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Beyond Conflicts and Borders: Reconciliation and Latinotopia

Au-delà des conflits et des frontières : réconciliation et Latinotopia
Karin Ikas


Cet article met en lumière le concept de réconciliation associé à celui de Latinotopia, un sujet actuel et de plus en plus populaire qui transcende les conflits et les frontières et dépasse les sites historiques et géographiques de la zone transfrontalière américano-mexicaine. Cet article tente de démontrer que la réconciliation est incontournable lorsque l’on étudie les États-Unis. Historiquement, on peut aller jusqu’à dire que la réconciliation, ou plutôt son absence, est à l’origine de la communauté américano-mexicaine. Aujourd’hui, lorsque l’on aborde la question de la frontière et du comment transcender cette aire géographique mais aussi du comment passer outre les conflits et les dualités, la réconciliation induit une influence significative dans la construction des identités contemporaines et du bien-être d’une communauté. De plus en plus, cette région déborde de part et d’autre des États-Unis et gagne en influence, devenant un espace entre-deux – c’est-à-dire un espace à fois glocal, géo-politique et transculturel tout autant qu’esthétique allant au-delà d’un troisième espace – non seulement aux Amériques mais aussi à l’échelle internationale. Comment et dans quelle mesure la Latinotopia peut-elle être perçue comme un lieu discursif propice à la réconciliation dans le Troisième Millénaire est la question sur laquelle repose notre étude et à laquelle nous tentons de répondre en intégrant des travaux socio-politiques, historiques et littéraires, en adoptant une posture interdisciplinaire et en s’appuyant sur la figure du « rhizome » chère à Gilles Deleuze et à Félix Guattari et qui permet d’appréhender le concept de Latinotopia tant sur les plans théorique que pratique.

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  • 1 Cf. “Global Decade of Reconciliation 2011-2020.” Online at (...)
  • 2 Cf. UN PROCLAMATION: 2009 International Reconciliation Year, GA/10536, 61st GA, Plenary Ses (...)
  • 3 Cf. The President of the United States of America, “Proclamation 8343-National Day of Renew (...)

1Reconciliation is a hot topic today as we advance further into the second decade of the Third Millennium, which ought to be perceived as the “Global Decade of Reconciliation 2011-2020.”1 In 2006, the United Nations’ General Assembly had already declared “Human Reconciliation as the Millennium challenge” and designated “2009 — The International Year of Reconciliation”2 with its Proclamation GA/10536. At the beginning of this same year of international reconciliation, Barack Hussein Obama not only took office as 44th President of the United States but he made it his first official act as president to proclaim 20 January 2009, the day of his inauguration, a “National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation.”3

2Obviously, reconciliation is thus also a key concept not to be missed when discussing the United States in general and Latinotopia in particular and when exploring in that context the contemporary and historical situation of Mexican Americans in the United States. Historically speaking, one may even go as far as to claim that reconciliation or rather its failure was the seed from which the Mexican American community originated. Today, when talking about how to pacify the borderlands and go beyond conflicts and dualities, reconciliation exerts a significant influence on the shaping of contemporary identities and on the state of well-being of a community and region that is gaining more and more influence as an in-between space – in the sense of a local, geo-political and cultural as well as aesthetic third space – not only in the Americas but internationally. How and to what extent Latinotopia can eventually be perceived as a discursive site for reconciliation in the Third Millennium is the question the following chapter aims to answer by integrating socio-political, historical and literary works in an interdisciplinary manner.

Coming to Terms with Reconciliation

  • 4 See also Daase, Grunebaum and Lederach.

