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In nostalgic tone, “La melancolía de la raza indígena” (1929) by Colombian intellectual Armando Solano advocates a return to “pure customs” and “the national.” This was a response to the excessive growth of the United States after World War I (1914-1918), which, as the author asserts, resulted in, that country exporting customs and technology at odds with the national “spirit” of poor nations (like Colombia).” Solano urges a return to the “heart of the local countryside,” to the “farming masses,” to the “peasantry” and “youth,” and especially for an “indigenous revival” for the sake of a true “nationalization” of the country. In traditional poetic prose and with clear nationalist intent, Solano goes on to extol the beauties of Colombia, its people and its landscapes. He asserts that no Colombian poet has been able to “duly express” the angst “of an [indigenous] race stripped of its land and gods,” remarking on the poem Tabaré by Uruguayan Juan Zorrilla de San Martín in praise of the Charrúa Indian. Solana also upholds two exponents of Latin American literary Modernism: Nicaraguan Rubén Darío and Mexican Amado Nervo. Solano goes on to urge the pursuit of “the local” in Colombian music and architecture, and to criticize what he considers the “dehumanization of art” previously argued by Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset in his book of that title (1925).
“La melancolía de la raza indígena” is the most important contribution of Colombian intellectual Armando Solano (1887–1953) to nationalist ideology. The text, which was delivered as a lecture at the Teatro Municipal de Tunja (Boyaca) on October 29, 1927, was published in its entirety for the first time in issue 53 of the magazine Universidad. It was then published in book form by Ediciones Colombia in 1929 and republished in 1972 in an edition put out by the Banco Popular de Colombia.
From the mid-twenties, Solano voiced the need to “nationalize the country” in his prose and poetry. His work along these lines was released in a number of publications (“Lecturas Dominicales,” or Sunday Readings, in El Tiempo newspaper, November 8, 1925; Universidad magazine, June 25, 1927). While much of Solano’s thinking was based on the study of other Latin American authors such as José Enrique Rodó (1871–1917), Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980), José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930), Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957) and Pablo Neruda (Parral, Chile, 1904–1973), in Colombia Solano was one of the first, and among the most committed, advocates of literary and artistic nationalism. His ideas would be developed by his contemporaries, among them journalist Juan Clímaco Hernández (1881-1960), architects Guillermo and Hernando Herrera Carrizosa, writer Darío Achury Valenzuela (1906-1999), as well as visual artists like Félix María Otálora (1896–1961), among others.
In 1929, journalist Jaime Barrera Parra (1890–1935) would equate “La melancolía de la raza indígena” with the sculpture Bachué (1925) by Rómulo Rozo (1899–1964). Around 1930, Bachué, a cultural movement, would emerge; in the sphere of the visual arts its members would include Hena Rodríguez (1915-1997) and Ramón Barba (1892–1964). Many of the artists of the time with nationalist inclinations would come to be associated with the name Bachué, even though they were not formally members of the group. “La melancolía de la raza indígena” is perhaps the earliest statement of the conceptual basis for the nationalism upheld by many artists, writers, poets, and intellectuals active in the twenties and thirties.