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Dear Diego is based on one chapter of Bertram Wolfe’s The Fabulous Life of and Autobiography in Elena Poniatowska’s Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela. The set-up is rich, especially for today’s reality-obsessed culture. Begin with a collection of letters written to one of Mexico’s greatest artistic figures in a mixture of. 1 “I Have Become Terribly Mexicanized”: Intercultural Identification in Elena Poniatowska’s Querido Diego By Gregory Stephens () [This essay was written.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. I researched and completed the M. I have revised the beginning of the essay, to explain the context in which it was written. This analysis is grounded within the context of teaching Querido Diego in Jamaica, where knowledge of Mexican culture is minimal. So this essay functions as a meditation on the challenges of intercultural translation.

Intercultural identification is seen as transfigurative for participants. This essay was first drafted in late when I was a recent arrival at the University of the West Indies. I had a doctorate in Communication, but had been transitioning into Latin American Cultural Studies for a decade. My reading is shaped by pedagogical concerns about the lack of previous exposure of Afro-Caribbean students to Mexican culture.

I have come to see it as something of an introduction to some key themes in Mexican culture, or European-Latin American relations. College students are taught routinely nowadays to pay close attention to the historical situated-ness of queriso, the psycho-biography of authors, the positionality of individual interpreters.

These intellectual poniatowsja have not done much to introduce cultural or media literacy to a mass audience.

In her study of the reception of soap operas, Dorothy Hobson came to this conclusion: This approach is at its best, in my view, when it uses ethnographic methods to give us a clearer picture of interpretation as a plniatowska process. Interpretation done in collective contexts displays the unique cultural resources of a given community, as well as its own particular ideological or cultural blinders.

In this setting I revisited a recurring theme or aspiration in my work, to highlight intercultural relations and multi-ethnic audiences as a blind spot in cultural analysis. They seemed puzzled by her blurring of the lines between fiction authorial invention and the letters of a real-life person, the Russian painter Angelina Beloff. Consciously, students understood that this was a fictionalized narrative.

The students were unfamiliar with Mexican culture, and poniatkwska history of European attraction to Diegi American cultures. In the absence of such awareness, the students fell back on the two interpretive tools they had at hand. The second was their personal experience in a culture where gender eelna are an explosive topic, and there is a great deal of resentment towards Jamaican men—who like Rivera, are often promiscuous lovers and absentee fathers.

This yearning for completion, when it becomes a compulsive search, is a type of psychological complex that leaves one open to seduction by ideology, Lacan has argued. Such a theoretical perspective clearly has utility for a text like Querido Diego. Many parts of Greater Mexico in the U. But from the moment that Quiela wuerido to her Mexicanization, an intercultural dimension is introduced to the narrative that should make us read everything that came before in a new light.

Manchester University Press – Querido Diego, Te abraza Quiela by Elena Poniatowska

What would lead a European woman to let go of her own cultural roots to that extent? Both Beloff and Rivera were exiles from the revolutions of their respective countries during the s.


And what did advanced, creative European women of this time do to prove just how liberated they were? Often they took darker-skinned men—especially African American or Latino artists—as lovers, and prided themselves on being muses to an uprising of creativity that seemed earth-changing on many fronts—personally, artistically, politically.

The comments of her friends and other observers are an accurate representation of the mindset of monied Europeans in that era: He uses racial terms that underlay much of European interest in people from the colonies, Africa, Asia, America. Poniatowska, ventriloquating through Beloff, is giving voice to major current of 20th century culture. This thinking played out in the early 20th century on several fronts. Some major thinkers, such as the psychologist C. Jung, laid out a fierce critique of European spiritual bankruptcy, and looked for healing powers, or a cultural completion, in the cultures and spirituality of African, Asia, and the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

She conflates man and country: It should be emphasized: Diego Rivera was one of many non- Europeans playing this role. He played it to the hilt, and the women of Europe in particular bought the act wholesale.

