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At the Crossroads of Circulation and Translation: Rethinking US Latino/a Modernism

The contours of Latino/a modernism only begin to clarify in the light of the prodigious literary production of US Spanish-language serials.[1] The original and republished literature that circulated in these serials—newspapers, weekly digests, literary magazines—defies current paradigms of modernism, including the experimentalism of canonical Anglo modernism, the aestheticism of Latin American modernismo, and the political bent of borderlands modernism. The size of this archive is staggering: Nicolás Kanellos and Helvetia Martell have documented the existence of 1,141 Spanish-language serials in the United States between 1880 and 1945, the vast majority of which included literary texts as part of their regular publication agenda.[2] Almost a century after the apex of this literary formation, however, US Spanish-language print culture is virtually invisible in contemporary literary scholarship. That invisibility results from translation practices that have paradoxically served to disconnect Latino/a studies from modernist studies, fields that would mutually benefit from sustained engagement. In this essay, I give a brief account of how translation—understood literally and metaphorically—has worked as a point of blockage in the (non-)relationship of modernist and Latino/a studies. I then highlight the Kansas City Spanish-language weekly El Cosmopolita (1914–1919) as one example of how Latino/a modernism negotiates transnational literary currents and local social concerns. If we are to see these negotiations in their full complexity, we must adjust our research and teaching agendas, adopting underused translations and sponsoring new ones, allowing Latino/a modernism to challenge the boundaries of US and hemispheric modernisms alike.

Translating Modernism, or Not

Simply put, modernist studies and Latino/a studies have had little intercourse. In institutional terms, modernist studies have mostly been content to ignore Latino/a literature and culture, while Latino/a studies scholars rarely engage with modernism as either a period designation or a description of aesthetic practices.[3] There have been, of course, scholars working against this trend in both fields. Modernist studies scholars such as Christopher Schedler and Joshua Miller have conscientiously incorporated Latino/a writers into broader configurations of US modernism.[4] In Latino/a studies, the formulations of frontier and borderlands modernism by José David Saldívar and Mary Pat Brady attempt to understand the differential relationship of early twentieth-century literary formations, while scholars such as Ramón Saldívar and José E. Limón have sometimes used modernist aesthetics as a standard of comparison for the formal innovations of late twentieth century Chicano/a writers.[5] Perhaps most importantly, in her work on José Martí, Laura Lomas has advanced the idea of Latino/a modernism as a response to US “imperial modernity,” one that “addresses and represents reading communities on the borders of the bourgeois industrial civilization that imperial modernity sought to extend throughout the hemisphere.”[6] On the whole, however, the two fields have operated autonomously from one another, and translation has proven to be, paradoxically, a primary point of this disconnection.  

Despite the prolific number of literary texts published by Spanish-language newspapers, few translations of these works have been published. The most significant is Mariano Azuela’s novel Los de abajo: Novela de la revolución mejicana, which was originally serialized in the Texas newspaper El Paso del Norte in 1915 and has since become a cornerstone of the Mexican literary canon. That novel was beautifully translated by Frederick Fornoff in 1992, and published by University of Pittsburgh Press, but is rarely considered part of US or Latino/a literary history.[7] The most important institution sponsoring translations of Spanish-language literature from this era is the Recovering the US-Hispanic Literary Heritage Project in Houston, which has issued translations of several novels first published by newspaper presses, including Aliria Díaz Guerra’s Lucas Guevara (2001), Daniel Venegas’s Las aventuras de Don Chipote o Cuando los pericos mamen (The Adventures of Don Chipote, or, When Parrots Breast-Feed) (2000), and Conrado Espinoza’s El sol de Texas (Under the Texas Sun) (2007).[8] These standalone novels are important, but they do not fully reflect the ephemeral, piecemeal archive of poems, short stories, and chronicles found in Spanish-language serials. The record of available translations of these texts is even thinner. The Recovery Project has published The Way It Was and Other Writings (1993), a collection of essays and chronicles by Puerto Rican writer Jesús Colón, and scattered poems by Julia de Burgos and writings by the New Mexican writer Eusebio Chacón have appeared elsewhere.[9] The best resource for this material is the anthology Herencia (2002), edited by Nicolás Kanellos and other members of the Recovery Project editorial board. Although the anthology does not foreground their provenance from serial publications (and sometimes does not mention it at all), it contains translations of about two dozen texts from this period.[10] Problems of cultural and economic capital compound here. Complete novels and poetry volumes are more attractive to translators and presses than poems or chronicles collected from newspaper archives, and, moreover, the Recovery Project’s influence is limited. Without the prestige or funding of larger academic or trade presses behind them, these editions have yet to receive widespread course adoption or scholarly attention. This inattention creates a negative feedback loop, whereby the lack of interest in the few translations available reinforces their apparent unimportance, strengthening the barrier against future translations.

