Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflecting time

Well I've nearly made it through my first Spanish literature class (I suppose I have made it through all of the actual class sessions now!).

I'm glad I chose this course because I have enjoyed the topic of magical realism literature in Latin America. One of the elements I've enjoyed the most is learning about the evolution of the genre. I haven't taken many literature classes in general in university so I'm not used to studying a particular literary genre and didn't have any set expectations. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find out we'd be looking at the works that were the inspiration of magical realism, a book that is the epitome of magical realism in North American eyes, and even a post-magical realism collection of writing.

As a Latin American studies student I enjoyed the class lectures about the social and historical context of each book. It was interesting to fit these works into my knowledge of the countries in which they took place and to see how much the countries of origin of the authors influenced their works (especially for the first 3 books). Oh I also enjoyed the discussions of reality v. magic that came up in the discussions for all of the texts, given the course's topic.

I think McOndo was a great way to end the course. I wish we'd been able to spend more time on it and had all read the same stories so we'd be better able to have informative class discussions. It would have also been interesting to analyze the individual authors more because I'm curious the extent to which their nationalities influenced their work. I'm glad we ended with this collection because it doesn't allow us to leave the course feeling certain that we understand what Latin American literature is all about. In fact, McOndo questions what we should actually take away from the books by Asturias, Carpentier and GGM.

Overall the amount of reading in this course was challenging. With the blogs due every Sunday it became inevitable that I left all the reading to the weekend and it was a LOT to read through, especially in Spanish. In my opinion we started off with the hardest text which made for a harsh introduction to the course. Even after helping to write a wikipedia entry on Leyendas de Guatemala I still feel uneasy about writing my final paper on that book. The way its written is hard to dissect and I doubt my ability to uncover the complexity of the events and significances in each legend. I'm gonna give that a start tomorrow...wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Después de leer varios cuentos de McOndo, veo que los textos representan lo que había indicado los editores en la presentación del libro. Dentro de los ensayos hay varios propósitos y al fin, (a los lectores no latinos), nos hacen pensar en otra definición de América Latina. Esa manera de ver A.L. es semejante a lo que discutimos en los otros cursos sobre América Latina en los cuales tratamos de ver la región fuera de la romanticismo.

Pienso que el hecho de que los autores son de distinctos paises en A.L nos muestra que hay semejanzas entre los paises, pero que hay también diferencias en la región. Por ejemplo, noté que los cuentos revelan las palabras coloquiales de los diferentes paises, como “che” en Argentina y el uso de “vos” y “sos” en ciertas paises también.

McOndo fue creado para presentar un nuevo estilo de literatura latinoamericana. Un aspecto central de su creación era declarar que A.L. es más que una región en que el realismo mágico predomina o muestra la realidad. Lo que ha sido producido por ese próposito es un texto relativamente moderno que es más fácil relacionar con, con respecto a 100 Años de Soledad.

McOndo presenta la realidad de la mayoría de gente que nació depués de los baby-boomers. Discutan cosas en una manera personal y por los pensamientos y las preguntas profundos que los personajes (personas regulares) tiene en sus vidas diarias. Por las historias de las vidas de los personajes, los textos de McOndo discuten el propósito de la vida, percepciones sobre definir la realidad, las razonas que ciertas cosas occuren, y las maneras de que uno puede vivir la vida
(preocupar por el futuro, vivir en el presente, etc.).

En este sentido McOndo no habla de cosas muy distinctas que los otros libros de nuestro curso. Sin embargo, las presentan desde otra perspectiva y desde un contexto moderno y urbano. Eso se llama el “realismo virtual“ que enfoca en el rol de la tecnólogia, incluso a MTV y Macdonalds. El cuento que se llama Mi Estado Físico muestra un contexto moderno y un personaje con pensamientos profundos sobre relaciones humanos. Una porción de este cuento pasa en un baño de un MacDonalds, y durante el cuento el protagonista da cuenta que el teme decir la verdad y que el teme estar sólo (sin chica): dos sentamientos comunes pero frequentamente escondidos.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pensando en los 3 textos....

