Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-1993

Publication Title

The Americas

Volume

49

Issue

4

First Page

513

Last Page

530

DOI

10.2307/1007411

Abstract

In his 1884 address to the National Assembly, President Justo Rufino Barrios gave a glowing report of a polity fired by the torch of Liberal progress. “When I see the movement and the animation in everything and everywhere, in our streets, in our plazas, in our roads and in our ports, I cannot repress a feeling of vanity.” He extolled not only commerce and new technology, but model prisons, a disciplined professional army, and “a school in the most miserable town and in the most hidden corner.” This is a world of flowing capital, technological linkages, and the ceaseless penetration of enlightenment into every corner of the Republic, where before there had been only a “dark mansion of apathy, of immobility, of stagnation and silence,” and where now we (Guatemalans) “can say that we have–if not everything–almost everything.” The Utopian rhetoric masked a rather different and sorry reality. Still, to paraphrase Benedict Anderson, the succession of possessive plurals in Barrios' speech–our streets, our plazas, our roads–assured the listener of a solid sociological and political entity that can only be Guatemala. Surely Barrios spoke from the solid foundations of a Liberal nationalist certainty?

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