3Reconciliation can be defined as a committed bilateral cross-cultural process with a specific historical and contemporary dimension. Bain Atwood offers a succinct description here when conceptualizing reconciliation processes as efforts to cope thoroughly with the “Burden of the Past in the Present.” Similarly, Mark Gibney, Rhoda E. Howard Hassmann and Jean-Marc Coicaud, in their edited collection of 2008, relate reconciliation to specific and exceptional situations, usually linked to historical circumstances, to illustrate the need of Facing Up the Past in The Age of Apology.4 Indeed, especially the long periods of external and internal colonialism and imperialism around the world have shown that the causes of violence are rooted in various historically unequal power relationships, such as between indigenous and non-indigenous people, resident and immigrant groups, whites and non-whites, Europeans and non-Europeans, and, one might add, between men and women and members of different beliefs and creeds. Consequently, reconciliation after such experiences of violence demands also a reassessment of these uneven power relations. For Damien Short, a socio-political apology debate is thus a concomitant phenomenon of a reconciliation process. In an attempt to capture the latter’s challenges and prospects Short posits:

Reconciliation is closer to a social movement or process, whose character is moral rather than legal. For although the rule of law and the regime of rights attached to it support the fabric of everyday life in democracies, law and rights require something prior, and that is the bonds that form a community. Those bonds are complex, but they are expressed in the trust and confidence of citizens in their political institutions, and in the civility with which a society conducts itself. (2001, 77)

4In the end, it is “not [so much] the identification of perpetrators, most of whom are long dead” that counts but rather recognition and the willingness to cope with the unprocessed dark spots of the past; in other words, “recognition, not hereditary or collective guilt is the issue.” (idem) While Short traces all this with respect to the specific Australian situation – and here he refers especially to the indigenous and non-indigenous reconciliation process in the aftermath of the Stolen Generation tragedy – his findings also offer some significant starting points for the following chapters that explore literary and cultural practices in the Mexican American borderlands from a reconciliatory perspective.

Reconciling the (Mexican American) Borderlands

5Mexican American reconciliation is a complex and challenging facet of national and inter-ethnic reconciliation in the United States as, among others, José David Saldívar’s apt assessment reveals:

First carved out in the midst of U.S. imperialism by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (1853), the U.S. Mexico borderlands have earned a reputation as a “third country” because our southern border is not simply Anglocentric on one side and Mexican on the other. […] A near intercultural world unto itself, the U.S.-Mexico border is dominated by two foreign powers, in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City. The U.S.-Mexico border changes pesos into dollars, humans into undocumented workers, cholos/as (Chicano youth culture) into punks, people between cultures into people without culture. (1997, 8)

6As this passage shows, the protagonists who make up these borderlands suffer from various uneven power hierarchies. Moreover, they have more than one physical, ethnic and cultural background and hence face the challenge of how to communicate more successfully in a situation in which not only the abolition of these power hierarchies is a significant task but hybridity is the order of the day. For Michael V. Hernández, it is this very hybridity that qualifies U.S. Latinos/as in general and Mexican Americans, as their biggest and most influential subgroup, to become, in his words, “Agents of Reconciliation in Relations Between Black and White America” in the following way:

Every person and racial group has a unique destiny. We Latino-Americans must discern what our purpose is in this nation. As we undertake that discernment process on both an individual and corporate level, we undoubtedly will decide to pursue numerous activities that will impact all spheres of American life. Although I do not believe we have only one purpose, I believe that Latinos and Latinas are destined to serve the critical role of agents of reconciliation and healing in American race relations, particularly between black and white Americans. (99)

7While Hernández argues conclusively from a contemporary perspective to request his fellow “Latino-Americans” to take up the mantle of racial healing and reconciliation, the historical perspective must not be forgotten either. It is particularly important not to lose sight of the fact that the specific Mexican American situation can be traced back to a chapter in American imperial history that has been silenced for far too long as Chicano historian Mario T. García points out: “[t]here is no question but that in studies of Mexicans in the United States the most neglected field is history.” (34) “Indeed,” as David J. Weber added confirmatively in 1973, “historians have been criticized more for what they have not said than for what they have said.” (2)

8In recent years, Mexican American critics have contributed to lifting the veil of silence here and challenge the homogeneity of U.S. nationalism, history and culture through their works in an effort to launch a remapping of American Cultural Studies where particularly the border and the borderlands matter as “Nuestra América’s Borders,” as José David Saldívar fittingly names this glocalized site of American crossroads in his significant entry to the new anthology of American Studies published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009 (26). This involves as well a reassessment of those historical accounts that used to present the Mexican American experience in the United States in a distorted, even wrong, way in American historiography for so long. A telling example is David Saville Muzzey’s 1911 schoolbook American History, which was used till the late 1940s, and contains the following historical account with its again rather shallow and superficial utilization of the term reconciliation:

We have tried every effort at reconciliation. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States [the Rio Grande], has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are at war. As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country.

