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Arielismo refers to an idealistic quality of Hispanic American thought. The term is a neologism derived from José Enrique Rodo's Ariel (1900), an essay that advocates a harmonious synthesis of the finest attributes of Greco-Roman culture, the Judeo-Christian heritage, and modern (late-nineteenth-century) perspectives. In Latin American intellectual circles it has customarily been associated with elitism, spiritualist aesthetics, and high standards of excellence.

Arielismo has often been used to explain the contrast between refined intellectual activity and high culture on the one hand, and a more direct, pragmatic approach to Latin American problems on the other. Practical-minded critics of the tendency have recognized its value as a cultural ideal and educational stimulus but have considered its advocates to be out of touch with Latin America's most pressing political, social, and economic needs.

Arielismo has had few explicit defenders. However, important twentieth-century writings have shared or revised its spirit, among them: the Peruvian José de la Riva-Agüero's Carácter de la literatura del Perú independiente (1905) as well as his compatriot Francisco García Calderón's Le Pérou contemporain: étude sociale (1907), the Mexican Alfonso Reyes's Visión de Anáhuac (1917), the Venezuelan Mariano Picón-Salas's Regreso de tres mundos (1959), and the Dominican Pedro Henríquez Ureña's Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión (1928). Its detractors have been more pointed in their reaction: for example, Alberto Zum Felde, Proceso intelectual del Uruguay y crítica de su literatura (1941), and Luis Alberto Sánchez, Balance y liquidación del novecientos (1941). In 1971 Roberto Fernández Retamar published Calibán, a socialist-oriented essay in which the leading roles in Rodó's work are reversed: Now Próspero, the imperialistic magician, symbolizes the United States, and the uncouth Calibán is made over to represent a victimized Latin America.

See alsoAriel; Darío, Rubén; Krausismo; Positivism; Rodó, José Enrique.


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                                         Peter G. Earle

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