Latino Indigenismo in a Comparative Perspective

Luis A. Marentes

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Latino Indigenismo in a Comparative Perspective

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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Indigenismo is identified mainly with a political and aesthetic movement blossoming particularly in Mexico and the Andes in the early 20th century. As a philosophy, Villoro 1996 (cited under Indigenismo in Mexico) and Tamayo Herrera 1980 (cited under Indigenismo in the Andes and Peru), among other works, see indigenismo as an effort by Europeans or their American-born descendants (criollos) to represent an indigenous “other.” Cornejo Polar 1982 (cited under General Overviews) identifies in literary indigenismo a heterogeneous cultural system, where subject, production, and audience correspond to different cultural realms. Mazzotti 1998 (cited under Colonial Indigenismo) identifies two broad trends continuing from early conquerors and missionaries to 20th-century indigenistas: ethnography (defining and portraying the “Indian”) and advocacy (representing them in a judicial sense). Even early indigenous or mestizo (mixed origin) narratives, often considered privileged and authentic voices, are heterogeneous and complex products by lettered elites, mediators between different traditions and sign systems.Marzal 1993 (cited under Reference Works and Bibliographies) collects “anthropological” indigenista writing, beginning with narratives of early contacts. In colonial times, criollo and mestizo elites collected indigenous knowledge, extolling American accomplishments. Ironically, in independent Mexico, research into the indigenous past grew and artists represented past heroes and achievements as sources for national pride, but modernizing Liberal and Positivist projects endeavored to eradicate living indigenous cultures. This contradiction continued into the 20th century, when the post-revolutionary regime legislated indigenismo into state policy. The Andean region had a different history. Despite a long tradition of indigenista thought and mentality in the countryside, modern indigenismo was a challenge by urban modernizers to the landed elite. During the 1920s the confluence of a populist regime, the Mexican and Soviet Revolutions, and the legacy of 19th-Century Precursors to Andean Indigenismo helped Andean indigenismo blossom around Mariátegui’s journal, Amauta. Since its height the movement has lost much of its appeal, but political and cultural movements at the turn of the 21st century show new indigenous self-affirmation. Within the United States, indigenismo had a significant revival during the Chicana/o movement of the 1970s and in Chicana nationalist feminism of the 1980s. Now, well into the 21st century, recent independent film and video projects in Mexico and Bolivia indicate that, as in Alva Ixtlilxóchitl 1985 and Garcilaso de la Vega 1966 (both cited under Primary Sources), new technologies and global networks are opening up alternative avenues for indigenous self-representation and academic reflection.

Article.  14032 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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