Mexican journal, 1942–
The launch of the first volume of Cuadernos Americanos (American notebooks) was celebrated on 30 December 1941 in Mexico City. Since that time, the six annual issues of CA have appeared without interruption. The original objectives of CA, on both the international and the national levels, have remained constant. Yet in its evolution it has followed the transformation of Latin American countries; we can distinguish two clearly delineated stages which correspond to the periods under the direction of Jesús Silva Herzog (1942–86) and Leopoldo Zea (since 1987, under the auspices of the National Autonomous University of Mexico).
CA emerged in 1942 in the middle of what was still an indecisive discourse, which was beginning to be recognized as Mexican but which was also inspired by several mentors who saw the Mexicanness in function with the human and sensed the possibility of formulating a discourse with universal repercussions. From its beginning, CA projected an essayistic perspective with interdisciplinary focus. The original Executive Board had 11 members, six Mexicans (Alfonso Caso, Daniel Cosío Villegas, Mario de la Cueva, Manuel Martínez Báez, Alfonso Reyes, and Jesús Silva Herzog) and five Spanish exiles (Pedro Bosch Gimpera, Eugenio Imaz, Juan Larrea, Manuel Márquez, and Agustín Millares). All were established intellectuals with significant humanist cultural experience and were not only recognized internationally for their essays, but also associated with various fields of specialization, ranging from literature to anthropology, economics, medicine, history, and sociology. For them, CA was responding to a sense of mission which Alfonso Reyes expressed in these words during the launch of the periodical: “The task that presents itself today is not just another literary venture, but rather has been defined by a sense of continental and human service… We understand our work as a moral imperative, as one of the many efforts for the salvation of culture, that is to say, the salvation of man.” From its first issues, CA was the most prestigious Latin American magazine, and had an appeal to the whole continent.
Within the context of World War II, this select group of intellectuals, as Reyes indicates in his statement of purpose, feels destiny’s calling: “[There] has been placed upon us the grave duty of preserving and promoting religion, philosophy, science, ethics, politics, urbanity, courtesy, poetry, music, the arts, industries and professions: as much as it is language that preserves and transmits the conquests of the species, in short, all that is culture.” CA proposed to be a forum reflecting the present, communicating with the world from a Latin American context. For the first time, the Latin American nations felt included in the international community; Reyes reaffirmed what motivated the magazine:
“We are an integral and necessary part in the representation of man by man. Whoever does not recognize us is not a whole man.” The prestige of the essayists who collaborated from the beginning (Mariano Picón-Salas, Alfonso Reyes, Raúl Haya de la Torre, Francisco Romero, Waldo Frank, Joaquín Xirau, José Gaos, Edmundo O’Gorman, and Samuel Ramos, among many others) and the quality of the essays that were published served as a model for the Latin American essay during the formative years of the 1940s and 1950s.
During this first stage, the magazine was precisely structured. It consisted of four parts:
1. “Nuestro tiempo” (Our time), 2. “Aventura del pensamiento” (The adventure of thinking), 3. “Presencia del pasado” (Presence of the past), and 4. “Dimensión imaginaria” (The imaginary dimension). Each part was divided into two sections; the first section of each part included essays of variable length (generally between five and 25 pages); the second section, which was much shorter, included critical notes (generally two to ten pages) on the most notable European and American books of the moment.
In 1987, the second stage of CA began, as a “Nueva época” (new period), even though its director, Leopoldo Zea, was among the most frequent contributors to the magazine from the first issues in 1942. In this context, the title “Nueva época” has the double meaning of both “a return” to some of the initial objectives and a formulation of new ideal objectives that serve as a model for the new period. Today, the “aventura del pensamiento” has reached “nuestro tiempo”: the explicit division into four sections has been eliminated. All the fields these sections covered are currently represented by national and international associations promoting their study. They continue to be the center of CA’s concerns, but it is no longer considered necessary to categorize so rigidly the journal’s contents. What was once used to define its objectives would today limit its freedom.
Much more significant than these changes to the structure of the magazine are the new ideals that accompany the “Nueva época.” As the objectives formulated in 1942, by Herzog and Reyes have been realized, Zea now extends his vision: “To know how to recognize oneself in others and upon that recognition, to respect them in order to be respected. Such is the spirit that will have to be maintained in this new stage of Cuadernos Americanos, open to the times that rapidly pass by in our America and in the world of which it is a part. One will have to review and actualize the problems of the region and of the world of which it is now expression” (“Palabras del Director” [1987;
Words of the editor]). In order to achieve such goals, CA now relies on the collaboration, as editor, of the essayist and literary critic Liliana Weinberg; in addition to an Editorial Board, it possesses an International Board of recognized essayists (Roberto Fernández Retamar, Domingo Miliani, Francisco Miró Quesada, Gregorio Weinberg, Fernando Ainsa, Tzvi Medin, and Amy Oliver, among others) who encourage the global dimension of contemporary Latin American thought.
JOSÉ LUIS GÓMEZ-MARTÍNEZ
Gömez-Martínez, José Luis, “La nueva época de Cuadernos Americanos en el desarrollo del pensamiento mexicano,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992): 72–81
Larrea, Juan, “Gestación de Cuadernos Americanos,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992):16–40
Morales Benítez, Otto, “Cuadernos Americanos: Una tribuna para la verdad y la libertad,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992):41–71
Muñoz, Humberto, Leopoldo Zea, Marcos Kaplan, and Juan Ortega y Medina, “Crónica de la presentación de la nueva época de Cuadernos Americanos,” Cuadernos Americanos 4 (1987): 225–36
Reyes, Alfonso, “America y los Cuadernos Americanos,” Cuadernos Americanos 2 (1942):7–10
Weinberg, Gregorio, “Por mis palabras testimonios,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992):82–86
Weinberg, Liliana Irene, “Cuadernos Americanos como empresa de cultura,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992): 89–93
Zea, Leopoldo, “Palabras del Director,” Cuadernos Americanos 1 (1987): 9–11
Zea, Leopoldo, “Cuadernos Americanos cincuenta años después,” Cuadernos Americanos 31 (1992):11–15
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