Latin America at Fin-de-Siècle Universal Exhibitions: Modern by Alejandra Uslenghi

By Alejandra Uslenghi

Spanning from the 1876 exposition in Philadelphia, via Paris 1889, and culminating in Paris 1900, this booklet examines how Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico solid a dead ringer for a modernizing Latin the United States in the meanwhile in their insertion into the recent visible economic system of capitalism, in addition to how their smooth writers skilled and narrated those occasions by means of introducing new literary kinds and modernizing literary language. Following those itineraries out of the country and again, Uslenghi illuminates the contested, political, and transformative family that emerged as photographs and fabric tradition travelled from websites of creation to these of exhibition, alternate, and intake.

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Nearly paraphrasing Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s rhetoric of progress and civilization, he charted the course of this civilizing project from an inanimate, silent, and lethargic natural state toward the triumphal awakening of the industrial future: What a picture of inanimate wealth we have before us, what a roll of spontaneous gift, what a loss of opulent strength, that might be kindled into active life, but which now remains in silent repose, awaiting only the voice of industry to arouse it from its indolence.

The same narrative logic is used to justify the existence and persistence of the Brazilian slavery system, in such a way that implicitly takes into account the new post–Civil War racial realities of the exhibition’s host country. Slavery is characterized as an unwelcome residue of the colonial past, one of those old institutions on its way to extinction. As the catalog states: Slavery, imposed on Brazil by the force of circumstances, since the first colonial establishment, will disappear in a few years more.

Such images were in the service of a hermeneutics of the real, uniting a material reality convulsed by emerging industrial modernization with the utopian dimension of the bourgeois liberal elites’ ideology. The resulting Mexican and Argentine exhibits would dramatize the unresolvable yet productive tension between the promotion of national uniqueness and the embrace of cosmopolitanism under the mantra of industrial progress. A Visual Order for the World Like previous world’s fairs, the Philadelphia Centennial presented a way of seeing the exhibition as an arrangement of elements, implementing an intricate visual language to convey a powerful narrative of industrial progress.

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