Negotiating la Hispanidad

21 June 2012

Thursday


Recently when I looked up the word “Hispanophone,” which of course designates all Spanish speakers, I learned a word that I had not before encountered: Hispanidad. The term “Hispanidad” stands at one remove of abstraction from “Hispanophone,” since it designates everyone who is part of the Hispanic tradition, which, I think, is a more general concept than that of the Hispanophone community. The Hispanophone community can be narrowly defined in terms of the Spanish language, but the idea of la Hispanidad ought to include (it seems to me) much that is derived from the Hispanophone world but which is not narrowly definable in terms of the Spanish language.

I am taking a short trip in the Hispanophone world, among la Hispanidad, returning to Peru where I briefly traveled last January. On my way to Lima, I flew through the Mexico City airport, which is the first time that I have been to or through Mexico City.

If an idea could be said to have a capital, it would not be too far from the truth to say that Mexico City is the Capital of la Hispanidad. It has a cultural position in the Hispanic milieu (at least as far as the New World is concerned; I will leave aside the Old World for the moment) not unlike the cultural position of Cairo in the Arabic milieu. Certainly Mexico City looked enormous from the air as I flew over the city, and I thought about the 40 million people below me. Mexico City is not only the largest city in North America and among the largest cities in the Western Hemisphere, it may be the largest city in the world, but that depends upon how you count urban populations, which can be done in more than one way.

I thought that I was going to have more than enough time to make my connecting flight in Mexico City (Aeromexico to Lima). In fact, before my arrival I was wondering what I would do to pass the time. As it turned out, passing the time was not a problem. The Mexico City airport was on a size and scale appropriate to one of the largest cities in the world, and it was sufficiently different from my expectations that its layout was not entirely transparent to me. Making my way through what felt like the Byzantine labyrinth of the Mexico City airport, I felt as though I were negotiating la Hispanidad itself — an abstraction realized in fact and imposed upon the traveler. And this, of course, is why we travel — to have a reality imposed upon us that is not of our making. Consider this a proof of realism (and I use this term in its philosophical signification of anything that is not dependent upon the mind for its existence).

By the time I arrived at my gate — sweating and out of breath — the PA was announcing the last call for the flight to Lima, and I half-walked, half-jogged to the gate so that they wouldn’t close the door on me. I was the last person to sit down for this full flight. (All my flights today were full.)

I am writing this post from a hotel computer because I cannot get my computer to work with the hotel’s wireless network. I’m not sure how to resolve this, so for the time being posts will be short and without pictures.

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