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El Ejemplo de Mexico & Polémica con La Vanguardia/The Case of Mexico & Dispute with La Vanguardia

Manuel Ugarte (1914, 1913)

Ugarte was a very prominent Argentinian writer and socialist, a great advocate of Latin American unity, who produced a large body of writing in relation to Latin America and its place in a changing world. These two short extracts, polemical, verbose and sometimes highly hypotactic, capture the passion and intellect of his writing as well as his rhythmic, almost oratorical style. Ugarte’s work provides an interesting challenge for the translator as well as a fascinating insight into the historical experience of Latin America; an area at the intersection of political history and historical geography with which we in the UK are often unfamiliar.

El Ejemplo de Mexico (1914)

On Mexico (1914) [1]

Imaginemos una ciudad secretamente minada por la peste. Se han producido diversos casos en los arrabales. Aquí y allá han caído numerosas víctimas poco conocidas. Sin embargo, nadie se ha inquietado. La muerte ronda en silencio por las calles y se codea inpunemente con los transeúntes. Una indiferencia apática y culpable inmoviliza la voluntad de todos.

Let us imagine a city silently ravaged by plague. A few cases have arisen in outlying districts. Here and there, a great number of all-but-nameless victims have fallen, yet nobody has expressed any concern. Death prowls noiselessly through the streets, free to mingle unchecked with the people passing through. The resolve of an entire populace has been frozen in the grip of an apathetic and shameful indifference.

Pero estalla un caso en pleno centro, se enferma una persona de figuración y el ambiente se transforma. La alarma cunde hasta los límites, se emociona la opinión pública, se toman medidas de defensa y todos los que hasta ayer ignoraban el flagelo se conciertan y se agrupan para ahogar el peligro común.

Then a case breaks out right in the heart of the city; a well-known personage falls ill and suddenly the entire mood changes. Panic sets in right across the city, public feeling is running high, preventative measures are taken and all those who until yesterday disregarded this scourge draw together and coordinate to eradicate the common danger.

Algo análogo ha ocurrido en estas últimas semanas en la América Latina.

Something analogous has happened in these last weeks in Latin America.

El imperialismo yanqui, la ambición desmedida de los Estados Unidos, la racha invasora del Norte, había hecho sentir sus latigazos en varias regiones del Continente. Cuba había sido maniatada con las cadenas de la enmienda Platt. Santo Domingo gemía viendo sus aduanas en poder de la gran república. Colombia se enclaustraba en su orgullo después de haber perdido el ístmo de Panamá. Nicaragua protestaba contra un gobierno que la entregaba, esclava, a los pies del invasor. La injusticia y el crimen segaban las esperanzas de ciertas repúblicas. La insolencia del fuerte humillaba las banderas de admirables pueblos hermanos. Pero nadie se movía en América.

Several parts of the continent were already suffering the whip of Yankee imperialism, the unfettered ambition of the United States and the North’s recent streak of invasions. Cuba had been shackled by the Platt Amendment [2]. Santo Domingo groaned seeing her customs houses fall into the hands of the Great Republic [3]. Colombia retreated in wounded pride after losing the Isthmus of Panama. Nicaragua railed against a government which was laying its people, in shackles, directly at the feet of the invader. Crime and injustice were mowing down the hopes of certain republics. The insolence of the strong was dishonouring the flags of our valiant kin, and still nobody on the continent lifted a finger.

Unos por indiferencia, otros por egoísmo, otros por ignorancia, todos continuaban ensimismados o se encogían de hombros. Se hubiera dicho que un siglo había bastado para romper los lazos de sangre y de historia entre los núcleos que se lanzaron juntos a la Independencia. Parecía que los trasatlánticos y los ferrocarriles nos había alejado en vez de acercarnos, haciéndonos perder todo noción de solidaridad fraterna.

