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José Martí e los indios de Norteamérica: mediazione culturale e «scontro di civiltà». Una rilettura critica

Author(s): Alessandro Badella

Journal: Cromohs (Firenze)
ISSN 1123-7023

Volume: 15;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: cultural history | indigenous people | travels' accounts

The Cuban poet José Martí, “Master of the Americas” as pointed out by a famous Italian study by Carlo Batà, was probably the most important South American thinker of the two last decades of the Nineteenth century. This essay deals with the importance of “civilization clash” between US positivism - or WASP-ism - and the last resistances of Native Americans' cultural heritage during his personal experience as an exile in the United States. Martí, in this racial struggle and racist instincts, experienced a dual vision about the “Indian problem” in the Americas. In his first essays he focused on the positivistic view, really common among Latin American cultural élites (from Alberdi to Sarmiento), which depicted the Indian people as the burden of creole and white race in the path toward progress.On the other hand, as appeared clearly in Escenas americanas, the Cuban analysed more precisely the American struggle between civilization and savagery. In the cultural massacre inflicted to Indian tribes, he saw the real savagery in American civilization. So, this reflection paved the way to a new approach in considering the possibility of importing the Anglo-saxon model of civilization and political structures to the liberated Cuba after the independence (but also to continental Latin America).This relationship let us understand some interesting features in Martí's huge cultural production. We are introduced to the very essence of his cultural mediation between those two different lifestyles and models of civilization. This mediation would have represented a new way of intending North vs South America struggles or even Western way of life vs different ones, considered “barbarous” from the first.In our modern times, in which the terms “exporting values” or “civilization clash” seem to be very common in usage, it is really stimulating discover that the same problem was posed by Martí more than one century ago. Even if he did not propose any practical or scientific formul to obtain a real re-flourishing of Indian culture, he was one of the first Latin American thinker to underline the latent “evils” of US society and civilization.The “Indian problem” in Martí could be a lens with which we can understand his shift from a positivistic (or Western) view of Indios to a more critic position in the struggle towards modernization and economic progress. This ambivalence, these two different focal points let us understand the complexity of Martí's thoughts.
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