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Oscar Guardiola-Rivera on Cervantes' dream of the hispanicization of the Americas @ Granta.
Ernest Hemingway once famously declared that all American literature traces its origins to one book by Mark Twain. But if Huckleberry Finn is the origin of modern American writing, all modern literature comes from one book by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote. Lest we forget: the novel was invented in Spanish. We entered modern times through the spirit of a novel written in that language.

Cervantes lived at the heart of a trans-Atlantic empire that took the Spanish language to the farthest corners of the Earth. It was built upon the ideals and the dreams of the Renaissance, and among them none was greater than that of the Americas. One could realise there what one had imagined but failed to accomplish here. Even Cervantes’ literary rival Lope de Vega wished to go to Panama. Don Quixote’s apparent failure at the end of the novel can be interpreted in this way, as a cipher of the dream of redemption in the tropics. La Mancha is where the American dream first took place.

Any exploration of today’s hispanicization of America should begin in seventeenth-century La Mancha. After all, discoverers and conquistadors were guided by a vision of El Dorado that was also a messianic project. Not unlike contemporary Americans. In that sense, perhaps today’s Tea Party rebels embody not so much the spirit of the American Revolution as that of conquest and colonization.
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