Tag Archives: Cecilia Valdés

More mestizos and more Cecilia

The inner life of mestizo nationalism is another book to get, probably key. Joshua Lund’s later book is in dialogue with it, too. And look at page 80 of Lund: I’m right, it is a question of articulating nation and state. And: Asturias uses the stylized indígenas to come up with a more inclusive nation, but Castellanos stages that same culture to problematize that politics of inclusion / the mestizo state.

I was rereading Joanna O’Connell’s now old book on Rosario Castellanos and noted the reference to women characters like Dido (in the Aeneid, but also in Castellanos), Judith and Salomé who are threats to the foundation of nation. Daughters’ sexuality is an issue of racial and national loyalties. How does Cecilia fit into this?

I can see a next paper, on Mercier (St. Ybars), Cecilia and Emily Clark, centering on the placée. How Yankee travel writing + [what was the story that came from Haiti?] generates the terms in which Cuba and Louisiana see themselves. These mulatas are transgressive according to Glissant [recheck, it’s in Poétique de la relation] because they upset categories, but is this also something about preventing the foundation of nation?

What about Sab?

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Cecilia again

Glissant in Poétique de la relation talks about the mestizo as the one who confounds categories, disturbs whiteness. That’s not how they’re constructed in Spanish America, they’re a nation-building category. But it does seem to be how Cecilia works in Cecilia Valdés. Is this further evidence of that novel being written in the United States and furthermore, under a French-Caribbean influence? Did Villaverde read Mercier, L’Habitation Saint-Ybars, or were these two novels co-generated in some way?

The things of the Atlantic keep reappearing, like the repeating island; I’ve called them cane cultures. There is so much to think about.

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Ideologies of Hispanism (more notes to frame Cecilia and plaçage) … these 13 points are a fairly good blocking out

FACE YOUR FEARS [I am transcribing these notes to avoid doing that, but it isn’t a bad form of procrastination as it is helping me get something else necessary done].

ALSO REMEMBER: Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II was a Confederate ally who had sheltered and supplied Southern ships during the Civil War. Then he offered land to the Confederados for as little as 22 cents an acre, subsidized their transport to Brazil, provided temporary lodging, promised quick citizenship and sometimes greeted them in person as they disembarked.

AND: Passing is subversive because you are not staying “in your place;” authenticity meant what exactly? having a knowable, “legitimate,” revealable class/race/family?

1/ I am interested in state policies and national myths.

2/ CV is a quadroon story that deploys the plaçage myth, which is a Haitian trope.

3. Focus on plaçage: it is deployed so as to claim that interracial relationships only take place in N.O., which will contain them (this is Emily Clark’s suggestion); so as to deflect attention from the actual fear which is of Haitian men (Clark).

4. CV is, or is said to be, the Cuban national novel. People identify with Cecilia, who is mixed, confused, and is also a girl who should be white. But the topic of the novel is actually the fear of Cecilia and its project is to contain her. It is anticolonial but also white supremacist and patriarchal.

5. As R. Lazo poits out, it’s also a product of New York. But as we note, it is also a product of Haitian and N.O. myths of the quadroon. So what is Cuban / U.S. / Latin American literature? None of it actually refers to nations, but to regions; all of it is transnational.

6. It is a counter-discourse to 19th century racial republicanism: the state is unable to produce a nation!

7. I need to look up Werner Sollors and Sibilla Fisher, still, on incest and miscegenation. Mulataje means NO OFFSPRING and yet Cecilia produces a baby (more or less).

8. Villaverde himself had to get a certificate of whiteness to be able to study, which is a good lead-in always; the entire society was so concerned to preserve certain venues for the truly white that this was necessary.

9. Novels to look for: Petronio y Rosalía; La cuarterona; Si haces mal, no esperes bien.

10. Lazo: CV is a hemispheric text and IS aware of its genre. Note that there were other hemispheric novels produced in Philadelphia. It was also written as the nation-state model was coming into crisis: these are counter discourses to previous foundational novels such as those by Mármol and Blest Gana that did not deal with race

11. Contra Doris Sommer, who talks about mestizaje and nation (the letrado discourse), I am interested in race and state. (Marilyn thinks this distinction does not hold up but I think it does.)

12. What do mestizos do: (a) confound racial discourse and be dangerous for that reason, or (b) join with blancos against indios? Is mestizaje a strategy of inclusion, or containment, or both? I think Sommer, con su elogio del mestizaje y de la nación, simplifies everything: her book is about why nations cannot be founded. And I think Anzaldúa, writing more or less in the same period as Sommer and in the same country, falls into the same error; I am not convinced by “hybridity” OR “decoloniality” as a solution

13. Also: in the period in which these ANTI mestizaje novels were written, Afro-descendants were making scary political strides. So: CV, the novel, is declaring earlier models for alliances unviable. At this point these narratives are raising more questions than they answer, and are talking about the failure of Independence (civil war, international war) societies and not the optimism of newborn, forward looking nations.

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That postmodern subject of PASSING

This is an old article I had kept to think about subjectivity in Anzaldúa and also Vallejo. It’s outmoded now, but some of the points are still valid, on the precariousness of identity and subject positions. Having no secure position to which to return distinguishes “passing” from “passing as,” she says. “Passing” is like Morrison’s “becoming” — entering what one is estranged from, reconsidering the self one has long thought one’s own. We want to NOT resurrect the humanist subject. If we do, we all have to be either confessional – “authentic”, or fraudulent. Instead, we should keep the provisional nature of every “I” firmly in mind … because the humanist subject is NOT the solution to the cultural problematic that places us all in the position of having to pass.

