Latin American Travelers and Revolutionary China in the Global 1960s: A Story of (Dis)encounters

Visiting Scholar Talks

Nov 29, 2023 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Wei Ran | Associate Professor, Institute of Foreign Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2023-24


Mariano Siskind | Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

In the Global 1960s, many Latin American leading intellectuals, such as Pablo Neruda, José Venturelli, Eduardo Galeano and Ricardo Piglia, visited Maoist China, which was regarded as an alternative to Soviet Union and Cuba’s bureaucratic systems. This talk tries to reconstruct the experiences of their (dis)encounters with revolutionary China in the 1960-70s, through travelogues, memoirs, documentaries, archival records, and contemporary novels. I will appropriate Contemporary Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s Volver la vista atrás (2020) as Ariadne’s thread to sketch several Latin American travelers’ trajectories in Revolutionary China’s labyrinth. Key Latin American travelers’ experiences not merely synergistically created a Chinese version of Tricontinentalism and global solidarity, but rather creatively modified some of the uniform discourses of Mao Zedong’s thought on literature and culture into centrifugal and transgressive critique. My central argument is that the pioneering literary and cultural creativity of the cross-border Latin American travelers led the way in the conceptualization of socialist cosmopolitanism, rather than economic and trade cooperation in the 1960-70s. After five decades of the global 1960s, facing Latin American postmemory archives, such as Volver la vista atrás, this talk, by challenging fixed epistemological patterns, seeks to suggest new perspectives towards the transnational utopian ruins.