Some through indifference, some through self-interest, others through ignorance: everyone either shrugged their shoulders or remained immersed in their own individual concerns. One might have said that a single century was all that was needed for the ties of blood and history, forged between the various alliances that together made their dash for independence, to be broken. It seemed as if the transatlantic liners and the railways had driven us apart instead of bringing us together, making us lose any notion of brotherly solidarity.

Mas surge al fin el caso de México. Se produce el atentado contra una nación que no tiene 300.000 habitantes como Nicaragua sino quince millones, se violan los derechos de una república que se cuenta entre las más importantes de nuestro propio grupo y se desencadena en todas partes la protesta airada, en la cual entra por mucho el instinto de conservación.

Then, at last, comes the case of Mexico. An attack is launched upon a nation, not of 300,000 inhabitants as in the case of Nicaragua, but of fifteen million; the rights of one of the most influential nations of our Hispanic America are violated, and furious protest, greatly fuelled by the instinct for self-preservation, breaks out everywhere.

Ya no cabe duda. El peligro está ahí, claro, tangible. De nada valen los sofismas panamericanos, ni las prédicas capciosas de los emisarios sutiles que han sorprendido tantas veces nuestra aldeana buena fe. Toda la sangre latinoamericana se rebela contra la injuria, contra la acechanza, contra las mismas ignorancias u olvidos que nos han llevado a callar tantas veces mientras el gladiador yanqui estrangulaba en la sombra a los países pequeños cuyos débiles pulmones, cuya falta de personalidad o de medios de protesta les impedían lanzar su anatema y su maldición a los cuatro vientos del mundo.

There is no more room for doubt. The danger is here, clear and palpable. There is no place for useless Pan-American sophistry, nor the disingenuous sermonising of clever emissaries who have so often caught us, in our rustic good faith, unawares. Every ounce of Latin American blood rebels against slander, against hounding, against the very ignorance and lapses of memory that have caused us so many times to remain silent whilst, in the shadows, the Yankee gladiator strangled those little countries whose weak lungs and want of both distinction and the means to protest prevented them from hurling their condemnation and their anathema to all four corners of the earth.

Desde este punto de vista y a pesar del dolor que nos causan los sufrimientos del pueblo hermano, tenemos que felicitarnos de lo que está ocurriendo en México. Ha cundido la voz de alarma, se ha hecho carne en el alma de las muchedumbres, ha repercutido en todos los ámbitos de la América Hispana y ya no habrá poder humano -ni interés, ni miedo, ni olvide- que vuelva a encauzar la política de nuestras naciones por la senda brumosa de abdicación y de egoísmo que nos ha llevado, dispersos e incautos, a girar como satélites alrededor de la bandera estrellada.

From our perspective, and despite the pain that we feel on account of the suffering of our brothers in Mexico, we must congratulate ourselves on what is happening in that country. The alarm cry has been raised, it has become embedded in the hearts of the masses and has reverberated through every facet of Hispanic America. Now there can be no human force, not selfishness, not fear, not obliviousness, strong enough to send the politics of our nations down the murky path of abdication and self-interest which has led us, scattered and reckless, to circle like satellites around the star-spangled banner.

El ejemplo de México, sean cuales sean las incidencias o las resultados del conflicto actual, quedará grabado en nuestra memoria y la conciencia latinoamericana, siempre despierta, permanecerá al acecho de los acontecimientos, dispuesta a hacer caer sobre los agresores el peso formidable de su desaprobación. El pueblo heroico que hoy se debate bajo la arremetida y diplomática de los Estados Unidos -arremetida acaso más peligrosa la segunda que la primera, porque aviva con la intriga la hoguera de la guerra civil- habrá sido el personaje notorio que al ser herido por la peste denuncia el peligro y salva a la ciudad.

