THE SYMBOLIC FAMILY OF LATIN AMERICA
KEY WORDS: Father Complex; America-Europe relations; Latin American Family
The author discusses some problems of the Latin
American identity connected with the conquest and
colonization of America by the Europeans. The
Archetype of the Great Mother is associated with
the land and the Father Archetype is related to
the European conqueror-colonizer. The treatment
the Europeans gave to the Indians of Latin America
is considered and this factor is given great
importance in what is called the negative Latin
American Father Complex.
These ideas are worked in viewing Latin America as if, regarding its image, a family whose mother is America, whose father is the European, whose paternal grandmother is Europe, whose children are the present Latin Americans and with the Indians being half-brothers who were decimated.
Reflection on the traumatic factors of history is proposed as a way to reclaim identity. The creativity of Brazilian poets and composers is used to make some expressed associations with the position presented.
I - Introduction
At this meeting, the Second Latin American
Congress of Jungian Psychology, in reflecting on
our identity, the relational theme would seem
important. After all, it is impossible to know our
identity without knowing about the identity of the
other. Family implies a system, according to
Michaelis "a group of ancestors, descendants,
relations and kinsmen of a lineage", that relate.
Thus, I thought to take the "family" as an image
to think about our relational situation.
I will now read a passage from Todorov's book, The Conquest of America, that speaks of the numbers that surround this episode:
Without going into details, and just to give a global idea (although we do not feel totally right about rounding off numbers that relate to human lives), we should recall that in 1500, the world population was about 400 million, of whom 80 million inhabited the Americas. In the mid Sixteenth Century, of these 80 million, there were 10 million left. Or, if we restrict our vision to Mexico: on the eve of the conquest, its population was about 25 million; in 1600 it was 1 million.
If the word "genocide" has ever been applied with precision to a case, this is it. It is a record, it seems to me, not only in relative terms (a destruction on the order of 90% and more), but also in absolute terms, in that we are talking about a population decrease estimated at 70 million human beings. None of the great massacres of the Twentieth Century can be compared to this hecatomb.
II - What do we have in common?
If we take the Earth as the important symbol of
the Mother, of the archetype of the Great Mother,
we Latin Americans are already "relatives", that
is, we are children of America, and more
specifically, of Latin America. We live in our
mother's house; we are all neighbors.
If we think of the Colonizer as an important symbol of the Father, of the Father Archetype that organizes, catalogues, teaches a new order, we have neighboring fathers, Spanish and Portuguese, from the Iberian peninsula.
We are therefore "relatives" through our father and mother.
I believe we have more traits that bring us together.
Our "daddies" lived far from our "mommy". They traveled a long, long way to find their intended damsel. And they both fell in love with her beauty, which is perfectly understandable, from our point of view, their children, in that even though older, mommy remains beautiful, very beautiful indeed. As Caetano sings in the composition by Gilberto Gil and Capinam, our so beloved poets, "Soy loco por ti América".
In fact, concerning the beauty of America, Columbus had already said "I discovered that the world was not round in the way I had described, but in the shape of a pear... or like a round ball, on which, at a certain point, there is something like a woman's teat, and this part of this breast was the highest and closest to heaven, and placed on the equatorial line in the Ocean sea, at the end of the Orient" or "I am very sure in my soul that it is there where Paradise on earth is to be found..." or "I saw many trees different from ours, and some of them had branches of different types coming out of the same trunk - one branch was of one kind, and another of another-, so strange in their diversity that it was certainly the most wonderful thing in the world..." or "There are also a thousand species of trees, all with different fruits and all so fragrant that it is a marvel, and I am profoundly displeased in not knowing them, in that I am sure that they all have great value".
Yes, since Columbus the fascinating America has been marveling her lovers, her pretenders. And with good reason. However, I believe that the closer we get, as "relatives", the stranger this love affair, engagement and marriage between our parents was. As Las Casas says, in Todorov, again about Columbus: "And he was anxious to penetrate the secrets of these lands, in that he thought it impossible that they did not have things of value".
