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In his essay on the noble savage as fetish in Tropics of Discourse , Hayden White discusses how the Other provokes ambiguous feelings precisely because our concepts of alterity serve as a locus for the projection of the self's desires and anxieties. The ambivalence evident in Homero Aridjis's Memorias del Nuevo Mundo centers on the manner in which the desire to emulate the colonized Other conflicts with anxiety over the maintenance of the colonizing self's ego boundaries.

His novella The Metamorphosis , in which protagonist Gregor Samsa is transformed into a gigantic insect, can be characterized as a metaphor for colonial desire, since it manifests the fear of hyperidentification that results from an excessive desire to be the Other. In both The Powers of Horror and Strangers to Ourselves , Julia Kristeva discusses the alien and the abject in terms of fantasies of incorporation and the fear of the Other within the self. Transculturation is generally defined as the cultural equivalent of racial mestizaje , although this is problematic because it depends on the faulty notion of an equivalence between biological reproduction and mechanisms of cultural transformation.

As William Rowe and Vivian Schelling observe in Memory and Modernity , another ideological problem with theoretical models of mestizaje and transculturation is that they have been used to suggest a harmonious whole, often failing to acknowledge the inequality and coercion that underly the cultural contact that takes place in the context of conquest. Both and Memorias del Nuevo Mundo fall into the narrative subgenre of the new historical novel.

As defined by Seymour Menton, the new historical novel emerged in anticipation of the commemoration of five hundred years of intercultural contact between the Old and New Worlds. Menton identifies several characteristics of novels that fit in this subgenre: they use famous historical characters as protagonists, or they revert to the more traditional pattern of inventing fictional characters whose lives are intertwined with those of famous historical figures; they question official history; they distort the representation of historical events through exaggeration and anachronisms; they use metafiction, self-conscious narration, and intertextuality; and they employ Bakhtinian concepts such as the carnivalesque, parody, heteroglossia, and the dialogic, which significantly allow for the representation of multiple perspectives on historical events.

Of the four hundred-page novel, approximately fifty pages are devoted to Christopher Columbus's four voyages, the narration of which becomes progressively shorter, reduced to a single sentence narrating his final transatlantic voyage and death in Valladolid. This fictional conquistador's interest in indigenous rituals ultimately leads him to become as heavily invested in the sacred as in the violent. As we will see in the following, in Aridjis's novel, the ambiguity of colonial desire serves as a defense mechanism to counterbalance the conquistador's attraction to native cults.

The conquest has more often been analyzed in terms of economic factors and religious justifications, and the wars of conquest debated as being either just or unjust.

buena memoria - English translation - abepivurev.tk Spanish-English dictionary

The violence involved may be seen as gratuitous and the conquistadors as vicious and greedy, but the concept of anger simply does not fit into these equations, since it vaguely suggests the absurd notion of the conquest as retribution against the Amerindians. The theme of the conquistador's anger and violence, alluded to in the poem attributed to him in the epigraph, is highlighted in the novel's narration of the conquest of Mexico and in its later focus on early colonial Mexico City. Although the reader might overlook this secondary character at first, he becomes increasingly more important as the conquest of Mexico continues.

Although Moctezuma has sent Word to the Spaniards not to proceed in the direction of Tenochtitlan, offering a variety of excuses explaining why they should remain on the outskirts of the empire where he will send them tribute, the conquistadors nevertheless continue to advance toward the imperial capital. Now accompanied by their allies the Cempoalans and Tlaxcalans, the Spaniards march on Cholula, where events unfold that will ultimately serve as a turning point in the conquest of Mexico.

In his absence, violence erupts in the capital, leading to the massacre at the Templo Mayor. Colonial desire is evident in Aridjis's representation of the conquest of Tenochtitlan, where violence is combined with passionate longing to possess this exotic capital. This conquistador appears to receive some kind of sadistic pleasure from penetrating the Mesoamerican Other with his lance.

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Before they have even glimpsed the Mesoamericans, the conquistadors imagine that they will be received as gods:. In the above citation, several themes are introduced. First, the conquistadors, before even seeing the Mexican natives, imagine that they will consider the Spaniards to be gods. Secondly, the dialogue leads directly from the topic of religion to the topic of killing. Here again we see a conflation of love and hate characteristic of Young's theory of colonial desire.

