Sunday, May 19, 2024
Home Culture Goodbye to the public intellectual: Latin American writers reflect on the loss of their social influence | Culture

Goodbye to the public intellectual: Latin American writers reflect on the loss of their social influence | Culture

by News Room
0 comment

The photo was taken in 1994, but was passed down to posterity. A tanned Bill Clinton appears in the middle and the writers Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes on his two sides smiling. The former US president invited them to dinner to hear his opinions on Cuba or drug trafficking and ask them where the Summit of the Americas should be based. Thirty years later, the postcard illustrates the importance that the figure of the Latin American writer once had as a mediator of great social and political influence. An anachronistic character, this is how he is remembered by the thirty Ibero-American writers who met until this Wednesday, April 10 in Madrid at the III Meeting of Ibero-American Creators, held at the Casa de México Foundation in Spain. Through several round tables, they ask themselves if they themselves are to blame for not writing so much about social or political issues or if it is rather due to the monopoly that social networks have over the public, while at the same time they worry about not having sufficient force to warn of the escalation of populism in the region.

“The influence we have today is minimal and it is a problem of the writers themselves, who have stopped feeling responsible for issuing an opinion that would guide society as in the seventies and eighties,” says the Salvadoran journalist and non-fiction writer. Carlos Dada. The Mexican author and factotum of the event, Jorge Volpi, traces this loss of sense of responsibility with the arrival of democracies at the end of the last century and the beginning of the new one. “Latin American writers were practically the only voice in the regimes of the 20th century, because censorship did not allow an opinion to exist. After the end of the dictatorships, towards the end of the nineties, they were replaced, first, by economists, technicians and historians in traditional media and, now, by anyone in social networks.”

The Argentine Martín Caparrós is one of those who write without thinking about making an impact: “I wrote a book about hunger and I don’t think that since then there have been two fewer hungry people in the world.” The Peruvian Santiago Roncagliolo, for his part, does not believe that the lack of relevance of thinkers has to do with their predisposition or not to cause a social effect, but rather that the current public debate requires diverse voices that have historically been silenced. “When he was a boy, the most committed writers talked about giving a voice to the voiceless. Nowadays that sounds a bit paternalistic, those who have no voice speak for themselves. The opinion of a middle-class urban gentleman does not represent anyone,” says the Peruvian.

The Mexican writer Jorge Volpi, during the meeting.House of Mexico in Spain

The Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldán agrees with this opinion, who points out an example that seems to allude to the Canto general, by Pablo Neruda. “The silenced ones that he claims to represent can claim why he appropriated that right if no one gave it to him.” Neruda, García Márquez, Vargas Llosa (before his political turn to the right) and Eduardo Galeano are some of those who harangued societies from exile. They were the cultured base on which the guerrillas that fought against military dictatorships were built and, in some cases, continued with their support when they became questionable governments. It is another of the hypotheses that have emerged during the meeting.

“There are examples of writers who have been functional for power. Accomplices of certain government projects, defenders of a class idea even when the system was leaking. They themselves have contributed to the fall of that prestige,” says Paz Soldán. Although she does not point it out directly, the reference to the endless friendship between García Márquez and Fidel Castro is evident. The Colombian Carlos Granés, who remembers the long tradition of writers turned presidents in the region (Rómulo Gallegos, José Martí, Domingo Sarmiento), also does not believe that creators and politics are a good combination: “The intellectual projects societies in his fantasies. harmonious, perfect, but there is a lack of practical content that makes it difficult to materialize those dreams, to be able to lower those utopias.”

Not everything is MEA culpa among Latin American creators when looking for reasons to explain their loss of influence. In the era of cyberculture is at its peak, public opinion is shaped more on social networks than in newspapers and books. Spaces that are not enough, according to Mexican Isabel Zapata: “There is a shortage of places where you can have a real dialogue and social networks have not come to fill that space. Morbidity usually reigns and they take a toll on you for what you said; changing your mind, something so healthy, is no longer allowed.” She maintains that the main characteristics of these new “public squares” are immediacy and indignation.

The immediate transmission of short and direct messages to millions of people that new forms of communication offer is ideal for the rise of populist leaders who have lived in the region, points out Pola Oloixarac. “It is an ideal space for them. Milei was first a social media star,” says the Argentine, with whom the Argentine president confronted himself on his and fury are structural. The leader is the one who commands where we have to direct the hatred, they create the need for an enemy.”

From the left, Julia Santibáñez, Martín Caparrós and Carlos Granés, at the inauguration of the Third Meeting of Ibero-American Creators.
From the left, Julia Santibáñez, Martín Caparrós and Carlos Granés, at the inauguration of the Third Meeting of Ibero-American Creators.House of Mexico in Spain

This new trend has been presented as the alternative to the traditional and failed leftist governments that reigned in the region: Bolsonaro came after the impeachment by Dilma Roussef; Milei, after 20 years of Kirchnerism, and Bukele, after former guerrilla Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Dada details: “It is a vote of punishment, the population is fed up with democracies that were incapable of ending inequality. The previous ones promised a paradise on earth and the current ones only promise to destroy that system. “They are authoritarian and corrupt projects, we have to warn.”

The Salvadoran calls for intervention in a context with presidents who are investigated for wearing Rolex watches, who order police assaults on embassies, who appear with a chainsaw in speeches or who do not allow opponents to register for elections. Not in the manner of the public intellectual, who they consider an outdated figure, but by germinating doubts in small groups. They suggest workshops, forums or presentations in peripheral spaces. But, above all, telling stories. Roncagliolo illustrates: “I don’t think our commitment is to tell people who they have to vote for, but I don’t think writing stories is banal either. We think that commitment has to do with writing manifestos and declarations, but the greatest commitment is to write stories that make you feel what the people who are there feel, understanding their conflicts as your own.”

Leave a Comment