Our mother America was seen as a coveted virgin, valuable to be penetrated. However, it would appear that she was not to be consulted at all. Whether she wanted it or not, when and how she wanted it. So we know that things were as daddy wanted them, a European daddy that really had no element of chivalry in courting the coveted beloved. It is interesting that we talk about the "conquest" of America. Conquer, from the Latin conquistare, is "subjugate, dominate through force of arms; defeat". "Conquer distant lands" as Luiz de Camões says. Although conquer also has the meaning "win the love of", it would not appear that it was this second sense of the verb that oriented the affair between daddy and mommy.
III - How were our "Conqueror" fathers?
Well... notably good it would appear they were
not. In as much as the expulsion of the Moors and
the cast-off of the Jews in Europe preceded the
"Conquest", we can see that other peoples there
were not very well accepted. This Madame Europe
seems to have been very selective, with her own
distinctly peculiar values and leaned toward the
purity of Aryan blood. It would appear that Madame
Europe, our paternal grandmother, taught her sons,
our father, this value, to which so many other
painful phenomena in human history attest. But how
was the Iberian peninsula after the expulsion of
the pariahs? It appears that they were missed in
various ways, among others being the trade
It seems curious to me that the search for a distant America took place at this exact time. We know as analysts how often a family that has problems decides to have another child, or adopt one, as an attempt to fix the "old" through the "new". We also know that this attempt is problematical, a search for relief that overloads. We also know that the child in question, with his role of "Savior", is burdened with a considerable weight that can greatly interfere in his own development. However, whatever else may be said, did something like this happen to the Spanish and Portuguese, sons of Madame Europe, who when things got complicated at home went forth for the adventure of the conquest of the so lovely and distant damsel? This paternal grandmother, Madame Europe, was also extremely conscious of her religious responsibilities. And this Madame was absolutely certain that souls that did not accept her God would go to hell. And, in as much as she was remarkably pious, obviously all that could be done (and also that which could not be done...) had to be tried to save the souls. Indubitably, her Christian piety made salvationism her biggest banner. Did Europe come to "save" America or did she seek her "salvation" in her?
So we can imagine how this mother-in-law Madame Europe felt with relation to the new daughter-in-law America that was not Christian! Without a doubt, the girl had to convert, even more so if she was going to enter into the family! We know that since mother-in-law Aphrodite, how many chores were given to daughter-in-law Psyche such that she and Eros be of the same stature, side by side on Olympus. These family questions are very complicated; human beings are very complex; we know this.
Certainly the conquerors spoke very well of their new bride to the European family, giving her great value, doing a great deal of advertising to induce her acceptance. And, as a result, they could not perceive or even less accept her individuality, her characteristics, her moment, her desires, her soul. She was seen, this young America, as a virgin to be molded, educated, dressed, decked out in a European fashion. Obviously, she had to be converted, brought into the religion. And in as much as everything had to be new, to be built, it could not be seen that she was no virgin, in that she already had children, many children, some already fully grown. She even had numerous offspring. She already had her ways, her preferences, her gods, her customs, her rules, organizations; but everything had, in a manner of speaking, to be wiped clean to "begin anew".
If the children already born in young America had to be denied as individuals, we know how they were treated, or better, mistreated. The "conquerors" pretending to young America were not exactly loving adoptive fathers to their already existing children. Rather they acted like terrible step-fathers protected by the self-appointed (or grandmother Europe appointed) function of saviors of souls, educators, teachers of goodness, helping to expel evil. And obviously so many "gifts" had to have a great deal in return! And in as much as these children were so undeveloped, logically it was up to the conqueror to take care of (or confiscate) the wealth of young America. Of course, Madame Europe knew much better how to take care of this wealth than her ingenuous daughter-in-law. This "dimwit" did not even know what private property was! In addition, nothing could be more just for such an important groom than that the bride come with a very substantial dowry, even more so in that she was very well endowed.
We stand before a paradox which has appeared from time to time in human history. That is, what is it possible to do with "Christian piety" to save people? Poor Christ, was this really the message he left for us? If it was, then I confess that I did not understand anything.
