Modernism and the avant-garde in Latin America
- Esther Gabara
In Spanish, “modernismo” most often refers to the 19th-century literary movement inaugurated by Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, which created a highly imagistic, literary language of the Americas. “Vanguardia” in Spanish and “modernismo” in Portuguese name the radical 20th-century experiments with the image, critiques of representation, and debates over the political and social role of art associated with “avant-garde” in English. Intellectuals from Latin America produced a rich bibliography about these terms that provide a periodization, as well as conceptual and aesthetic proposals, which diverge from the hegemonic cases of Europe and the United States. They distinguished artistic modernism and avant-gardes—in the visual arts, architecture, literature, and music—from progressive models of history that equated economic and political modernization with cultural advancement. From José Carlos Mariátegui and Mário de Andrade in the 1920s to more recent writing by Haroldo de Campos, Beatriz Sarlo, and Enrique Düssel, the periodization and definition of modernism has been grounded in a critique of colonialism as the original modernizing project, and a rejection of its continued violence throughout the 20th century. As colonial discourse was grounded in violent racial and gender formations, the modernist avant-gardes confronted these concepts in both the form and substance of their work....