Elena Delgado

If one of the universities we have in common were a sugar plantation rather than a beach resort, she and I would be cousins; now the family resemblance is starting to show. Enough so that I am startled.

Historian Carmen Iglesias has shown that as early as the fifteenth century Spain was already considered by other European countries an “impure” and feminized culture due to its oriental and African elements. This disqualifier did not apply exclusively to the Southern regions of the country, as would happen in the nineteenth century. On the contrary, it was originally used against the Catalans who as late as the sixteenth century in Italy were identified metonymically with all Spaniards and were “accused” of having a population where Jews and converted Jews exceeded Christians (Iglesias 394, 400).

What we now see in Spain is a double movement: on the one hand, the recent propagation of and emphasis on the valorization of a “decaffeinated” difference, motivated by and completely integrated into the space of transnational capital. The existence of this “safe” difference, the one behind the commercial success of Celtic or generally “ethnic” music and the proliferation of “magic realisms” in Galician and Basque narrative, helps to forget the reality of that “other,” more threatening difference that cannot be simply enjoyed as aesthetic artifact and subsumed by the commercial. But just as disconcerting as the superficial commercialization of difference is its essentialization: the emphatic affirmation of isolated otherness that is articulated in the same polarized language of the politics of homogeneity, thereby perpetuating a self-absorbed discourse incapable of coming out of itself in order to establish fluid and relational categories.

This for another geographical region is also my project: the “impurities” already discussed in the 15th century, the racial-national projects of the 19th and 20th centuries, the neocolonial violence inherent in the creation and propagation of “safe” distance.

I have to actually read seriously those books by people like Alberto M. and Jorge Klor, that criticize “difference” and “Latin Americanism.” They came out during a bad period here and I did not pay close attention for that reason and because they seemed overwrought. They were products of some late-night internecine debates addressing more imaginary than real problems, I thought. I will have to see whether that is true.



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