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2 - The Jungle Like a Sunday at Home: Rafael Uribe Uribe, Miguel Triana, and the Nationalization of the Amazon

Felipe Martínez-Pinzón
Affiliation:
Brown University, Rhode Island
Javier Uriarte
Affiliation:
Stony Brook University, State University of New York
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Summary

At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was common for Latin America's civilizing elites, impressed by the flood of European immigration and the railroad craze in the temperate zones of the region, to call Argentina, Brazil, and Chile the A-B-C nations. Development, it was thought, had moved through each of them in alphabetical order, a notion that casts the civilizing process as a pedagogy of sorts. This metaphor offers a clear idea of the relationship between positivism, language, and civilization in times of migration and immigration, opening and closing of national borders in Latin America. It did not escape the notice of Colombian ex-president, military leader, and rubber magnate Rafael Reyes (1849–1921) that, according to the alphabetical succession proposed by the metaphor, Colombia's turn would be next now that Argentina, Brazil, and Chile had taken off. The idea that progress resulted from learning among those who were most advanced—as naturally as one learns one's mother tongue—was the legacy of nineteenth-century positivism in Latin America.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, despite the numerous reworkings of this school of thought that had emerged in the region— positivist doctrines, especially the ideas of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, were reinvented in slightly altered form in each country—the idea of a social order based on science began to prevail. Adopting its own reasoning to analyze biological organisms, this scientific order posited the existence of different stages of development in society, a one-way path called progress. According to this order, human communities underwent an evolution from primitive hunter-gatherer societies to urbanized European societies, the former being humanity's past and the latter its future. Positivism, then, for tropical nations of motley ethnic diversity such as Colombia, meant wondering how to ‘order’ their diversity to direct it down the path of progress. Colombia was seen by nineteenth-century civilizing criollos as a place inhabited simultaneously by individuals from the past (indigenous communities, blacks) surviving in primitive spaces (jungles) alongside modern individuals (hispanized mestizos and whites) living in urban or potentially urban spaces. Positivism, then, turned Colombian postcolonial history into a story that was both outside of time (anachronistic) and out of place (anachoristic), a narrative that had to be synchronized with the here and now of European civilization. In that sense, we can agree with Edgardo Lander, for whom positivism in Latin America reaffirms colonial discourse.

Type
Chapter
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Intimate Frontiers
A Literary Geography of the Amazon
, pp. 23 - 44
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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