Edward D. Melillo
Since the early 1800s, Chileans have imagined their nation’s history and destiny through an ever-changing array of transoceanic connections with the rest of the planet. At a deeper level, Chile’s relationship with the Pacific Ocean is built upon myriad collective memories and aspirational identities. The long arc of Chile’s linkages with the Pacific World—or the peoples and ecosystems in and around the Pacific Ocean—has yet to be fully explored by historians. This article fills this lacuna by analyzing five diverse historical episodes that span more than two centuries: first, Valparaíso’s growth into a Pacific commercial hub during the early 1800s; second, Chile’s role in the Californian and Australian gold rushes of the mid-1800s; third, the Chilean victory in the late-19th-century War of the Pacific; fourth, Chile’s burgeoning commercial relationship with China, which began in the years following the Second World War; and, finally, the emergence of a Chilean-Pacific variant of neoliberal ideology in the final decades of the 20th century. These five developments reveal a litany of ambiguities and antagonisms in Chile’s complicated, ongoing association with its western ocean.
Richard Price and Sally Price
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
Fifty years ago, we began wide-ranging anthropological and historical work with Saamaka Maroons, the descendants of slaves who had escaped from the plantations of coastal Suriname in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and established an independent society and culture deep in the Amazonian rainforest. Then a colony of the Netherlands, Suriname became an independent republic in 1975. Events of the 1980s and 1990s—most notably a civil war between the State and the Maroons and the subsequent decision by the State to exploit the timber and mineral riches of the Saamakas’ traditional territory—have led to wrenching changes for people who were once the masters of their forest realm. As the most visible and activist academic supporters of the Saamakas, the authors were barred from Suriname by the national government and, since 1986, have been condemned to continuing work in neighboring French Guiana (Guyane), where tens of thousands of Saamakas in exile have become part of a complex multi-ethnic society driven by strong assimilationist policies authored in Paris. During this same period, the authors have become increasingly involved in activism, assisting the Saamaka people in Suriname in their struggle to protect their territory, which has unfolded before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
What are the moral dilemmas posed by this activist work? What has it been like writing Saamaka ethnography and history from the excentric location of Guyane? How do we imagine the book that we will never get to write, about changes and continuities in Saamaka life over the past fifty years?
The Spanish language arrived in Latin America as a tool of Iberian colonization. Indigenous languages struggled to survive under the implacable presence of an imperial tongue serving not only to make all subjects part of the Spanish Empire but also, and primarily, as a mechanism to evangelize a population considered by the conquistadors, soldiers, missionaries, and entrepreneurs as barbaric. During the age of independence (1810–1910), defined by bloody armed movements, the emerging republics in Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean Basin declared their autonomy by seceding politically, economically, and legally from Spain while pushing for a vigorous nationalist agenda that shaped them as nations. Spanish was an agglutinating force toward a new collective identity, regionally and locally. Important figures like Venezuelan philologist, lexicographer, and diplomat Andrés Bello established an agenda that helped define the cultural parameters of the young republics in terms of grammar, syntax, and morphology. Followers include Rufino José Cuervo.
Various aesthetic movements, such as modernismo, led by figures like Rubén Darío and José Martí, helped consolidate a transnational sense of linguistic unity. During the 20th century, the nationalist fever spread throughout Latin America, encouraging educators to establish pedagogical patterns that emphasized the uniqueness of the language within the country’s context. The effort was supported by ethnographers, anthropologists, and sociolinguists like the Cuban Fernando Ortiz and Venezuelan Ángel Rosenblat intent on finding what was local in the language. Simultaneously, each nation developed its own idiosyncratic media, which, again, allowed for verbal peculiarities to be included while also driving toward a standardized form. In this atmosphere, the Spanish language has been used as an organ of control by the state. It is also an invaluable tool through which to understand regional, national, and cultural differences.
By the end of the millennium, a new phenomenon emerged, not in Latin America per se yet intimately linked to it: Spanglish. It is a hybrid tongue used by millions of immigrants in the United States, whose power is increasing as time goes by. Spanglish has the potential of reconfiguring the way the Spanish language is understood in the future.