Miguel Ángel Asturias’s novel is somewhat divided in the novelty of its approach. Does El Señor Presidente have a completely new way of defining the reality of Latin American experience, or is it just a different twist in a mixture of the Indigenismo and dictator novel? Defending the argument, Asturias successfully established the earlier use of magical realism in El Señor Presidente. Through it, the narrative does show attempts to define a true Latin American experience: Asturias aspires to respect Indigenous culture and make it stand out in its own right. However, René Prieto suggests that, like prior Indigenista authors, the author overindulged and exaggerated with stock phraseology and wordplay “It seems forced and brilliant, weighed down with cumbersome platitudes and yet brimming with original passages.”
El Señor Presidente’s novelty isn’t only questioned due to the already established use of Indigenismo exaggeration. While the magical realism element is new, the dictatorship backdrop isn’t. Assumed to be based on the dictatorship of Manuel Estradas Cabrera, the characters’ fear and despair radiate from a daunting figure that seems all too real. Key elements from the dictator novel, such as the importance of authoritarianism and its emphasis on power, lessen the singularity of El Señor Presidente as a new way of expressing Latin American experiences, (seeing as the genre started with Facundo by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento in 1845), The storyline constantly shifts, making it contradictory and of a seemingly dual nature: the contrast between Europeans and Indigenous minorities, reality against the imaginary…However, here lies the writer’s success in expressing the Latin American experience. Albeit confused and violent at times, Asturias narrates the struggles between the two as the authentic reality. Social marginalization, nationality disputes and colloquial language all become central themes within the novel. Asturias then goes one step further. To prove that, despite differences, all characters still belong to one society, he exposes every character in El Señor Presidente, from Cara de Ángel to Mosco, to the fear and despair created by the President. The shared fear creates a connection amongst all characters. This represents that whilst there are differences and individuals are not equal in some aspects of life, they still remain as one culture and are all susceptible to greater forces. In other words, Gerald Martin states Asturias defines Latin American identity whilst at the same time helping to integrate the continent’s culture into the mainstream of Western society. The duality of themes explored (reality vs. imaginary, power vs. alienation amongst others) themselves represent the dual nature of Latin American identity. Teresita Rodríguez explains that said identity is confused by the dual problem of ‘mestizaje’ and ‘colonialismo’: European society’s wish for progress clashes with the rural and traditional values of Native Americans. It’s a system intermingled with foreign structures, where two radically different cultures struggle to coexist as one. Therefore, any attempt to define and portray a balanced identity will have its problems. This also shows Asturias’ feat, which is by no means an easy one. Though Prieto may encounter problems with the novel’s language, Rodríguez analyzes said linguistic exaggeration as the author’s attempt at a complete renewal of language in order to unveil more about native culture: “Su renovación lingüística radicaba en una ansia de conocimiento de su propia cultura.” By combining the Indigenista trend of emphasising the relation between the nation state and Indigenous minorities, the universal theme of despair and tyranny and emphasizing any struggle as a representation of the duality of Latin American reality, Asturias achieves a new way of expressing the true Latin American experience. Resources used to achieve this include the expression of myth, literary resources...
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