¡Venceremos!: Latin American-Soviet Cultural Relations

Cultural interactions between Latin America and Russia/the Soviet Union were not only widespread but key to the formation of a revolutionary imagination and social consciousness throughout the 20th century. Focusing on different instances of cultural exchange from 1917 to 1991 this upper-level course explores the aesthetic ideas and social processes that continually challenged and transformed notions of revolution and internationalism in the Second and Third Worlds. We follow the evolution of the Latin American-Soviet relation through developments in literature, film, painting, journalism, and other media. While this course strives to make sense of the mutual repercussions of Latin American-Soviet cultural relations, emphasis is given to Latin American cultural production. Readings include works by Manuel Maples Arce, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Diego Rivera, José Carlos Mariátegui, César Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, Patrícia Galvão, Mikhail Sholokhov, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Elena Poniatowska, and Rigoberta Menchú.


Students are expected to read all materials thoroughly in order to contribute to discussion and actively engage in class activities. Students should be able to demonstrate they have: 1) reflected upon the readings; 2) synthesized the main ideas, and; 3) identified key concepts and categories. Students will submit a short written response to each week’s readings and are encouraged to bring questions to class, not only about the works assigned for each week but about their relation to other materials assigned for this course. Assignments include presentations, discussion facilitation, and a seminar paper.

Week 1, The Spectre of Communism

Franco, Jean. “Communist Manifestos.” The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War, Harvard University Press, 2002, pp. 57-85.

Week 2, Mexican Stridencies

Maples Arce, Manuel. City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos. 1924. Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010.

D. Burliuk, A. Kruchenykh, V. Mayakovsky, and V. Khlebnikov. “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste.” Russian Futurism through its Manifestoes, 1912-1928, edited by Anna Lawton, translated by Anna Lawton and Herbert Eagle, Cornell University Press, 1988, pp. 51-52.

Gallo, Rubén. “Maples Arce, Marinetti and Khlebnikov: The Mexican Estridentistas in Dialogue with Italian and Russian Futurisms.” Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, vol. 31, no. 2, invierno 2007, pp. 309-324.

Suggested readings:

Klich, Lynda. “Actual No.1’s Mexican Nexus, circa 1921.” The Noisemakers : Estridentismo, Vanguardism, and Social Action in Postrevolutionary Mexico, University of California Press, 2018, pp. 47-86.

Flores, Tatiana. “Clamoring for Attention in Mexico City: Manuel Maples Arce’s Avant-Garde Manifesto Actual N° 1.” Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, vol. 37, no. 2, 2004, pp. 208–220.

Townsend, Sarah J. “Radio/Puppets, or The Institutionalization of a (Media) Revolution”. The Unfinished Art of Theater: Avant-Garde Intellectuals in Mexico and Brazil. Northwestern University Press, 2018, pp. 99-134.

Prashad, Vijay. The Darker Nations : A People’s History of the Third World. New Press , 2007, pp. 45-51.

Week 3, Painting the Mexican-Bolshevik Revolution

Siqueiros, David Alfaro. Art and Revolution. Lawrence and Wishart, 1975. (Excerpts)

Rivera, Diego, and Jodi Roberts. “Moscow Sketchbook.” October, no. 145, 2013, pp. 85–114.

Segal, Joes. “Between Nationalism and Communism: Diego Rivera and Mexican Muralism.” Art and Politics: Between Purity and Propaganda. Amsterdam University Press, 2016.

Suggested readings

Gough, Maria. “Drawing Between Reportage and Memory: Diego Rivera’s Moscow Sketchbook.” October, vol. 145, no. 145, 2013, pp. 67–84.

Lopatkina, Katarina. “From Mexican Artists to the Soviet State. The Story of an Unwanted Gift.” Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, vol. 17, no. 3, 2017, pp. 379–397.

Week 4, Bolsheviks in Aztlán

Mayakovsky, Vladimir. “Mexico.” My Discovery of America. Hesperus Press, 2005, pp. 3-35.