Guided by salvationism, waving the flag of "Christian piety", bringing in a religion and taking away gold, truly thus was the strange intercourse between the conqueror and young America. Our Miss America got raped.
IV - The children of America
As we have seen, a virgin our mother America was
not and she was also already a mother. She had
children, lots of children, of different sizes,
ages, degrees of development, etc. They lived in
communities with characteristics that varied among
them. They had interesting names such as Aztecs,
Mayas, Incas, Tupi, Guarani, etc. and were the
numerous offspring of this fertile mother. Each of
them occupied a place, spoke a language, had their
customs, their faith, their gods, their culture,
their development, their way of life, their
symbols and so on. We do not really know who their
fathers (or father) were, there are various
hypotheses, but we know that they had many
differences among them. We also know that they
were not saints and that, like brothers, they
fought one another, went to war, competed,
dominated, but all in their own way. Some used
human sacrifice, where men were killed as an
offering to the gods. In any case, it is funny how
God or gods are taken by humans as the reason for
crimes. Are they really the instigators or do we
humans just hear what we like? Be that as it may,
these inhabitants of America were, one might say,
a society of sacrifice that followed its own path.
were very rich; they were the owners of America;
they were her children and thus her legitimate
heirs. And as always among humans, wealth
generates many things in the other, from envy to
covetousness. Our European conqueror father was
not immune to these human characteristics: he
coveted, took, usurped and exterminated. What the
conquering father did with the already born and
grown children of Madame America, destroying their
civilization, was to give the Sixteenth Century a
chance to see the perpetration of the greatest
genocide in the history of Mankind, as noted by
And it was out of this genocidal rape that we were born; admittedly not a particularly good start. If our half-brothers constituted a society of sacrifice, they were exterminated by our father who came from a society of massacre. And it was out of this intercourse that we were born, thus beginning our history. And it is complicated and complicates our identity. Our father was the butcher, our mother the raped and our half-brothers the massacred. That's the way it is.
know as analysts that just knowing our history
does not save us from anything. But we also know
that if we are not aware of this history, without
touching it up, the risks of repetition, through
It is funny how the children born of young America were seen-denied by the conqueror. They were either viewed as the "noble savage" or as "inferior barbarians". If our half-brothers were seen (denied), in the best of hypotheses, as noble savages or, in the worst, as inferior barbarians in the eye of Father, how does this vision remain with us? We know about the psychological importance of the relation between parents and children. And we know how the vision of a parent of a child is important for his/her development.
On the one hand, our brothers, the "noble savages" to be nurtured, are in our identity. To be nurtured, within European assimilation, was to become a "clone" of grandmother Europe. As observed by Chico Buarque with his critical and poetic eye in his Tropical Fado song:
So, this land is still going to fulfill its ideal
It is still going to become an immense Portugal
So, this land is still going to fulfill its ideal
It is still going to become a colonial empire.
On the other hand, our brothers, the "inferior barbarians", the sub-humans, are also in our identity. Out of this arises our "cucaracha" complex. As we know, we continue being seen by the other as "Latin Americans", who are neither white nor black nor Indians so much as a not always esteemed mixture, as traveling with a Latin American passport can prove in foreign airports! But even worse, the risk is that we continue to see ourselves this way and are prisoners in this complex, prisoners in the eye of the Father. We have a negative father complex arising out of a dramatically imposed father. Concerning this father, so often reviewed as a complex, Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil tell us in "Calice":
Away from me with that chalice
Of wine stained with blood
How to drink this bitter drink
Bear the pain and swallow the travail?
(Good question, Chico!)
What's the use of being the child of a Saint
Better to be the child of the other
Other reality less dead
So many lies, so much brutality.
It is as though, in our identity, either we
identify with the inferior or flee, flee from this
so uncomfortable place, trying to behave as if a
"clone" of the European father. At times we also
like to imitate our rich cousin, also American,
but from the North, child of Uncle Sam. With
relation to this "clone", as Baudrillard calls it,
what comes to mind is how we use our make-up, our
clothing, perfume, shoes, etc., always requiring
the blessing of grandmother Europe. But the
downside is European "thought", which obliges us
to accept that the "scientifically proven" cannot
be ours: publishing in European or North American
journals is what is chic, and if not the work is
declassé and invalid.