The most obvious explanation for the paucity of translations is institutional. The continued institutional dominance of English and comparative literature departments in modernist studies has in the past reinforced the cultural capital of the novel to the detriment of other genres. For English departments, it’s no surprise that novels such as Américo Paredes’s George Washington Gómez (1990) and Jovita González and Margaret Eimer’s Caballero (1997), both originally written in the 1930s, have been widely adopted, since they were both composed in English. They are legible for formal and historical analysis without having to account for the intellectual problems posed by translation. English departments’ persistent allergy to translation obscures students’ vision of national literary traditions—like American literature—that are clearly multilingual. By contrast, comparative literature scholars have provided crucial translation energy for modernist studies, but that energy has yet to extend to US Latino/a texts. Since US Spanish-language texts are still US-based, they fail to appeal to the historically international imperatives of the discipline. Moreover, the limited cultural capital of obscure Latino/a writers and texts makes them unlikely candidates for translation when there are still so many Latin American and European literary icons to work on.

Scholarship on Latino/a modernism can skew when the field is refracted through these institutional dynamics. Take, for example, Schedler’s landmark book Border Modernism: Intercultural Readings in American Literary Modernism (2002). Schedler analyzes George Washington Gómez alongside works by Azuela, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, and D. H. Lawrence, reading Paredes’s book as “a timely response to an uneven and extended process of social and cultural development in the US borderlands” (Border Modernism, 108). However, Schedler’s bravura reading of the novel never mentions the curious circumstances of its publication. Paredes kept the manuscript to himself until the late 1980s, certain that he would be unable to find a publisher in the 1930s, when he wrote it. The book was finally published in 1990 by Arte Público Press. The novel is a challenging example of border modernism; it is a rich index of its 1930s moment of composition, and merits the scholarly attention it has received. But George Washington Gómez never participated in the literary culture of the 1930s; to make it the representative Chicano/a or Latino/a text of that era is misleading.

Allowing George Washington Gómez to stand in as the representative text of border modernism renders border modernism as belated, repressed in its own contemporary moment only to emerge once the world is ready for it. A similar problem haunts the efforts of some 1990s-era Chicano/a scholarship to use Anglo modernism as a point of comparison for Chicano/a literary innovation. For example, José E. Limón in Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems (1992) faults José Montoya’s long poem El Sol y los de Abajo (1973) for its failure “to draw fully on [the] Anglo-American modernist tradition” (112). Yet Limón is critical of the Anglo modernist canon, identifying with critics such as Paul Gilroy and Houston Baker, Jr., who identify “strong vernacular traditions . . . to deeply inform and produce a new modernism” (165). Limón’s criticism of “El Sol y Los de Abajo” is thus complex. One the one hand, he faults the poem for failing to follow the experimental path of Anglo modernists; on the other hand, writing at the height of the culture wars, he recognizes the way that the traditional canon has excluded many works from consideration under the privileged rubric of modernism. But whereas the “modernism of critical difference” that Gilroy and Baker describe has its roots in the Harlem Renaissance, contemporary with the apex of Anglo modernism, the Chicano/a new modernism is only emergent decades later, in the 1970s and 1980s (164). The disconnection is once again a problem of translation, but here in the metaphorical sense. As Limón and other critics attempt to translate, to carry over, a conventional notion of Anglo modernism—one characterized by aesthetic deformation (in the name of innovation)—into Latino/a studies, they see that phenomenon only as delayed imitation. This has the unintended consequence of playing into stereotypes of Mexican Americans and Mexican migrants as existing in a temporality outside of modernity, always trying to catch up to more advanced or developed Anglo contemporaries.

