For this President’s Day in the United States, we’re honoring the first black president in the Americas. No, not Obama – this guy was Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña, the first black and indigenous president of Mexico. Known as the George Washington and the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico, Guerrero was a leading general in the Mexican War for Independence, and abolished slavery in 1829, forty years before Lincoln would do the same. Not only that, but he came from the “las clases populares” aka the working classes of Mexico, and rose from there to become one of the most influential leaders in Mexican history.
Tag Archives: “latin america”
Victorianism without Victoria: on Mexican Steampunk – Guest blog by Hodson & Translated by Miguel Ángel Manzo Martínez
Note: This article is also available to read in Spanish on El Investigador’s website / Este artículo está disponible para leer en español. Thanks go out to El Investigador’s Editor-in-Chief Araceli Rodríguez, and magazine writers Hodson and Miguel for their time and effort in getting this piece together for Beyond Victoriana.
There are many reasons why the Victorian era is considered the Golden Age of the British Empire. Not only the economic and social stability came at a time where social inequalities were as big as scientific advances, but the huge explosion of advances in production, communications and transportation allowed the existence of a global colonial government facilitated by the ability to improve the response time of all regional governments.
At a time when the great modern empires grew and spread across five continents populated by man, Victorianism quickly became the spirit of the time. The idea of progress and mastery of time through greater efficiency in transport and production was a constant among all the nations of the world, and those who had the power to launch big technology and conquest ventures, had secured a bright future in the international area.
The Victorian era was undoubtedly the light bulb that shines light upon this century. It was the time when big government combined a vision of the future and the present into an immediate moment that inspired prosperity and development.
For those living in First World countries, it is easy to imagine a glorious past that never ceased to be, and it is done through an alternate technological advanced reality. Whether it’s a world of steam or of world war, to imagine that moment of past glory is not a particularly difficult endeavor.
But I dare to say that for those who live this kind of retro-futurism from the Third World, must be a little more difficult to imagine a glorious past drawn from the very distant past of their own 19th century. Just remember that the Victorian era was the era of colonialism. The steampunk retro-futurism of the Victorian era in England is diametrically different from Latin American’s Victorian era, for example, at least conceptually.
When thinking about the retrofuturistic side of science fiction, people have categorized it in various ways. Just recently, Lorenzo Davia went all the way as to delineate the various uses of “-punk” in science fiction, sorted by time period. Although this is one helpful way of thinking about retrofuturism, it is also quite limiting in the sense that that time periods and examples he lists run in accordance to Western history.
Does that mean non-Western cultures don’t have a concept of retrofuturism? Of course not, but one of the challenges of conceptualizing retrofuturism in a non-Western context is the understanding that non-Western cultures may conceptualize time itself in a completely different way than how it is realized in the West. In this manner, the flow of time can be circular rather than linear; a person can look forward into the past instead of backwards; destines are repeated or mirrored or fractured in a dream space; the relationship between one’s perception of history can fully exist in the now as opposed to happening back then.
Thus, a non-Western retrofuturistic aesthetic take may not necessarily translate to anachronisms within known history, but change the flow of time, technology, and human advancement to truly create an alternate world divorced from our own. Take, for example, the school of Afrofuturism; though stemming from Futurism, the concept behind this science fictional aesthetic combines ancient African myth, legends, and non-Western cosmologies with sci-fi tropes of space travel, alternate universes, and alien planets to carve out a space where the racial and cultural Other can exist in this extraordinary “future” outside of normative time.
I’ve seen Afrofuturism have a big impact on non-Western aesthetics in science fiction. There is also a distinctive musical element to this concept of retrofuturism too, especially with the involvement of jazz, techno, hip-hop, and dub (all genres that also have roots in the African diaspora).
The dynamic of this past-future-musical influence is seen in the latest work of visual artist and writer Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca, who identifies as Columbian-American with African, Native, and European ancestry. He has been published in the United States and internationally, and his works have been on display in numerous mueums, including the Mori Museum/Mado Lounge in Tokyo, Japan; LACMA in L.A.; MOCA in L.A., the Institute of Contemporary Arts [ICA] in London; and Parco Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Much of his work also incorporates collaborations with a diverse group of artists, writers, and spoken-word poets known as Unification Theory. According to their website, the art collective is described as:
street futurism: visualizing the possibilities of the future through the prisms of Graffiti, Hip Hop, Spoken Word, Digital/Video Artwork, Techno, Funk and Jazz. The unification of these diverse creative minds builds new visual and sonic structures. This innovative collaboration of live music, DJ mixing, digital/video artwork projections and live painting is a new form of performance.
