Mario Vargas Llosa and the Nobel: The View From Latin America

La Plaza in the LA Times has a very good run down (and in English) of the reactions to in Latin America to Mario Vargas’s Nobel Prize. Suffice it to say, he is a bit controversial, not only for his conservatism, but his abandonment of Latin America for Spain, the former imperial power.

Vargas Llosa also became identified with abandoning Latin America for Spain, which is what the author did, taking Spanish citizenship after losing the 1990 election. This move was also seen as a betrayal in some intellectual circles. His open and expressive affinity for Spain, which he’s reiterated in interviews since Thursday’s prize announcement, doesn’t win Vargas Llosa points among those who regard him as antagonistic — or at least indifferent — to indigenous-rights movements in Latin America.

The author is quoted as saying in 2003, while commenting on indigenous movements in Latin America in general (link in Spanish): “Development and civilization are incompatible with certain social phenomenons, the principle being collectivism. […] The indigenism … that appears to have been forgotten is now behind phenomenons such as the señor Evo Morales in Bolivia.”

Two years later, Peru’s neighbor Bolivia elected Morales, its first indigenous president in history — a moment regarded as a victory for long-oppressed indigenous groups in the Andean region. Vargas Llosa was unimpressed, dismissing Morales in 2008 as a “typical Latin American criollo [Spaniard born in the Americas], a Spanish-speaking mestizo, who is finishing off Bolivia.” (Link in Spanish.)

(Morales, for the record, is an Aymara Indian.)