Encounters of Formation in the Latin American and Hispanic/Latino Bildungsroman

by Alejandro Latinez (Author)
©2014 Monographs X, 98 Pages


Developments: Encounters of Formation in the Latin American and Hispanic/Latino Bildungsroman, a notable contribution for students and scholars of Latin American, Brazilian, Hispanic and Latino literature, explores a significant but overlooked area in the literary production of the twentieth century: the connections between development and the narrative of formation after World War II. Recognizing development as a discursive construction that shapes significantly modern national identity in Latin America, Alejandro Latinez argues that its ideals and narrative relate to the Bildungsroman genre – the narrative of formation or development. The study presents a historical background of similar ideals of development in Latin America as well as reflects on a seminal philosophical interplay about youth and modern national identity between the Mexican authors Samuel Ramos and Octavio Paz. Furthermore, it examines Mario Vargas Llosa’s 1963 La ciudad y los perros, José Lezama Lima’s 1966 Paradiso, a selection from Clarice Lispector’s 1960 and 1964 short narratives, and Elena Poniatowska’s 1971 testimony La noche de Tlatelolco. The narrative experience in the United States is analyzed in Sandra Cisnero’s 1984 The House on Mango Street and Esmeralda Santiago’s 1993 When I Was Puerto Rican.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • America and the Images of Adolescence, a Historical Background
  • The Twentieth-Century Adolescent Character
  • Chapter Two: From the Pelado to the Pachuco. Adolescents Defining Mexican Identity
  • Mexico, a Combination of Pachuco and Narcissus
  • Chapter Three: La ciudad y los perros, Military Schooling and Development
  • The Developmental Panopticon
  • An Epilogue to the Future
  • Chapter Four: Paradiso and the Revolutionary Cuba: Between Two Narratives
  • Formation and Revolution
  • Chapter Five: La noche de Tlatelolco. Youth Sacrifice in the Name of Modernity
  • Education into the Future
  • Olympic Games: Celebration and Rite of Passage to Modernity
  • Chapter Six: Clarice Lispector, Brazilian Development and the Education of the Hybrid
  • Chapter Seven: The Voices of Esperanza and Negi; the Hispanic/Latino Development
  • Chapter Eight: Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography


The origin of this book is my dissertation about narratives of adolescence and the narrative of Latin American development. I have reviewed and edited that unbalanced writing, reframed ideas, chosen and translated several chapters, and I added the Hispanic/Latino experience because I consider that it has particular connections with the topic addressed. My teaching and lectures have helped me to re-read and to consider new perspectives on the authors studied here. The book is entirely my responsibility; however, I would like to thank Professors Cathy Jrade and William Luis from Vanderbilt University during the stage of my dissertation; Professors Debra Andrist, Alcibiades Policarpo, and Shirin Edwin from Sam Houston State University; Rhonda Harris, who patiently reviewed the first version of the manuscript; my wife, Rosario, who commented and clarified on economics and developmental topics; my daughter Alejandra for her support and expectation; and anonymous peer readers of manuscript submissions. Finally, I would like to thank to John de Castro former Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Sam Houston State University who generously sponsored a substantial part of the publication.← ix | x →

← x | 1 → CHAPTER ONE


Development is an essential presence in the cultural discussion about Latin American modernity. The validity of development is very alive in the words and practices of Latin American politicians, technicians, and military administration since the end of the Second World War. An explanation of its presence is that the narrative of development is often considered a natural process of becoming a modern and mature nation rather than a cultural construction and a colonial representation; it is a component of the identity of the nations. In this sense, although there is no identical process for each nation, it is reasonable to argue that the narrative of development permeates a similar narrative, that of education, formation, or Bildungsroman which precisely connects—with more or less clarity—individual developments with national projects. Although social sciences have considered the ideological and practical effects of development, few approaches examine the relationships with Latin American literature, particularly the Hispanic/Latino narrative. Among them, Luis Cárcamo-Huechante and Gregory Schelonka establish two analyses where economics, development, culture, and literature are presented as elements of a discursive configuration that has defined Chilean and Mexican contemporary narratives in the context of modern national projects, as it is examined later.

