Rethinking the colonial Latinx literary imaginary: A comparative and decolonial research agenda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Colonizing and Decolonizing the Latinx Archive In this essay I analyze how two Latinx histories, as well as three anthologies, reclaim the Spanish colonial period as part of their archive to theorize how to undertake a decolonial reading of colonial texts within Latinx literary history. Conceiving the colonial period is a problematic endeavor in Latinx studies. Some scholars claim that this category and periodization does not apply at all to Latinxs in the United States. Other scholars want to recognize certain iconical Latin American and Hispanic writers and artists as a point of departure for the Latinx literary traditions in the United States and beyond. This debate in many ways reflects the hybrid nature of Latinx studies as a result of this field’s multiple affiliations with Caribbean, Latin American, and US American literary and cultural traditions. I join this debate as a scholar trained in Colonial Latin American studies who recognizes the political and symbolical power of the constitution and definitions of origins in literary manifestations. I would like to take as my point of departure the inflections of this debate among Latin American and Latinx studies scholars. My colleagues José Rabasa (from Colonial Latin American studies) and Lázaro Lima (from Latinx studies) both critically evaluate the postulation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca as a point of origin for Latinx and Chicanx literature and thus shed light on the sometimes fluid boundaries between Latin America and Latinx histories and cultural artifacts. On the one hand, José Rabasa calls for a decolonization of the field of colonial Latin American studies that has chosen to read Cabeza de Vaca, author of Naufragios (1542), as a “critic of empire … advocate of peaceful conquest … first Chicano … [and] first Spanish transculturator of Indian culture” (2000, 35). Rabasa ends his chapter inviting Latin American and Latinx scholars and readers of colonial narratives more broadly to recognize our complicity with the colonial legacies of these texts when we choose to privilege a subversive agenda over the imperial motives that were central in most of the relaciones (chronicles), diaries, and travel narratives that were produced by European and criollo authors during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Latina/o American Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781316869468
ISBN (Print)9781107183087
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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