Resisting Hollywood-style Globalization in the Argentine Chaco



Carolina Rocha

University of Illinois, Urbana


In his now widely-disseminated article, Néstor García Canclini posed the following question: Will there be Latin American cinema in the year 2000? Written in the 1990s, García Canclini’s article was concerned with two simultaneous processes: on one hand, the penetration of American films in Latin America as a result of more efficient technologies such as the VCR and the internet; on the other, the subsequent impact of the consumption of American films on Latin American national cultures, given the lack of regulations in Latin America to subsidize or protect national audiovisual productions. García Canclini read these concurrent developments as emblematic of the process of globalization that links different parts of the world through the use of fast means of communication. Anthropologist Arjun Appudarai was also concerned with the effects of globalization, particularly the effects of both electronic media and diasporas on local imaginations. Indeed, the unprecedented mobility of images and people constitutes a defining characteristic of twenty-first-century globalization. Like his fellow anthropologist García Canclini, Appudarai also pointed out that the impact of transferences among different countries irrevocably alters cultures. Nonetheless, Appuradai’s views differed from García Canclini’s in that the former highlighted the resistance of local or regional imaginations to the homogenizing push brought about by globalization. Indeed, for Appudarai, imagination defined as “a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally-defined fields of possibility” (31) was a fundamental element in shaping the forces of resistance “between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization” (32). Taking these remarks by these two anthropologists as a point of departure, I explore how Mempo Giardinelli’s Imposible equilibrio, a novel published in 1995, engages in a dialogue, which weighs the issues set forth by both Appudarai and García Canclini. I argue that Giardinelli’s novel reacts to a globalizing world through the use of the imagination, but with a curious twist: he deploys foreign images and formulas to underscore the effects of globalization. His cooptation of transnational audiovisual models reveals the opposing consequences of globalization: on one hand, imagination occupies a central place as it is expanded by metropolitan mass media images, while on the other, it emphasizes the distinctiveness of local cultures using imagination as a tool that challenges the push for a homogeneous world. In resisting dominant global trends, regional groups re-appropriate themes, strategies and formulas deployed for world consumption and transform them to reach wider audiences or to establish national agendas. I will address García Canclini’s concern with how American films impact Latin American literature by analyzing Giardinelli’s novel as a cultural product that bears the influence of American popular culture. I will also deploy Appudarai’s concepts to examine the ways in which Giardinelli uses imagination in a post-national era.


Imposible equilibrio: the national and transnational


Imposible equilibrio tells the story of a group of middle-class men and women from Chaco, Argentina, who strongly oppose the import of two African hippopotami and their off-springs. These animals are considered the solution to a common local problem: camalotes– pieces of earth and vegetation that float in the rivers of the region and are said to be responsible for devastating floods. Contrary to the official promises made by authorities who anticipate the hippos helping to improve the future of the people of Chaco by eating the camalotes, the opposing group views the arrival of these animals as a smoke screen that distracts the citizens’ energy and attention from more pressing problems. Moreover, it sees the import of hippopotami as an example of the country’s dependency on foreign saviors to solve its structural problems. As a result, these disaffected citizens kidnap the hippopotami the very day of their arrival, disrupting the welcome ceremony attended by national and state authorities with violence and improvisation. This kidnapping gives way to a chase that continues throughout the novel at a frantic speed. (1)

Before examining the influences of American popular culture in the novel, I will briefly focus on the main characters and some of the elements that appear in Imposible equilibrio that represent the national, or the truly Argentinian–the space threatened by the consumption of transnational popular culture. To portray the national, Giardinelli chooses a community, which gathers in a coffee shop to share views on diverse topics ranging from events of national relevance to small-town gossip. The characters that make up this community embody the different ideological views of the Argentine middle-class. They hold university degrees, are entrepreneurs or work in various trades. Ideologically, they embrace political views from the extreme left to the far right. Among those who are leftists, we find Victorio Lagomarsino and Pura Solanas, both of whom were political militants in the armed groups of the 1970s, and survived the repression of the most recent Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983). In accordance with their past militancy, they both openly challenge the conformist traits of 1990s Argentine society, which they consider as evidence of the official emphasis on consumption and immediate pleasure. Another local character that shares Pura’s and Victorio’s views is Cardozo, a professional journalist and the first person narrator of this story. Although Cardozo has also been critical of the policies enforced by the administrations of the early 1990s, he fails to engage in action to resist them. While he silently cheers for the kidnappers and their wild actions, he strives to remain a neutral chronicler of the events and conversations that unfold in the wake of the kidnapping. Along with these three protagonists, we find other minor characters whose function is to give voice to other middle-class opinions. These minor characters are all part of the local closely- knit community which serves as a microcosm of the larger national community.

