Vasconcelos, José. "Carta a la juventud de Colombia." In Discursos 1920-1950, 57-64. México, DF: Ediciones Botas, 1950.
Transcription by Olivier Debroise.
The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this letter, José Vasconcelos calls upon the youth of Colombia to lead the way in the triumph of a new, unified, utopian America. Drawing as usual on both the rhetoric of science and mysticism, Vasconcelos explains how the united America of the future will be based on the shared Iberian ethnicity of Latin American countries, not on shared political interests, as set by Simon Bolívar. Latin America needs spiritual and racial unity at this moment, and its youth can achieve this. The ultimate result of this unification will be Latin American independence from both the cultural and economic influences of Europe and the United States. Furthermore, Latin America will be the source of what Vasconcelos calls “the first universal race.” Lastly, Mexican educator Vasconcelos ties this development of a New America to social justice as well as the redistribution of land, and reminds his audience that they are part of a larger movement of youth demanding justice and liberty.
The Mexican educator and philosopher José Vasconcelos (1882-1959) was a key figure in the cultural renaissance that occurred in Mexico after the Revolution. As Minister of Public Education (1921–23), Vasconcelos commissioned murals in Mexico City by Diego Rivera (1886-1957), José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), among other artists; and he helped establish Mexico’s post-revolutionary education system. Many themes from La raza cósmica: Misión de la raza iberoamericana [The Cosmic Race: Mission of the Spanish-American Race] (1925) appear in this letter (specially addressed to young writer Germán Arciniegas), which he wrote to be delivered to the Congress of Colombian Youth in 1923, including Vasconcelos’ belief that the mixed races of Latin America constituted a universal race of the future, and his emphasis on the importance of Spanish heritage. He stresses how his vision departs from Simon Bolívar’s at length, which makes sense given his audience. While Bolívar modeled his vision of a system of American states on the U.S. and British systems, Vasconcelos emphasizes that a spiritually and ethnically unified America is needed now, not a politically unified America.