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The Internet: A Latin American province
Published in Spanish by El Nacional, Caracas, Sunday March 16th, 1997
It is no accident that the first hypertext is a Latin American novel: Hopscotch, by the Argentine author Julio Cortázar. It presents two courses for perusal, with the relevant internal links. Something similar happens in Last Round, by the same author. It was the best hypertext that could be accomplished on paper. Guess what Cortázar could have done with a hypertext program like HyperCard or Netscape.
Latin America is the most universal region in the world. Instead of wondering which cultures nest there, it would be easier to count which cultures have not yet found there their widest territory of mutual fertilization. In Latin Americas cross-bred music all human roots love each other in the most cosmopolitan copulation ever known since humankind sprang up in Kenyas savannas. Latin American music has always been what is now known as fusion. Latin America is where humanity rescued its oneness. When Latin Americans want to delve almost in any culture they only have to peek inside themselves. Homo sum; nihil humani a me alienum puto, said the Roman playwright Terence, I am a man; nothing human is alien to me. It could be Latin Americas slogan. But we are not simply Spanish, Africans nor Indians; we are rather a small human species, Venezuelan liberator Simón Bolívar said. We are more than the simple addition of our elements. Europe and the United States are provincial, as Colombian Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García-Márquez has declared. U.S. tourists roam the remotest regions in the world in search of a McDonalds. They never watch a film made out of the USA. Talk with cultured French people and apart from two or three inevitable universal names Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dante they will only speak about French authors. Speak instead with a cultured Latin American and you will find a worldwide crossroad. Think of Julio Cortázar, of Argentine Jorge Luis Borges, of Mexican Alfonso Reyes, of Cuban Alejo Carpentier. Nothing human is alien to them. They are universal intellectuals. As much as Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda was a universal politician, who was active in the nascent U.S., as well as in England, Russia, Venezuela, and a hero of the French Revolution.
As a consequence, we can conclude that the Internet can be a Latin American province because its universal connections storm every frontier and place you everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We usually cannot know if the persons with whom we exchange email are blond, young, fat, Afghani. Sometimes we cannot know their sex or their age. Certainly there are racist zealots on the Internet, but I wonder how they can prevent a jocular Jew from sneaking into their messages.
There are limitations for Latin America though, generally of economic nature. According to the United Nations, half the humanity has never exchanged a telephone call. Following the same source, only in Italy there are more telephones than in the whole Latin America. Nevertheless, the relatively low cost of the Internet will certainly allow that Latin America enters it with all its strength to conform and confirm its cosmic race nature, its condition as a space for all, to teach humanity lessons of humanity. But it will happen only if Latin America realizes and exerts that universality, overcoming its present hurdles, derived from its failure to perceive its specificity, which, paradoxically, is universality. We missed the Industrial Revolution. But this time we might lead the next human adventure. Europe taught humanity to be like Europe; Latin America might teach all the humanity to be like all the humanity.