Many foreigners are also part of the local community; some are descendants of immigrants. The inclusion of these characters points to remind readers of the multiple origins of Argentinians and puts into perspective the recent emphasis on interconnectedness brought about by globalization. However, as noted by Appudarai, the current increased mobility across borders has led to a rise in diasporic subjects, mainly in metropolitan centers, but also noticeable in previously isolated areas such as Chaco, where the novel takes place. Indeed, the recently arrived immigrants found in Imposible equilibrio are subjects who, for a myriad of reasons, have left their homelands and now live in Chaco. They represent otherness, not just in racial, ethnic or economic terms, but also because they stand for a certain cosmopolitanism, a transnational flavor that diversifies and contrasts with the national. Since they speak with foreign accents, blend languages and use different Spanish dialects what is evident is the fact that they still preserve traces of their national identities and are thus named after their places of origin: Mexico, Brazil and America. The choice of these three nationalities may be related to the visual foreign products consumed and enjoyed by Argentinians: Brazilian and Mexican soap operas and American TV programs and films. Moreover, these three countries were, in the 1990s (when there existed a parity between the Argentine peso and the American dollar), widely promoted as popular tourist destinations for middle- and upper-class Argentines. Thus, as noted by Appudarai, these three nationalities have been present in and contributed to the shaping of Argentine imaginations in more ways than one.

Of particular importance among these diasporic characters is the American, Frank Woodyard, whose arrival “cuatro años y una semana” earlier nearly coincided with the installation of an official policy in favor of globalization. The neo-liberal program implemented in the early 1990s by President Carlos Menem held that the country needed to give up nationalism and embrace open-market policies to participate in global decision-making.(2) At first, Frank may be taken to represent the tenets of a free-market economy due to his foreignness and his American citizenship. Indeed, Frank’s background –war veteran, Catholic priest and professor at a local university – attests to his links to what Louis Althusser has called Ideological State Apparatus (ISAs): the State, the Church, the educational system, all institutions that influence the mindset of a given society.(3) Being a part of these ISAs that spread ideologies, Frank may have contributed to the dissemination of the logic of capitalism through war, his missionary work and his teachings. However, because he is an expatriate and he renounced his Catholic priesthood after he fell in love with Pura, Frank is also separated from mainstream capitalist ideology and the dominant religion. Therefore, he is well-received and considered a part of the local community. As a member of this community, Frank probes his affiliation to the group by resisting globalization and by being one of the characters who, along with Pura and Victorio, resist transnational solutions and kidnap the hippos.

Within this context of foreigners living in Argentina and foreign ideologies such as neo-liberalism penetrating the national space, it is also possible to observe other foreign elements impacting the lives of Argentinians. I am referring to the influence of audiovisual products on the national imagination, particularly noticeable in the multiple references to movie theatres and their centrality in local social life. Movie theatres and movies are repeatedly mentioned in the novel. As a topic of conversation, different views on movies and movie theatres provide the opportunity to all those gathered at the coffee -shop to express themselves and share their memories of films and anecdotes that took place in movie theaters. David Desser, a film scholar, names this phenomenon as cinephilia, “the ability and necessity of acknowledging the intertextual chain of references, borrowings, and re-workings” (528) surrounding cinema and includes it as a defining feature of global noir. In Giardinelli’s novel, films have shaped the imaginary of the local characters: several movies have made an impression on their lives and have molded their mindsets in noticeable ways, particularly in how to resist what Imposible equilibrio’s rebels consider oppressive forces.