9The reality, of course, was much more complex, and, as always, one has to take both sides into account.

  • 5 Jesús Velasco-Márquez, “A Mexican viewpoint on the War with the United States,” Voi (...)

10Jesús Velasco-Márquez’ article “A Mexican Viewpoint on the War with the United States” strikes me as one of many illuminating and useful texts for achieving a more balanced and thoughtful perspective.5 Very insightful, for instance, are the historical documents Velasco-Márquez includes, among them Mexican President Mariano Paredes’ enactment of the Congressional decree on 6 July 1846, which reads as follows:

  • 6 Original source: Alberto María Carreño, México y los Estados Unidos de América: Apuntaciones (...)

Article 1. The government, in the natural defense of the nation, will repel the aggression initiated and sustained by the United States of America against the Republic of Mexico, having invaded and committed hostilities in a number of the departments making up Mexican territory.
Article 3. The government will communicate to friendly nations and to the entire republic the justifiable causes which obliged it to defend its rights, left with no other choice but to repel force with force, in response to the violent aggression committed by the United States.6

11A careful analysis of these words reveals that Mexico, strictly speaking, did not declare war on the United States but rather emphasized merely its steely determination to defend Mexico’s territorial integrity and repel the U.S. invasion. Revealing in this regard is another historical document that renders the thoughts and comments of Nicholas Philip Trist, the American diplomat who was assigned by the U.S. government to negotiate with Mexican authorities in order to reach a treaty of “peace, boundaries and borders” with Mexico, to his wife regarding the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo:

  • 7 Virginia Randolph Trist to Tockerman, July 8, 1864, Nicholas P. Trist Papers, Box 10, Libra (...)

Just as they were about to sign the treaty [...] one of the Mexicans, Don Bernardo Couto, remarked to him, “This must be a proud moment for you; no less proud for you than it is humiliating for us.” To this Mr. Trist replied, “We are making peace, let that be our only thought.” But, said he to us in relating it, “Could those Mexicans have seen into my heart at that moment, they would have known that my feeling of shame as an American was far stronger than theirs could be as Mexicans. For though it would not have done for me to say so there, that was a thing for every right minded American to be ashamed of, and I was ashamed of it, most cordially and intensely ashamed of it.”7

12Jesús Velasco-Márquez’ conclusion reads as follows: “The armed conflict between Mexico and the United States from 1846 to 1848 was the product of deliberate aggression and should therefore be referred to as ‘The U.S. War Against Mexico.’”

13Although for a long time in the past, historians in Mexico also used the “The U.S. invasion” for that event while U.S. historians referred to it as “The Mexican War” before the term “Mexican-American War” was introduced as a more balanced expression in both countries, there is nowadays a widespread consensus among scholars that what was really intended by the United States was not reconciliation but war to acquire new territory. In other words, the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) was not really that surprising nor was the resultant Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. According to the latter, Mexico, having lost the war, had to give up all her territory north of the Río Grande.

14With the subsequent U.S. annexation of this territory, the Mexican American borderlands and the Mexican American people were born as Foreigners in their Native Land as David J. Weber aptly summarized it in the title of his seminal historical anthology (280, see also Meier & Rivera). Yet, it did not only make them foreigners and outsiders in their homeland. Rather, the adopted “newly American and originally Mexican” residents of that territory were victims of many kinds. They had experienced a wide range of violence and human rights abuses in the post-war years when injustice towards them and the failure of the law to protect them had been a notorious order of the day. In his editor’s introduction to the thought-provoking chapter “The Rights of Citizens” of his book of Mexican American history David J. Weber wrote:

Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo promised that Mexicans who stayed in the Southwest would receive “all the rights of citizens of the United States,” it seems clear in retrospect that this promise was not fulfilled. At best, Mexican Americans became second-class citizens. At worst, they became victims of overt racial and ethnic prejudices. (143)

15To this very day the political and social process of sustainably dealing with this infamous past and the crimes committed still awaits realization and despite President Obama's pledge to support reconciliation in the United States, there has been no indication whatsoever that Mexican Americans can expect him to address these past human rights violations in the political and public arena and offer a redress for all the past injustices their forefathers had experienced in the borderland area.

Contemporary Borders and Borderlands

16For many Mexican Americans, therefore, the border continues to be a sore point, even an open wound or rather una herida abierta, as Chicana critic and writer-activist Gloria Anzaldùa calls it metaphorically. In the opening pages of her influential semi-autobiographical theoretical work Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa dwells on the subject as follows:

The U.S.-Mexico border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country – a border culture. Borders are set up to define the places that are safe und unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. (3)

17Manuel H. Peña takes a slightly different view. While he aligns himself with Anzaldúa’s idea of an emergent third culture that is in a constant state of transition, he argues against Anzaldúa’s reduction of the border to an irreconcilable dividing line between two peoples. In The Mexican American Orquesta: Music, Culture, and the Dialectic of Conflict, he observes that lately Mexican Americans have been increasingly striving for a reconciliation of what has often been understood as two incongruent cultural modalities, the American and the Mexican one. Over and above their different perceptions, what Peña's and Anzaldúa's approaches share is an emphasis on creative art as a productive site for coping with the sorrows of the past and for stimulating processes of reconciliation.

18This is in line with assessments by critics like Carmen Birkle, Monika Kaup, Maria Antònia Oliver-Rotger and José David Saldívar according to whom the border is increasingly perceived as a hybrid site of cross-fertilization where a complex process of inter- and transcultural relations comes to pass. José David Saldívar, for example, perceives the two-thousand-mile-long border between the United States and Mexico as a paradigm for a “Transfrontera contact zone” (1997, 13). For him this means a “social space of subaltern encounters, the Janus-faced border line in which peoples geopolitically forced to separate themselves now negotiate with one another and manufacture new relations, hybrid cultures, and multiple-voiced aesthetics.” (13-14) Even more pointedly than Saldívar, Homi K. Bhabha acknowledges the Mexican American borderlands as a case in point for an alternative space where communication between cultures and negotiation of identities assumes new dimensions. In the context of Bhabha’s critique, the space of the borderlands is defined as a third sphere of action and representation which opens up when U.S.-American society and the Chicana/o nationalists expose their self-definition on the post-colonial field of tension in the borderlands.

The Ongoing Quest for Aztlàn

19Nowhere in the Mexican and Mexican American context is this vision more concretely expressed than in the quest for and the myth of Aztlán, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs obtained by conquest from Mexico. Julio A. Martínez and Francisco A. Lomelí and briefly outline Aztlán as follows:

A term adopted from the Nahuas in Mexico which is used by Chicanos to designate a sense of mythic place and territory. In general terms, it refers to the American Southwest, especially California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. The Nahuas considered the same region the land of their forefathers, and Chicanos view it as the spiritual homeland of their ancestors. It became a key rallying concept at the peak of the Chicano movement; a symbolic place on the map to which Chicanos could trace their origins. (473)

20In the context of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, two historical documents became relevant where Aztlán was used as a clear statement of an emergent nationalist consciousness of the Chicano people in the 1960s and 1970s: El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (March 1969) and El Plan de Santa Bárbara (April 1969). The following passage from El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán has often been cited to illustrate the nationalistic feelings of the time:

In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal “gringo” invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlan from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny. (qtd. in Rosales, 184)