← 1 | 2 → My study addresses the cultural discussion of development as a narrative that affects Latin American and Hispanic/Latino Bildungsroman and similar narratives of formation. The stories portray not only young characters’ apprenticeships but also the construction of national identities and the future of nations in an orderly sequence of time. The study aims to answer how the literary works materialize the developmental ideology; for this purpose, the analysis assumes that the present group of works is the field of the articulation of national agencies, education, individuals’ strategies of apprenticeship and survival, citizenship and migration, and national ideals of modernization. It focuses on the intersection of the ideological and narratological configuration of the Bildungsroman as a formative story and the social and economic development as a narrative of national formation.

My research begins with an early stage of development in Mexico (as a discourse of progress and industrialization) and follows its presence in Latin America and its impacts on migration during the last decade of the twentieth century. It covers texts written between the period from the Mexican President Lázaro Portillo’s era in 1934 to the 90s when the Hispanic presence, in part because of developmental practices in Latin America, becomes an important minority group into the United States. Particularly, it compares and analyzes Samuel Ramos’ 1934 essay El perfil del hombre y la cultura en Mexico, Octavio Paz’s 1950 essay El laberinto de la soledad, Elena Poniatowska’s 1971 testimony La noche de Tlatelolco, Clarice Lispector’s 1960 and 1964 short stories, ­Mario Vargas Llosa’s 1963 novel La ciudad y los perros, and José Lezama Lima’s 1966 novel Paradiso in comparison with Ernesto Che Guevara’s ­1964–1967 writing and discourses about the revolutionary “new man.” The experience of migration in the United States is analyzed in Sandra Cisneros’ 1984 short novel The House on Mango Street and Esmeralda Santiago’s 1993 memoir When I Was Puerto Rican. The named works exemplify the interplay between development and ensuing literary responses—texts and contexts feeding each ­other through characters, symbols, plots, and historical circumstances. Manuel Pantigoso states that the comparison between the first publications of literary works and the contemporary events that surround them reproduces the formative processes of the culture (26). Similarly, the comparative analysis between the narrative of apprenticeship and the discourse of ­development in both Latin America and the United States examines critically a chapter of modern identity.

The Hispanic/Latino term used categorizes a conjunction of characteristics such as ethnicity, race, and civil rights of people in the United States ← 2 | 3 → related to Latin American migration. Sandra Cisneros, Chicana, and Esmeralda Santiago, Puerto Rican, represent social agencies from Latin America. Walter Mignolo’s perspective on the Hispanic condition helps to clarify the purpose of the term, although with a different goal. For him, the Hispanic condition has a subordinated role because of the combination of interrelated facts: the historical defeat of the Spanish—American War at the end of the nineteenth century, the imposition of race hegemony over mestizaje, and the dominance by the English language and power of scholarship over Spanish and Latin American intellectual methodology and rhetoric. A fundamental aspect in Mignolo’s study is his differentiation of current alternatives for Hispanics: assimilation, resistant, and critical assimilation (99–103) which precisely Cisneros and Santiago’s women adolescent characters experience. The characters have to overcome and to adjust intrinsic cultural constructions about their origins; moreover, the articulated use of a combined Hispanic/Latino term avoids a sort of homogenization of cultural differences in order to underscore the richness of diverse backgrounds. The inclusion of these experiences of formation offers, at the same time, a dialogical perspective that brings diversity and sameness of the experiences of growing-up in Latin America and the United States to the forefront. In my study, the cultural presence under the umbrella of Hispanic/Latino also honors Romance languages communities; indeed, Portuguese and French Diaspora also deal with the consequences of developmental practices.


X, 98
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (September)
national identity literature formation
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 98 pp.

Biographical notes

Alejandro Latinez (Author)

Alejandro Latinez earned his doctorate at Vanderbilt University. His previous publications include studies on the works of Clarice Lispector, José Lezama Lima, and Abraham Angel.


Title: Developments