For the characters who reflect on movie theaters, there are significant differences between the cinemas of the past and those of the present. The former ones, the Viejo Cine Argentino and Café Cinema Lumière, are depicted as communal places where people shared the enjoyment of filmic adventures and events of the world without social distinctions.(4) Contrary to this, the remaining movie theater in town no longer serves as a point of reunion for different ages: the Biógrafo 70 is the only movie theater still open in Chaco (46), a change that is directly related to the discourse of efficiency and profit-making ushered during the 1990s when many long-standing cinemas changed management or were sold and renovated into more and smaller rooms. (5) Indeed, the Biográfo’s decadence resulted from the transference to a new owner who was intent on making a profit (a reference to the privatizations of the 1990s) and thus adapted showings to the demand for a more individualistic type of pleasure.

Despite these recent changes to the consumption of foreign audiovisual products, the conversations of the characters in Imposible equilibrio about films, reveals that both popular movies and high art have had a lasting effect on their imaginations. Although many characters declare themselves or are portrayed as lovers of “pure art,” (6) many others acknowledge the influence of more popular and commercial movies and actors, such as Tony Curtis and Liz Taylor. Curiously, what is particularly significant is the fact that whether talking of high art or popular culture, the characters do not mention any Argentine films as having any bearing on their personal, political or artistic sensibilities.(7) By contrast, American popular culture not only influences the novel’s characters, but its plot and action as well. (8) I will elaborate more on this shortly, but for now I will focus on the novel’s use of cinematic techniques.

Imposible equilibrio primarily uses audiovisual strategies as a way to narrate a series of improvised adventures in a marginal region. The kidnapping and flight of the dissident characters is narrated by Cardozo, the writer’s alter ego and also a witness and listener to his fellows group members’ reactions to the kidnapping. Another point of view narrates the flight of Pura, Frank, Victorio and young Clelia with the hippos across Chaco. This deployment of two “recording cameras” makes it possible for the reader to simultaneously follow the kidnappers as well as the coffee shop conversations of those who either express their support of or disagreement with the rebels. Thus, while the point of view of the people at the coffee shop is more of an auditory recording, the “camera” that goes along for the flight provides a more visual account. Both cameras or points of view alternate each other in portraying the developments at the coffee shop and during the kidnappers frantic journey. This strategy, judiciously noted by Andrew Brown, “forces the reader to switch between plot lines” (204). Toward the end of the novel, a third camera is added to trace Cardozo’s actions to help the kidnappers.

One noteworthy fact of this division of viewpoints is that the recording that follows the kidnappers acts a hidden camera that exposes the reality of the Chaco countryside, a region that has been forgotten or marginalized by several administrations, both at the state and national levels. Indeed, situated in northeastern Argentina, Chaco is a province of a wider area that includes parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. In the late nineteenth century, it was an appealing destination for immigrants who arrived in Argentina looking for a better life. Researchers of the Universidad Nacional del Noroeste who have studied the importance of immigration to Chaco provide the following data: between 1895 and 1947, the population of this province increased from 42,274 to 430,555 (48.8 %), which in relative terms was more than double that of the other provinces (Besil et al 3). The three main economic activities responsible for attracting so many people to this province were cultivation of cotton, extraction of natural dyes from regional tree species, and an incipient industrialization. However, in their recent study of the Chaco economy, Antonio Besil, Elena Alfonso and Lucila Bonilla noted that this favorable outlook of the first half of the twentieth century was drastically reversed in the 1990s when cotton production decreased from 74,12% in 1989-90 to 60 % in 1998-99 (3-4). Another economic study provides darker data: the infant mortality rate in the northeast region of Argentina, of which Chaco accounts for 20 %, was 21, 1 % for the same period, slightly above the average for the rest of the country and significantly higher than that of Buenos Aires. Finally, in the late 1990s the percentage of families in Chaco that did not have their basic needs satisfied met to 33.2 %, in other words, one in every three families was living in poverty. Thus, Chaco stands as a decadent, impoverished environment, deeply affected by both the closing of local industries and the obsolescence of traditional agricultural products, such as cotton and tanino, which have now been replaced by new products (synthetic fibers and dyes) that have appeared in the market in the 1990s. Hence, the camera system that Giardinelli uses captures the impact of neo-liberal policies in the region. Nonetheless, the very use of a visual recording to depict the conditions in Chaco also alludes to cinematic genres, and specifically American popular culture that also inform the plot of Imposible equilibrio.

