Translating the Past into the Present: The Synthesizing Modernity of Alfonso Reyes

  • Nicola Miller
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


The idea that historical rupture is fundamental to the condition of modernity, as proposed by Marshall Berman and others, has been widely questioned in Latin America. Conservatives have not been alone in expressing fears about the consequences of profound upheaval: even revolutionary movements, committed to modernizing policies, have tended to cast themselves not so much as a break with the past as the culmination of its underlying trends. When Castro declared that history would absolve him, he was not only expressing faith in the judgment of the future, but also claiming legitimacy from his identification with a long line of “rebels against tyranny,” from the sages of ancient India and China all the way down the centuries to Rousseau and Tom Paine.2 The Mexican Revolution was born alongside “a burning defence of the past”;3 the Cuban Revolution declared its own end of history long before Fukuyama wrote his famous book; and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua represented their revolution as the long-deferred triumph of Sandino’s heroic struggle against U.S. occupation in the 1920s. Latin American revolutions have tended not to repudiate the past, as happened in France and Soviet Russia, but instead, to stake a claim to transcendent continuity based on creative assimilation of the past.


Mexico City Literary Critic Mexican State Grand Narrative Mexican Culture 
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© Nicola Miller 2008

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