Revista Avance (Buenos Aires). -- 1929.
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This essay by Cuban writer Felix Lizaso, published in Revista de Avance in 1929, is a reflection on criollismo or “criolledad.” Criollismo is a term derived from the word criollo[a], which is used to describe a person of entirely Spanish descent born in Latin America; however, criollismo came to signify a uniquely Latin American culture and attitude that differentiated South America from Spain. Lizaso’s essay on criollismo is essentially a meditation on the nature of the modern Latin American, and he critiques what he sees as a disinterested and apathetic mentality among South Americans. He contrasts two portrayals of the criollo: the criollo as suspicious, disillusioned, cynical, and characterized by grandiose verbosity as embodied by Don Segundo Sombra, an industrious and moral gaucho in the novel Don Segundo Sombra by Ricardo Giraldes. Don Segundo Sombra is representative of a nostalgic vision of the past rather than a contemporary figure. Additionally, Lizaso insists that the skeptical and disinterested criollo was “defeated before ever having fought,” which was due to lack of motivation, and the inclination toward self-nullification from apathy or imitation of European trends. Lizaso insists that the advancement of the South American man lies in the rejection of foreign influences, and the embrace of that which is essentially and purely American, such as the unique landscapes of the continent. Lizaso also contends that South Americans must cast off condescension, skepticism, and derision, and search for the cultural identity that “belongs entirely to us,” which according to Lizaso, is the substance of criollismo.
Cuban writer Felix Lizaso (1891–1962) is an autodidact known for his many biographical and critical writings on José Martí. In 1914, Lizaso was working in the law practice of Francisco José Castellanos when he met Pedro Henriquez Ureña, a Dominican writer and intellectual who began a correspondence with Lizaso that intensified his existing interest in literature. Lizaso accepted a position as a professor at Princeton University that was suggested to him by Henriquez Ureña. However, he returned to Cuba in 1920 in order to contribute to the cultural development of his own country. In conjunction with José Antonio Fernández de Castro and Revista de Avance, Lizaso edited an anthology of poetry, titled La poesía moderna en Cuba 1882–1925: Antología crítica (1926), which included many of the poems of Cuban writer and national hero Martí. Lizaso’s work on the anthology inspired him to continue studying the life of Martí and in 1930, he published Artículos desconocidos de Martí, and a three volume set of Martí’s letters titled Epistolario (1930–31). His quintessential work on the subject was Martí, místico del deber, written in 1940. "Programa de criolledad" was published in 1929 in Revista de Avance, a magazine founded in 1927 that was bolstered by the participation of Cuban intellectuals, such as Jorge Mañach, Francisco Ichaso, Juan Marinello, Martí Casanovas, and Alejo Carpentier. “Programa de criolledad” reflects the interest among Latin American literary and intellectual figures of the time in the definition of that which distinguished Latin America from Europe. This essay complements Lisazo’s work on José Martí, who is one of the most distinguished figures of Latin American intellectual history.