21Today, Aztlán remains a vivid memory and legacy for Mexican Americans, whether they remain at home in the Mexican border region or have immigrated to the United States. As an identity-making narrative for the people in this in-between land, it is a myth that stands for a spiritual vision of a desired new society of mixed-race people that originated somehow from the geographical and mythological site of the Mexican American borderlands. It still functions as a symbol of cultural pride and an inspiration that keeps contemporary Mexican Americans or rather Chicanos/as going to gain justice and equality for their own people although their homeland has been seized by the USA (see Anaya & Lomelí; De Leon & Griswold Del Castillo). In spite of everything, then, Aztlán symbolizes the notion that the Mexican American borderland will always belong to its native inhabitants and their mestizo descendants, that is, the Hispanic people or La Raza, the so-called mestizo race, if only in a spiritual sense.

Writing (and) the Emergence of Latinotopia

22U.S. Hispanics today accordingly refuse to succumb to any U.S. national doctrine that keeps them in a marginalized position and does not show any real interest in reconciling with them and with the past either. Besides, given the changing demographic data and the fact that U.S. Latinos are the most rapidly growing as well as the nation’s largest non-Anglo group today, there is no need for them at all to act as supplicants and petitioners in the first place.

23In her poem “Now and Then, America,” published in Borders in 1986, Mexican American writer Pat Mora coined the lines “Risk my difference, my surprises. Grant me a little life, America.” (33) By now, at the latest, this slogan, which is not an apt description of reality any longer, if it ever was, nor works as a program, ought to be replaced by the idea that “an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences is as essential a skill as technological competence,” as Pat Mora reminds us in her essay collection Nepantla of 1993 (19). On the one hand, as Mora continues, “this country has both the opportunity and the responsibility to demonstrate to this world of emerging representative governments that nurturing variety is central, not marginal, to democracy.” (idem) On the other hand, U.S. Latinos, and here she addresses especially female writers, have to take responsibility themselves for changing these parameters and for reimagining community. In her words:

Special strategies will be needed to support and value ethnic diversity, rather than to deny or merely tolerate it, and Latinas should be involved locally and nationally, for collectively we can make a difference. (idem)

24Obviously, writing is such a special strategy. According to Pat Mora, the power of the pen is applied by many Chicana writers to pursue at least three main goals: firstly, to serve one’s own by creating and establishing an individual and collective identity; secondly, “to heal cultural wounds of historical neglect by providing opportunities to remember the past, to share and ease bitterness, to describe what has been viewed as unworthy of description;” thirdly, to cross over and “ease communication” between and among cultures (ibidem, 131, 128). Significantly, Gloria Anzaldúa had already theorized that in-between space, which, for long, had been a forgotten, unseen and unspoken place. Whereas Mora remains too light and superficial when applying the Nahuatl concept of nepantla as simply “land in the middle” to see into a Mexican American writer’s possibilities and responsibilities for negotiating the middle land’s many terrains, Anzaldúa views it more profoundly as heterogenous concept for the ambiguous, tentative, ever-changing place we all inhabit in this fluid world, space and culture of the (multiple) borderland(s). For Anzaldúa a new myth emerges from the borderlands, which is, in essence, “a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet.” (103) This, in fact, ties in with Homi K. Bhabha's perception of the Mexico/U.S. border as the prolific site for a “borderline work of culture” where “art does not merely recall the past as a social cause or aesthetic precedent; it renews the past, refiguring it as a contingent ‘in-between’ space that innovates and interrupts the performance of the present. The ‘past-present’ becomes part of the necessity, not the nostalgia, of living.” (7)

25In sum, this is what I would like to call ‘Latinotopia’ and consequently describe as a discursive space emergent from a diverse assortment of texts that challenge established power structures in the United States, including the homogeneity of U.S. nationalism and culture, and that try to sketch out the outlines of a new reconciled way of being. Moreover, Latinotopia is as well a space where struggle and resistance might be transgressed through cultural and aesthetic works and an alternative, including also a utopian space, is negotiable.