Three American film genres influence Giardinelli’s novel: action movies, Westerns and Roadies. The formula of action movies helps structure the kidnappers’ improvised flight in the novel with its emphasis on speed and adrenaline rush. There are several instances when the rebel characters create spectacular violence. The first one is when Victorio bombs the steps on which authorities are situated to witness the arrival of the hippopotami. The second one takes place when the Scania truck that Victorio drives crashes into police cars that were barricading the road. These violent clashes resonate strongly with American action movies. It is evident in Victorio’s actions that Giardinelli borrows from action films of the 1980s the figure of “the individualistic, ostensibly anti-authoritarian or anti-government hero” (Gallagher 12). I will come back to the idea of the hero later, but what I want to stress now is that in carrying out the kidnapping of the hippo, Victorio stages a revolt that aims not only at discrediting the government, but also at expressing his frustration about the ways that neo-liberalism and globalization were implemented in Argentina without proper consensus.

Among American action movies, the novel is particularly influenced by the American war movies of the late 1970s and 1980s, such as Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986) and Casualties of War (1989) that were successful blockbusters in Argentina as well. Of these American movies, it is crucial to highlight the imprint of Apocalypse Now on the plot structure of Imposible equilibrio. Both fictional works heavily rely on journeys that lead to hellish environments. In Francis Ford Coppola’s film, the protagonist’s journey leads him to find American Colonel Kurtz, who has changed sides and resides in the middle of the Vietnam jungle. In Giardinelli’s novel, the rebel characters flee to the torrid and humid areas of Chaco. In both works, either the jungle or the tropical forest acts as a milieu that suffocates and distorts reality. The descent into hell-like surroundings is also related to the topic of the end of the world or the apocalypse. For Conrad E. Ostwalt Jr., who has analyzed the use of the apocalypse in Coppola’s movie, this topic is used “to provide meaning to a chaotic existence” (61). The same is evident in the conversations that the characters of Imposible equilibrio have as they are immersed in and secluded by the heat. Their sense of reality –or the way they have perceived and envisioned their nation – is slowly giving way to a different reality, one shaped by a weakened version of the state. Precisely, part of the rebels’ frustrations is directed towards the failure of the government to develop the Chaco region and provide a dignified standard of living for its inhabitants.

Giardinelli further reinforces his debt to American popular movies by using Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo as model for the characters of both Victorio and Frank. Frank, a Vietnam War veteran, seems to be a character that has just stepped out of an American war movie. Giardinelli borrows from American Vietnam-war movies the character of the disillusioned warrior who, after fighting to spread liberal democracy and capitalism and witnessing the human cost of war, repents of his actions. In becoming a dissident and minority voice, Frank is a “de-territorialized” character in American society because of his awareness of the implications of capitalistic expansion. In a similar way, Victorio is also shaped as a war veteran –this time of the internal fighting that took place in Argentina in the late 1960s and early 1970s–. Like Frank, Victorio is deeply troubled by the loyalty he feels to his past ideals –social justice, a better redistribution of national wealth, and national autonomy – which in the Argentina of the 1990s seemed to have been completely forgotten. Frank’s and Victorio’s disillusionment contrasts with the climate of unbridled optimism among those who favor neo-liberalism and the globalization trend, since neo-liberal tenets work against Victorio’s ideals of making Argentine society more socially inclusive. Thus, Victorio is also a de-territorialized character, whose ideals have lost the aura that they had twenty years earlier when he was an active militant fighting for social change.

Because two distinct projects are presented in Imposible equilibrio, the novel also insinuates the imprint of another genre of commercially successful American movie: the Western. Among the several elements of the Western that Imposible equilibrio adopts, most notable is the location of the plotline in Chaco, a frontier between habitable and under-populated lands similar to the ones shown in Westerns. The novel’s allusion to the frontier also marks the two sides that always clash in Westerns: on one side, the urban and cosmopolitan civilization; on the other, the barbarism of the rural areas where the “national” takes shelter. In the novel, the urban and cosmopolitan area is presented as a contaminated realm where globalization flourishes, while the rural is seen as an isolated, backward zone. Thus, in fleeing to the frontier, the characters seek to strip themselves of the straight jacket of global neo-liberalism. As one of the characters puts it, “[V]ivimos en una trituradora. Este país es una máquina de picar carne” (56). Unemployment, underemployment and meager salaries are all phenomena brought about by opening the country to free trade – a move that has rendered national workers powerless by depriving them both of employment and dignity. Therefore, contact with a different, “unaltered” environment is fundamental for the rebel characters in order to reclaim a sense of self. In this regard, it is crucial to consider Del Jacobs’ observation about the function of the landscape in neo-Westerns: “The Western landscape still holds the promise of liberation and/or redemption, rebirth and reinvention” (67). The main characters’ need for emancipation leads them to consider the frontier as an untamed, limitless space where they can exercise their freedom, away from the influence of foreign images. Moreover, this space allows them to be independent from the officially-sponsored ideology that attempts to homogenize society through its embracement of globalization.