The case of Mexico, whatever the repercussions or results of the current conflict might be, will remain etched in our memories, and Latin American consciousness, always awake, will watch over events as they unfold, poised to release upon its aggressors the terrible weight of its reproach.  That heroic people which today is struggling beneath the martial and diplomatic attack of the United States – the latter even more dangerous than the former for it conspires to stoke the flame of civil war – would have been that well-known personage who, afflicted by the plague, raised the voice of alarm and saved the city.

Reunidos y atentos como estamos alrededor del conflicto, no nos contentemos con crispar los puños de indignación ante la abominable injusticia. Trabajemos para el provenir, defendámonos defendiendo a los demás y en estos momentos trágicos sentemos las bases de la futura solidaridad latinoamericana.

In solidarity, and alert as we are to the ongoing conflict, let us not resign ourselves to clenching our fists in outrage at the vile injustice. Let us work towards our future, defend ourselves by defending others, and, in these tragic times, lay the foundations of future Latin American solidarity.

[Publicado en Revista Americana, Buenas Aires, julio de 1914]

[Published in Revista Americana, Buenas Aires, July 1914]

Polémica con “La Vanguardia” (1913)

Dispute with La Vanguardia (1913)

El peligro del primer error no está en el error mismo, sino en el encadenamiento de errores en que cae el que se obstina en defenderlos.

The danger of the initial mistake is not in the mistake itself, but in the chain of mistakes which can entangle anyone who insists on defending them.

Después de haber publicado, a propósito de la independencia de Colombia un suelto tan inoportuno que fue modificado al día siguiente, me pusieron ustedes en el caso de recurrir al comité del partido para conseguir insertar una correcta rectificación; y obligados ahora por ese comité a dar a luz el escrito, lo rodean de comentarios que lógicamente tienen que dar lugar a lo que voy a exponer en estas líneas.

After having published a short piece in relation to the independence of Colombia so ill-judged that a revision was published the following day, you placed me in the position of having to appeal to the party committee to make sure that an accurate correction was published, and, obliged by the committee to release this text, you enveloped it in comments that could have no other logical effect but to give rise to what I am about to expound in this letter.

Desde mi llegada he visto con pena que un grupo pequeño, que no representa, a mi juicio, más que una minoría imperiosa, empieza a esgrimir contra los correligionarios la misma violencia inútil que ha empleado contra los miembros de los demás partidos, y aunque el caso pueda ser doloroso, hay que levantar la voz en nombre de la serena energía de los que están seguros de su razón.

Since my arrival [in Spain] I have witnessed with sorrow how a small group which, in my view, does not represent anything more than a high-handed minority, is beginning to display the same senseless aggression towards its fellow party-members that it has used in the past against those belonging to other parties, and, although it might be painful, it is essential to speak out in support of the calming influence of the rational majority.

En vez de dar prueba de flexibilidad de espíritu, rectificando las palabras injustas que había lanzado contra Colombia, el diario las agrava ahora, tratando de oponer las estadísticas al conocimiento directo las agrava ahora, tratando de oponer las estadísticas al conocimiento directo de las cosas que tiene quien acaba de visitar aquel país. “Colombia está en un estado lamentable de atraso, Colombia está en la barbarie”, declara el articulista, y yo, después de protestar cortésmente contra esas aserciones, me pregunto, primero, si es ésta la mejor manera de fomentar la fraternidad entre dos países; segundo, si dentro de la amistad y el buen gusto, es el aniversario de la independencia de un pueblo el momento más indicado para discutir su civilización.

Rather than showing an amenable spirit, by rectifying the unjust words it had hurled at Colombia, the paper now seeks to deepen the insult by using statistics by proffering statistics which contradict what is known first-hand by those of us who have recently visited the country. “Colombia is woefully backward, Colombia is in a state of savagery,” stated the columnist, and I, after protesting courteously against these assertions, asked myself, firstly, is this the best way to foster brotherly solidarity between two countries; and secondly, within the bounds of friendship and good taste, is the anniversary of a people’s independence the appropriate moment to question its level of civilisation? [4]

Hay sentimientos superiores de cultura que no debemos olvidar y como no tendemos a rebajar el nivel de la vida, sino a enaltecerlo, conviene poner siempre los ojos, al margen de los sectarismos y las intolerancias, en cúspides cada vez más puras.