El Cosmopolita’s Latino/a Modernism

Latino/a modernism is more than Anglo modernism with a Spanish accent. To apprehend it, we must resist the impulse to read Latino/a texts through the lens of any particular modernist rubric, and instead seek to translate their dynamic linguistic and social contexts for a new generation of students and scholars. Latino/a modernism emerges at the crossroads of original publication and circulation of previously published work. The Spanish-language press participated actively in what Meredith McGill has described in another context as the “culture of reprinting,” republishing poetry, crónicas, and fiction from Latin American and Europe.[11] From New York to Los Angeles, newspapers and magazines bearing names like Gráfico, La Prensa, Mercurio, Noticia Mundial, Hispano-Americano, and Heraldo de México reprinted modernista poems and crónicas by the thousands, alongside original works by local writers (Cosme Damián, Celio H. Barreto, Esther del Toro, Gabriel Navarro, Josefina Silva de Cintrón, and Jorge Ainsle, to name a few) now forgotten to literary history. But these modernista republications are not merely repetitive; instead, the context of Latino/a serials changes the texts’ appearance and rhetorical situation and, hence, their available meanings. Moreover, the juxtaposition of republished and original works creates a mutually transformative relationship between the two. Latino/a modernism at once participates in and revises hemispheric literary movements.[12]

The World War I-era Spanish-language weekly El Cosmopolita provides a case in point. The newspaper catered to the Mexican colonia of Kansas City, which at the time served as a distribution hub for migrants seeking railroad, industrial, and agricultural jobs in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. Unlike other serials of the era, the newspaper has received some limited scholarly attention by historians who have seen it in documentary terms, as a record of migrant culture.[13] However, those accounts have missed the central role of literary texts in the newspaper’s self-perceived mission. The full title of the paper was, after all, El Cosmopolita: Semanario Independiente de Literatura, Información, y Anuncios (fig. 1). Moreover, while it is tempting to smile at the thought of a migrant newspaper in Kansas City styling itself as cosmopolitan, the paper’s name resonates with one of the animating impulses of modernism and modernismo alike.[14] From an editorial perspective, El Cosmopolita participated in the nationalist movement known as “México de afuera” or “Mexico from abroad,” whereby migrant communities in the wake of the Mexican Revolution attempted to retain influence on their home country. From a literary perspective, however, the paper was not strictly nationalist, publishing poems, essays, and fiction from Spain and many different parts of Latin America.


Fig. 1. Front page of El Cosmopolita: Semanario Independiente de Literatura, Información, y Anuncios, February 2, 1918.

The newspaper’s nationalist editorial stance and international literary publication agenda were part-and-parcel of its bourgeois political investments, but it is important to note how the newspaper acts as a heteroglossic space in which the Mexican colonia’s conflicted class commitments surface.[15] The May 18, 1918 issue of the paper features poems and prose fragments by the Mexican poets Amado Nervo, Xavier Sorondo, and Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro, as well as an excerpt from a manifesto by the Colombian writer José María Vargas Vila (fig. 2). Nervo was one of the most important figures of Mexican modernismo, having co-edited the literary magazines Revista Azul and Revista Moderna in the 1890s. Like many of the modernistas, he spent time in Paris, and his poetry bears the stamp of both Symbolism and Parnassianism. In the May 18 issue, El Cosmopolita reprinted two poems—“Lo Imprevisto” and “El Guerrero”—from Nervo’s recently published book Estanque de los lotos, or Pool of Lotuses, a sequence of lyric poems fusing Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian mysticism into meditations on consciousness, the ephemerality of life, and the hope of transcendence.


Fig. 2. The May 18, 1918 issue of El Cosmopolita featuring poems and prose fragments by Amado Nervo, Xavier Sorondo, and Guillermo Aguirre y Fierro, as well as an excerpt from a manifesto by José María Vargas Vila.