26Chicano/a artists and writers such as Américo Paredes, Tomás Rivera, Rudolfo A. Anaya, Arturo Islas, Cherríe Moraga, Lorna De Cervantes and Ana Castillo understand their works of art as a way to contribute to the reconstruction of collective memory in and beyond the borderlands and to participate in the healing of what Anzaldúa has sketched as the open wound. In that sense the borderlands progressively provide their inhabitants with la facultad: that is “the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to see the deep structure below the surface.” (Bhabha, 60) Lorna Dee Cervantes provides a telling example in her award winning collection Emplumada. Here a preceding quotation “Once a refuge for Mexican Californios” found on a “plaque outside a restaurant in Los Altos, California, 1974” triggers a free association between symbol, images, language, site and memory in the ensuing four stanza “Poema para Los Californios Muertos” that aims at reinscribing at last the forgotten memory of the territory’s indigenous population, the ancient Californios, and their fate, into the collective memory of California and the nation in the following way:

These older towns die / into stretches of freeway. / The high scaffolding cuts a clean cesarean / across belly valleys and fertile dust. / What a bastard child, this city / lost in the soft / llorando de las madres / Californios moan like husbands of the raped, / husbands de la tierra, / tierra la madre.

I run my fingers / across this brass plaque. / Its cold stirs in me a memory / of silver buckles and spent bullets / of embroidered shawls and dark rebozos. / Yo recuerdo los antepasados muertos. / Lo recuerdo en la sangre, / la sangre fertile.

What refuge did you find here, / ancient Californios? / Now at this restaurant nothing remains / but this old oak and an ill-placed plaque. / Is it true that you still live here / in the shadows of these white, high-class houses? / Soy la hija pobrecita / pero puedo maldecir estas fantasmas blancas. / Las fantasmas tuyas deben aquí quedarse, / solas las tuyas.

In this place I see nothing but strangers. / On the shelves there are bitter antiques, / yanqui remnants / y estos no de los Californias. A blue jay shrieks / above the pungent odor of crushed / eucalyptus and the pure scent / of rage. (42)

27The process of commemoration can be said to extend from a preliminary investigation via a critique of modern white middle-class and high-high-class America’s ignorance of the past and the fate of the once indigenous inhabitants to accusation, lamentation and rage. In this discursive field between estrangement and increasing recognition Lorna Dee Cervantes posits the contemporary hybrid inhabitants of the borderlands whom she urges to work on improving the relationships between former victims and former perpetrators to overcome alienation and bring healing to the land by reprocessing the sorrows of the past in the here and now. As Ramón Saldívar aptly notes in the concluding chapter of Chicana Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference:

[…] to write is preeminently a political act seeking to fulfill the potentialities of contemporary life. It is also, ultimately, an attempt to recall the originary [sic.] myths of life on the borders of power in order to fashion triumphantly a new, heterogeneous American consciousness, within the dialectics of difference. (218)

Conclusion: The Transformation of America into Latinotopia

  • 8 See also Humes et al..
  • 9 See Ennis et al..

