Jennifer Balli
Professor Alvarez
English 363
28 November 2011

Analysis of Ruben Ardila’s Political Psychology: The Latin American Perspective in Relation to Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “There Are No Thieves In This Town”

    In his article, Political Psychology: The Latin American Perspective, Ruben Ardila argues that because of social needs, Latin Americans develop a political psychology in order to cope with their everyday struggles. Ardila theorizes that in order to understand the political psychology, we must understand that the:

role of psychology in this process is well-recognized. It is emphasized that persons adhere to one party or another due to psychological reasons. That political socialization influences the way in which the person is going to cope with the most important problems in his/her life. It is considered that the processes of perception, learning, congnition and relationships between groups, are altered by the dominant class in order to attain selfish goals. (Ruben Ardila 340)

Ardila claims that in order to understand the Latin American political psychology, we must consider the relationship between the political situation and one’s individual conception and how the two affect each other. He further argues that one’s own ability to assess their environment allows them to decide how to behave in their society. In other words, Latin Americans become direct products of their society, acting in response to political stability or instability. As readers, we can accept this theory as true in relation to literature. For instance, in Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper, the political unrest arises from the characters’ own insecurities and vulnerabilities, or their own selfish needs. We gain insight into the psychology of characters such as Froggy and Federico de la Fe when they wage war on Saturn, whom they believe possesses too much power since he can voluntarily access their private thoughts. While Froggy and Federico de la Fe wage war on Saturn, we also catch sight of another character, who appears from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Smiley, on the other hand, content with Saturn’s position of power, would rather have more of his life exposed. He even goes so far as to visit Saturn, only to discover his human alter-ego, Salvador Plascencia.
Ruben Ardila gives further evidence for the relationship between Latin American psychology and the political situation. He states that:

Latin American social problems are multiple and multicausal. Violence, poverty, unemployment, deterioration of the environment, changes in the family structure, alcoholism, social conflicts, changes in the patterns of child-rearing practices, women’s roles, national identity, dependence, alienation, nationalism and internationalism have many implications and psychological roots. On the other hand, they possess a benchmark that has been recognized as clearly of a political character. Hence, political psychology in our region emerges mostly in response to social needs. (Ruben Ardila 340)


In identifying the numerous political and social conflicts that affect Latin Americans, Ardila establishes a correlation between the individual psychology and the political situation. Because the individual uses their own perception and understanding of the political situation to confront their everyday challenges, Ardila argues that this interaction possesses political psychological qualities. Once again, we as readers can accept this theory as true because the individual bases their social needs in response to their political situation. This idea also relates to literary works, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story, “There Are No Thieves In This Town”. Ardila identifies changes in the family dynamic, the role of women, dependence, unemployment, civil unrest, and the downfall of one’s environment as factors that affect one’s behavior and judgment. All of these factors influence Damaso’s decision to steal the billiard balls from the pool hall. We learn from the heterodiegetic narrator that Damaso shows no remorse for those imprisoned on the pretense that they committed his crime. His wife, Ana, however, shows regret and sympathizes with the wrongly accused. Because Damaso believes that the social unrest has led him to steal, he believes that his judgment led him to an appropriate decision in order for him to fulfill his own selfish desire. Ana, however, upholds a questionable moral code since she didn’t participate in the actual robbery as her husband did, but instead still protected him despite knowing that he committed the robbery.

Works Cited

Ardila, Ruben. “Political Psychology: The Latin American Perspective.” Political Psychology 17.2:
339-51. JSTOR. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. <>.

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2 Responses to “Response 5”

  1.   salvarez said:

    Jennifer, you found a great article, but I think you strayed into the the novels too much. You didn’t have to give any interpretation using the article, but just focus on itself. Fortunatley, you wrote enough for me not to be able to deduct many points off for not giving enough quotes from the article.

    This particular article looks to the a sort of Latin American pyschology expressing trauma to violence. My question to you, then, is where does this violence orginate? In the state? Within its own people? Terrorists? Foreign militaries? (Forgeign for Latin American means the USA as well.)

    Robert writes about violence in his Response 5, in the American Latino version. Notice the distinction between Latino and Latin American. The psychological violence in the Latino novel (like Plascencia) comes from being a minority in the USA, and also sometimes having one’s native language taken away, or the pressures to assimilate. The pyschological violence in Latin American literature (like Garcia Marquez) happens from military intervention in the form of “state terrorism” or when governments declare war on their own people (as in Syria for example), usually to protect foreign business (American, USA) business interests–like bananas, coffee, cocaine, and sugar for example.

    You might consider connecting this idea to some of the wars or physchological scars of characters in the novels. I’m sure there might also be a way to bring in Omaha Bigelow into the picture as well.

    Great verbs, by the way. Notice the difference?

    4.6 out of 5 points.

  2.   daniel said:

    Response 5 response Jennifer Balli
    I found your response really useful to me because I am also trying to work on the psychology behind Latin American literature. When I was writing my response 5, I wasn’t really even thinking about how people and culture are reflections of the society they live in. I feel that although individual instability in suggestion of political collapse is microcosmic, individual psychology also forms the inertia that keeps the unsteady cycle in motion. In other words, when politics affects the individual psychologically, the individual eventually affects politics. Aside from the loop, in class I remember a discussion on the significance of violence in Latin American history as a result of post-colonization; this made me think that aggression and unrest is response to the failure of society to meet the needs of the people translating to literature. This reminds me of the anger in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” over the blatant failure of American society to fully remove itself from its dependent roots and become the country it promised to be post-revolution. In a sense, politics can be seen as a sort of collective external nervous system, linked to and coordinating the actions of the people.
    -Daniel Moïse

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