La compleja tarea de representar héroes costarricenses : la narrativa y la revelación de las aporías del discurso nacional
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This dissertation focuses on the analysis of Costa Rican literature from 1885 to 1930 in order to explore the problematic configuration of national heroes in the construction of the modern Costa Rican social imaginary. Costa Rica was unique among Central American nations in that its participation in the regional campaign against William Walker (1856-1857) served as a foundational moment for its national project in the 1880s. Two major figures emerged as potential symbols of national heroism: Juan Rafael Mora Porras and Juan Santamaría. Authors Carlos Gagini, Manuel Argüello Mora and Ricardo Fernández Guardia were the only writers who tried to narrate Mora Porras and Juan Santamaría's lives and legacies between 1885 and 1931. In addition, as intellectuals of the liberal elite, their works had to address the consolidation of a national discourse characterized by a desire to highlight distance from, and superiority to, the other Central American nations. According to that vision, Costa Rica could be singled out as racially white and politically peaceful, both attractive traits for enticing foreign investment. Interestingly the paradox of writing on war heroes in this context has not been explored in academia. In fact, publications and academic writing about Costa Rica's military conflicts and heroes are scarce. Within the field of literary criticism, which may have considered these topics taboo, I propose to begin filling this void by analyzing the liberal elite's literary writings on heroism within the context of constructing modern nationhood. My intention is to demonstrate how the literary representations of heroes fracture Costa Rican national discourse, thus explaining the intellectual's resistance to writing on the topic and giving voice to Santamaría and Mora Porras, regardless of the importance of their roles for the foundational "social drama". If we avoid studying how national discourse suppressed violence from its origins and cut short the narrative representations of heroic figures, we deny the possibility of understanding and embracing the need for reinventing traditions and heroes in the 21st century.