The conflict between law and order, which in this case pits a group of social misfits against state and national authorities is another element of Westerns noticeable in the novel. The protagonists’ violation of the law also separates them from their local peers, and this separation corresponds to the individual-versus-community dichotomy that informs many Westerns, such as High Noon (1952) is a case in point where the tensions are enacted. Indeed, in kidnapping the hippopotami Frank, Pura and Victorio alienate their community of friends, a situation that resembles some Westerns, in which characters often collide with the system, or lack the support of their communities. In this regard, Frank, Pura and Victorio are the outlaws who disavow the dominant ideology, and can therefore no longer occupy the space of the civilized.

The deployment of these Western elements as a subtext that serves to chronicle the resistance of a group of leftist characters against the financial, cultural and social flows made possible by globalization is not a coincidence. Quite the contrary, the use of a genre that relies heavily on force as a means to assert oneself transports readers to the past. As Western scholar Robert Murray Davis explains, “Western myth is essentially anti-modernist, for it is confined to a narrow period and is based on a linear theory of history” (134). Precisely what the fleeing characters discover in their flight is the fact that they have too much awareness of the present to embrace more traditional ways of life. As they travel in rural Chaco, the images that they see belong to a time-past, to failed dreams, to promises that never materialized. However, none of the characters, regardless of age or sex, can identify with those who live in the devastated areas of the province. Thus, by relying on a genre that defies progress and change, Giardinelli seems to be pointing out the futility of the outlaws’ self-imposed mission. In other words, the return to the past is an impossible mission, and those who long for a bygone era have no place in modern society.

The third and final popular American genre closely linked to Westerns that also acts a subtext for the novel are Roadies. Roadies are films that take place on the road and exemplify both an escape from orderly life and an instance for self-discovery. Among these films we find City Slickers (1991), Thelma and Louise (1991), and more recently, Transamerica (2005). Indeed, in Imposible equilibrio, characters flee city life using modern means of transportation. The fact that they change cars and pilot a helicopter to run away from authorities also underscores the influence of this popular genre. The physical frenzy of Roadies often mirrors the protagonists’ unresolved inner tensions. According to film scholar Mark Williams, the road movie phenomenon illustrates “the innate restlessness of the American people” (6). In Imposible equilibrio, the “outlaw” characters hit the road to experience a freedom that is denied to them in their daily life. They use technological advances to escape a society dominated by modern products.

However, it is during their journey through the abandoned lands of rural Chaco that the characters realize that there is no viable alternative to neo-liberalism and globalization. Unlike most American movies where the frontier is ever-expanding, the characters of Giardinelli’s novel find themselves cornered and suffocated by the landscape. Without a way out, they are forced to turn in circles, reinforcing the idea that it is not feasible to successfully oppose global standards. Additionally, following the message of American popular films, their imagination is shaped by the endless possibilities of a powerful nation, the promises of technology and the power of the individual to tame the land. Conversely, the Argentine reality they experience points to limited advancement, systemic poverty and an agrarian society based on subsistence farming. It is by confronting another reality –poorer, more isolated, more rural– that they realize that because of their knowledge of “the other reality” –more technological, more urban, more cosmopolitan– they cannot return to the past. They also understand that their beliefs no longer mobilize large segments of the population; hence, there is no longer place for a successful anti-capitalist revolution that would end the plight of the lower classes or place for a society that could free itself from the events of the world. In this regard, the rebel characters become aware of their paradoxical location in a Third World attempting to act as American popular cinematic characters.

