La patria sagrada: Exile, Homeland, and Identity

Conference on Latin American History 10
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Gloucester Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Molly Todd, Augustana College
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel contributes new understandings to histories of displacement and individuals’ attempts to (re)construct their homelands from political, ideological and cultural exile.  The papers trace diverse paths of exile groups across differing geographies and chronologies in order to illustrate some of the threads that weave through the exile experience,.  From the apparently disparate journeys emerges an important pattern:  expatriates negotiated alternate national identities and connected those to struggles for political change and collective and individual rights.     

Jadwiga Pieper Mooney’s study focuses on Chileans who sought political exile in Cold War Berlin.  Expatriates on both sides of the Berlin Wall constructed home as an identity and as a survival strategy that united the (sometimes politically divided) exile community.  Scott Crago examines Chilean experiences under dictatorship (1973-1989) and focuses on internal cultural exile. He illustrates how indigenous Mapuche groups were forced to negotiate their sense of belonging within the boundaries of a nation state and controlled by authoritarian leaders who did not grant full citizenship rights to all members of the national community. Raúl Galván’s study raises new questions about the theme of ideology and national identity in expatriate communities of Cuban exiles at the height of the island’s struggles for independence. He explores how Cubans sought ideological exile in the United States in the late 19th century, and illustrates how they constructed notions of home as an imagined Free Cuba.      

Among the questions that this panel seeks to answer are:  How did these groups construct their homeland, their patria from their places and spaces of exile?  How did the collective (or individual)  narratives of marginalized groups or people change through the course of exile, as members familiarized themselves with new social and political landscapes that often afforded special opportunities for expression of collective memory and identity?  To what extent did these marginalized groups, through their varied methods of political engagement, seek to prompt change in their homelands?  How did these exiles define their obligations and rights, and how did they attempt to negotiate both in the face of violence, war and displacement?      

We contribute to the 2011 AHA Conference and the theme History. Society, and the Sacred by complicating the dimensions of home, and of (national) belonging.  All papers contribute new understandings to political, spiritual, and cultural components that are part of exile communities’ and individuals’ survival strategies and of carefully protected or “sacred” relationships that connect expatriates to what they have left behind.   This panel offers multiple opportunities to examine how displaced groups used alternative or counter-memories to reconstitute group identities, public histories and interpretive- and political power.  Moreover, it reveals both agency and action:  the displaced can employ a remarkably wide variety of sources in efforts to affect both the communal imagining and the official histories of exile experiences.