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Una vision de America: La obra de German Arciniegas desde la perspectiva de sus contemporaneos.

Born in 1990 in Bogota, Colombia, German Arciniegas continues to be one of Latin America's most widely read, controversial, and thought-provoking intellectuals. Oublished in honor of Arciniegas's ninetieth birthday, this volume contains articles about and letters to Arciniegas by a variety of critics, philosophers, politicians, historians, and other leaders. The first part is devoted to Colombian writers such as Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, Jaime Posada, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, Javier Ocampo Lopez, Belisario Betancur, and Jorge Orlando Melo. The second is devoted to non-Colombians--Jose Vasconcelos, Alfonso Reyes, Victor Raul Llaya de la Torre, Roberto Esquenazi-Mayo, Enrique Anderson Imbert, Harry Levin, and Mario Vargas Llosa, among many others--and attests to the impact that Arciniegas has had not only in Colombia, but throughout Latin Amercia, as well as in Europe and the United States. The large number of Argentinians reflects the influence that Arciniegas has had on Argentine thought.

Like many of Latin America's great essayists of the first part of the century, Arciniegas was an educator and served as his country's Minister of Education. His duties brought him into contact with many great thinkers (Thomas Mann, Jules Romain, Alfonso Reyes) and contributed to his belief in the fundamental unity of Latin America and in the universality of the Latin American experience. For Arciniegas, Latin America, with its immigrants from all over the world was the "new Europe." At the same time, Arciniegas was--and is--a vigorous defender of America's native cultures.

As J David Suarez Torres has pointed out in an article appearing in Latin American Writers, Arciniegas' most controversial stance is his criticism of Spain with respect to the Conquest. In Arciniegas' view, Latin America was "covered," not "discovered," by the Conquistadors, who buried or destroyed the magnificent Indian cultures that flourished on the American continents before the arrival of the Europeans. Arciniegas believes Latin America is essentially Indian, not Spanish. Una vision de America includes an interesting dialogue between Arciniegas and Spanish essayist Julian Marias, directed by Maria Esther Vasquez, in which Marias argues that the archeological remains that have been found in areas that correspond to modern-day Latin American countries do not really belong to the cultures of those countries; "they are not Colombian, or Peruvian, or Mexican, or Argentine." Marias sees Arciniegas' tendency to emphasize the pre-Columbian cultures as dangerous in the sense that it leads to a disparagement of the immense contributions made by the Vice Royalties to the future development of countries such as Mexico. Arciniegas counters that the Indian populations of these countries still display countless characteristics rooted in age-old pre-Columbian civilizations. In spite of Arciniegas' quarrel with Spain, many Spaniards have praised his work. Ramon Sender says that his prose burns with the enthusiasm of youth, yet displays a certain serenity. Guillermo de Torre calls him a skillful writer who brings to life important figures in Latin American history.

Una vision de America offers a fine overview of the work of one of Latin America's great thinkers--a man who, in spite of his ninety years, continues to produce thoughtful and often irreverent essays.
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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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