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!