Aridjis calls critical attention to evangelization as a mere pretext for conquest -in both the flag's slogan and the dialogue, the transition from the topic of religion to that of conquest is seamless.

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Yo os absuelvo. Rather than an attraction to the divine in general, in line with Young's theory of colonial desire, what seems to attract the conquistador to native rituals is their otherness. The representation of the sacred is woven subtly into the narration of the section of Memorias recounting the conquest of Mexico, its pages peppered with references to native religious practices, including human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism. On several occasions, Moctezuma sends sorcerers to bewitch the Spaniards in his effort to dissuade them from marching on Tenochtitlan.

In general, the conquistadors interact with these gods, priests and sorcerers as if they were merely human, while at the same time they manipulate to their strategic advantage the indigenous perception that the Spaniards are gods. As the two enter temples and witness a human sacrifice, it is clear that both have a passing comprehension of native religion and rituals, at least enough to understand what is going on around them. The Spaniards generally considered Christianity to be the only true religion, while they categorized indigenous rites as idolatry and superstition.

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One of the apparitions whom these two undercover conquistadors encounter in the temple is a priestly vision whose mouth smells of blood and centuries of death. His face is described contradictorily as appearing youthful yet also old and withered, as if youth and age were warring inside him. He is tall and thin, with long hair and beard and a loud voice, although he is reserved and sparing in words.

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When his mother died, the young Gonzalo sold her inn for a few gold coins, the clothes of an hidalgo and a mule, and set off for the New World. It is evident that this interest is initially motivated by greed. Thus to some extent, the conquistador does recognize the value of the indigenous relics, if only on an economic level.


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His ignorance of the meaning of the artifacts he uncovers will not last long, as soon the conquistador will become irrevocably invested in the spiritual significance of the idols he plunders. He who has the courage to wear it, says the otherworldly guide, will have the magical power to locate treasure, will be able to walk through walls and be transported through telekinesis, will be able to attract all the women he lusts after, and will be resistant to disease and seven deaths. His reaction to his surroundings is filled with terror, but in spite of his awe he is not intimidated to the extent of ceasing his pillaging.

His reverence, however, is demonstrated in the fact that he believes in the power of the mask. The conquistador will soon have no choice but to unequivocally respect indigenous rituals, since he will form part of them, as his flirtation with the sacred becomes a permanent engagement. The conquistador's reaction is a mixture of repulsion toward the images of death that surround him and attraction toward the gold that he idolizes:. As the conquistador's attraction increases, so does his repulsion.

To accede to his lust for gold and pursue the mask is to embrace his own mortality. Mictlantecuhtli offers to let him keep the mask if he will only put it on, while his female consort, the mistress of Mictlan, reminds him that he already agreed to wear the mask. The seduction is consummated when the mask magically floats in the air and adheres to the conquistador's face.

As this happens, he feels his lips sealed but hears his own voice entreating that he to be allowed to don the mask. He lurches backward, afraid that the mask will burn him, but he is unable to avoid it, as it becomes permanently melded to his flesh. In Aridjis's rendering, it is also haunted by its original inhabitants who died during the battles of conquest, but still roam the city. Here, the cruelest of the conquistadors will become a ruthless encomendero.

He permits Gonzalito to be raised in his home, but does not recognize him publicly. Like his father and namesake, Gonzalito is cruel and heartless with those he deems his racial and social inferiors. Branded as a slave by his father to ensure that he will never claim his inheritance, as a child Gonzalito sleeps with the dogs and is himself animal-like, barely aware of his surroundings or able to communicate.

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When his mother takes him to visit Mictlan, the land of the dead, he suddenly transforms into a large and imposing, yet morally weak youth. Verbally and physically abusive, Gonzalito tortures animals and slave children and rapes a young girl.


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  • Here the mestizo youth represents a monstrous hybrid of the sort examined by Robert Young in Colonial Desire , since Gonzalito embodies the worst of the Spanish culture with which he largely identifies. Surrounded by sacrificial priests, he is watching a Tlaxcalan and an Aztec fight to the death as a form of entertainment.

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