He represented vitality, sexuality, and artistic regeneration to them. At first she feels his fascination with her fair skin is positive. But then the unflattering comparisons begin: Rivera, from a country which claimed to be almost entirely mestizo or of mixed- ethnicity, was dismissive of a Spanish mulatto named Juan Gris.

What follows is a diatribe that shocks and hurts Beloff. Quiela tries not to take it personally: But his words wound all the more for the element of truth they contain. They wound even deeper, perhaps, because they cut to the quick of the racial mythologies that have drawn Flena to Diego in the first place. At this moment there were loud exclamations of disgust, disappointment, and dismay.

The passage in which this woman describes Rivera as a personal deity was profoundly offensive to many women in the class who, as their instructor pointed out, were beneficiaries of the feminist revolution.

But after hearing this confession, many could no longer take Quiela seriously. They felt she no longer merited their respect. She did not fill their need for a female hero whose independence from irresponsible men was complete.

This notion of a somehow God-like savage artist is both performed, and consumed. Expressing his abhorrence at industrialization, Rivera observed: Other sections in which Quiela describes the Mexican sun convey a sense, undoubtedly reinforced by Rivera, that Mexico was a magical country where people lived closer to the Gods, or lived like God had intended for people to live.

In the seventh letterQuerodo recalls how completely the creative process had filled her life, long before she met Diego, a notoriously compulsive artist.

Querido Diego, Te abraza Quiela by Elena Poniatowska

Motherhood has also expanded her concept diegi creativity. And the loss of this particular child, the son of Diego Rivera, is the loss of the physical extension of her desired cultural union with Mexico. Think of an archetypal story from this era, the dream of C. The instinctual manner in which this text was composed, with the author imagining herself as the abandoned spouse, indicates that poniatowsak a psychological level, this was a response to Diego Rivera, whom Poniatowska had interviewed as journalist in One must bear in mind that when Poniatowska met Rivera, she was a young journalist who was still seeking a sense of belonging in Mexico.


Spanish was her second language, and although her mother was Mexican, her father was Polish royalty. Poniatowska had to work at dominating Spanish, and at acquiring a ddiego of belonging in Mexico, her adopted country. This image performs two functions.

First, it presents Diego as an iconic, monumental figure, like those enormous Olmec heads on the Gulf coast of Mexico. She also came to Mexico from Europe. She emphasized giving a voice to the voiceless in Mexico. This created both a link with the lower classes the servants taught her Spanish but also a consciousness of a great social distance that she would spend decades trying to bridge.

She seems to have been conscious of the need to resist that attraction. The repulsion that the resistance and critical distance inspired give her important insights into herself, Rivera, and Mexican culture. Poniatowska has called her rather conflicted relationship with Josefina Borquez, A.

This same relationship also finally provided Poniatowska with a somewhat vicarious sense of national identity. As Antonio Vera Leon has pointed out, this is a characteristic of much of testimonial writing.

She has repeated to complete this theme precisely because her outsider status, and her privileged background, had left her with a sense of incompleteness that romantic love or artistic success alone could not fill.

Mexican Indians are held up as markers of authenticity, even as their exclusion from mainstream Mexican politics and culture continues to cause political instability and economic disruption. By creating a text that combines an indirectly feminist critique of female dependency, along with a portrait of the racial mythologies that underlie many inter-cultural love affairs, Poniatowska sheds new light on testimonial literature.

But in intercultural contexts, the object of romantic love is not only the beloved, but the culture or imagined culture of the lover.

It is this culture, as much or more than the lover, which represents the hope for psychological and spiritual completion for the partner who enters the relationship with a sense of cultural inadequacy. But this urge to reach beyond ourselves, whether with another human, with nature, or another culture, often calls out what is great in the human spirit.

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London and New York: Women Writers in Latin America.

Cultural Relations between the U. University of Alabama Press, The Feminine Epistle in Writing and Art. Is There a Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Mark Twain and African American Voices.