I'm going to expand on the similarities and differences that my in-class-group noted about the three books we have read thus far. First of all, all three books contain historical events to varying degrees. Carpentier's book is centered around a widely known historical event: the Haitian Revolution. However, Carpentier provides a unique perspective of this time period because he writes through the lens of slaves, allowing us to see the events through a marginalized point of view. Asturias's Leyendas de Guatemala also provides a unique perspective on a longer, more generalized period of history that has led up to modern day Guatemala. Asturias demonstrates the combination of Spanish and Maya cultures that have existed in Guatemala since the arrival of the Spanish. Asturias incorporates indigenous Guatemalan myths and a history of Spanish-Maya cultural interactions in his text. GGM's 100 Anos de Soledad is less centered around a specific, known history but still includes identifying Latin American historical circumstances such as civil wars, foreign-owned banana plantations and a separate indigenous population. In the category of historical events this book can also be seen to provide a more "marginalized" perspective on events, as it presents things from a Latin American perspective instead of a North American or European one.

The way time is constucted seems to be very unique in each text and tied to the magical realism writing styles. In 100 Anos, time is clearly circular and characters' personalities eventually become predictable. The circularity of time also involves the Buendia's familial incest and the pig tail phenomenon, which occurs near the beginning and end of the family tree. In El Reino de este Mundo, time is fairly linear as the book is about the development of the Haitian Revolution and its consequences. However, the narration from the perspective of Ti Noel depicts the revolution as circular in the sense that the people in control, whether they are the slave-owners or the mulattos, act in the same entitled and authoritarian manner. In Leyendas de Guatemala, everyday time is mostly irrelevant, as days are describes as lasting centuries and the exact order of events is often unclear. In one sense, however, time seems to be circular as both indigenous and Spanish influences are portrayed in most of the legends and modern Guatemala is built upon both cultures' legacies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The last bit of Cien Anos de Soledad

I guess I am joining the ranks of fans of this book. I'm struck by the numerous insights this novel provides into humanity, social development, and Latin America. There are so many layers of observation in this book!

One of the things that struck me in this last portion of Cien Anos de Soledad was the foretelling that the plague of insomnia had in the novel. Without the text of Malquiades, the history of the Buendias and of Macondo would have essentially disappeared from human memory. In the end of the novel, the town of Macondo has forgotten about much of its own history, which is particularly striking considering the town has only existed for 100 years. While the forgetting induced by the insomnia plague was more extreme in that everyone forgot the names and functions of every-day things, it is quite significant that the remaining townspeople forgot the massacre of the banana workers and that eventually the town is forgotten as well. While the Buendia family's fading from prominence in the town is understandable, as most great figures or dynasties eventually do, the fact that the town seemingly disappeared from the map is of much larger significance, especially considering its contact and ties with the outside world.

The banana plantation is a realistic example of the history of Latin American political and economic realities. First the appearance of the American businessmen who run the banana company that produces bananas for export. Then the Americans' self-imposed segregation from the rest of the town, despite relying on the local workers for the success of their company. The poor working conditions and the alliance of the foreign banana company and the state's military who work together to massacre the workers in retaliation for forming a union that demanded better treatment and accountability. The state then supports the forgetting of the brutal incident. This reminds me of the numerous extractive and irresponsible foreign business operations in Latin America, such as the the infamous United Fruit Company. It also reminds me of the repressive and violent regimes in LA during the 1970s and 80s, such as Pinochet in Chile and the Dirty War in Argentina. The crimes these military governments committed against their own citizens have powerful legacies and are seen differently by those who promote remembering the violence versus those who promote forgetting in order to better 'move on'.

In the future I image that there will likely be a few physical relics left from Macondo that will be found later on, similar to the armor that Jose Arcadio Buendia found decades ago. The whole story seems quite cyclical.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cien Anos de Soledad 3

The depth of the theme of solitude in Cien Anos de Soledad is veryy apparent in this third section of the book. Each member of the Buendia family suffers in solitude. Even those, such as the seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who did not grow up in the presence of the Buendia family, or even in Macondo, are marked with the family's characteristic solitude. Aureliano Triste's name itself is a good marker of this tendency. Despite the fact that the Buendia family continues to grow, and Macondo becomes more and more connected with the outside world (ie. the railroad and the 'gringos'), each member of the family suffers from loneliness. I think a big part of their loneliness is due to the fact that they rarely talk about their emotions and therefore tend to hide their feelings inside, which changes their behavior.

