Jim Maffie asked about the etymology of “zozobra,” and rather than answer in the comment section, I thought it would be somewhat valuable to write it as a post. It is, after all, a central element of Uranga’s ontology.
The 1888 edition of the Primer Diccionario General Etimológico, defines “zozobra” as “the opposition and contrast of winds that impede navigation and place the vessel in danger of being submerged” (688). This is the sense in which it is used by Lopez Velarde and Uranga when they describe Mexican being as characterized by a fundamental anxiety of breakdown and loss. Etymologically, the word originates in Catalán, from the word “sotsobre” and its verb “sotsobrar,” which means “to overturn” [volcar], or to put upside down. Sostsobrar has Latin roots: sots from the Latin subtus, meaning below or under, and sobre from the Latin super, above or on top.
So, yes, the interplay between nepantla and zozobra is an interesting one, especially when used to define a particular, and situated, human being. This being is one that is in constant movement and perpetual uncertainty, always “in danger of being submerged,” unable to stand still in the certainty of its own existence, overturned by fortune, history, and its accidents, or to get fancy, a being-in-vertigo.
Yes, interesting. Carlos