“Seven Erroneous Theses” 50 Years Later
by Rodolfo Stavenhagen
I am convinced that, for every year that has gone by since I wrote “Seven Erroneous Theses,” at least one or two additional erroneous theses about Latin America have been advanced. I will not list them here; I leave that to my students. However, there are also many valid theses that I have not yet dealt with and that will be the subject of critical deliberation in the forthcoming years. The magic number “7” felt appropriate to me especially because it recalled—as readers will have guessed—the great Mariátegui’s Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, which we read avidly during my youthful college years.
I can say that I am satisfied with my text’s publication history. It was first printed in the Mexican newspaper El Día on June 25 and 26, 1965, and was well received. Shortly afterward it appeared as a chapter in anthologies and as an article in several specialized journals both in Mexico and in other Latin American countries. It was soon translated into other languages and has had a long career, continuing to appear in new publications to this day. I have sometimes been asked to reassess or update it. In 1985, 20 years after its first appearance, I gave a lecture on the topic at the Universidad Superior de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia, and in 1995 I did the same at a sociology congress in Bogotá. I cannot remember if these texts were published.
I discovered Latin America as a student at Mexico’s Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National School of Anthropology and History—ENAH) in the 1950s. There I became friends with other students and some professors hailing from Latin American countries. They told us about the social and political conflicts in their nations, their need to go into exile, and their desire to take part in the upcoming revolutions. Some actually did so, while others lost their lives trying to. I participated in the 1954 pro-democracy demonstrations following the U.S.-orchestrated coup in Guatemala against the democratic government.
Several years of fieldwork introduced me to indigenous Mexico, which had also been unknown to me till then. As the saying goes, “Así me nació la conciencia.” My first field experience was in the Papaloapan Basin, where I participated in a project of forced displacement of several Mazatec communities organized by the Mexican government to build a huge dam on the Tonto River, a tributary of the Papaloapan, in a region inhabited by a sizable Mazatec population.
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