3807 - Remembering Mestizaje: Roots of the 'Raza Chilena,' Cultural Politics, and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Chile

This paper explores the articulation of a discourse centered on the concept of "Raza chilena," which emerged during the opening decades of the twentieth century. The founding manipulators of the “raza chilena” concept—intellectuals and politicians largely of middle-class stock and tied to the reformist movement led by the anti-elite, anti-Marxist, and powerful Radical Party—reached back to the Conquest, the early colonial period, and the resulting phenomenon of mestizaje, which they cast as the momentous joining of heroic Araucanian blood and that of European conquerors, as they sculpted more democratized notions of "nation" and culture. They did so in their pursuit of concrete political, cultural, economic, and social goals, using the “raza chilena” construct as a way of spinning the tale of a mestizaje-rooted national unity, thereby dislodging a self-important, Europhile, and cosmopolitan elite from the center of the national narrative. The “raza chilena” construct also served as a basis for building cultural and discursive bridges with a lower class turning dangerously, in the eyes of reformers, toward radical revolutionary ideas. However, the proponents of the “raza chilena” discourse and, by and large, the Radical Party, ignored the needs and demands of their Mapuche-Araucanian contemporaries, suggesting that, in the minds of the discourse’s handlers, Chile’s indigenous population had already done its greatest deed: contribute to the formation of the mestizo “raza chilena” at the time of the Conquest and during the early colonial period. They therefore remained on the margins, at best, of the imagined community.          

Keywords: Chile, twentieth century, mestizaje, politics

Author: Barr-Melej, Patrick (Ohio University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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