Americanism and Latinity

Gilberto Freyre’s Americanism and Latinity in Latin America (1963) is not the most famous of the many essays which have been written in the past two hundred years on the articulation of Latin/American identities and their imbrication with notions of “tradition” and “modernity,” but it is worth knowing about. Some quotations:

Leisure, so much depreciated by the Calvinist ethic, which glorifies working time alone, is . . . given importance by the Hispano-Catholic ethic which exalts liturgical time, the time of festivals and pla. In over-industrializaed countries, automation is going to provide far more free time. . . . Thus . . . we find outselves facing a paradox: in some aspects, Latin America is suddenly becoming ultra-modern; while that part of America where English is spoken tends to remain archaic in its attitudes and habits created over three centuries of progress on the basis of an economic sense of time. . . .

There is another particular area in which it is equaly possible that Latin America shouldcoe to be considered ultra-modern in its attitudes and behavior: . . . that process of evaluating attitudes and traditional values . . . which corrects the modernits excesses of some people who are economically developed, just as it corrects the immoderately excessive desires for modernization.

It is not very likely that the sociological definition of Latin America will be formulated in the future in ethnic terms. . . . In fact, the Latinity and Americanism of Latin America tends to define itself increasingly in terms at once cultural and ecological, constituting one of the points wherein its development differs from that of the America shaped by Anglo-Saxons.

The piece is very conservative in the Latin American context, as particularly the late Freyre was, and it is hackneyed and dated in ways the erudite reader will recognize. For these precise reasons it is interesting.


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