Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

In this text, Antenor Orrego argues that nationalist culture should not be based on the traditional cultures of Peru, but rather on a totally new Pan-American sensibility. Orrego argues that a contemporary “Peruanismo literario” is a false idea and that Peruanismo can only exist as a historical culture. He explains that it makes no sense to base contemporary culture on the art of the Incan or Pre-Incan civilizations because America has long been undergoing a process of becoming part of the West. If anything, a vernacular nationalist culture can be located in the struggle of Indians against colonization, but this is a condition shared by all Latin American countries. In this vein, Orrego argues that the differences among Latin American nations have become so negligible that he sees no future for nationalist art. Instead, he believes in the formation of a new American culture possessing values that are its own as well as universal. He explains that at the moment, American culture is in its early stages of gestation. America is recovering from the domination of European culture and is in the process of developing a culture based on youth, the “new man,” and on deploying an identity as a new race. Orrego ends by urging his readers to abandon nostalgia and instead construct a new American culture.

Annotations

The Peruvian writer and philosopher Antenor Orrego (1892-1960) wrote this text for Amauta in 1928. Published in Lima and edited by the critic José Carlos Mariátegui (1894-1930), Amauta was a vital forum for debating the problem of nationalism in American art and culture during the late 1920s. In this text, Orrego is troubled by the widespread embrace of Peruanismo as a model for nationalist culture in South America. Not only does he argue that Peruanismo’s nostalgia for Incan and pre-Incan cultures is regretful and irrelevant to contemporary life, but he also sees Peruanismo’s embrace of such figures as [José Santos] Chocano—the so-called poet of the Americas—as evidence of how Latin Americans have adopted a European and colonial perspective of their own culture. Nationalism, Orrego also argues, is problematic because it also reproduces colonial values. Instead, he looks to what he calls the “new man” of America as the source of a new vital culture in the region. This figure is exemplified by youth, as well as by the racial mixing of the Americas. Ultimately, Orrego states that Americanism will replace Nationalism in the Americas, concluding that now, “lo nacional es lo americano.”

Researcher
María C. Gaztambide, ICAA; Harper Montgomery, collaborator.
Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA