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OLSON, Christa J.

Special 2012, 42:3, pages 233-250

Raíces Americanas”:  Indigenist Art, América, and Arguments for Ecuadorian Nationalism

Drawing on Douglas Powell’s assertion that ‘‘region making [is] a practice of cultural politics’’ (8), this essay traces the nationalist force of mid-twentieth-century Ecuadorian appeals to America as a strategic ethno-historic region. It suggests that such arguments bound national, regional, and transnational concerns together, using indigenous roots and cultural landscape as their anchors.  Ecuadorian intellectuals who made nationalist arguments by building a larger, American moral geography drew on a racialized sense of history and landscape to re-imagine their relationship with their Spanish ex-colonizer and to distinguish an autochthonous American Ecuador from its diluted American neighbors. These arguments from America gave their small country greater cultural weight through regional identification. Tracing those tactical claims to America as they played out within Ecuador and across its regional commitments contributes to a broader understanding of the rhetorical force of place. The Ecuadorian example of regional appeals that amplify national stature demonstrates how place-based claims to identity can simultaneously ground and circulate arguments; it shows as well how the cultural politics of a particular landscape invoke and move within larger complexes of meaning and force.

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