There is a higher sense of civility which must not be forgotten, and, since we are more inclined to exalt our way of life than to debase it, it behoves us to look beyond sectarianism and intolerance and keep our gaze fixed on ever purer heights.

Nada más inusitado que el tono del artículo que me veo obligado a contradecir. Después de argumentar despectivamente que en ningún departamento colombiano priva el número de los que saben leer sobre el que los que no saben, olvidando que en Rusia, Francia y España hay regiones en ese caso, sin que ello pueda ser una razón para ofenderlas, el articulista establece que Bogotá, que cuenta hoy 120.000 habitantes, no tiene obras de salubridad, dando así, respectivamente, patente de inferioridad definitiva al Buenas Aires de 200.000 habitantes que tampoco las tuvo. “Este cuadro sombrío – llega a decir el periodista- no solamente es el retrato de Colombia, sino el de todas las repúblicas latinoamericanas”, envolviendo en la misma reprobación a Chile, al Brasil, al Uruguay y a la Argentina. Para calificar a México añade que en ese país un movimiento gremial fue ahogado en sangre, dejando en la sombra los ruidosos sucesos análogos ocurridos en Milán, Barcelona, Chicago, etc., y evoca cierta vaga protesta de un vecindario contra la construcción del primer ferrocarril, protesta que no puede tener un significado concluyente porque contra el primer ferrocarril se elevaron voces en todas partes, hasta en la misma Francia, donde un eminente hombre público lo bautizó con el nombre de “infantil juguete”.

It was truly extraordinary, the tone of this article which I now feel compelled to contradict. After arguing scornfully that there is no departamento [region] in Colombia where those who know how to read outnumber those who do not, forgetting that in Russia, France and Spain there are areas in this same predicament and without feeling the need to insult them for it, the columnist points out that Bogota, now a city of 120,000 inhabitants, has no public sanitation works, which with hindsight would seem only to demonstrate the clear inferiority of, say Buenas Aires, which, when its population stood at 200,000, did not have any either. The journalist goes so far as to say that “this sorrowful picture is not only the portrait of Colombia, but of all of the republics of Latin America,” thus dowsing Chile, Brazil, Uruguay or Argentina in the same disapprobation. Appraising the case of Mexico, the article notes that a workers’ movement in that country was quashed in bloody violence, leaving to one side the fact that similar, very well-documented events have occurred in cities like Milan, Barcelona and Chicago, and mentions in the vaguest terms something about a neighbourhood protest against the construction of the first railways, something which can be of no real significance given that complaints about the railways  have been heard far and wide, even in France, where one eminent public figure described the first to be built  as a “childish toy.”

La descortesía que encierran estas palabras contra los países hermanos me llena de sorpresa, porque ninguna necesidad la reclamaba. En momentos en que de esos pueblos lastimados llegan voces angustiadas pidiendo ayuda, es poco generoso agobiarlos bajo el peso de un inmerecido desdén. Y a nadie puede parecer mal que salga a defenderlos desinteresadamente quien los conoce, quien no puede aspirar en ellos a ningún papel político, quien los quiere porque ha comprendido la simpatía natural de esas colectividades que hoy, como hace un siglo, sufren y esperan con nosotros.

The insolence towards our sister countries in Latin America contained in these words fills me with surprise, because it is entirely uncalled for. At a time when these wounded peoples are crying out in anguish for our help, it is wholly ungenerous to crush them further with the weight of unwarranted distain. Nobody can level reproach at an individual who speaks out disinterestedly in their defence; one who knows them and can aspire to no political position amongst them, one who loves them because he has come to understand the natural good nature of these communities which share our sufferings and our hopes today as they did a century ago.

