This week I wanted to really analyze “To Roosevelt” as many of its references seemed rich although I couldn’t understand them all. The first two lines seem to mean that the United States only responds to certain forms of political discourse; countries that share similar religious and political values are allowed into the political arena. Darío points out that much of the American identity is rooted in old colonial figures like George Washington, as Mexico often participates in a similar worship of dead political figures. This necro nationalism permeates both country’s identities. Nebuchadnezzar is both a biblical reference but also a greater homage to hegemonic powers. The Babylonian king had expansive control and influence over the area; similar to the way that the United States’ influence reached the entire world. Darío reprimands to the United States as too quick to use violence because they believe the “future is wherever your bullet strikes.” This ideology is similar today, where the U.S. often uses brute force in the quest to spread democracy.
The “cult of Mammon” describes the sin of gluttony. Together with the cult of Hercules, the United States is painted as a gluttonous and strong country, perpetually conflicted with the ideals of Liberty which the country was founded upon. The poet indicates that Latin America has a different relationship to land; the difference between the United States and Latin America is the stars, light, fragrance, and fire. There is an insinuation that the United States’ indigenous history has experienced heavy erasure as no names are remembered in comparison to Cuautéhmoc and Moctezuma. Instead, Americans have “Saxon eyes,” or germanic roots indicating the lack of personal relationship and identity to Northern America. He finishes the poems with lions in stark contrast to the tigers that the United States metaphorically kills. Latin America is painted as more in touch with emotion, dreams, land, and religion. The land is alive, given human physical characteristics like a backbone. The land too has agency, responding to the actions of the United States. By ending with God, morality is the final blow to the U.S. While the United States is largely religious, they are not unified by one religion. The tone of the poem is romantic, and while seeks to position Latin America as culturally unique, mobilizes largely biblical metaphors, an interesting irony.
I really enjoyed the poem. As an American, I agree with a lot of the arguments that United States action is often violent and in the name of something bigger. More fundamentally, I find the writing quite beautiful.