1918) who was the first, in works such as "Discurso en el Politeama" (1888; Speech in the Politeama), to call for social revolt in order to rectify the abuses committed against the indigenous peoples.

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