I must also reread Portocarrero

…who also has a version of my evoke-and-elide thesis. AND he points out that the mestizo category is very heterogeneous and is not a community. This bears notice since it does not encode mestizaje as a happy medium, so to speak.


XI.  “Perú: el país de las memorias heridas: entre el (auto)desprecio  la amargura”

–Concluding essay; ends with the idea that the “idea crítica” and the “narrativa criolla” must dialogically elaborate a “historia justa” so as to develop a “memoria feliz” and thus, take control of the country’s future.  Both the idea crítica and the narrativa criolla depend on a demonization of the other, which creates a “memoria herida.” That is the problem: wounded memory, depending on a falsely happy or Gothically angry past, which imprisons people in nostalgia.

–Content of this essay, on the ambiguities of criollo identity, its constant defensiveness which coexists with suppression of the other. Very uncomfortable, since what is excluded is also part of the self, and one knows it.


–He wants to make the presence of racism visible.

1.1. Racism is a mode of social domination based on hierarchized difference. León Poliakov says modern racism started in 15th century Spain, wherein the cristianos nuevos had the impure religion inscribed on  their bodies (their blood).
1.2. Racism is normally accompanied by a phobia of mestizaje. But in Peru and Latin America generally, racism and mestizaje coexist; mixture was not rejected but understood as a way to advancement.
1.3. The Crown wanted two republics: of Spaniards and Indians. But there was mestizaje and in the mestizo community there was no community; it was a heterogeneous reality, composed of exceptions (the mestizo was one who was NOT: Spaniard, Indian, slave. This is an atomized world where the worth of individuals was based on economic conditions, social contacts, AND physical traits. Thus, in the fragmented world of the mestizo plebeians, hierarchy and discrimination are reproduced. Yet it is an individualized discrimination; everyone was evaluated separately and not as a member of a community (which, I add, makes it possible to say racism didn’t exist).
1.4. In the U.S. (despite the fact that there were also mestizos), the fact that everyone was in SOME group meant they had access to a community. But in Peru there was atomization, so one’s position had to be constantly renegotiated (every moment, with every new encounter or event).

2. Three periods of racism, of which the first is the Colony (Christians versus heathens), where Indians are GUILTY VICTIMS (of not having known Christ, of complicity with the Devil, and of the colonizer). Colonizer [sadistically] engages in cultural genocide and interpellates the Indian as the lacking one, the flawed one, the guilty one.

3. Mid 19th to mid 20th centuries: “racism científico.” We get whitening.

4. 1945 is the end of racism científico and racism is estheticized: white is beautiful.

5. Racism was repressed and silenced. Everyone says they are mestizo but to define youself as mestizo is like saying you have no body (and that your physical characteristics are intrascendentes). The problem with this is that one does not describe one’s body, does not accept it as it is, and remains imprisoned in the white esthetic.

6.1. Peru does not want to see itself as a society that discriminates, despite ample evidence that it is one. Example: the truth and reconciliation commission’s report, which was not warmly received. It shows the racist background of the repression.
6.2. Pleasure of racism: you get to auto-eroticize yourself, you get to be superior, even if you are not the whitest of the white. “Solo los que están muy abajo no tienen a quien ‘cholear’.”

7.1. Alberto Flores Galindo’s study “República sin ciudadanos” is the first to make racism truly visible. This essay is part of his book Buscando un Inca (1988). Basadre had referred to a “República Aristocrática” (emphasizing the government by a minority, but Flores emphasizes the exclusion of the majority. Flores identifies racism as the nucleus of the colonial order. So the history of Peru is the struggle between the colonial project of devaluing the Indian, and resistance to this.
7.2. This analysis was possible because (a) the guerra sucia revealed some of it and (b) social sciences started looking at culture. The state had practiced terror against an ethnic category. And Flores had already emphasized the importance of collective fantasies in the definition of the social. Thus it was possible to begin to see racism.
7.3. In his footsteps many others have done their own studies.