Eisenstein, Sergei, et al. Que Viva Mexico!: Da zdravstvuyet Meksika. 1932. Kino on Video, 1998.

Smith, Stephanie J. “Trotsky in Mexico: Artists United, Artists Divided, 1930–1940”. The Power and Politics of Art in Postrevolutionary Mexico, University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Suggested readings

Salazkina, Masha. “Eisenstein’s ¡Que viva México!” In Excess : Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico. University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 21-53.

Herrera, Juan Carlos Arias. “From the Screen to the Wall: Siqueiros and Eisenstein in Mexico.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, vol. 30, no. 2, 2014, pp. 421–445.

Schroeder Rodríguez, Paul A. “Marxist Historiography and Narrative Form in Sergei Eisenstein’s ¡Que Viva México!” Rethinking Marxism, vol. 21, no. 2, 2009, pp. 228–242.

Week 5, Literary Journalism and the Politics of the Avant-garde

Mariátegui, José Carlos. “Literature on Trial.” Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality. University of Texas Press, 1971.

Vallejo, César. Selected Writings of César Vallejo. Wesleyan University Press, 2015. (Excerpts from “Art and Revolution,” “Moscow vs. Moscow,” “Reflections at the foot of the Kremlin,” and “Russia Facing the Second Five Year Plan.”)

Clayton, Michelle. “Lyric Technique, Aesthetic Politics.” Poetry in Pieces: César Vallejo and Lyric Modernity. University of California Press, 2011. pp. 134-150.

Suggested readings

Lambie, George. “Intellectuals, Ideology and Revolution: The Political Ideas of César Vallejo.” Hispanic Research Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 2000, pp. 139–169.

Bruzual, Alejandro. “Los viajes de César Vallejo a la Unión Soviética: la dialéctica del vaso de agua.” Contracorriente: Revista de Historia Social y Literatura En América Latina, vol. 4, no. 1, 2006, pp. 23–39.

Rosa, Luis Othoniel. “Presente y sensibilidad. Vallejo-Mayakovski (Moscú 1929) y Macedonio-Marinetti (Buenos Aires 1926)”. Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, vol.5(2), 2015, pp. 24-44.

Week 6, The Poetics of the Popular Front

Galvão, Patrícia. Industrial Park : A Proletarian Novel. 1933. Translated by Elizabeth Jackson and K. David Jackson, University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Neruda, Pablo. Residence on Earth. 1925-1945. Translated by Donald Devenish Walsh, New Directions, 2004. (Excerpts.)

—. “Song to Stalingrad, ‘Poem.’” Soviet Russia Today, translated by Nan Pendrell, vol. 11, no. 8, 1942, p. 15.

—. “Love Song to Stalingrad, ‘Poem.’” Soviet Russia Today, translated by Muriel Rukeyser, vol. 12, no. 7, 1943, p. 33.

Lee, Steven S. “Comintern Aesthetics: Space, Form, History.” Comintern Aesthetics, edited by Amelia M. Glaser and Steven S. Lee, University of Toronto Press, forthcoming.

Suggested readings

Clark, Katerina. “‘World Literature’/‘World Culture’ and the Era of the Popular Front (c.1935-1936).” Moscow: The Fourth Rome, Harvard University Press, 2011, pp. 169-209.

Feinsod, Harris. “Hemispheric Solidarities: Wartime Poetry and the Limits of the Good Neighbor.” The Poetry of the Americas: From Good Neighbors to Countercultures. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Dawes, Greg. “Realism, surrealism, socialist realism, and Neruda’s ‘guided spontaneity.’” Verses against the Darkness: Pablo Neruda’s Poetry and Politics. Bucknell University Press, 2006.

Teitelboim, Volodia. Neruda: An Intimate Biography. University of Texas Press, 1991. (Excerpts.)

