“Advocates of Modernismo”
Poems do not only speak to us through emotional creativity but also through a clear depiction of reality. Two poets who became inspired in writing about the reality during their time are Ruben Dario and Pablo Neruda. Ruben Dario, a pseudonym for Felix Ruben Sarmiento wrote about one of the greatest criticisms against the United Sates foreign policy in Central America. His poem translated to “To Roosevelt” is not just deemed as a political critique; rather it draws various elements from mythical, classical and literary sources. During the early 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt imposed a “Monroe Doctrine” on Panama which imposed full military force in Latin America. (O’ Keefe, 1985) This event triggered fear among the people and through the poem, Dario expressed the cultural history of the region and its struggle to separate itself from the cultural identity imposed by the US.
Pablo Neruda the pseudonym of Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto is a very vocal critic of the Chilean government. One of the problems during the time of Neruda’s inspiration is the violent repressions of the government of the miner’s strike. The poem “United Fruit Co.” is an advocate to raise awareness on the injustice brought about by the American companies’ imposition on Central and South America. (Neruda, 1997)
One of the main similarities both poets depict is their active participation in the struggle for social justice and equality. A non-political poet, Dario came up with the poem “To Roosevelt” in addressing the problems brought by the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to Latin America. As taken from the poem, “..you are one part George Washington and one part Nimrod… You are the United States, invader of our native America with Indian blood… you are strong, proud model of your race”. (Gudding, 2008) The same goes for Neruda who contests the influence of a Western company deemed to exploit the natural resources of Central and Latin America. This was explained through the passage, “When the trumpet sounded everything was prepared on earth, and Jehovah gave the world to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda, Ford Motors, the United Fruit Company reserved for itself the most juicy piece, the central coast of my world the delicate waist of America..” (Heiss & Eisner, 2004).
Dario use objects from myths and classic stories which to a degree similar to what Neruda was advocating. For example, in Dario’s poem, he used the poetry of Walt Whitman in showcasing his different take on the policy imposed by the US country. Neruda also used this method by determining the effects of lack of leadership in the welfare of the people and by protesting to the government. In contrast, Neruda is more realistic in expressing what he intends to say, and it is directed in his composition like in the passage “…With the bloodthirsty flies came the Fruit Company, amassed coffee and fruit in ships which put to sea like overloaded trays with the treasures from our sunken lands”. (Heiss & Eisner, 2004) Dario on the other hand is more creative in putting associations like “…but our America, that has had poets since the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl, that has walked in the footprints of great Bacchus who learned Pan’s alphabet at once ….that since the remote times of its life has lived on light, on fire, on perfume, on love,..” (Gudding, 2008).
But undeniably, even with the differences in presenting and composing their ideas into poetry, Dario and Neruda sincerely expressed their criticism over the Western influences over their nations. Their poets are not just mere expression, but an appeal to fight the existing exploitation and social justice brought to their people.
Dario, Ruben. “To Roosevelt” from Cantos de vida y esperanza, 1905 (translation of “A Roosevelt”), translated by Gudding, Gabriel. Book of Romantic and Post Romantic Poetry Poems for the Millennium. Vol. 3: U of California P, 2008. Ed. Jerome Rothenberg.
Neruda, Pablo. Memoirs (translation of Confieso que he vivido: Memorias), translated by Hardie St. Martin, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1977.
Neruda, Pablo. “United Fruit Co.” from Canto General, 1950 (translation of “La United Fruit Co.”), translated by Felstiner, J. & Gander, F. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda. Hass, R. & Eisner, M. (Eds.). City Light Books, 2004
O’ Keeffe, Richard B. “Ruben Dario’s “Dinamita”: The Advent of Left-Wing Terrorism in the Americas”. The Americas Vol. 41, No. 3 (1985) pp. 83-91