The dynamics of movement: Toward a definition of a Latin American identity in contemporary fiction

Marlyn Fay Henriquez, Florida International University


Concha Meléndez opened up a venue for the discussion of a Latin American identity in works of literature when she implied that the great Latin American novel would gestate in the cities, the space where the typical Latin American would achieve an ideal state of consciousness and intellectual capabilities. Her point of view mirrored nineteenth-century debate on a Latin American identity. Similar to her viewpoint, intellectuals of this period viewed the cities and their inhabitants of European extraction, as the ideal spaces and people on which an identity could be defined. However, the present state of urban and rural areas in Latin America demonstrates that there is no such clear-cut division of city and countryside or of their inhabitants. The dynamics of movement, from rural to urban areas, of people of diverse ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, make it difficult to uphold descriptors of space, race, or culture, as sole descriptors of an identity. A study of five twentieth-century novels from North and South America, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962), Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969), Los ríos profundos (1981), La casa de los espíritus (1982), and Los años con Laura Díaz (1999) reveal that the dynamism of movement, between countryside, and cities of peoples of distinct races and social backgrounds, hamper the definition of a collective identity in specific spaces. As characters move, they are constantly reconfiguring their identities and creating tensions and conflicts that intensify social, racial and economic divisions in society. This makes it difficult to ascribe permanent identity descriptors, much less define a collective identity. However, as writers of fiction address the malaise in Latin American societies, they have unearthed descriptors such as history, economy, land, and movement that advance a collective definition of self in these societies. Additionally, female characters have been granted a new identity. The overwhelming evidence in this study points to ‘land’ as the prime factor in the identity dilemma and suggests that a definition will not be possible until the vast landless populace is granted a space they can call home. Only then, perhaps, will Meléndez novel surface.

Subject Area

Latin American literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Henriquez, Marlyn Fay, "The dynamics of movement: Toward a definition of a Latin American identity in contemporary fiction" (2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3085814.