It is as though we have difficulty reconnecting with our own nature, our own so complex identity, our own thought, our own creativity, our own way. As Chico and Gil continue:
Maybe the world is not small
Nor life a finished fact
I want to invent my own sin
I want to die of my own poison
I want to lose for good Thy head
My head lose Thy judgment
However, even so, as Mario Saiz has told us, there is also a great deal of creativity in this process, these dark points are quite visible.
V - If Columbus were listening symbolically...
It is interesting to see the symbols in Columbus's comments about America quoted above:
I discovered that the world was... a ball... like a woman's teat, and this part of this breast was the highest and closest to heaven...
It would appear that Columbus symbolically perceived that he had found a mother, fertile, majestic, high and close to heaven (where in his imagination she lived with father).
I am very sure in my soul that it is there where Paradise on earth is to be found...
It seems Columbus has captured paradise, the primal home of Adam and Eve, where things began. He perceived a New World beginning and walking on his own two legs, defining his own path.
I saw many trees different from ours, and some of them had branches of different types coming out of the same trunk - one branch was of one kind, and another of another-, so strange in their diversity that it was certainly the most wonderful thing in the world...
Let's imagine that Columbus is our client, and is
as he was, an adventurer, innovator, courageous,
bold and without a country. Let's say he has had a
dream where he found a land that he described with
the quoted passages. We would probably work such
that he perceive the richness of differences, the
richness of different types coming out of the same
trunk, the typological diversity and when this
impressed him, the fascination of the symbolic
So, if we think about America and its inhabitants at that time, it seems that Columbus symbolically described both America and her children very well.
There are also a thousand species of trees, all with different fruits and all so fragrant that it is a marvel, and I am profoundly displeased in not knowing them, in that I am sure that they all have great value.
Returning to Columbus's symbolic perception of
diversity and richness (thousand species,
different fruits), "fragrant" appears, that
attracts and once again the "marvel" that
fascinates. Together with this communication comes
the "displeasure" of not knowing them pointing to
the risk of the unknowing, of the unconscious
perception. And the theme of value reappears:
"they all have great value". Yes, inestimable
value there would be if the marvel of this
diversity could be entered in the camp of
consciousness of our "discoverer father" and
cultivated by the conqueror!
We see that although Columbus had a broad symbolic apprehension of what he would find, unfortunately very little of what he saw structured his consciousness. As we know, this is always a risk. As a result, if Columbus "discovered" America on the one hand, he denied the "Americans" on the other.
In the same fashion that in Symbols of Transformation, Jung says that the symbolic richness of Miss Miller was not integrated into her consciousness and led to a disastrous end, so too it seems to me that the richness of symbolic perception, whether of the American discoverer, conqueror or colonizer, was not integrated into their consciousness and led to a tragic end: the greatest genocide in the history of humanity.
As humans, we frequently think about the "if" in relation to our dramatic episodes and especially concerning our tragic episodes. If this had not happened, if this had happened, if I had done that, if I had not done this... And we know that so many "ifs" are nothing but human attempts to work our wounds. These "ifs" have little concrete value because they cannot be tested; life really does not have a rough draft and as a result cannot be done over. But as analysts we also know that the imaginary "ifs", taken symbolically, are precious. They are a rich path for the elaboration and transcendence of painful human events. Therefore, with this caveat, let us think of how it would have been if America had not been "discovered", "invaded", "conquered" and "colonized" by the European.
Recently I was reflecting on the concept of "Apoptosis", which is, in brief, the lysis of a cell from our organism through a message brought by DNA and that, if this does not happen, it can result in a cancer, for example. That is, this constitutes the suicide of a part for the function of the whole. Thus, this brings our attention to the programming of a system. Or, in other words, we are a self-regulated system, biologically. And psychically Jung proposes the same thing: the psyche is self-regulating in its collective sense.