8. The objective of cultural critique is to pinpoint what is not working in reality, what is detaining the flow of life, what ties it down and mortifies it in an oppressive dynamic. To do this cultural critique must work conceptually (in the realm of theory) and also on the ground, in the analysis of concrete cases. Theories are not “applied” but “recreated” in a dialogue with life, which is always a first edition and always new. Theory arises from practice, but events are also understood through the mediation of theories.

Nota a la primera parte

1. He has been trying to understand violence as a response to oppression and cruelty. We are still in a colonial situation, or still have colonial habits, and denying this does not help us advance. All it does is create false proximities that perpetuate distance and rancor. This means the problem can only be repressed, not resolved.

2. He wrote these essays almost therapeutically: to try to discover the truth, to recover our memory.
Theories of mestizaje seemed to him to be mystifications that offered nothing. Mestizaje does exist, though, and cultural heterogeneity is a richness. How to liberate it? He took seminars in psychoanalysis so he could learn how feelings were consequences of the social order.

I. “La dominación total”

Example: how indigenous maids are dominated via abuse
– Violence undertaken for pleasure

II. “Castigo sin culpa, o culpa sin castigo”

This chapter asks, how did these customs of total domination get instituted? In the Indian-Spanish relationship. Indians and Spaniards, of those days at least, are gone, but everyone imitates them.
– It is an interesting quasi psychoanalytic reconstruction of the religious mentality of the day. There are sadists and victims, basically; punishments without guilt and guilt that is immune from punishment.

III. “Los fantasmas de la clase media”

On how they negotiate and direct racism. Until 1950 social stratification responded to ethnic-cultural criteria, which tended to mesh with economic situations. That is: race, culture and class went together so well that it was hard to tell what were causes and what were effects. Afterwards, these things got disarticulated somewhat and also, people had less face to face contact with social others. People no longer all meet in the center of Lima, for example.
– Values: note that in fact people get ahead economically by robbery, exploitation, and sacking of the public treasury. It is the dominating classes who systematically appropriate property that is not theirs. Yet crime is always ascribed to “bad elements” (corrupt politicians, political agitators), and there are rumors that the primitive people of the barriadas will invade Lima. It is perceived necessary to “invade” back, with social workers, priests, and so on, so they stay content and in their places (or move up in preapproved ways).
– Prejudice as a way to preserve one’s good conscience when one is in fact an exploiter, yet is a Christian and wants to please God. Prejudice legitimates social differences; it is also the interiorization of a model of behavior.
– Fear of the other, and guilt towards them, reinforce each other. People know they are guilty and fear punishment. But in the end, the guilt feelings themselves serve as punishment.

IV. “La realidad de los deseos”

Detailed, very interesting analysis of dreams (literally, the dreams) of different social classes. Peruvians have internalized racism and believe their history and geography are what make the country valuable. This is the national, collective hallucination, and it is a dreamscape: we are worthless, but our land is worth a great deal (and Peruvians imagine it is worth more than it is).