Ignoro si en el artículo a que aludo asoma el eterno antipatriotismo, llaga más o menos oculta de la agrupación. No puedo dejarme llevar mar afuera hacia esas penumbras ideológicas. En una reunión del comité ejecutivo en que se me dijo (textual) que “una carne con cuero era preferible a la bandera”, contesté que la independencia argentina, y la de América, no se había hecho con una carne con cuero clavada en la punta de una lanza, sino con nuestros colores gloriosos y respetados, ante los cuales me inclino.

I do not know whether in that article to which I refer we see signs of a longstanding anti-nationalist sentiment, that well-nigh hidden wound in our cluster of nations. I cannot allow myself to be dragged into those murky ideological waters. In a meeting of the executive committee in which I was informed that (and I quote), “a barbecued cow hide is preferable to a flag [5],” I answered that the independence of Argentina, and of [the United States of] America, was not won by wielding a cow hide on the point of a spear, but by brandishing our glorious and revered colours, before which I bow.

Supongo que éste no puede ser, sin embargo, una causa para que me maltrate un diario a cuya deferencia creía ser acreedor. Lo que hay en el fondo, y aquí se me permitirá que con mi franqueza y mi resolución de siempre, llegue a la raíz de las cosas, es el deseo de que abandone el campo y me aleje del partido. Pero a pesar de las habilidades que se multiplican, a pesar de la misma actitud de ese diario que se equivocó extrañamente al anunciar, cuando volví de Chile, la hora de mi llegada, impidiendo así que los amigo fueron a recibirme, soy hostil a las divisiones y permaneceré dentro de la agrupación a pesar de todo, convencido de que he sido y puedo ser para ella mucho más útil que otros.

I would not expect, however, that this is reason enough for me to be maligned by a newspaper which, or so I believed, once held me in great respect.  At the root of all this, and you will forgive me here if with my usual frankness and resolve I cut straight to the heart of the matter, is the hope that I might retire from the field and distance myself from the party. But despite the ever-multiplying plots against me, despite precisely that attitude shown by this newspaper when it strangely published the wrong time for my return from Chile, thus preventing my friends from coming to meet me, despite everything, I remain opposed to divisions and will remain within the party, in the belief that I have been, and can be, of more value to it than can be said for certain others.

He venido al socialismo hecho ya, trayendo mi nombre de escritor, sin pedirle nada en cambio, llegando a renunciar a las situaciones que me ofrecía, mientras otros, a veces con bagaje precario, se hacían una plataforma del grupo y llegaban a situaciones que sin él no hubieran alcanzado nunca.

I came to socialism fully formed, bearing the name I had made for myself as a writer, without asking for anything in return and even turning down positions that were offered to me, while others used the party as a platform by which to raise themselves to stations that they would never have reached on their own and for which they were dubiously qualified.

He hecho, pagado de mi peculio un viaje desinteresado y lírico que algunos de los que me hostilizan no se hubieran resuelto a realizar por los gastos que ocasiona y los peligros que entraña. Y la ofuscación singular en que han caído algunos hombres, creyendo haber creado doctrina cuando no han hecho más que trasladar en prosa lineal, lo que desde hace años se viene publicando en Europa, no puede impedirles comprender que, hasta desde el punto de vista de los intereses personales, el socialismo no es para mí la tabla que me sostiene. Puedo flotar con mis propios medios, pero mi convicción me ha llevado hacia esa corriente filosófica y en ella quiero mantenerme, sin compromisos, sin intrigas, sin vanas exageraciones, preservando la integridad de mi carácter.

Drawing on my own means I have undertaken an unprejudiced and emotional journey, which some of those who abuse me would not have brought themselves to begin, for fear of the cost and of the dangers it has entailed. The curious self-delusion into which some have fallen, believing themselves to have created a creed when in fact all they have done is rehearse the arguments which have long been common currency in Europe, should not blind them to the fact that, from my personal perspective, socialism is not the buoy that keeps me afloat. I am quite capable of swimming all by myself, but my own convictions have led me to this particular philosophical current, and I would like to remain within it, without compromise, without intrigue, without vain hyperbole; preserving the integrity of my character.