I was thinking that the inhabitants of America were a system and thus had their self-regulation. The invasion, conquest and colonization are likely to have broken their system's harmony. The natural continuity of the development of the indigenous Americans was broken. Their gods were cast down, their symbols beheaded, their civilization leveled, their roots sundered and their spirit quashed.
As Gil and Capinan say in "Soy loco por ti América":
We can never know how America, and more
specifically Latin America, would have been
without the colonizer. But, on the other hand, we
know how America is! We know her deficiencies, her
wounds, her difficulties, her symptoms. We also
know about her enormous qualities and wealth.
seems like one great stumbling block, returning to
the encounter that could have been so fertile, was
the lack of the perception of the Other. And the
Other is truly a complex question in that the
other is not only concrete. And there is no way to
see the Other in the other if we do not see him in
ourselves. That is, for our consciousness, we
ourselves are an Other for him/her. There is in
us, in each of us, an "Other" for we ourselves, an
"Other" that is our own Shadow that is a part of
our identity. If we do not perceive our Other,
from our Shadow, the concrete other will not be
visible except as covered by the projections of
our Other, of we ourselves.
In the encounter between the discoverer - conqueror - colonizer and the then inhabitants of the Americas, there was a lack of the meeting of I-Other. For this, it would have been necessary for the "I" of the discoverer to perceive that he had his own "Other" in order to be able to perceive that the concrete Other (Indian) had an "I", an individuality, an identity to be respected.
Unfortunately, we have little information about how the eye of the those inhabitants of America saw the European. But, it would also appear that there were many projections. The inhabitants of America were numerous, were strong, were courageous as so many achievements attest, and were in their own land. So why did they "lose the war"? Besides the concrete facts and reasons (differing weapons, infections, etc.) there were also likely to have been their projections on the Europeans. Were the Europeans seen as gods by the Indians? As superior? As sent by the gods?
What a shame that Columbus could not symbolically view all that he perceived, the enormous value of the diversity and the fascination this diversity provoked in him.
We return to the "if" with all the care that the process requires.
If the European could have consciously integrated the projection he made on our Indian of "noble savage" or "inferior", would there not have been a real gain? If he could have integrated the symbolic vision of Columbus and his fascination about the value of the diversity, could the Europeans have taken note of the poverty of Aryan purism. Would not the value of diversity have been precisely on the "inferior" side of the European? If the Europeans had taken note of the savage (barbarian) in himself, could he not have produced less savagery, fewer barbarities?
If our Indian half-brothers could also have withdrawn from their projections about the godly or divinely sent European, could they not have recovered their strength? They also were probably fascinated by the European, as by the gods, and could not symbolically perceive these gods in they themselves. And so they lost their spirit.
VI - Consciousness, shadow and risks
The breadth, complexity and diversity of aspects
of returning to the question of Latin America
obviously do not allow its reduction to a
psychological understanding. Nor can it be reduced
to any other logical vision.
But reflecting on the question of Latin America in various aspects may help. It seems to me that thinking and perceiving the dark aspects of this question is a good path that can generate consciousness and avoid some risks.
Every moment our society repeats the colonizer-colonized pattern and the mismatches expressed in class differences, racial prejudice, brigandism, criminality, in kidnappings, in slaughters. At every moment we repeat this strange way of exercising our collectivity, that is, this strange way of encounter-divergence with the Other marked by violence.
I am also impressed by our ambiguity in relating to Europe itself: if on the one hand it is a model to be copied and continues to fascinate us, on the other it is discredited. If we look at the European immigration phenomenon, this discrediting is quick to be seen: the "little Italian", the "little Spanish" are devaluations of our immigrant. The jests, the jokes about the Portuguese among us that are famous for their allusion to Portuguese ingenuousness also witness to this phenomenon.
It seems to me that as long as we do not have the humility to perceive this "Other" in ourselves, we will continue to reproduce with the Other-Other this pattern of divergence, involving asymmetry, bureaucratization, deprecation and profound injustice.
Loving the other as thyself, while a basic symbol of the Christian myth, is far from being understood and carried out among us. We continue, like the conqueror, using Christ in our own fashion. And the risk is really of continuing not working the perception of the Other, not working the otherness (alterity). If our ancestors could not do it, if we understand that the tragic genocide has added nothing to either side in question, if we already understand these facts in our history, why do we not do it differently?