These rebel characters first recognize the pervasive influence of American popular culture on their imaginations when they break the law, and realize that their roles seem to have been scripted, or that they are acting as characters from certain movies. For instance, when Victorio complains about the quagmire in which they find themselves –an improvised and tumultuous flight–, Frank reassures him with “Vos tranquilo, Vic, Rambo pasó peores” (139). In another instance, Victorio and his young partner, Clelia successfully overcome a police barricade and Clelia celebrates saying, “Igual que en las películas” (164). What is evident from these remarks is not merely the fact that they allude to movies, but that the characters have the opportunity to try, at least briefly, different identities, a characteristic, as pointed out by Appudarai of the process of contact and exchange. To use his words, “[E]lectronic media at the same time are resources for experiments with self-making in all sorts of societies, for all sorts of people. They allow scripts for possible lives to be imbricated with the glamour of film stars and fantastic plots” (3). The rebel characters of Imposible equilibrio, use these scripts to attempt to escape what they consider an oppressive situation. However, later and as events become more complex, Victorio and Clelia admit that “ellos mismos son, ya, una especie de Bonnie and Clyde espantosos” (173). The glamorized settings and performances of Hollywood films stand in stark contrast to the reality that these characters encounter as they run away. Entrapped in one of the poorest areas of the country, Victorio and Clelia become aware of their shortcomings, and thereby, feel like caricatures of celluloid characters. (9) As their rebel actions begin to fall short, the distance between what takes place in films and real life becomes more apparent, stressing the “failure” of their imitation of American actors and films, or the artificial features of their acts. This consciousness that their thoughts and actions resemble American popular movies exhibits the extent to which in an interconnected world, identities are shaped by local elements as well as global influences.

 So what can we make of a novel that decries the effects of globalization in Argentina while deploying American cinematic forms and genres? How are we to interpret the cultural transference between these two very different cultures that are located respectively in the powerful North and the poor South? I believe that the answer to these questions is voiced by Cardozo who holds that, “Hoy nuestra resistencia es cultural” (57). By calling attention to the unidirectional flow of foreign audiovisual products from North to South, Giardinelli appears, at times, to reject the passive role assigned to spectators, especially those south of the Rio Grande, who consume American popular products. At other times, the novel appears to pay homage to the sustained appeal of American popular culture, cinematic in particular, which has provided generations of spectators with the possibility of scripting their lives with a fantasy and glamour that would otherwise be unattainable in their daily lives.

The novel’s open ending, in which fantastic elements are introduced, further points to the impossibility of resisting the global. On one hand, Victorio and Clelia’s lives are spared a literary death, a fact read by Brown as a sign of Giardinelli’s optimism (215). On the other, their fantastic survival can be considered a symbolic death since they no longer inhabit the real world. Thus, the project led by Pura, Victorio and Frank instead of leading to a pure and frank victory –as symbolized by the protagonists’ names– disappear in the air. This disappearance occurs after Victorio and Clelia meet another couple: Ramiro and Araceli, characters in Giardinelli’s novel Luna caliente (Sultry Moon 1986) that leads them to a safe place. This encounter can be interpreted as a return to the realm of the literary, and thus, the nation. As scholars who focus on the spread of nationalism such as Benedict Anderson, or those who have studied the formation of national cultures in Latin America–here I am referring to Angel Rama – have stressed, national literatures were crucial elements in the nation-building process. Printed materials constituted the main means of shaping a national identity in nineteenth-century Latin America and held a prominent place in the national imaginations until the 1960s. During these decades, lettered culture ruled unchallenged as the optimal medium not only to build a national citizenship and to create bonds among regions and groups that had held opposing ideas for the development of the nation, but also as a way to organize previously dislocated imaginations into a national one. Thus, an interpretation along these lines suggests that Imposible equilibrio invites readers to revisit Argentine national literature as a solution to resist globalization’s homogenizing push from the very site of a national culture. Similar to the visual arts, literature creates and preserves “living” myths and heroes that belong to the national community, an advantage over foreign visual products that also provide spectators with myths and heroes, but belong to a different cultural heritage. Finally, the very title of the novel Imposible equilibrio poses the question of whether or not it is possible to find an equilibrium between the post-national visual and the national literary in times of globalization.





(1) In her review of the novel, Marisa Avigliano has also noted the vertiginous rhythm of the novel. For his part, Giardinelli has refered to Imposible equilibrio as “una novelita que me sirvió para, precisamente, cambiar de tema y cambiar todo. Nada que ver con nada anterior. Una de aventuras, una road-novel o road-book. Puro cachondeo, persecuciones y tiros en plan absurdo” (Roffé).