Week 7, The Cuban Cultural Revolution

Guevara, Ernesto Che. The Awakening of Latin America: A Classic Anthology of Che Guevara’s Writing on Latin America. Edited by María Del Carmen Ariet García, Ocean Press, 2011. (“Guerrila Warfare: A Method,” and “Message to the Tricontinental.”)

Gonçalves, João Felipe. “Sputnik Premiers in Havana: A Historical Ethnography of the 1960 Soviet Exposition.” The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World, edited by Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane Koenker, Indiana Univ. Press, 2013, pp. 84-117.

Serra, Ana. “Introduction: The Culture that the Revolution Created.” The “New Man” in Cuba : Culture and Identity in the Revolution, University Press of Florida, 2007.

Suggested readings

Spenser, Daniela. “The Caribbean Crisis: Catalyst for Soviet Projection in Latin America.” In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War, edited by Joseph, G. M., and Daniela Spenser, Duke University Press, 2008, pp. 77-111.

Miller, Nicola. “A Revolutionary Modernity: The Cultural Policy of the Cuban Revolution.” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 40, no. 4, 2008, pp. 675–696.

Hernández-Reguant, Ariana. “The Inventor, the Machine, and the New Man.” Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience, edited by Jacqueline Loss and José Manuel Prieto, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 199-209.

Taibo II, Paco Ignacio. Guevara, Also Known as Che. Translated by Martin Michael Roberts, St. Martin’s Press, 1997. (Excerpts.)

Week 8, The Moscow-Havana Connection

Kalatozov, Mikhail. I am Cuba. 1964. Milestone Film & Video ; Distributed by New Yorker Video, 2007.

Gutiérrez Alea, Tomás. Memories of Underdevelopment. 1968. The Criterion Collection, 2018.

Rupprecht, Tobias. “Moscow Learns the Mambo: Latin America and Internationalism in Soviet Popular Culture.” Soviet Internationalism after Stalin: Interaction and Exchange between the USSR and Latin America during the Cold War. Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 73-127.

Suggested readings

Franco, Jean. “Liberated Territories.” The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City : Latin America in the Cold War, Harvard University Press, 2002, pp. 86-117.

Gorsuch, Anne E. “‘Cuba, My Love’: The Romance of Revolutionary Cuba in the Soviet Sixties.” The American Historical Review, vol. 120, no. 2, 2015, pp. 497–526.

Rafael Pedemonte. “Birches Too Difficult to Cut Down: The Rejection and Assimilation of the Soviet Reference in Cuban Culture.” International Journal of Cuban Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, 2017, pp. 127–141.

Week 9, Cultural Intermediaries

Pitol, Sergio. The Journey. Translated by George Henson, Deep Vellum Publishing, 2015. (Excerpts.)

Guillén, Nicolás. The Daily Daily. University of California Press, 1989. (Excerpts.)

García Márquez, Gabriel. De viaje por los países socialistas: 90 días en la “Cortina de hierro.” Ediciones Macondo, 1978. (Excerpts.)

Loss, Jacqueline. “Cuban Intermediaries.” Dreaming in Russian: The Cuban Soviet Imaginary, University of Texas Press, 2013, pp. 78-123

Suggested readings

Rupprecht, Tobias. “Paradise Lost and found: Latin American Intellectuals In and On the Soviet Union,” Soviet Internationalism after Stalin: Interaction and Exchange between the USSR and Latin America during the Cold War, Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 128-190.

Zourek, Michal. “Los viajes de los intelectuales latinoamericanos a Europa Oriental 1947–1956: organización, circuitos de contacto y reflexiones.” Ars & Humanitas, vol. 11, no. 2, 2017, pp. 331–347.

Week 10, A Magical Farewell to Socialist Realism

Sholokhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich. Virgin Soil Upturned. 1932. Translated by Stephen Garry, Penguin Books, 1977. (Excerpts)

Cofiño López, Manuel. La última mujer y el próximo combate. Casa de las Américas, 1971. (Excerpts)

Carpentier, Alejo. “On the Marvelous Real in America.” 1949. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995.