Taken together, these texts appear to bolster an ideological strain in modernismo that favors the consolidation of literary autonomy in opposition to labor and mass culture. Gerard Aching, for instance, has argued that the modernista preoccupation with representing the expansiveness of interior consciousness “captured the aspirations of the monied classes to cultivate the art of leisure away from the ‘debasing’ commercial and industrial labor upon which they depended for their own economic welfare.”[16] Even as Aching’s analysis offers a convincing paradigm for reading modernismo’s performance of interiority, however, it does not explain how a newspaper like El Cosmopolita transforms that performance. In the context of Latin American literary magazines and book publishing, poems by Darío and Nervo reveling in the power of the poetic “reino interior” may serve to consolidate the autonomy of the bourgeois subject, hailing educated and middle class readers.[17] El Cosmopolita establishes a distinct context, however, where the literary field (and, hence, the literary speaker) is not autonomous either from mass culture or from quotidian or political concerns. The poetry and essays in the paper literally rub up against advertisements, labor solicitations, and political news.

Rather than class consolidation, Nervo’s poems thus open up to multivalent and allegorical readings. “Lo Imprevisto,” for example, is a modified sonnet whose opening sestet addresses an unspecified interlocutor, “Si para tus angustias morir sólo es remedio; / si han de oscilar tus horas entre el dolor y el tedio; / si nada ha de aliviarte tu mal de cuanto ves” [If dying is the only remedy for your anguish; / if every waking hour you oscillate between suffering and tedium; / if nothing can relieve you from the evil constantly before you,”] and so forth.[18] The concluding sestet encourages the interlocutor—who turns out to be, not surprisingly, the poet himself—to accept suffering as the inexorable demands of karma, and to allow it work within the mind as a creative force. Through Aching’s paradigm of modernista literary autonomy, we might understand the suffering and tedium the poem depicts as interior, as a condition of the poet’s painful sensitivity to existential consciousness. El Cosmopolita puts flesh on this consciousness, framed as the poem is by advertisements for “La Crema para Blanquear” [Whitening Cream], a book with remedies for “Enfermedades de la Sangre” [Blood Diseases], instructions “Para Quitar el Vello” [To Remove Unwanted Hair], and a solicitation for “¡Trabajadores Mexicanos!” to work on the Burlington railroad line. Here we see reminders of the laboring, racialized bodies that constitute the newspaper’s readership, an audience who might more acutely associate “el dolor y el tedio” with migrant living and working conditions than with the internal despair of the poet.

This reading of the ambivalent class identifications of El Cosmopolita—and US Latino/a modernism more generally—finds support in many of the original texts the newspaper published, including four short narratives published by an individual named Cosme Damián in 1917 and 1918. Inhabiting the dynamic middle ground of cultural encounter, Damián’s narratives revel in satire and linguistic play. For example, the first of the narratives, a crónica titled “Los hijos de ‘la Colorada,’” begins with Damián noting curiously that the railroad bosses referred to the work gangs as “campos,” using a false cognate for “camps” (fig. 3).[19] Estranging language this way, the narrative prepares its readers for the estranging world of exploitation and discrimination the crónica describes. Meanwhile, the action of “La Badanita Sucia: Aventuras en una Boarding-House” [“The Soiled Sheepskin: Adventures in a Boarding-House”] gets underway when “un día la ‘landlady’ anunció” [one day the landlady announced] to the four bachelors resident in the boarding house “que la nueva huesped era nada menos que una ‘girl’ [muchacha]” [that the new boarder was nothing less than a girl] (fig. 4).[20] Damián’s narratives appear on the surface to be a classic example of what Mary Pat Brady refers to as “borderlands modernism,” emblematized by their interest “in the effects of many languages sutured together, creating a layered prose” (“Borderlands Modernism,” 107).


Fig. 3. “Los hijos de ‘la Colorada,’” El Cosmopolita, July 28, 1917, 13.

Yet in other ways the rubric of borderlands modernism—or its close cognates “border modernism” and “frontier modernism”—does not provide a sufficient paradigm for reading texts like Damián’s.[21] For one thing, Kansas City lies outside our usual configurations of the United States-Mexico borderlands both geographically and historically. The Mexican colonia of the early twentieth-century was a migrant community, distinct from areas such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley or New Mexico, where cultural conflict between Mexican and Anglo Americans had already played out for multiple generations. More importantly, Brady maintains that borderlands modernism can be distinguished by the “obscure and disdainful disinterest” with which it regarded “[b]oth modernismo and modernism,” but as we have already seen, Damián’s narratives participated in a print cultural sphere thoroughly saturated with modernismo (“Borderlands Modernism,” 106).