28Latinotopia not only puts to a practical test but further develops and goes beyond the core of the third space theory, as it has been presented by Homi K. Bhabha. He has rightly contended that the driving force behind this transformation process is the eventual ability of minority speakers to detach themselves not only from the dominant national narration but also from their very own position through performative utterance. This makes them agents of a new hybrid national narration. While this process is underway, an alternative dimension or an alternative sphere for the production of meaning, and hence also for negotiating reconciliation, is opening up, which goes beyond fixed cultural identities in the relation and negotiation of two systems that themselves are both actors in an ever-changing network of cultures and traditions (36). The difficulty, however, is that Bhabha does not provide eloquent examples nor does he convincingly combine theory and practice to illustrate the actual deployment of the third space. Moreover, his third space is too visionary and too future-oriented and not supposed to emerge in the here and now. According to him, it is rather at some undetermined point in the future of the Americas that the representatives of the two systems may ultimately be in a position that enables them to speak in a more common language and to understand each other better so that reconciliation may eventually be achieved as well. Another problem with Bhabha’s approach as well as with the lines of argumentation of aforementioned critics (Kaup, Oliver-Rotger, R. Saldívar) is that it is almost exclusively the geographical and imaginary site of the border and borderlands that informs their perceptions of Mexican Americans and Latinas/os in the United States as well as the ensuing inter- and transcultural dimensions. This, however, is clearly outdated given the fact that the “rising dispersion of Latinos into parts of the country that traditionally have not had Latino population suggests that all parts of the country will feel the impact of Latino growth,” as Rogelio Sáenz already emphasized in 2004.8 Today, this changing racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. population and the growing influence and presence of Latinos are traceable in various ways. Over the last decades, Latinos have settled comfortably not only in the Southwest but in various other parts of the United States such as Colorado, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Idaho and the District of Columbia. They actively participate in the hubs of economic momentum, social life and culture. As well, they occupy leading positions at Ivy League universities. All over the country, therefore, they have left their marks on the intellectual, cultural, economic and political life of America, whose identity they have already helped to shape in the past and will continue to do so in the present and future.9

29Currently, Latinos/as are courted assiduously by various interest groups and leading politicians, including President Obama, who being well aware that the Latino vote will decide whether he gets another term recently acknowledged that Latinos are “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way.” (“Transcript …”) To me, however, it seems more fitting to call Latinos not merely Americans but rather ‘the’ Americans of the Third Millennium who share a vision. That is why they do not simply integrate themselves into America but aim at reshaping the very story of America in an intercultural and transnational way from various angles as well as geographical sites through their presence, their participation and above all through their literature and arts. As a consequence, a Latinotopia emerges that is neither restricted to the borderlands nor a mere theoretical construct but a lived practice of mixed belongings and states of being. At its core is the idea of challenging hierarchies while negotiating and eventually establishing a new harmony of diversity. Of course, a certain level of utopian vision must be acknowledged. It is, in fact, vital, because particularly artists and writers need such utopian and visionary incentives to invoke Latinotopia by the power of the imagination through their works of art and literature. In other words, literature has the power to cope most innovatively with these semi-utopian and semi-practical levels of Latinotopia and to work towards a transformation. The Latina/o writers, who themselves are now agents of Latinotopia, might test-drive the very concept either before or while it is becoming a conduit and the burgeoning context that not only permits Latinos to grow roots in their new environments but to negotiate an American identity that allows for reconciliation and a “Latino population driving these transformations.” (Sáenz, see also Humes et al.)

30In sum, Latinotopia supersedes Bhabha’s third space in fundamental ways. First, it is not simply a theoretical concept but a practical, anthropologically and sociologically concrete one. Second, it does away with the border and borderlines’ centeredness, which has been a dominant theme in previous critical approaches, and extends its perspective to obtain a coherent view of the whole from an intercultural, cross-sectional and transnational angle. Considering further that Latinotopia is an assemblage of becoming rather than just being and that it moves away from acknowledging or accepting hierarchical structures, perhaps the figure and concept of a “rhizome”, as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (2004), can best be used to capture Latinotopia theoretically and practically in further studies. Deleuze and Guattari give this definition:

Unlike a tree and its roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states. The rhizome is reducible to neither the One or the multiple. It is not the One that becomes Two or even directly three, four, five etc. […] It is comprised not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. [… T]he rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entranceways and exits and its own lines of flight. (223)

31As a figure that “is always in the middle between things, inter-being, intermezzo and signifies the joint interaction of two different species to form a multiplicity while rejecting hierarchies,” (27) the rhizome is relevant to a discussion of shifting relations and configurations in emergent glocalized spaces with acentered and non-hierarchical systems and envisioned through new validated cultural experiences such as Latinotopia, which is a real practice as well as an enlightened domain of the imagination in and beyond a transforming America. Hence, in the end, Latinotopia gains greater relevance as more than an in-between space – in the sense of a glocal or translocal, geo-political and transcultural sphere – not only in the Americas but internationally. It is the emerging intercultural and transnational mode of cultural knowledge and a new model for greater diversity and ultimately, reconciliation.