Clark, Katerina. “What Socialist Realism is and What Led to Its Adoption as the Official Method of Soviet Literature.” The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual, The University of Chicago Press, 1985. pp. 27-45.

Suggested readings

Ciplijauskaitè, Birutè. “Socialist and Magic Realism: Veiling or Unveiling?” Journal of Baltic Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, 1979, pp. 218–227.

Swanson, Philip. “The boom and beyond: Latin America and the not so new novel.” The New Novel in Latin America: Politics and Popular Culture after the Boom. Manchester University Press , 1995.

Magdalena, Turowska. “The music of the people: socialist realism and socialism romanticism of Victor Jara.” Ameryka Lacinska, vol. 23, no. 2(88), 2015, pp. 91–108.

Serra, Ana. “The ‘New Woman’ in Cuban Revolutionary Discourse: Manuel Cofiño’s The Last Woman and the Next Combat (1971).” Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, 2005, pp. 33–43.

Week 11, Third Cinema and the Politics of Filmmaking

Solanas, Fernando and Octavio Getino. “Towards a Third Cinema: Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World.” Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology, edited by Scott MacKenzie, University of California Press, 2014.

Solanas, Fernando E., and Octavio Getino. La hora de los hornos: notas y testimonios sobre el neocolonialismo, la violencia y la liberación. 1968. Página/12, 2000. (Part I)

Wayne, Mike. “Dialectics of Third Cinema.” Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema. Pluto Press, 2001, pp. 108-156

Suggested readings

Mestman, Mariano. “Third Cinema/Militant Cinema: At the Origins of the Argentinian Experience (1968–1971).” Third Text, vol. 25, no. 1, 2011, pp. 29–40.

Buchsbaum, Jonathan. “Toward the End of Third Cinema.” Cinema and the Sandinistas, University of Texas Press, 2003. pp. 223-249.

Santos, Nelson Pereira dos. Barren Lives. 1963. New Yorker Video, 2005.

Week 12, Soviet Latin American Studies and the Rise of Testimonio

Dalton, Roque. Miguel Marmol. 1972. Curbstone Press, 1987. (Excerpts.)

Menchú, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Verso, 1984. (Excerpts.)

Beverley, John, and Marc Zimmerman. “Testimonial Narrative.” Literature and Politics in the Central American Revolutions. University of Texas Press, 1990.

Suggested readings

Rupprecht, Tobias. “Desk Revolutionaries: Soviet Latin Americanists and internationalism in the late Soviet Union,” Soviet Internationalism after Stalin: Interaction and Exchange between the USSR and Latin America during the Cold War, Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 265-283.

Paszyn, Danuta. “The Soviet Reaction to the Opportunities Created by the Nicaraguan Revolution.” The Soviet Attitude to Political and Social Change in Central In Central America: Case-Studies on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000, pp. 27-38.

Cruz, Rodolfo. “New Directions in Soviet Policy towards Latin America.” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 21, 1989, p. 1-22.

Harlow, Barbara. “Testimonio and Survival: Roque Dalton’s Miguel Marmol.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 18, no. 4, 1991, pp. 9–21.

Week 13, Looking Back: Nostalgia and Literary Memories of Bolshevism

Poniatowska, Elena. Tinisima. 1991. Translated by Katherine Silver, Faber, 1996. (Excerpts.)

Nadkarni, Maya and Olga Shevchenko. “The Politics of Nostalgia in the Aftermath of Socialism’s Collapse: A Case for Comparative Analysis,” Anthropology and Nostalgia, edited by Olivia Angé and David Berliner, Berghahn Books, 2014, pp. 61-95.

Suggested readings

Rodríguez, Reina María. “Nostalgia.” Caviar with Rum: Cuba-USSR and the Post-Soviet Experience, edited by Jacqueline Loss and José Manuel Prieto, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 37-53.