Among Damián’s narratives, “La Badanita Sucia” most provocatively engages its modernista interlocutors. The story tells of four “obligados solteros” [unwilling bachelors] who live on the third floor of a Kansas City boarding house. The floor has four rooms, but two of the bachelors live together, and so the fourth room lies unused for many months, until “la landlady” makes her fateful announcement. Not surprisingly, the presence of a young woman causes a stir among the bachelors, and a competition ensues to win her favor. But just when it appears that one of the bachelors has emerged triumphant, as he and the young woman begin dating, the young woman disappears, leaving behind only a few of her personal effects. The story title refers to the used sheepskin cloth that the abandoned lover finds in the trash, “con la que se retocaba el polvo en las mejillas y se corregía el carmín en los labios aquella aventurera a quien Dios conceda su santa y perdurable gloria” [with which she retouched the powder of her cheeks and cleaned up her carmine lipstick, that adventuress upon whom God had bestowed his holy and lasting glory] (Damián, “La Badanita Sucia,” 4). The story is notable for the spare living conditions it describes, counterpointed by the feminine objects the woman leaves behind, including the badanita sucia. Rachel Price has observed that modernismo “was object-oriented typically in its interest in precious luxury items or through its attempt to approximate advertising’s strategies, while disavowing everyday material culture through flights to a world of princesses and swans.”[22] “La Badanita Sucia” flips these fetish impulses on their heads. Rather than rejecting everyday material culture, the story centers on it; its eponymous object is disposable, indexing the precarity of migrant life through both the gender imbalance the badanita dramatizes, typical of a migrant worker community, and its status as already consumed, already “sucia.”


Fig. 4. “La Badanita Sucia: Aventuras en una Boarding-House,” El Cosmopolita, March 9, 1918, 13.

El Cosmopolita suggests some of the contours of a Latino/a modernism that emerges from the collision of reprinted modernista texts and original works by Latinos confronting the radical inequalities of US industrial modernity. Lomas argues that “attention both to the dynamics of translation and to transnational formations is necessary to reading Latino migrant translation of empire in a reconfigured American studies” (Translating Empire, 33). Here the “dynamics of translation” refers to José Martí’s linguistic translations of English-language writers and metaphorical translations of Anglo cultural values. But how can we attend to the dynamics of translation in a case like that of Damián, whose narratives, like so many others, have never been republished or translated? In this case, attention must mean engagement. It must mean nourishing translation practices that connect, rather than disconnect. Modernist and Latino/a studies scholars alike should adopt existing translations, such as those highlighted earlier, for teaching and research. This would require more conversation across fields, but modernist studies and Latino/a studies have much to learn from each other. Scholars should also work to produce new translations from existing archives. Many of these texts are available through the Readex Hispanic American Newspapers database, which contains digitized images of over 200 Spanish-language newspapers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To dwell at the same crossroads of circulation and translation that characterized Latino/a modernism in its moment, however, we must imagine forms other than novels and single-author works. These might include thematically organized collections of poems and chronicles, such as a collection of texts showcasing Latino/a modernism and film culture; or editions of selected works from individual publications, like a “best of” collection from the literary magazine Mercurio; or editions of works based in particular settings, such as Los Angeles during the Mexican Revolution, or New York during the Spanish Civil War. Such translations would necessarily include reprinted modernista texts alongside US Latino/a texts. The possibilities are numerous, but only a collective effort will revivify the dynamic, disruptive, often defiant archive of Latino/a modernism.

