mythology

Hello, Satan, Part 3

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Scan “Extract Historia de las Indias” by Diego Duran, circa 1500s. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Imagine that you wake up, under water.

You rise slowly from the depths of the ocean and break through the plane of the surface of the sea and take your first breath. You find yourself breathing through a plastic tube that goes down your throat and seems to reach to the toes of your feet. Lying face down on the slab of the operating room (later the nurses will object to you calling it “the slab”), your first thought is that you’re going to get waterboarded. (more…)

Myths and the Empire

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“Lincoln Speaks to Freedmen on the Steps of the Capital at Richmond,” oil on canvas, by Gus Nall, 1963. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Traditionally myths are considered stories about the gods. But more accurately, myths are stories from the gods. Perhaps it is more comfortable to consider them, according to the less beautiful terminology of our times, stories from the unconscious. In Jungian terms, myths are archetypal manifestations that take the form of narratives.

Ritual is the enactment of a myth (this is Joseph Campbell’s definition). Ritual performance brings myths into our reality, and according to Black Elk, spread their sacred power among the tribe, thus making the world “greener and happier.”

An angel can turn into a devil before our eyes: Lucifer becomes Satan. The reverse can also be true: Joan of Arc, burned as a witch, becomes saint. A myth can be perceived as containing a hero (George Armstrong Custer) engaged in mortal struggle with an antagonist (Sitting Bull), and a moral that legitimizes Custer as representing the forces of good and Sitting Bull as an evil avatar. But then times change, our hopes and fears transform, and reason—ever a servant to our formulations—re-casts Sitting Bull as a patriot warrior and Custer as a fool. (more…)

Elegy for Gabriel García Márquez

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Gabriel García Márquez by Jose Lara

He died on Holy Thursday (the same day as Ursula Iguarán, one of the mythical founders of Macondo), tormented by mischievous fiends like the ones who possessed the heroine of his Love and Other Demons. Back in Catholic High School, where our instruction (mostly in English) consisted of North American writers, Spanish novelists before the time of Franco, and outdated Latin American novels, Gabriel García Márquez´s One Hundred Years of Solitude entered our consciousness with all the force and violence of a Caribbean hurricane.

For the first time we saw that our reality was not strictly Puerto Rican. We came to the novel late (my battered paper copy from back then belongs to the 16th edition, 1970, of its Buenos Aires publication in 1967). One Hundred Years of Solitude was a rare phenomenon in Latin American literature—a bestseller. The novel confirmed what José Martí had prophesied in his essay Our America (1891): “Whatever remains of village in America will awaken.” We were, and knew ourselves to be from then on, Latin Americans.   (more…)