Now how much of Vaca’s work can be considered retrofuturistic, when it is also futurist? The key is the conceptualization of his art as working under the same guidelines that Afrofuturism had established: as an artistic method that recognizes the importance of the past when re-imagining the future. So it’s not too difficult to see how Vaca has become interested in the steampunk aesthetic. After the jump, I talk a bit more with Gustavo himself about his recent work.
If there is an established fact on the Brazilian fandom, is this: there was never a force so strong, all-encompassing as steampunk in our shores. The flamboyant army of corsets-and-goggles with their mindboggling variety of steam-powered infernal devices has definitely conquered the hearts and minds of the Brazilian fans and writers. After almost four years of activity, Brazilian steampunk can’t be considered just a fad anymore. We’re not in Kansas, Dorothy: we are in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and several other big tropical cities which probably you’ve never heard of — but you will.
In the United States, September 15th – October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month! Over here on the blog, I’ll be hosting and cross-posting a couple of special posts about Hispanic culture, history, and people (& steampunkiness!) throughout the month. To start, check out past coverage on Beyond Victoriana relating to Hispanic culture & its history, and explore these additional resources below.
The Engine was created by “W. Grove” and appeared in A Mexican Mystery (1888) and The Wreck of a World (1889). Nothing is known about “W. Grove” apart from his British citizenship. Both novels are moderately entertaining, and are early examples of the Revolt Of The Machines subgenre of science fiction.
A Mexican Mystery is the diary of John Brown, a Scottish locomotive engineer who is sent to Mexico to oversee the construction of a new railway line for the “new Emperor” (implicitly the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph). Brown is sent to the small town of Xiqipu, which will be the location of his headquarters during the project. It is in Xiqipu that he meets Pedro da Luz, the local engineer for the project. Da Luz is a descendant of Montezuma and is independently wealthy, and although proud still welcomes Brown to the project. Brown, for his part, sees that da Luz is close to brilliant and respects his intelligence. Brown goes off to the front of the line, which is high in the mountains, to oversee its construction. Da Luz, meanwhile, stays in Xiqipu and works on his special creation. The Emperor is holding a contest for the best new locomotive, and da Luz intends to win the contest.
In California at the turn of the 20th century, a community grew in southern California with an interesting history: Punjabi-Mexican families of the Imperial Valley. This unique community stemmed from the effects of British colonialism, transnational labor immigration & American economic opportunity (and American anti-Asian discrimination laws). Many multi-generational families in the area today can trace their multicultural and multiethnic histories back over a hundred years, and refer to themselves as “Mexican Hindus”, “Hindu” or “East Indian” today.
Note: This has been cross-posted from Edwardian Promenade. A few days late for this blog, but still relevant (I also recommend reading this modern perspective on this North American holiday too).
I live in California, and coincidentally, this was where the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations were held in the 1860s. Just in case you have no clue what the holiday entails, “[t]he 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) commemorates the great victory of the Mexican forces, led by Gen. Porfirio Diaz and Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, over the French attacking Puebla, on May 5, 1862. It was essentially a military victory, and its celebration gives occasion for arousing the martial spirit and enthusiasm of the united people.”
The turn of the century witnessed America’s adventurous palate, and restaurants serving ethnic cuisine and cookbooks showing how to cook these new dishes sprang up in abundance. In 1914, Bertha Haffner-Ginger published the California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook to clue in the average American woman how to prepare such “exotic” fare as frijoles and tamales. Because most affixed the more genteel term “Spanish” to anything made with chiles, beans, or tortillas, Haffner-Ginger takes pains to explain “it is not generally known that Spanish dishes as they are known in California are really Mexican Indian dishes. Bread made of corn, sauces of chile peppers, jerked beef, tortillas, enchiladas, etc., are unknown in Spain as native foods” before jumping into recipes ranging from salads to tacos to side dishes. Here is a peek at some of the recipes from the book.
The Doomswoman was created by Gertrude Atherton and appeared in “The Doomswoman” (Lippincott’s, September, 1892, as a novel, 1900). Atherton (1857-1948) was a notable American novelist and won the Légion d’Honneur for her hospital work during WW1. The Doomswoman is a historical romance of Old California.
The Doomswoman is set in the days when America and Spanish-controlled Mexico vied for control of California. Doña Chonita Iturbi y Moncada is the daughter of an old Castilian family, one with long roots in Mexico and a great patriotic feeling for Mexico and Spain. But when she meets Don Diego Estenega, the scion of her house’s hated rival, it is love/hate at first sight. The Romeo and Juliet plot plays out amidst a backdrop of political intrigue.