Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies

The Utopia/dystopia of Latin America's Margins: Writing Identity in Acadia and Aztlan

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies

The Utopia/dystopia of Latin America's Margins: Writing Identity in Acadia and Aztlan

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this article I study the representation of identity in the literary traditions of Acadia and Aztlan, arguing in favour of their mutual belonging to Latin America, and that the struggle to exercise Latin independence in the midst of an Anglophone-dominated world leads to parallel visions of their respective pasts, and futures. Specifically, I examine how both cultures rewrite the pre-colonial past as eutopian (a happy space), whereas they view the post-colonial future as dystopian (ill-fated): a deployment of utopian literature's critical force that is interpreted as a strategic response to marginalization. The objective of the study is two-fold. First, based on a comparative and contrastive analysis of representative texts, it is my contention that, in addition to more obvious Latin commonalities, there is a shared Latin identity crisis that unites these two other wise disparate spaces. Second, the article illustrates how the shift from utopian to dystopian representation in Acadian and Chicano writing has emerged from the recent collapse of their respective independence movements under the weight of globalization.

Resumen. En este articulo exploramos las afinidades entre dos espacios marginados que luchan para mantener su identidad latina en contra del mundo anglosajon que los rodea: los acadienses en el este del Canada, y los chicanos, quienes reclaman el suroeste de los EEUU bajo el nombre de Aztlan. Mas especifi camente, nos enfocamos en como ambas culturas representan la latinidad mediante la misma dualidad entre lo utopico (el espacio feliz) y lo distopico (el espacio de mal aguero) en sus respectivas tradiciones literarias. Percibimos en el conflicto "latino versus anglo" visiones paralelas del pasado y del futuro en la medida que el pasado precolonial se enraiza en la utopia, mientras la interpretacion del futuro poscolonial gira en torno de una pesadilla mas bien distopica debido al fracaso de sus movimientos de independencia bajo el peso de la globalizacion. Mediante un analisis comparativo y contrastivo de los textos mas representativos, es nuestro objetivo principal ilustrar como las analogias utopico-distopicas entre dos espacios desemejantes desembocan en una configuracion comun de marginacion latina.

Introduction

After Jean-Marie Nadeau was relieved of his duties in 1990 as editor of the newspaper L'Acadie Nouvelle, he traveled south to Mexico to distance himself from the object of his militant desire, colonized Acadia: a francophone region spread across northeastern New Brunswick, with smaller enclaves throughout other Atlantic Canadian provinces. With the debate over Acadian sovereignty on the wane since the 1980s, his radical views on the subject had lost currency, and so the manifesto that he would publish upon his return reads more as a swan song rather than the viable project for Acadian independence that he envisions. Prompted by his time in Mexico, the manifesto contains allusions to the fall of the Aztec empire weighed against the deportation of the Acadians, framing his local concerns within a much broader discourse of the Americas. Further to this, Nadeau suggests an alliance between Acadians and Mexicans on the basis of the shared Latin origin of their respective languages and, by extension, a shared adversary in the steady encroachment of Anglophone culture. (1) He writes: "Let's alert ourselves to the potential for broadening and strengthening the Latin world. Mexicans, for example, are more naturally close to us than Anglophones due to the Latin origin of our respective languages" (Nadeau 1992, 88, my translation). (2) Faced with the daunting future of Acadia's continued assimilation, Nadeau's observations appear symptomatic of a growing interest among Acadian writers to embrace cultural pluralism and to seek solidarity with other minority groups confronting similar challenges. (3)

Expanding on Nadeau's ideas, in this article I explore the affinities between two Latin American spaces that struggle to preserve their identity in opposition to the Anglo world that surrounds them: namely, Acadians in Atlantic Canada and Chicanos in the American Southwest (from California to Texas), a space reclaimed by Mexican-American activists under the name of Aztlan. …

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