A lot of emphasis has been placed on the heterogeneous character of Latin America, and indeed without paying attention to this diversity it would be impossible to understand the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural reality which exists in this region of the continent.
But if there is no homogeneity, what can be our starting point for talking about a Latin American identity?
If we start from the idea that identity cannot be reduced either to an abstract principle or to the expression of an ideal race common to the whole of Latin America, then the reasons for sustaining the possibility and the usefulness of a common Latin-American identity must be sought elsewhere. It would have to be formulated from more existential and concrete contexts. It would imply viewing the idea of identity as a function of a series of objective historical and social conditions.
To judge from Latin-American history we will discover that there is nothing new in talking about a Latin-American identity, for example as an action of solidarity and common interest such as happened during the process of emancipation from the yoke of Spanish colonialism.
Despite the obvious cultural and social differences between the countries of the region, the process of independence was experienced as a common project in each corner of Latin America.
In recent decades – since the ‘80s – the free market economy has produced the thought that each nation should look out for its own particular destiny, under so-called ‘free’ trade agreements.
This, since it would have the consequence of the massive emigration of many Latin-Americans, and a handing-over of natural resources under the ideological banner of neo-liberalism and individualism. The Latin-American economy should be absorbed into a single market under the aegis of North America. This would also mean that Cuba should continue being isolated and blockaded.
However this model began to leak, first with the Zapatista uprising, then the Bolivarian revolution, the water wars in Bolivia and other events, which culminated in 2005 in Mar del Plata, when the leaders of Latin America threw out the ALCA plan.
The failure of the neo-liberal model, the democratic mobilisation and the emergence of alternative regimes to this model, ran parallel and stimulated advances in Latin-American integration through Unasur and other regional groupings, favouring a new desire for integration and unity among the Latin-American republics. This is the new phase in which we currently find ourselves. As a consequence, the discourse on identity and on unity in diversity emanates from concrete and vital processes for the countries as a group, rather than from abstract principles.
That is to say that unity is a viable and necessary project for the nations of the region. These are the objective bases of Latin-American identity.
On the other hand, identity implies a review, a discussion and the existence of certain symbolic factors reaching across the whole region – with all the implications that this discourse and this symbolism bring with them in terms of actions and collective activity programmes.
Migrants re not excluded from this process of reflection and the formulation of concrete measures to be taken.
The interaction between subjective and objective factors in the search for regional unity and integration leave their marks on the features of Latin-American identity, an identity based on dialogue, on the management of multiplicity; and on the recognition of differences and the negotiations which characterise Latin America.
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Graham Douglas – firstname.lastname@example.org)