Rodo and Retamar have contrasting visions of what will create a strong Latin-American Identity. For Rodo it is the educated intellectuals who must lead the way, while for Retamar it is the mestizos and the lower classes. Taking Rodo's Ariel first, in this work the writer calls for a cosmopolitanism that involved changing/transforming European models of development and identity. According to Rodo, Latin-Americans should neither slavishly follow European standards/structures nor unthinkingly reject them. According to Rodo the sense of Ariel as 'spirit' can create a Latin-American cultural sovereignty:
Rolo's view of Ariel, and the manner in which it can inform an identity for Latin-Americans, seems based upon the Cartesian contrast between rationality and savagery, between elevation and baseness, between intelligence and ignorance. Essentially, all those features which are typically "European", stemming mainly from the Enlightenment image of civilization are contrasted with those characteristics which were typically associated with the "natives" (i.e. non-Europeans, in this case Latin-Americans) who are perceived as savage.
The colonial past, if not valorized, is at least presented in a softer light than many critics would suggest is both realistic and a moral imperative. As part of his vision of Ariel, Rodo does reject current North American cultural imperialism, but in this he almost echoes similar complaints from Europeans, especially the French. Current imperialism is rejected because it does not live up to the ideals of Ariel. It is coarse, unintelligent, appealing to the baser emotions and unrefined. It is, once again, a carbon-copy of the European stereotype regarding Latin-Americans.
Rodo's concentration on the educated elite as the best hope for creating a Latin-American identity raises the question whether such an elite, almost by definition educated in the European tradition, can really be seen as independent from it. Rodo argues that they can be: for Ariel is not a simplistic figure; he can combine apparently contradictory elements within a unified whole. Similarly, while the educated elite may appear European in their behavior and thought-patterns, they can bring to Latin America a new sense of identity based upon their intellectual confidence. According to Rodo, it is only those who have a refined mind who can adapt the intellectual, cultural, social and political dominance of the Europeans.
Within the parable of the king that appears in Ariel, Rodo suggests that the leaders of society must cross from the world of action into the world of thought. This is, of course, the opposite process from what most political revolutionaries would suggest. Most use thought to spur action, but Rodo seeks for increased passivity: a slow evolution into the philosopher-king rather than the soldier/merchant-king. He describes this process thus:
The ancients, in their wisdom, included my visitors
within the family of otium, the wise