The Great Country

This week, Rafael Correa made public a letter addressed to Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, in which he announced his decision not to attend any Summit of the Americas meetings, “until they start making the decisions that the Great Country demands of us.”

What is the Great Country? The term was coined by Manuel Ugarte — an Argentine intellectual that lived during the first half of the last century — to endorse the ideas of José Martí and, above all, José Enrique Rodó, who imagined one American nation for those of us who live south of the Río Grande.

The ideas of Martí and Rodó were a political reaction — but above all a moral one — against the wave of subjugation that was coming from the United States and its “Big Stick” theory, which justified the annexation of Texas in 1847 and the war against Spain in 1898, to take control of Cuba.

There was, then, the need to set a limit to Yankee expansionism and the best way was to build a society with its own values and, most importantly, values different from those of Anglo-Saxon culture.

It was in this way that “Ariel” was created, a book written by Rodó that described the Latin American character as the Shakespearean character from “The Tempest,” an ethereal temperament, the sensitive hero that only concerns himself with matters of the spirit.

In contrast, the Anglo-Saxon character was — according to Rodó — identical to that of Caliban, another character from “The Tempest,” but this one a slave to his carnal desires, with an insatiable thirst for material rewards.

This dichotomy — the sensitive and spiritual Latin American versus the vulgar and unbridled gringo — penetrated deeply into the collective unconscious of the region. That notion has helped us to take an interest in and to further develop our own culture, but it has also filled us with xenophobic prejudices.

The problem is that many Latin American intellectuals and politicians have taken this disdain for Anglo-Saxon culture to such an extreme that they have also extended it toward republican principles and liberal democracy only because the United States practices them.

Correa will not go to any Summit of the Americas until the Castro regime becomes part of the Organization of American States. It doesn’t matter to him that it involves a dictatorship that has been in power for more than half a century, at an unprecedented economic and social cost.

By the logic of the Ecuadorian head of state, maybe it matters more that authoritarian government presents itself as one of the few legitimate opponents to the United States, although this is not true.

It is not true because now the hegemony of the gringos is fought through commerce and investment, with economic growth and high rates of productivity. Now, the Great Country is the entire world, not an isolated territory turned in on itself, and a prisoner of the past.

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