Academic journal article MACLAS Latin American Essays

"Lucha Hasta El Alba": Ur-Text for Yo, El Supremo by Augusto Roa Bastos

Academic journal article MACLAS Latin American Essays

"Lucha Hasta El Alba": Ur-Text for Yo, El Supremo by Augusto Roa Bastos

Article excerpt

Creation tales, whether Biblical, mythical, or historical, hold a peculiar fascination. Origins, foundations--what was it like in the beginning? In Latin America, historical and literary creation stories have a consistently oedipal flavor. They are tales of fathers and sons. Whether treating the discovery and conquest of the New World, the creation of the republics following Independence, or the attempt to mold new societies through revolution, the pattern is persistent. During the conquest of Mexico, Cortes, in his first Carta de relacion to Charles V, makes his case for usurping control of the expeditionary force from Governor Diego Velazquez of Cuba. The establishment of the first cabildo in the New World was marked by an oedipal struggle. In the Southern Cone following Independence, Sarmiento's description of Rosas's takeover from Facundo and his vision of a new leader, perhaps himself, unseating Rosas, is cast in peculiarly oedipal terms. "Un dia vendra, al fin, que lo resuelvan," he says, "y el Esfinge Argentino, mitad mujer pot lo cobarde, mitad tigre por lo sanguinario, morira a sus plantas, dando a la Tebas del Plata el tango elevado que le toca entre la naciones del Nuevo Mundo" (Facundo 14).(1) And the series of leaders toppling one another during the bloodiest years of the Mexican Revolution--Madero, Huerta, Villa, Carranza, Obregon--has a typically oedipal ring.

The same holds true for literary texts of these times. Of course, Cortes's Cartas de relacion and Sarimiento's Facundo are considered literary as well as historical texts. In Latin America, the dividing line between history and fiction is often blurred. But the same oedipal tensions can be seen in purely literary texts, such as Lazarillo de Tormes and even Don Quijote de la Mancha. In Lazarillo, we see the young picaro struggling against a series of cruel masters, killing them off metaphorically, one by one.(2) The entire tale, of course, is a defense to Vuestra Merced in the case that has caused a local scandal--the menage a trois involving Lazaro, the Archpriest and his maid. Lazaro, in relating the facts of the case, points an accusatory finger at the archpriest, just as Cortes, in telling his tale, points an accusatory finger at Diego Velazquez. Cervantes's masterpiece, too, having been read in so many fruitful ways generation after generation, has a distinctly oedipal undertone. The aging hidalgo represents not only the waning of the chivalric ideal, but also the decline of Spain's golden age of imperialism. Cervantes, who in his youth had been a staunch supporter and defender of that imperial ideology, in his later years, in his oedipal literary avatar, was critical of it.(3)

Hispanic civilization and culture, in the Old World and the New, is cast and recast in medieval, hierarchical, patriarchal, authoritarian terms, displaying the seeds of conflict between generations. These oedipal tensions, it appears, are a natural part of its creation tales. This is no less true for modern Latin American literature. One has only to look at perhaps the most celebrated work of twentieth century Latin American fiction, Cien anos de soledad. The creation of Macondo is based on the ability to keep the town free of the effects of incest, the tail of the pig. In a sublimely subversive and oedipal gesture, Garcia Marquez has the last Aureliano consummate his love affair with his aunt, as Macondo is destroyed by an apocalyptic whirlwind.

The oedipal pattern I am tracing; relates not only to literary creation tales but also to the literary origins of particular writers and particular works. One of the most interesting examples is that of Pablo Neruda. In his literary autobiography, Confieso que he vivido, he tells the story of how he wrote his first poem:

   Muchas veces me han preguntado cuando escribi mi primer poema,
   cuando nacio en mi la poesia. Tratare de recordarlo. Muy atras en
   mi infancia y habiendo apenas aprendido a escribir, senti una vez
   una intensa emocion y trace unas cuantas palabras semirrimadas,
   pero extranas a mi, diferentes del lenguaje diario. … 
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