There is something suggestive here, too, about Cecilia Valdés: you cannot pass as a mother.

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Those notes

I need to organize my notes. And files. As we know, and in a better way than making these blog posts. But for today: we will start here, anyhow, any way.

Cecilia Valdés the novel is anti-colonialist, pro-elite, pro-white and pro-patriarchy (and check Doris Sommer on this; I am in the whole project arguing against Sommer’s conciliatory view on things). That discerning eye is the eye that knows how to distinguish color, and thus protect hierarchies (I think).

Villaverde is a U.S. Hispanic writer, and Cecilia Valdés is an international novel. Related is Cane River. It’s the national novel of Cuba but also a New Orleans novel, and its kernel is the plaçage myth.

There is a book by one Beaumont, L’esclavage aux Etats-Unis. This author accompanied Tocqueville on his voyage. There is also Mathew Guterl, American Mediterranean and Coolies and Cane; he also has a book about seeing race. Louisiana looked to Cuba, for instance, for models of how to deal with the Chinese.

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The paragraphs in question

Era su tipo el de las vírgenes de los más célebres pintores. Porque a una frente alta, coronada de cabellos negros y copiosos, naturalmente ondeados, unía facciones muy regulares, nariz recta que arrancaba desde el entrecejo, y por quedarse algo corta alzaba un si es no es el labio superior, como para dejar ver dos sartas de dientes menudos y blancos. Sus cejas describían un arco y daban mayor sombra a los ojos negros y rasgados, los cuales eran todo movilidad y fuego. La boca tenía chica y los labios llenos, indicando más voluptuosidad que firmeza de carácter. Las mejillas llenas y redondas y un hoyuelo en medio de la barba, formaban un conjunto bello, que para ser perfecto sólo faltaba que la expresión fuese menos maliciosa, si no maligna.

De cuerpo era más bien delgada que gruesa, para su edad antes baja que crecida, y el torso, visto de espaldas, angosto en el cuello y ancho hacia los hombros, formaba armonía encantadora, aun bajo sus humildes ropas, con el estrecho y flexible talle, que no hay medio de compararle sino con la base de una copa. La complexión podía pasar por saludable, la encarnación viva, hablando en el sentido en que los pintores toman esta palabra, aunque a poco que se fijaba la atención, se advertía en el color del rostro, que sin dejar de ser sanguíneo había demasiado ocre en su composición, y no resultaba diáfano ni libre. ¿A qué raza, pues, pertenecía esta muchacha? Difícil es decirlo. Sin embargo, a un ojo conocedor no podía esconderse que sus labios rojos tenían un borde o filete oscuro, y que la iluminación del rostro terminaba en una especie de penumbra hacia el nacimiento del cabello. Su sangre no era pura y bien podía asegurarse que allá en la tercera o cuarta generación estaba mezclada con la etíope.

Is she an angel or a devil? The bolded words indicate that my use of the word “discerning” for “conocedor” is in fact warranted.

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Encore des nouvelles. On modernity, and on race.

– Thursday is César Vallejo’s birthday and he will be 125.

– This, as we know, could also be about Vallejo, as it is about many:

Living in Budapest, connected to a self-confident and industrializing West but set apart from it by language and often religion, Polanyi and his contemporaries embodied one of the central facts about the cultural and political ferment that we often equate with modernism: Its vitality depended on the admixture of a modern social order and outlook with often archaic folk communities. (Bartók’s music is a classic example.)

Polanyi is one of many intellectuals I would like to understand.

I am interested also in the conversion of the Jews in the nineteenth century, as both Marx’ and Heinrich Heine’s parents converted, as my ancestor did. Polanyi and other twentieth century figures longed, says Gareth Dale, for “a social order in which the entire issue of assimilation would be an irrelevance.” (It could be worth reading the book whose review I refer here to learn more about what this meant then, because it is yet another experience of race and difference in the high modernist period.)

Then there is Marisol de la Cadena:

…mestizo and mestizaje…are doubly hybrid. On the one hand they house an empirical hybridity, built upon eighteenth and nineteenth century racial taxonomies and according to which ‘mestizos’ are non-indigenous individuals, the result of biological or cultural mixtures. Yet, mestizos’ genealogy starts earlier, when ‘mixture’ denoted transgression of the rule of faith, and its statutes of purity. Within this taxonomic regime mestizos could be, at the same time, indigenous. Apparently dominant, racial theories sustained by scientific knowledge mixed with, (rather than cancel) previous faith based racial taxonomies. ‘Mestizo’ thus houses a conceptual hybridity – the mixture of two classificatory regimes – which reveals subordinate alternatives for mestizo subject positions, including forms of indigeneity.

Y sí, and that is what the talk the other day did not address, and it is key for my piece on Isaacs: there is racial and religious mestizaje that stand in for each other. THIS is a good insight, I do think. (About mestizaje itself, the other way in which the word or concept “means in two accents” is that it is deployed in both oppressive and utopian or liberating ways.)

And Isaacs is another 19th century person, working on the conversion of the Jews, and there is a connection here.

(I so must create a system in which to put all these thoughts together.)

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