(2) Ironically, in Giardinelli’s novel the vessel that carries the foreign hippopotami to Argentina (and which therefore represents foreign penetration) is, named Evita capitana after Eva Duarte de Perón (1909-1955), a leader who rejected foreign ownership of key national assets and stressed national sovereignty. Evita capitana, then, is a symbol of the nationalistic resistance that has inspired and unified left-wing Argentine political groups for decades. The Peronist Party was similarly co-opted and its ideological tenets reversed during the 1989-1999 period to introduce neo-liberalism in the country. It should be remembered that during this decade, President Carlos Menem sold many of the country’s assets when he privatized nationally-owned companies and transferred them to foreign investors. Thus, by using Evita capitana, a previously nationalistic symbol, Giardinelli avoids a simplistic assessment of the introduction of globalization in the country. He seems to suggest that the transnational forces that impact national culture both come from abroad and are also strongly encouraged by local groups who benefit from them.


(3) Similarly, Appudarai mentions that before the twentieth -century, war and religious conversions were the main forms of sustained cultural interaction between different cultures (27).


(4) For instance, one of the characters narrates the anecdote of a Spanish immigrant woman who thought that her whole family had perished in the Spanish Civil War, only to realize forty years later that her brother was alive and was one of the characters in the film Morir en Madrid (186). Shocked by the event, the lady suffered a heart attack and the audience shouted to have the movie stopped so that she could receive medical attention, a gesture that illustrates the close connections and past sense of solidarity.


(5) For more on this, see Ana Wortman’s “Viejas y nuevas significaciones del cine” in Pensar las clases medias. Consumos culturales y estilos de vida urbanos en la Argentina de los noventa (111-128).


(6) Some characters remember, for example, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973), Juventud.


(7) Something similar happened to Argentine writer Manuel Puig (1928-1990) who used numerous foreign films in his novels La traición de Rita Hayworth (1965) and El beso de la mujer araña (1976).


(8) Argentine writer José Pablo Feimann (1943) who belongs to the same generation as Giardinelli also admits his indebtedness to Hollywood films: “El cine de Hollywood es el que mejor conozco porque es el que más me gusta” (19).


(9) Fernando Reati has observed that the entrapment of characters within the national space in Impossible equilibrio bears a resemblance to Osvaldo Soriano’s Una sombra ya pronto serás (1990). For more detail on Soriano’s novel, see Reati’s Postales del provernir. La literatura de anticipación en la Argentina neoliberal (1985-1999).


Works Cited

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Translated by Ben Brewster New York/London: Monthly Review Press, 1971

Appudarai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Avigliano, Marisa. “La Biblia junto al calefón. Imposible equilibrio.” July 2, 1995.

Besil, Antonio, Elena Alfonso and Lucila Bonilla. La economía del Chaco en la década del 90.

Brown, J. Andrew. Test-Tube Envy. Science and Power in Argentine Narrative. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2005.

Desser, Davir. “Global Noir: Genre Film in the Age of Transnationalism” in Film Genre Reader III.  Edited by Barry Keith Grant. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. 516-536.

Feimann, José Pablo. Pasiones de celuloide. Ensayos y variedades de cine. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2000.

Gallagher, Mark. Action Figures: Men, Action Films, and Contemporary Adventure Narratives. New York: Mac Millan Palgrave, 2006.

García Canclini, Néstor. “Will There Be Latin American Cinema in the Year 2000? Visual Culture in a Postnational Era. Framing Latin American Cinema. Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Edited by Ann Marie Stock, Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press, 1997: 246-258.

Giddens, Anthony. Runaway World. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Jacobs, Del. Revisioning Film Traditions. The Pseudo-documentary and the Neo Western. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000.

Martin, Joel W.and Conrad E. Ostwalt Jr. Screening the Sacred. Religion, Myth, and Ideology in Popular American Film. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Reati, Fernando. Postales del provernir. La literatura de anticipación en la Argentina neoliberal (1985-1999). Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2006.

Roffé, Reina. Entrevista a Mempo Giardinelli, accessed December 4th, 2006

Williams, Mark. Road Movies. New York/London: Proteus, 1986.

Wortman, Ana. Ed. Pensar las clases medias. Consumos culturales y estilos de vida urbanos en la Argentina de los noventa. Buenos Aires: La Crujía, 2003.