What are the hidden meanings behind each of the 15 sections of Pablo Neruda's Canto General?

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Natalie Saaris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pablo Neruda's Canto General reflects the history of South America and its people. Each section of the Canto corresponds to a difference facet of this history:

1. A Lamp on Earth: The natural beauty of America prior to the arrival of the conquistadors. Neruda describes the creation of various aspects of the natural world.

2. The Heights of Macchu Picchu: This section conveys Neruda's political engagement following his visit to Macchu Picchu. He opposes the fascist Spanish government and incites his reader to speak out against it.

3. The Conquistadors: Neruda describes the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and their destruction of traditional ways of life for the American natives.

4. The Liberators: Neruda pays tribute to the resistance fighters and rebels of the past.

5. The Sand Betrayed: Neruda denounces the opponents to freedom.

6. America, I Do Not Invoke Your Name in Vain: Description of the natural resources of Latin America.

7. Canto General of Chile: a lyrical description of the natural world in Latin America as well as the traditional way of life of the natives.

8. The Earth’s Name is Juan: an anonymous voice describing the popular resistance to the invaders as well as the suffering and abuse they had caused.

9. Let the Woodcutter Awaken: a call to action for the United States, addressed to Walt Whitman.

10. The Fugitive: a biographical recounting of Neruda's persecution as well as an exaltation to the solidarity of the Chilean people.

11. The Flower of Punitaqui: A recounting of his personal experiences in Northern Chile and his involvement with the labor groups.

12. The Rivers of Song: An homage to the resistance fighters.

13. New Year’s Chorale for the Country in Darkness: a recognition of the resistance to the government of Gonzales Videla.

14. The Great Ocean: a description of the American coasts.

15. I Am: Neruda's affirmation as a heroic symbol of political resistance.

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Canto general

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