Associate 2014-15

Augusto Espiritu


El legado de España: The Discourse of Hispanism in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines in the American Empire

Hispanism is a pan-national discourse characterized by an idealized affiliation with the Spanish race and shared heritages of Catholicism, Spanish civilization, and traditions of protest. In exploring this discourse, Professor Espiritu has been intrigued by the interrelationships among Hispanism, colonialism, and national identity. His book project focuses on the intellectual life of three U.S. acquisitions resulting from the Spanish-American War: Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.

The book addresses three questions. First, why did intellectuals living under these U.S. colonial or post-colonial regimes embrace the discourse of Hispanism, especially as a critique of Americanization? Second, why did they evoke “Spain” in their search for national identity? The abuses of the Spanish colonial system, so recently experienced in these locations, could reasonably have discredited Spain as a source for national cultural reconstruction. And third, why does Hispanism continue to persist even today?

In answering these questions, Professor Espiritu portrays Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos as thinkers capable of profound intellectual endeavors. He presents external factors that constrained their individual expression–colonialism, war, exile, racism, and class prejudice–and the ways they sought to overcome these challenges through a nationalism that was empowering and liberating, while also subject to its own excesses.

The book engages the grand themes of modernity, construction of national identity, resistance to imperial hegemony, and the impact of racial and gendered ideologies on colonial subjects. It offers a broad view of the different ways in which colonized peoples confronted policies of assimilation and cultural Americanization, and an appreciation for why certain political or cultural discourses have continued to appeal to Latin American and Asian intellectuals.