We see the extent of this emotional isolation in Amaranta, who, having reached old age has never overcome her rivalry with Rebeca and never allowed anyone, including her suitors, to get close to her. She dies proud of her virginity, but I think her chastity reflects how she pushed everyone who cared about her away. Even Meme, despite falling completely head over heals for Mauricio, expresses her growing solitude that comes as a result of her obsession with him.

We saw already how Colonel Aureliano Buendia changed during his years at war. In this section it became more apparent to me how solitary he really became. He resents the fact that people only buy his gold fish to serve as relics of the past and therefore starts making fish and then melting them back down only to repeat the process, and occupy his time. He, like Amaranta, seems to be incapable of reaching out and connecting with anyone else.

Colonel Aureliano Buendia and Amaranta both die in this section. The older generations of the Buendia family are passing away, save the intrepid Ursula! The family's ways do not seem to be at risk for ending, for as each new family member is born they continue to be named after someone else in the family. In fact, there is now a young girl named Amaranta Ursula--what a combination.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cien Anos de Soledad 2

Reading this book is my favorite homework assignment right now; it feels indulging to sit down for a couple hours of enjoyable reading. This isn't to say that it's an "easy read", as the characters and the plot of the war are confusing, but nevertheless I'm thoroughly enjoying discovering how this book is unfolding. (I realized that the first time I read this book in English I never made it past this second section!)

The themes that stuck out in my mind the most in this section of Cien Anos de Soledad are naming, the war's influence on Macondo and gender roles. In terms of naming, I liked that Ursula stated a clear pattern in the story of the Buendia family when she says that people with the same names develop similar and predictable personalities. I found it interesting that Ursula believes that if she raised Aureliano Segundo's son, who was named Jose Arcadio, she would be able to prevent her great-grandson from inheriting the "Jose Arcadio" impulsive character and tragic destiny. This indicates Ursula's power and guidance as the matriarch of the family and her ability to interfere with the fate of her family (even if her descendants continue to insist on using the same names!).

This second section of the book was predominated by a war between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The war completely alters life for Macondo and the Buendia family. In fact, I suppose that the Buendia family and the town of Macondo as a whole experience similar transformations in the course of history. I find it difficult to summarize what occurred during the war because there were so many episodes of it. Essentially, Macondo lost its innocence as it experienced numerous (public) deaths and the political divisions of the war. Meanwhile the Buendia family became divided and conflicted, especially surrounding the controversial figure of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Ursula in particular became disgusted with her son the Colonel as his heart grew cold and hungry for power. There are also several mentions of the emptiness of war and the feeling of the war's infinity: it was an all-consuming affair, but to what avail? Interestingly enough, once the war is over, Ursula decides to reorganize the family house and make it a beautiful and more harmonious space again. Just as Macondo's carnival celebration ends in unexpected violence, it seems inevitable that the Buendia family will continue to experience its extreme ups and downs.

Ursula makes a number of comments about the "types" of men in her family. In her eyes the males in her family turn from obedient boys into men driven by the passions of having women, inventing, gaining power and fighting in the war. She sees them as all being the same, a statement which indicates that she sees the women of the house as being very different than the men. However, I think that the Buendia women also enjoy power, as Ursula is clearly the family's leader and an influential figure in Macondo. In addition, Amaranta refuses to marry any of her suitors and is determined to remain independent and a caretaker of the younger Buendias.

As always incest and memory are also prominent in this section. So much to digest from this section!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Garcia Marquez 1

I'm enjoying reading Cien Anos de Soledad. As I've read it before in English I find that even though there are words in Spanish that I don't know I can keep reading without looking them up because I know the plot and am familiar with the way the book flows. To me this books exemplifies magical realism, and there are "magical" occurrences regularly within this first section.