En caso de que por no plegarme a ciertas teorías, que juzgo nocivas para la nacionalidad, me censurase, cosa que no lo creo, la mayoría de mis correligionarios, me distanciaría en las horas de triunfo de lo que contribuí a crear en las horas difíciles, pero no renunciaría por ello a la plenitud de mis ideales. Un congreso podría separarme del partido, pero no expulsar el socialismo de mi corazón. Llegado el caso, continuaría trabajando aisladamente en favor del pueblo y de la democracia, ansiando hacer entrar, gradualmente y serenamente, cada vez más justicia y más verdad en la vida.

Should I be censured by the majority of my peers for refusing to yield to certain theories which I judge to be damaging to our nationhood, something which I doubt will happen, in this moment of triumph I will readily withdraw from what in the darkest moments I helped to create, but I will not forsake the entirety of my ideals. A congressional committee can force me to leave the party, but it cannot drive out the socialism from my heart. If that should happen, I will continue alone to work for the benefit of the people and in favour of democracy, hoping that, gradually and peacefully, there will be more and more justice and truth in this life.

El lunes salgo para Montevideo y no podré contestar a lo que es de prever después de esta carta; pero mi causa queda en buenas manos, porque queda en manos de la opinión pública, hasta la cual no llegan las pequeñeces de los hombres, y de la masa sana del partido, que me ha visto siempre desinteresado y leal.

On Monday I leave for Montevideo and I will not be able to respond to what I imagine will happen as a result of this letter, but I leave my case in good hands, because it is in the hands of public opinion, which is unswayed by the pettiness of men, and of the sound majority of the party, which has always known me to be unselfish and loyal.

[De Manuel Ugarte y el Partido Socialista, pág. 36. Unión Editorial Hispano Argentina, 1914].

[From Manuel Ugarte y el Partido Socialista, p36, Unión Editorial Hispano Argentina, 1914].

Copyright © 2016 Ruth Grant. Source text published by Biblioteca Ayacucho under a Creative Commons Licence.

CITATION

Ugarte, M. (1987). La Nacion Latinamericana. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, pp. 30-31 & 203-205. Available at: http://www.bibliotecayacucho.gob.ve/fba/index.php?id=97&backPID=87&begin_at=39&tt_products=45 [Accessed 10 February 2016].

TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

[1]: This piece makes reference to events in Mexico in 1914, specifically the US occupation of Veracruz, a key incident in the Mexican Revolution.

[2]: The Platt Amendment of 1901 set the terms for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba after the Spanish-American War. It contained eight conditions which were later written into the Cuban constitution and severely restricted Cuba’s ability to set its own foreign policy or enter into international commercial relations. It was repealed for the most part in 1934, but the US retains control over Guantánamo Bay to this day.

[3]: Puerto Rica’s customs houses were seized by US forces a number of times from 1904 in order to restrict the flow of revenue to the regime.

[4]: Columbia (then the Republic of Gran Colombia, which also included Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador) was actually formed as an independent republic in 1819; the anniversary to which Ugarte refers is probably that of the 1813 Battle of Cúcata, a victory for Bolivar’s forces and considered a turning point in the Spanish-American Wars of Independence.

[5]: The phrase used here is carne con cuero. Also referred to as asado con cuero, this is a method of cooking meat (usually beef or mutton), most common in Argentina and Uruguay and considered part of Gaucho culture, in which the meat is roasted inside the hide of the animal, thus preserving all of the juices and fat. It is now almost entirely confined to traditional festivals and special occasions. Unfortunately despite some effort I was unable to find any other reference to this incident, and so it is not entirely clear what the speaker, quoted here by Ugarte, is trying to say.

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