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 chapter of the book Hacia el indio y su mundo, by the Venezuelan indigenous scholar Gilberto Antolínez, the author presents the ideas that inform his anthropological research, as well as his critique of the Venezuelan American tradition. In his judgment, this tradition has been contaminated by “exoticisms” or European notions (theosophy, classicism, Spencerism) in the study of the aboriginal cultures of America. Antolínez reaffirms his pro-indigenous stance as a defender of the right to a free and dignified life for the indigenous, advocating the state’s aggressive attitude in their protection. He believes that the study of native culture (including art) is not sufficient; instead the circumstances of the native peoples must be changed. He likewise condemns the then-predominant view of native cultures as a literary falsification of the indigenous world.
Gilberto Antonlínez (1908–98) was undoubtedly the first modern pro-indigenous Venezuelan. Self-taught in anthropology, he studied at the Military Academy and the Escuela de Artes Plásticas. Hacia el indio y su mundo (1946) was the only book he published, although it had great impact. The rest of his work was published in newspapers and magazines; the Universidad de Yaracuay posthumously published these articles in several books. At the time, his book was a call to action to intellectuals and artists to move beyond the European vision of indigenous culture; this occurred at the same time that a debate was raging over the destiny of Venezuelan culture due to the coup d’etat against Isaías Medina Angarita and the reformation of the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in Caracas. The chapter “Ciencia, americanismo y venezolanidad,” which is reviewed herein, is significant because it summarizes his ideological principles. Three artists, in particular, can be identified as the most influenced by this author’s ideas. Firstly, Pedro Centeno Vallenilla, who that same year would present his first version of the myth of María Lionza [see in the ICAA digital archive by Víctor Alberto Grillet “La ‘María Lionza’ de Pedro Centeno” (doc. no. 1172037)], even though Antolínez would later convey his preference for the indigenous model of Antonio Reyes regarding Venezuelan “caciques.” The second is Alejandro Colina, who starting in 1939 joined with Antolínez and the architect Hermes Romero to research the Yaracuy myth that resulted in the masterpiece María Lionza sobre la danza sagrada (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1951), and the text by Manuel Rodríguez Cárdenas, “María Lionza.” The third artist was the social realist artist César Rengifo, who owing to Mexican influence, tackled indigenous themes in the clothing worn by the peasantry marginalized from the benefits of modernity, and in accordance with the pro-indigenous stance supported by Antolínez (within his concept of “the embarrassing Indian”). A pioneer in disseminating the postcolonial myth of María Lionza that today is considered part of the Venezuelan collective imagination, it is not surprising to see Antolínez’s infuence in the work of other modern artists such as Rafael Ramón González, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Régulo Pérez, Oswaldo Vigas, Gabriel Morera, Rolando Peña, Carlos Zerpa, Eugenio Espinoza, Diego Barboza, and Nelson Garrido.