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1 Cf. “Global Decade of Reconciliation 2011-2020.” Online at

2 Cf. UN PROCLAMATION: 2009 International Reconciliation Year, GA/10536, 61st GA, Plenary Session, 56th Meeting (AM). Online at <>.

3 Cf. The President of the United States of America, “Proclamation 8343-National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, 2009,” Office of the Federal Register, 11:15 a.m., 22 January,2009. This proclamation was published in the Federal Register on 23 January 2009, public domain: DCPD200900002. Online at, 2009

4 See also Daase, Grunebaum and Lederach.

5 Jesús Velasco-Márquez, “A Mexican viewpoint on the War with the United States,” Voices of Mexico 41. Published by the Center for Research on North America (CISAN), National Autonomous University of Mexico. Reprinted online at

6 Original source: Alberto María Carreño, México y los Estados Unidos de América: Apuntaciones para la historia de acrecentamiento territorial de los Estados Unidos a costa de México desde la época colonial hasta nuestros dias, 2nd ed., Editorial Jus: Mexico City, 1962, 107.

7 Virginia Randolph Trist to Tockerman, July 8, 1864, Nicholas P. Trist Papers, Box 10, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, qtd. in Robert W. Drexter, Guilty of Making Peace: A Biography of Nicholas P. Trist, UP of America: Lanham, Maryland, 1991, 139.

8 See also Humes et al..

9 See Ennis et al..

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Karin Ikas, « Beyond Conflicts and Borders: Reconciliation and Latinotopia », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. XI – n° 2 | 2013, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2013, consulté le 24 juin 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.5338

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Karin Ikas

Karin Ikas is co-editor of this volume. He is a Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures with a particular focus on North American, British and New English Literatures and Cultures and currently teaches at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen (Germany). In the summer term 2012 she held the position of an Acting Chair for British and Anglophone Literature and Culture (chair holder: Prof. Dr. Jens Gurr) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen (Germany). Prior to that she taught at the Ludwigs-Maximilians-University (LMU) in Munich (Germany) where she held the position of an Acting Chair for Modern English Literature (chair holder: Prof. Dr. Christoph Bode) at the Department of English and American Studies. She studied at the universities of Würzburg (Germany) and Texas (UT Austin) and has been a visiting scholar at various universities in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Her Ph.D. thesis on “Modern Chicana Literature: An Intercultural Analysis” (published in German as Die zeitgenössische Chicana-Literatur: Eine interkulturelle Untersuchung, Winter, 2000) won the Daimler Chrysler Foundation’s “Academy Award for Intercultural Studies 2001.” In 2010 she obtained her second PhD (“Habilitation”) in English Studies at the University Frankfurt/M. with her thesis “‘A Nation Forged in Fire’: Canadian Literature and the Construction of National Identity” (publication forthcoming). She is the recipient of several research awards and scholarships and has published widely on American, Chicano/a, Canadian, Australian and (Post-)Colonial Literatures and Cultures. Homi K. Bhabha prefaced her co-edited book Communicating in the Third Space published by Routledge in 2009. Harrassowitz publishing house released her edited collection of critical essays entitled Global Realignments and the Canadian Nation in the Third Millennium in 2010. Among some of her other book publications are: U.S. Latino Literatures and Cultures: Transnational Perspectives (2000), Mexican American Stories — Viewfinder Literature (2001, ²2006), Chicana Ways: Conversations with ten Chicana writers interviewed by Karin Ikas (2002, ²2003), Gender Debat(tl)ed: Gender and War — Special Issue of Gender Forum (5/2003), Stories from Down Under: Australia and New Zealand — Viewfinder Literature (2004) and Violence and Transgression in World Minority Literatures (2005). Forthcoming is her bilingual (German/English) edition — with preface and annotations — of William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline — Englisch-Deutsche Studienausgabe der Dramen Shakespeares (Stauffenburg).

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