The New Face of the Apocalypse in Mexican Orientalism: From Sánchez Echenique’s El ombligo del dragón to Rivera Garza’s Verde Shanghai

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Published in TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 8(3)

Open Access journal published by the University of California


While Orientalism, the representation, has been under attack for its critical approach since the eighteenth century, its survival as field of study and narrative strategy to the present day speaks to its potentiality, diversity and openness. This article argues that Hispanic Orientalism, in general, and Mexican Orientalism, in particular, persist because of their interplay of political, cultural and symbolic landscapes framed by the Apocalypse. In this light, narratives of the end of time, new beginnings and cyclical events interact across cultural boundaries and competing traditions. Multiplicities survive over the power of a singular Western story because they blur the logics of identity, and displace chaos and disruptive end points by engaging dialog as an opening to a new beginning. This article analyzes two Mexican novels of the twenty-first century, Ximena Sánchez Echenique’s El ombligo del dragón (2007) and Cristina Rivera Garza’s Verde Shanghai (2011). These works fulfill a self-Orientalist model that reopens taboo subjects of race, illness, and mental stability in apocalyptic transformations that simultaneously engage, engross, reject and adapt to the Other. Both novels redeploy Chinese culture, mythological figures, life philosophies and science from within Mexican culture, ultimately providing a mirror to the fears and hopes of the society in which they are generated. In effect, these uniquely Mexican narratives establish a dialog on the creation of civilization, the final judgment, and the future foretold that supplants geographic, environmental, national and disciplinary boundaries.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.