Is there another way that Madame Europe and young America can relate? Today, both are supposed to be more mature and, who knows, may be able to become more conscious. I believe that one can be structuring for the other, if both can be seen in their individualities. Obviously, I am not talking about a concrete otherness between America and Europe, but of a possible dialectic relation between these events within us and our Latin American relational mode.
Our European fathers unified our language. Today we can communicate. The language of Spanish America had been unified. The language of Portuguese America had been unified. Today we can communicate, either in Spanish, or Portuguese or "Portunhol" (our curious mixture).
Today we can make a collected reflection on our histories. Would to God that our union bring the power together with the necessary consciousness of the other. As Caetano continued singing in "Soy loco por ti América":
I'm crazy about you America
I hope tomorrow to sing
The name of the dead man
Not sad words
I'm crazy about you America
A poem still exists
With palm trees, with trenches
Songs of war, who knows,
Songs of the sea
So, until brought home to you
VII - Latin American's Jungian family
Today we have a very large number of people
interested in the Psychology of Jung in Latin
America, as this Congress witnesses. Nowadays we
have two Brazilian societies, the S.B.P.A. and the
A.J.B., a Venezuelan group, various individual
Jungian members of the International Society, as
well as Uruguay's C.G. Jung Foundation, and we
have a considerable number of groups developing in
various Latin American countries.
Naturally we have our meetings, our divergences, our arguments, our separations and approximations, our grudges and friendships, our similarities and our differences. We have a Latin American way of dealing with things. For example, this is the way the idea for these meetings was born. We are in the Second Congress, with its qualities and defects.
Our institutions are "affiliated" with the International, with its headquarters in Zurich, Europe. We have the honor, as host organizers of this Congress, to have significant representation from various Latin American countries. It constitutes a great honor for us to have here with us the current President of the International as well as the International's representative in charge of "developing groups".
So we have a rich chance to effect rich exchanges, in terms of a fertile meeting. Once again we find Americans and Europeans. Our representative in charge of developing groups is also an American, albeit not Latin but from North America, which was also colonized by the European (English among others).
How will our complexes circulate among us? How will our Shadow circulate among us? How will the colonizer-colonized polarity function?
I hope that our meeting, as well as those in the future, whether here or in other international gatherings, will not be like the conquest, the first between Europeans and Americans. I hope that on the one hand, brute force, language imposition, the cloning and submission to the Other, the idealization and perplexity can be integrated. I hope that reciprocal fascination can be a path.
But, for this, if we are all, or almost all, analysts, we know the importance of perceiving the terrain we are walking on. It is a delicate terrain with many wounds. It is a foundation with dramas and tragedies. And, for this reason, potentially rich in knowledge, potentially rich in pointing out paths that we should not follow.
I hope that we make good use of these events. I think that we all deserve this possibility and perhaps we owe it to one another. May Master Jung, who left us such a reflexive legacy, who thought about the question of the Other, who described not only the Father and Mother archetypes, but also that of Animus and Anima, who brought the question of symmetry and dialectic, the question of Otherness, the Christ symbol as understanding, inspire us.
VIII - Final conclusions
Some facts come to mind. Jung was Swiss;
Switzerland is a neutral country; it is not a
conquering country in the first sense cited for
the verb. It is a diversified country, so much so
that they speak four languages, as my colleague
and friend Sherly Marcovitch so well reminded me.
We from Latin America sought out the International
and it was not the International that imposed
itself on us. The work of Jung conquered us, but
in the second sense of the verb, that is, "win the
I wanted to talk about our relational mode, we Latin Americans one with one another, we Latin Americans with other peoples, we Latin Americans with our so decimated half-brothers, we Latin Americans with Europeans.
Parodying Todorov when he said, "If the word "genocide" has ever been applied with precision to a case, this is it", I would say, "If the word "Otherness" has ever been applied with precision to a case, then we have all the means by which it can be this, this meeting".
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