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    Ramos, José Antonio, 1885-1946
    Indagación: ¿qué debe ser el arte americano? / José Antonio Ramos
    revista de avance (La Habana, Cuba). -- Vol. 4, no. 34 (May. 15, 1929)
    p. 150 - 151
    Journal article – Survey
    Ramos, José Antonio.“Indagación: ¿Qué debe ser el arte americano?.” revista de avance (La Habana), vol. 4, no. 34 (May 15, 1929): 150-151.
Editorial Categories [?]

In this text, José Antonio Ramos responds to the question that the editors of revista de avance posed to their readers: “What should American art be?” Ramos begins by taking issue with the question itself, arguing that there should be no propositions about what art “should” be. However, he has thought about the problem of americanidad and its possible meanings. Ramos explains that it means different things in different parts of America and that the artists who express these meanings are known beyond their own borders because they are known in Europe. Ramos argues that “nuestra cultura” is not an urban culture but that it is fundamentally a religious one. This leads him to raise the matter of audience. If America does not have dense urban populations, he asks then who constitutes the audience for American artists? Another related problem is the fact that Ramos deems Spanish a “dead language.” But all hope is not lost; an American artist that relishes the conflicts involved in making art in the continent, therefore produces art that is superior to that in conflict-free contexts, such as Europe. Ramos ultimately argues that americanidad is an illusion, something that is in the process of being formed and he proclaims that any expression that is “original, sincere, great” and “strong,” will be American.


The Cuban poet José Antonio Ramos’s response to the question “What should American art be?” was published in 1929 in revista de avance, a magazine based in Havana. Like Amauta (Lima), revista de avance was a forum where intellectuals living in various Latin American countries (and Europe and the United States) debated, among other topics, the question of nationalist qualities in art and literature. In this text, it is clear that Ramos is interested in interrogating the terms of the question itself—mainly that of americanidad and art. He argues that American artists are in a bind because they must reclaim their americanidad while making their careers in Europe. After all, Ramos notes that such figures as [Rubén] Darío, [Enrique Rodríguez] Larreta, and Diego Rivera, are known outside of their own countries because of their presence in Europe. They are faced with a number of challenges; they lack a strong local audience and they write in a “dead” language. He does not say so explicitly, however, Ramos also seems to believe that they [American artists] suffer from the obligation of representing local culture in their work but that the result does not constitute a defeat. Instead, Ramos argues that these conflicts encourage more vigorous artistic expression than that currently being produced in Europe. In this sense, he endorses the idea of American art as that of the future (versus European art as that of the past).

María C. Gaztambide
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
José Antonio Ramos, 1929
Microfilm, Library of Congress