 

Notes

[1] I am mindful that “Latinx” is rapidly becoming preferred nomenclature in many scholarly and pedagogical environments. Indeed, in other contexts I use “Latinx,” and I am sympathetic to the effort to include transgender and gender nonconforming individuals under the “x.” However, in this essay I have elected to retain “Latino” and “Latino/a” for two reasons. First, I intend “Latino/a” as a provocation, a term that appears anachronistic but in fact resonates with an incipient US-based latinidad emerging in consort with Latin American modernism. I find that “Latino/a” engages that historical particularity better than “Latinx.” Second, using “Latino/a” helps to amplify gender in relation to a set of texts that center gender doggedly. I thank the graduate students and faculty of the Yale English department’s Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature Colloquium for helping me think through this issue. For an excellent framing of this debate, see Richard T. Rodriguez, “X Marks the Spot,” Cultural Dynamics 29, no. 3 (2017): 202–13.

[2] Numbers culled from the chronological index of Nicolás Kanellos and Helvetia Martell, Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1860: A Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography (Houston, TX: Arte Público, 2000), 309–35. Joshua L. Miller uses Robert E. Park’s study of the immigrant press to estimate that there were 35 Spanish-language newspapers in 1884 and 100 in 1920; see Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 41. Kanellos and Martel’s bibliography suggests that Park grossly undercounted the number of Spanish-language serials. 1880 only just antedates the publication of José Martí’s first volume of poems Ismaelillo in 1882, one possible way of marking the inauguration of Latin American modernismo. The end of World War II in 1945 has been taken as a watershed moment in the history of Mexican American civil rights movements and provides a fitting bookend to the period. 

[3] One (admittedly reductive) gauge of this disconnection: the 2016 meeting of the Modernist Studies Association included over 150 panels, roundtables, and seminars, but not a single session dedicated to a Latino/a studies topic. (This despite two special sessions dedicated to the topic of “California and the Cultures of Modernism”!) Meanwhile, the word modernism was entirely absent from the 2017 Latina/o Literary Theory and Criticism Conference program.

[4] See Christopher Schedler, Border Modernism: Intercultural Readings in American Literary Modernism (New York: Routledge, 2002); and Miller, Accented America.

[5] See José David Saldívar, Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Mary Pat Brady, “Borderlands Modernism,” in The Cambridge Companion to the American Modernist Novel, ed. Joshua L. Miller (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 106–21; Ramón Saldívar, Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); and José E. Limón, Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems: History and Influence in Mexican-American Social Poetry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

[6] Laura Lomas, Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 25.

[7] This neglect of Los de abajo in US Latino/a studies appears to be changing. Brady includes a reading of the novel in her essay “Borderlands Modernism,” and Yolanda Padilla considers the novel as part of a body of trans-border revolutionary writing in her essay “Literary Revolutions in the Borderlands: Transnational Dimensions of the Mexican Revolution and Its Diaspora in the United States” in The Cambridge History of Latina/o Literature, ed. John Morán González and Laura Lomas (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 334–52.

[8] Lucas Guevara was originally published in 1914 in New York, where Díaz Guerra wrote for several Spanish-language newspapers. Don Chipote was originally published by the newspaper press of Heraldo de México in 1928, and El sol de Texas was originally published in 1926 in San Antonio, where Espinoza had ties to La Prensa, the most successful Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country. Ethriam Cash Brammer translated all three novels for Arte Público Press.

[9] Colón’s writings were translated and edited by Edna Acosta-Belén. De Burgos’s collected poems, many of which were originally published in Spanish-language newspapers in New York, are available in Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos, edited and translated by Jack Agüeros (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1997). Chacón’s works are available in The Writings of Eusebio Chacón, edited and translated by A. Gabriel Meléndez and Francisco Lomelí (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012). Arte Público also recently issued a collection of writings by the humorist P. Galindo, who published widely in Spanish-language newspapers in the 1930s and 40s, but it is as of yet only available in Spanish. See P. Galindo: Obras (in)completas de José Díaz, ed. Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez (Houston, TX: Arte Público, 2016).

[10] See Herencia: The Anthology of Hispanic Literature in the United States, ed. Nicolás Kanellos (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[11] See Meredith McGill, American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–1853 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003). McGill argues that US antebellum literary culture “was defined by its exuberant understanding of culture as iteration and not origination,” an assertion that resonates with Latino/a modernist practices (4).