V. La cuestión racial: espejismo  y realidad

– There is reason to argue that racism per se does not exist, but this essay says physical traits, starting with skin color, are still very important. They are signs of social differences and we learn to interpret them in childhood. White is beautiful.
– People are conditioned not to verbalize difference and trained to both distinguish and hide these differences. Me: evoke and elide!
– For many, especially if not white, the racial question is traumatic; classifying others would mean classifying oneself, which they do not want to do. White people do not want to realize how privileged and minoritaria their position is, nor do they want to wound the feelings of others. Nonwhite people fear being wounded, and of the shame of not being what they would like to be.
– But to repress a problem is not to solve it, and racism reappears anyway as a kind of return of the repressed. Let us consider two extreme examples: the racial insult and the desire to please the other. Note that race is invoked in both cases: “cholo de mierda” and “cholito,” for instance. Note though that “cholito” presupposes some form of possession. Note also that praise for babies tends to be about how relatively white they look.
– Mitscherlich: resentment appears when the affects which cannot be expressed because of taboos, end up questioning self-esteem (because, once again, their more accurate expression is interdicted). Thus people feel undervalued, and this undermines their effectiveness in life. “La propia incapacidad para poder responder al comportamiento de otros con una actitud constructive, relajadora de tensiones, constituye el núcleo más íntimo del resentimiento.”
– Physical characteristics: those of the cholos do not correspond to the codes we learn in infancy about “intelligent looks.”
– Peruvians of the sectores populares associate whiteness with riches, power, and happiness. The mestizo is seen as poor and sad, a failure. Whiteness is thus viewed with a combination of admiration and hatred. One wishes to imitate it, but needs to agredirlo.
– All whites are perceived as rich, but not all the rich are white. There is resentment against whiteness that does not exist against richness; the colonial paradigm left a memory of whites as aggressive and potentially dangerous.
– “Eres blanquito igual que tu padre / púdrete pituco reconcha de tu madre.”  –conjunto Sociedad de Mierda
– Sectores medios see the white as powerful and daring but not moral. The mestizo is ingenuous and without resources, but more ethical. A decisive aspect of the white person’s identity is hir capacity to subordinate the cholo. Along with all of these stereotypes go feelings of desprecio, commiseration, and guilt. And part of social ascent is agreeing with all of this to some degree: success DOES depend upon devaluing the Other. Everyone thus learns early on that there ARE superior and inferior people, and color and other physical traits remain as distancing factors among people.

VI. “Las (sin)razones de la violencia”

– el síntoma más preocupante de la crisis contemporánea es el colapso de la crítica y el prodominio del “pseudoconcenso generalizado” (Castoriadis)
– Portocarrero notes Castoriadis’ pessimism and say s it has to do with his very high expectations and also his disappointment in not seeing the emancipatory ideals of the modern project realized
– Gianni Vattimo: this era simply isn’t an area of unity; what we must do is reduce violence.
– How to identify discourses that glorify violence and impel aggression? It is also important to map the circumstances in which these discourses take hold
– One of these discourses is machismo, which devalues tolerance and reason (which it sees as weakness and lack of courage). Women are seen primarily as prey. Men are hungry hunters, and for them, desire is the law. Therefore his “nature” authorizes the man to break any social agreement. And vengeance is more important than justice. So machismo legitimates domination and abuse. The world is a jungle. This is mega-authoritarian and leads to the predominance of a few strongmen.
– Another of these discourses is racism, which like machismo depends on a false idea of “nature.” It promotes hierarchical thinking and “colonizes the imaginary” (Gruzinski).
People who live in racism but believe they deserve equality are on edge, filled with rage.
– The third discourse is fundamentalism, the idea of a single truth.
– Education is the answer, says Portocarrero. MACHISMO, RACISMO, FUNDAMENTALISMO, says Leslie: hmmm, my complaints about Lafayette!

VII. “El silencio, la queja, y la acción”

– How do Peruvians deal with suffering?
– One: colonial religiosity – resign self to suffering. Two: lamentation and hopelessness. Three: positive action. For this, people have to be able to imagine freedom; happiness is possible but one must get in touch with desire to find it.
– Religiosity: you are deserving if you suffer; you talk about suffering and not about rights of man and citizen; suffering is a sign of solidarity; you do not have the right to happiness; happiness means hurting others or IS hurting others. Failure and suffering are heroic destinies.
– With secularization, these martyrs become victims. In a culture of complaint, there is a searching (for improvement) that is never satisfied. This can be worse than the culture of martyrdom. The idea of happiness in your head, but orfandad and desarraigo in your heart; from here you get the sensation of absurdity and OF COURSE Portocarrero here mentions Vallejo. In much of T the speaker is a provinciano recently arrived in the city, and lost. So for Vallejo prison becomes the symbol of human existence; there is no hope; absurdity is everywhere, and justice does not exist.
– The modern project means taking action, and some do. But the colonial silence is still a GREAT part of popular consciousness.

