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"A myth is an owned image": Che Guevara in Lezama Lima's American Expression

Rowlandson, William (2010) "A myth is an owned image": Che Guevara in Lezama Lima's American Expression. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 87 (2). pp. 71-88. ISSN 1475-3839. (doi:10.3828/bhs.2009.5) (KAR id:3502)

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In his 1957 essays of La expresión americana, Cuban poet and novelist José Lezama Lima elaborates the process by which history enters the collective consciousness, examining how history is a shared memory, and that memory is creative. As a result, history becomes a consensual narrative or fiction, composed of the la imagen and the poetic myth. Lezama explored how figures such as el señor barroco or el romántico became mythical, forging an American historical identity to rival the European. This article examines Lezama’s vision, and analyses the pragmatic application of this theoretical model upon post-revolutionary Cuban history. In particular, the figure of Ernesto Guevara is analysed with reference to the Barthean concept of myth, exploring how the figure of Guevara is divorced from its history, imbued with mythical connotative ‘nature’, and appropriated into a variety of mythical codes, both within and outside of Cuba. As a result, it will be possible both to reconsider La expresión americana from a greater social perspective than has hitherto been undertaken, and consider the figure of Guevara in accordance with the theories of history explored by Lezama.


En los ensayos de La expresión americana, publicados en 1957, el poeta y novelista cubano José Lezama Lima elabora el proceso en el cual la historia entra en la conciencia colectiva, examinando cómo la historia es una memoria compartida, y que la memoria es creativa. Por consiguiente, la historia se convierte en una narrativa, o ficción, consensual, compuesta por ‘la imagen’ y el mito poético. Lezama presenta personajes como ‘el señor barroco’ y ‘el romántico’, examinando cómo se convierten en figuras míticas que crean así una identidad americana que rivaliza a la europea. Este artículo examina la visión de Lezama y analiza la aplicación práctica de este modelo teórico en la historia post-revolucionaria cubana. En particular, se explora la figura de Ernesto Guevara con referencia al concepto de mitología según Roland Barthes, cómo Guevara ha sido divorciado de su historia, vestido de una ‘naturaleza’ mítica connotativa, y apropiado en una variedad de códigos míticos tanto en Cuba como fuera de Cuba. Así pues es posible replantear La expresión americana desde una perspectiva social más amplia de la que ha sido considerada hasta ahora, y examinar la figura de Ernesto Guevara de acuerdo con las teorías históricas exploradas por Lezama.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3828/bhs.2009.5
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
P Language and Literature > PB Modern Languages
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: William Rowlandson
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2009 07:05 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:42 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Rowlandson, William:
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