[12] It is worth noting that Latin American studies have also been historically disconnected from Latino/a studies, particularly in scholarship on modernismo. Writing about the New Orleans literary magazine Mercurio—a prime example of Latina/o modernism—Kirsten Silva Gruesz observes, “Despite the fact that it published some of the most important Modernist writers from Spain and Latin America, its presence has gone virtually unremarked by literary historians in that field, much less in Latino studies” (“The Mercurial Space of ‘Central’ America: New Orleans, Honduras, and the Writing of the Banana Republic,” in Hemispheric American Studies, ed. Caroline F. Levander and Robert S. Levine [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007], 140–65, 151).

[13] See Michael M. Smith, “The Mexican Immigrant Press Beyond the Borderlands: The Case of El Cosmopolita,” Great Plains Quarterly 10, no. 2 (1990): 71–85; and Kanellos and Martell, Hispanic Periodicals. Smith notes that by 1920, the Mexican colonia in Kansas City numbered approximately 10,000 people.

[14] The cosmopolitanism of the Anglo modernist canon is often taken as axiomatic, but as Tom Lutz has shown, even works previously regarded as regionalist participated in the impulse. See Cosmopolitan Vistas: American Regionalism and Literary Value (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004). Modernista cosmopolitanism emerged from the perceived marginality of Latin America in transnational economies of literary value at the turn of the twentieth century. Mariano Siskind uses the term “cosmopolitan desire” to describe modernistas’ “strategic literary practice that forces its way into the realm of universality, denouncing both the hegemonic structures of European forms of exclusion and nationalistic patterns of self-marginalization” (Cosmopolitan Desires: Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America [Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014], 6).

[15] As Nicolás Kanellos has noted, the leading advocates of the México de afuera movement tended to be Mexican elites who disapproved of the populism and chaos of the revolution. El Cosmopolita was owned by the Anglo businessman Jack Danciger from 1915 until late 1918. Although it was always edited by Mexican migrants, it explicitly supported the regime of Venustiano Carranza, the most moderate of the various revolutionary factions, and the friendliest to Danciger’s business interests. See Nicolás Kanellos, “Recovering and Re-constructing Early Twentieth-Century Hispanic Immigrant Print Culture in the US,” American Literary History 19, no. 2 (2007): 438–55; and Smith, “The Mexican Immigrant Press.”

[16] Gerard Aching, The Politics of Spanish American "Modernismo": By Exquisite Design (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 28.

[17] “Reino interior,” or “interior realm,” as Aching renders it, is a phrase from Rubén Darío’s “Palabras liminares,” the prologue to his second volume of poetry, Prosas Profanas (1896).

[18] Amado Nervo, “Lo Imprevisto,” El Cosmopolita, May 18, 1918, 3. This and subsequent translations are my own.

[19] Cosme Damián, “Los hijos de ‘la Colorada,’” El Cosmopolita, July 28, 1917, 3-4. In Spanish, campo generally denotes a field, rather than an encampment or group of people. Crónicas are a form of narrative reportage and commentary that were favored by Latin American modernistas. For more on the modernista crónica, see Viviane Mahieux, Urban Chroniclers in Modern Latin America: The Shared Intimacy of Everyday Life (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011); Andrew Reynolds, The Spanish American Crónica Modernista, Temporality, and Material Culture: Modernismo’s Unstoppable Presses (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012); and Julio Ramos, Divergent Modernities: Culture and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001).

[20] Cosme Damián, “La Badanita Sucia: Aventuras en una Boarding-House,” El Cosmopolita, March 9, 1918, 3–4. The gloss of muchacha is part of the original text. Either Damián or the editors of the paper chose to follow English-style capitalization for the title of the story.

[21] “Border modernism” is Schedler’s description of a group of early twentieth-century texts in which “the external world is seen as constitutive of the self, and identity is explored through association with those defined as culturally, racially, or linguistically ‘other’” (Border Modernism, xiii). José David Saldívar coins the term “frontier modernism” to describe late-nineteenth century works that put “fin de siglo quests for empire, politics, and subaltern differences” in their crosshairs (Border Matters, 159).

[22] Rachel Price, The Object of the Atlantic: Concrete Aesthetics in Cuba, Brazil, and Spain, 1868–1968 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014), 13. Emphasis in original.

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