One "magical" event that I find quite interesting is the insomnia illness that Rebeca brings with her to Macondo. First of all, it is an illness most known by the Indians whose role in the book I'm curious to observe more of . Secondly, the insomnia over time results in memory loss as well as what is essentially human regression to a state of being absent of knowledge. The theme of memory seems to be very central to this book, and is tied to the sense of time and the references to the past and future throughout the tale. Memory is also deeply tied to human knowledge, for as Jose Arcadio Buendia's temporary memory loss demonstrates, without memory one doesn't know the function of any objects. This is especially notable, because the book begins in a period when there were numerous things in the known world that had yet to be named. Thus, a cycle of knowledge and memory is created and reversed within the book.

I've also noticed a lot of references to peace and peacefulness in Macondo. The absence of death in Macondo until Maquialdes' passing marked the town as a place of life and relative harmony. For instance, when Don Apolinar Mascote appears in Macondo and presents himself as the town's magistrate, Jose Arcadio Buendia informs him that there is nothing that needs judging in Macondo. In a sense, Macondo is innocent. Once death occurs in Macondo, however, it seems that things begin to change. At the end of this first section we find out that a war is occurring throughout the region around Macondo, and is making its way to the town.

Macondo changes rapidly within the first section of the book. At first Macondo is a completely isolated town in which ice is the most fascinating discovery. Soon, however, with the influx of more people Macondo changes as do the ways people operate. For instance, all the birds that were commonly kept in cages in people's houses are freed and replaced with musical clocks. Technology and modernity creep into Macondo...I'm curious to read on and remember what other changes occur in the rest of the book.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

El curso hasta ahora

Esta entrada del blog es una buena oportunidad para reflejar en los orígenes del realismo mágico. Los textos de Asturias y Carpentier muestran los raices de la literatura latinoamericana que fue escrito para descubrir las diferencias entre Ámerica Latina y Europa. La razón de que la escritura de Asturias y Carpentier sigue a ser importante en los cursos de literatura es que defina los aspectos únicos de las culturas latinoamericanas. Antes de su literatura, me imagino que no hubo mucha discusión sobre la identidad latinoamericana colectiva. En mi opinión, una de las cosas que estes textos alcanzan es mostrar el espiritu de la gente latinoamericana.

Me parece interesante que los dos autores estudiaron en Europa pero regresaron a sus paises para estudiar las culturas locales. Parece que sus experiencias en Europa les hicieron capaz a entender la mezcla de culturas que ha formado la realidad en sus paises nativos. En “Las Leyendes de Guatemala“ el interés en antropología de Asturias es evidente por su exploración de los mitos indígenas en que se ve los efectos de la colonización europea. Además, Carpentier uso su conocimientos de su cultura Cubana para escribir sobre la revolución Haitiana y la combinación de raices africanos y europeos del país.

Los textos de Asturias y Carpentier enfocan en las culturas subordinadas: los indigenas en Guatemala y los esclavos durante la revolución en Haiti. Ambos textos tiene eventos y personajes mágicos que correspondan con las culturas subordinadas y no con las europeas. Me gusta lo que opina Carpentier sobre lo mágico en Haiti: que es un aspecto de la vida y no es el opuesto de “lo real“. Por eso pienso que los aspectos mágicos en la realidad latinoamericana vienen de la influencia de las culturas indigenas y africanas que han guardado su puntos de vista distintos. Este concepto está en contraste con la introducción de “Las Leyendas“ por Valery, en que él escribe que lo mágico contribuya al sentido de soñar (de no ser real) en los cuentos. Esto muestra la opinión popular de las culturas europeas que consideran que la realidad y el magico son cosas opuestas.

Me gusta que estes textos toman el tiempo para revelar el impacto inmenso de las culturas indigenas y africanas en america latina. Muestran la continuación de las creencias de estas culturas y de los limites de la dominación europea.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carpentier: La Segunda Mitad

After reading the second half of this book I now see much more of the importance of "lo real maravilloso" in El Reino De Este Mundo. The time Carpentier took in the prologue to discuss the magical aspects that appear in life in Haiti, as well as in this book, finally makes sense. As opposed to the first half of the text in which I recognized only a few instances of magical realism, the second half seems much more full of "lo real maravilloso". Perhaps that is because I've become accustomed to Carpentier's writing style and can understand more of the subtleties in the picture he paints of the history of Haiti.