VIII. “Las últimas reflexiones de JMA”

– Arguedas’ work is newly relevant, due in part to the economic crisis and the faltering of modernization, on one hand, and the resistance of lo andino on the other. Economic explanations of social issues are on the wane and culture reemerges as an explanatory factor. Flores Galindo was studying these things when he died.
– Social history explains personal history, and personal history of Arguedas explains Peru, so we will look at the Zorro de arriba and the zorro de abajo.
– Themes are mestizaje, igualdad and violencia. Portocarrero wants to systematize these intuitions of Arguedas’. To get igualdad, for example, one would have to break with the “total domination” we have already discussed. People would have to believe in rights and give up their aferrados beliefs in superiority and inferiority. Are peace, democracy and mestizaje possible, or is Peru’s destiny violence, inequality and the death of Andean culture? Why was Arguedas so cruel to and dissatisfied with himself? Why could he not stop feeling inferior to his colleagues when he knew he was not?

– Zorro is set in Chimbote, a new city with great liberty and little traditionalism.
– Because of the way capitalism and machismo are run there, we get deculturation and not mestizaje. Andinos are devalued even by those who would “help” them.
– Arguedas: “dolor constitutivo” … la hermandad existe solo entre las víctimas (275)
– Sexual abuse for Arguedas meant that goce terror and pecado were almost fusionados. So se assume como persona humillada, violentada, separated from his true course. Pleasure, fear, guilt. These emotions have to be felt together, so conflict is omnipresent and so are his constantly renewed, but in the long term frustrated attempts to reconcile himself with himself. To compensate the humiliations he has suffered Arguedas has to accomplish great feats. His life is mortgaged and he pays with work. He was violent with himself – intolerant and perfectionistic – and so he is exhausted at age 58. He hopes, in the last diary of the Zorro, that authoritarian Peru will die with him and a new man, one that can reintegrate himself, can appear. “Vallejo era el principio y el fin,” he says. (280)
– He believes that violence is necessary for liberation: the new society will emerge through fire and blood. He agrees with Fanon in this. The oppressed have to transgress their servile reflexes. But much has happened since the sixties and this idea has lost verisimilitude.
– Also note the violence against selves and against one’s own – it isn’t liberating.
– Arguedas: the problem is not being able to integrate the values of opposing cultures – constant conflict for this reason.
– Mestizos are bastardos for this reason: conflicting affiliations or lack of them; they have no legitimacy or proyecto, no belonging, only desarraigo. This is because indio and Spaniard ARE still at war with each other, DO still hate each other, and this is constantly reenacted. (That is why Christophe wants a Creole class.)
– Arguedas has fear of success? Because it means losing identification with los de abajo? So he is stuck in ambivalence? Is this too facile?
– See Aníbal Quijano’s essay on “cholification.”


– The crisis of modernization actually worsened divisions: everyone is either Pizarro or Atahualpa.

X. “El fundamento invisible: función y lugar de las ideas racistas en la República Aristocrática”

racism is the invisible foundation of the modern oligarchical state. It is how the elites retain the superiority denied them by liberal and democratic ideas. BUT: they go into AUGE AND REPRESION at the same time. This paradoxical situation is what this essay is trying to suggest: racism as an invisible foundation. Racist ideas are proscribed from official ideology because racism would mean the negation of a national future. At the same time they continue to legitimate political exclusion and aristocratic feelings, in a complex and subtle way.
– it was impossible to accommodate social reality to racist theories because there were too many mixed skins in the upper classes. But scientific racism from 1850-1950 STILL ruled, and was what made neocolonialism possible.
– 2 variants of oligarchy. In one, exclusiveness is legally sanctioned; citizenship is limited to those with a certain level of education and income. In the absence of legal foundations, exclusion depends upon corruption of the electoral system and/or outright lack of knowledge of the democratic system. Popular will is adulterated or not counted. Fraud and military coups are routine phenomena.
– These 2 variants can be combined: access to citizenship can have both legal and de facto restrictions.
– Fraud and coups are what privileged groups use when they do not succeed in marginalizing their opposition by legal means.
– The trasfondo social of the oligarchic regime is ethnic domination, i.e. colonialism. The 19th century had brought liberal and democratic ideas, but scientific racism helped bring back the colonial [ideal]. Indians and cholos were marginalized, and it was possible to acculturate to whiteness / become an honorary white for many mestizos.

Auge and represión is analogous to my “evoke and elide” …

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