As the author of this curriculum unit, I must admit that it has not been easy to choose the best way to go about the development of a concrete format for discussing the existing issues dealing with the Criollo concepts. After all my reading about the subject, I came to the conclusion that for the Criollo concept to be best understood concisely, a clear definition of the term must be first given.
A Criollo, by definition, is someone born in Spanish America, whether of foreign parents or of natives, although at one time it signified an American born of Spanish parents. Coming to be almost synonymous with native, the word was applied to almost anything national or vernacular, especially as something of local essence as opposed to the foreign.
In both the 19th and 20th Centuries, the term began to be used to describe the literature of Latin America. Criollismo is a Latin American form of realism or regionalism which stresses the people and their land. The word “Criollo” was first used in
The Historia Natural y Moral de las Indians
by Padre José de Acósta in the late 16th century—“como alla llaman a los nacidos de espa–oles con indios.” (As our called those born from the mixture of Spaniards with Indians.) Also, it was used by the New World’s first mixed race “Criollo” writer, Garcilaso de la Vega, the Inca, who stated that the Spaniards “ha introducido este nombre en su lenguage pare nombrar los nacidos alla,” or “the Spaniards have introduced this name in their language to name those who are born there.”
Luis Alberto Sanchez objects to the term “novela criolla” because the definition is so broad that it can include almost everything in it; Criollismo varies according to one’s concept of the artistic operation, and a rigid definition and dogmatic conclusion of any kind is questionable.
Though a ridig definition should not be given, we can point to action, statements which characterize Criollismo. It may involve elements of costumbrismo, reformismo, the catastrophic and tragic elements of naturalism, social problems, nature and external destructive force inimical to man, violence, love, hate, human passion, the anonymous, and the alienated.
Two of the basic ingredients are the tragic and fatalistic elements of naturalism on the one hand, and the artistic legacy of modernism on the other. Uslar Pietri has indicated that the apparently contradictory influences of modernist renovation and naturalistic fatalism, combined often, tend to fall under the realistic sense of the term known as “criollism.”
For some critics, criollism pertains only to the rural ambiance as opposed to the city life, and especially reflects picturesque customs. But Criollismo includes the entire environment of a region, applying as easily to the city in its artistic expression of the local soul or national spirit and in the city’s examination of the social problems, the political motivation, or sexual habits.
An American phenomenon involving more than nature, Criollismo reflects the social tragedy of the New World, “el latifundio, la gomera, la mine, la fabrica, el canaveral, la pampa, la selva tragedia protagonizada por indios, negros, cholos, zambos, rotos, y mulatos”
(the large landed estate, the rubber plantation, the mine, the factory, the sugar plantation, the prairie, the tragedy of the jungle protaginized by Indians, Negros, Cholos, Zambos, Rotos and Mulatos).
America, from its earliest moments a complete novelty to Europeans, was racially something neither European nor Indian. The American Criollo differed appreciably from the Spaniard, and in a society in formation antagonisms between the two were common. The American and European social structure contributed to a growing unrest. Criollismo reflects a new kind of historic development which fused with modernism in its search for beauty of expression.
After its early phase, especially in the second and third decades of the 20th century, Criollo emphasized the symbolic, magic, and mythical elements of man’s struggle against his environment, himself, and his society. The author who just indulges in a casual insistence on Americanism or depicts a few dialectal forms to produce local color is not a Criollista. Criollismo, therefore, is more than a mere regionalism. It is authentic Americanism, at time transposing and at others recording its often brutal, harsh, and violent environment. Criollistas novelists use fiction as an instrument of struggle for justice and reform.
In its amalgam of impressionism, realism, and psychological, poetic, and sociological factors, and its combination of naturalistic and modernist elements, the classical Criollista novel allows for a more tightly controlled realistic and artistic portrayal of Creole life.
Our next unit topic deals with “Cultural Pluralism.”
The purpose for the discussion of this topic “Cultural Pluralism” is to assist both the teachers and students in identifying the meaning of Cultural Pluralism. It is not intended to go into detail about the issues, however, it is suggested that the teacher explore, in depth, the topic. In order to do more exploration about this topic, both teachers and students should use the reference bibliography at the end of this unit.
Cultural Pluralism deals with the amount of cultural differences between ethnic groups living, in the same society and by the relative size and power of these groups.
Cultural Pluralism between ethnic groups cannot exist without institutional duplication and hence without social pluralism. That is, any form of Cultural Pluralism has a structural facet which can be treated as social pluralism. However, in addition to ethnicity, race is introduced as a criterion of group membership, a new dimension added to social pluralism. Race is not the structural counterpart of ethnic heterogeneity, but is an independent criterion according to which society is segmented.
To refine the concept of cultural pluralism somewhat further, it is useful to analyze pluralistic societies at four main levels; groups, institutions, values, and individuals. It is important to understand that these levels cut across the distinction between social and cultural pluralism. Pluralism, for that matter, at the group level, is a function of the number of corporate groups existing within a society; their relative size; the rigidity and clarity of group boundaries; and the degree of cultural and/or social differences between the groups.