Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Barroco descalzo

Barroco descalzo. Prologue by John Beverley. Managua: URACCAN, 2003
Nicaraguan intellectuals from the Liberal and Conservatives elites, and later from ranks of the radical, Sandinista intelligentsia, have understood the folk drama El Güegüense as a parable for Nicaraguan national identity and its formation. Both Conservative and liberal intellectuals have understood El Güegüense as a parable about the defeat of Indian identity in Nicaragua and the domination of a new, Hispanic Nicaraguan identity. Such an interpretation has fueled the nation-building projects of late-nineteenth- and early- to mid-twentieth century state elites. By contrast, Sandinista and other radical intellectual made of El Güegüense a parable of class and anti-imperialist struggle that, at least in part, rescues the Indians of Nicaragua from total defeat.
My book Barroco descalzo centers on El Güegüense, from perspectives opened up by recent work in postcolonial criticism. It deals with issues of gender, sexualities and race in the text, and the way the text was and is used canonically to sustain a homogeneous “mestizo” ideal of national identity.
Chapter 1 sketch some of the cultural and historical background necessary for understanding the text. Chapter 2 examines in particular Baroque festive forms in colonial Meso-America, organized by the Spanish crown in order to reify the subordination of Amerindian and mestizo populations at the moment when Spanish power is threatened by the discontent of the emerging Creole class.
Chapter 3 examines the crónica of the Proclamation on Charles IV, as king of Spain, written by Pedro Ximena in the 18th century, which documents the way Spaniards viewed themselves in relation to the indigenous and mestizos.
That Proclamation is not only the memory but also the very script of such celebration. So, it it’s the political antithesis of El Güegüense. Both are two paradigms of the successive intersection of discourses in conflict that spans the 18th century, and moreover outlines the edges of an exclusive cultural project that pervades to the present. While the Proclamation is a hegemonic discourse of a colonial bureaucracy, El Güegüense is the counter discourse of a subaltern multitude. The former represents the Baroque of State while the latter is what I call barefoot Baroque.
Chapter 4 focuses in the appropriation of Ruben Dario by the former Nicaraguan vanguardistas, an appropriation with conservative political, ethical, and anti-modern objectives, which culminates in the “re-discovery” of El Güegüense and its canonization as the foundational text of Nicaraguan culture.
Chapter 5 provides a detailed history of El Güegüense, describing the text and its plot elements. It also discusses various hypotheses regarding the author of the text.
It considers the three most important analyses of El Güegüense in previous Nicaraguan criticism-those of the American philologist Daniel Brinton, the vanguardista-Catholic Pablo Antonio Cuadra, and the Marxist Alejandro Davila Bolaños in order to show some of their limitations.
Chapter 6 offers a new interpretation of El Güegüense from a perspective of coloniality, sexuality, gender and race, moreover of class.
In Chapter 7 the contemporary popular-festive form called the Toro-venado is analyzed in order to show the extant differences between an oral discourse that, like El Güegüense, has become a colonial text, after a lettered action of transcription, and those that preserve its oral and performative shape as the Toro-venado; in such a way that the former became the symbol of the lettered culture, while the latter remains as a carnival to destabilize that lettered culture.
In Chapter 8 I conclude with a discussion of the need to develop new forms of literary and cultural criticism to interrupt homogenizing discourses, which erase differences in the service of a national identity that is both exclusive and oppressive.

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