Nevertheless I still had a hard time following the sequence of actions in the second half, as well as the ways in which all the characters are connected. The way time and events are ordered didn't seem to run linearly, and what actually happened in the text didn't make sense to me until the final two chapters. I think the fact that Ti Noel is nearly always present definitely added to my confusion of not knowing the location or the point in time in which things were happening. I will also put it out there that I'm confused about Paulina's role and importance as well as Soliman's.

I found Ti Noel's sentiments at the end made for a clarifying and insightful conclusion. Ti Noel's ability to transform into other beings reflects the lasting significance of Mackandal's legacy in the struggle for equality for los negros. On page 145 Carpentier writes that no one, not even Mackandal or Ti Noel, had predicted the authoritarian grab for power of Henri Christophe or of the Mulattos. While Ti Noel is dejected in regards to how politics have played themselves out in the newly independent nation, he has gained a lot of wisdom about what influences the ways in which people operate. Specifically, he recognizes that humans work and struggle for themsleves and others, always trying to better their situation (152). To me these words are inspiring, given all that Ti Noel has witnessed and experienced in the time of transition in Haiti.

Just to touch on the context of contemporary Haiti, it is evident that the political turmoil that is described by Carpentier still exists. From what I know, there have been very few years in which the government of Haiti has allowed its people freedoms and access to basic human rights such as education and health care. Moreover, the international community continues to view and treat Haiti as a black colony in many ways, especially by continuing to interfere in the true sovereignty that Haiti still seeks.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Carpentier: La Primera Mitad

I'm glad that we're reading a book that focuses on Haiti because Haiti and other Caribbean countries are often left out of courses that study Latin America. Obviously, given the current crisis in Haiti, El Reino De Este Mundo is particularly relevant as it reveals the history, social relations and cultural influences that have formed the nation.

As Asturias' work did for Guatemala, El Reino de Este Mundo provides insight into the cultural foundations of Haiti and the worldview of Haitians. The first half of Carpentier's text demonstrates the fierce oppositional binary that existed between the white "masters" and the black slaves in colonial Haiti. As the slaves greatly outnumbered the slave-owners in Haiti, fear of slave uprisings were a legitimate fear for white men. This fear is particularly apparent as soon as the poisoning of the owners and their farm animals begins. On page 36, out of desperation and fear for their lives, the white men physically terrorize the slaves by whipping and torturing them in an attempt to scare the slaves and stop the sequence of poisonings. This is an explicit example of the racial tension that led to the Haitian revolution and founding of the first independent modern black nation in the world. In terms of culture, this book demonstrates the strong French and West African influences in the region. I noticed that several times various groups of slaves are referred to as Angolans, or other types of Africans. Thus, it seems that many of the slave communities had immediate cultural ties to their homeland, which would have empowered them in terms of having an "old-world" cultural identity.

There seem to be fewer magical elements in El Reino De Este Mundo than in Leyendas de Guatemala. In the leyendas, there were constant images of magical settings, characters and events. In El Reino, I found that certain portions of the first half had evidently magical elements, while other portions were more or less "real".The two sections that had the magical descriptions were "Lo que hallaba la mano" and "Las Metamorfosis". This first section speaks of Mackandal's fascination with traditionally "scorned" plants that exhibit supernatural powers, such as the plant with sensitive leaves "que se doblaban al mero sonido de la voz humana" (27-8). Then, in "Las Metamorfosis" it is revealed that Mackandal is able to hide himself from the angry white men, while still communicating with the slaves by transforming into different types of animals. His ability to metamorphosize shows that "sus poderes eran ilimitados" (41) as they were not restricted to "real-world" powers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Leyendas de Guatemala: Segunda mitad

The second part of Las Leyendas de Guatemala is written in a unique form that differs from how the first half of Leyendas was organized. This second section appears in the form of a play. Following this format, there are introductory paragraphs that explain the setting of each part before the plot unfolds through dialogue between the characters. The characters in the second half of the book remain throughout the section and for this reason the events of the "play" are a bit easier to follow. I believe that there is some significance in the play format. I have learned in another class (LAST 100) about the "Dance of the Conquest", which is a dance performance that occurs annually throughout Guatemala and is a way of demonstrating the history of European contact with the Maya people. Based on this information, it seems that performing legends is a unique element of Guatemalan culture. Therefore I am curious to know whether Asturias borrowed this known tradition of performance when writing his version of indigenous Guatemalan legends.

The scenes of the "play" are divided according to the parts of the day: amarillo para la manana, rojo para la tarde y negro para la noche. The text centers around these three parts of the day, again emphasizing the incredible importance of the sun as a basic element of nature upon which human life depends. I'm not positive about the identities of the characters in the text, or the location of where the events/interactions are occurring. Many characters are aligned with natural elements; Cuculcan is the associated with sun and is therefore a very powerful being, and Yai is referred to as a yellow flower. Since these legends are founding narratives of the Maya, it is likely that the characters are gods, especially the powerful ones such as Cuculcan.

I enjoyed the portion in which life is discussed by Guacamayo and Chinchiribin in a philosophical manner:
Guacamayo: "¡Nada existe, Chinchibirín, todo es sueño en el espejismo inmóvil, sólo la luz que cambia al paso de Cuculcán que va de la mañana a la tarde, de la tarde a la noche, de la noche a la mañana, hace que nos sintamos vivos. ¡La vida es un engaño demasiado serio para que tu lo entiendas Chichibirin!"
Guacamayo, who seems to be bestowed with "high" knowledge, declares the sun to be the only legitimate or "real" part of life; the rest of life is a dream. This statement relates to the Legends in many ways, and I think it hints at the worldview of the Maya, and how it differed tremendously from that of the Spanish at the time of contact.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Leyendas De Guatemala: La Primera Mitad

Pienso que para completamente entender las leyendas tendría que leerlas tres veces por lo menos. Aunque no entiendo todo que pasa en las leyendas perfectamente, entiendo la belleza de la escritura. Me impresionan las descripciones y las comparaciones en las leyendas, que sirven para ayudar el lector a imaginar el mundo de Guatemala que las historias representan.

Me gustaría saber más del origen de las leyendas: ¿cómo las creyó Miguel Angel Asturias? ¿Cuales cosas o eventos le influenciaron? A mí parece que en las leyendas podemos ver mucha influencia de la mezcla de culturas que existe ahora en Guatemala. Veo la enfoca en la naturaleza y los lugares físicos en que occuren los eventos. Estas detalles muestran la importancia de la locación como la base de las varias culturas que la habitan.

Pienso que Las Leyendas de Guatemala sirven muchos propósitos, uno que es monstar la mezcla de culturas indígenas y la cultura española, como una manera de definar la realidad de america latina. En la parte “Ahora Que me Acuerdo” menciona Xibalba. El semestre pasado leí el Popol Vuh y recuerdo que en ese libro Xibalba es el nombre del infierno en la cultura Maya. Entonces, la referencia de Xibalba sirve como un ejemplo de la influencia Maya en las leyendas de Guatemala. Además, existe mucha influencia de la cultura española en las Leyendas, especialmente las leyendas en que los sacerdotes son los personajes principales. Por eso pienso que, aunque es un texto difícil, es un buen lugar para empezar estudiar el realismo mágico como una forma literaria y una forma unica de america latina.

Un aspecto de las leyendas que me parece ser unico también son las largas descripciones. Muchas veces parecen que los eventos del cuento no son tan importantes como la descripción del lugar o la naturaleza. Las descripciones contribuyan al sentido de soñar que es una caracteristica principal de las leyendas y del realismo mágico. Para mí, pocas cosas en las historias parecen ser “real”; lo que pienso que es intencionado. Pienso que la falta de “realidad” es una impresión norteámericano, donde la cultura principal es seria y no tiene una imaginación grande. Entonces digo que la manera de ver cosas que Las Leyendas de Guatemala muestra es un aspecto literario de america latina.

Este es mi primera impresión del texto; espero entender más de Las Leyendas y su complejidad con nuestras discusiones en clase esta semana!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bienvenido! SPAN 365

Hola a todos en la clase, soy Siena. Estoy en mi tercer año, estudiando estudias latina americanas. Escogí esta carrera despues de viajar en México y Centroamerica por 4 meses en 2008. Esta clase es mi primera clase de literatura en español, veremos como va!