Puerto Rican Literature and Society.
From the XIX to XXI Century
Modernism and Postmodernism
Luis Felipe Díaz, Ph.D.
Department of Hispanic Studies
University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
Nineteenth Century. Beginnings and Development
of Literary and Cultural Discourse.
The lettered culture in Puerto Rico reached more depth and intensity as it began getting deeper into the nineteenth century Romantic period. Smong other things, these times aimed mainly to explore and show the subjective expressions, sentimental and passionate aspects, popular customs, new notions of history, attention to social problems, a struggle against oppression (mainly against slavery), the rejection of religious dogmatism, and the search for national and patriotic ideals. Much of these cultural tendencies were a deeper continuation of the expressions and literary tendendencies of the 18th century’s Enlightenment (Ilustration, Neoclassicism) adopted from Europe as well as its Latin American follow-up. But in some aspects Romanticism carried a reaction to the reactionary ideologies and conservative governmental politics of the eighteenth century’s “Despotic Illustration” so attached to the illustration movement in general. Beyond these aspects, Puerto Ricans were beginning to create their symbolic and imaginary response towards the social reality and were trying to construct a national discourse for their homeland. They began to talk of the "ones from out there" and the "ones from here" ("los de la banda'allá y los de la banda acá").
Cultural events developed slowly, with some similarities to the mainland (Spain) expressions. this is the reason why in the colony of Puerto Rico these cultural practices should be considered under a colonial and subaltern context. We should notice the minimal transformations in order to detect any change from what was going on in Europe and to see if it had to do with the new identity of the subaltern “national” that was emerging slowly in the Island. It should be kept in mind that even by the middle of the nineteenth century we still find some conservative neoclassical structures and attitudes within the colonial culture in Puerto Rico and the natives needed time to transform their socio-cultural reality into a metaphorical and different semiosis. The subaltern reality was there in the social context and it needed the natives capacity to construct their symbolic and independent identity and place it into literary and textual terms.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the social conditions that emerged allowed the flourishing of a literature that could be considered Puerto Rican and not an imitation of what was coming from Spain, as it had previously occurred. Literature in this period began presenting local contents and debates of evident colonial relevance. Important guidance allowing this process of cultural and literary independence were: increased newspaper activity due to the appearance of the local press in 1806, the augmentation of a lettered sector of a criollo culture with a political mentality every time more autonomous and conscious of itself, and the development of an economy of haciendas (plantations) —keeping in mind that slavery was its social base. It is also important to notice the proliferation of small towns on the Island in addition to cultural and social exchanges and dynamics, which were becoming more modern every time. Modernity has to be understod in a subaltern cultural context and not in the European disposition for the advanced industrial societies and cultures. However, everything occurred under the processes of a colonial subjection and subaltern society, whose main function was to serve as a Spanish military bastion. The Island was refrained of economical development because Spain's incapacity to create a capitalist developmental program and the Island was obtaining what the Spanish could give (very little). But by the first half of the nineteenth century, locally, the production of sugar cane had developed, and by the second half of the century coffee exportations had expanded considerably, becoming popular in European consumption (as well as some other products). This tells some historins that the path for economical projects were in their favorable pathway for future development and for the island's authonomy.
Since the 1840s, the minimal advancement of Islanders living conditions, with a proto-national counsciousness, along with an incipient desire for emancipation from Spain, would increase the educated modern individuals (the "letrados") capacities to detect and represent the socio-historical events of the Island’s culture. This can be wiewed first in a literary form with the use of metaphors and symbols that reached intensity as a developed colonial society with a desire for modernization and freedom. Economical productivity and social development was limited by the inertia imposed by the reppresive colonial military, but the Island’s autochtonous dynamics unfoldend a relative sense of cultural progress. This occurred mainly with the lettered community and artists whose cultural gaze was directed towards the internal aspects as well as the view for employing the external modernization advancement for the Puerto Rican native ("criollo") culture. Along with the development of the more active and dynamic press, which would bring ideas from around the world, many young students started obtaining scholarships to travel, mainly to Spain, in order to, undertake university studies they did not have on the Island. Some of the best disciples in Puerto Rico would compete for scholarships given by the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (sponsored by the Island"s commercial organizations, with an Illustrated/Romantic and modern mentality).
Manuel A. Alonso (1822-1889) took part in this sponsorship and edited books like El Álbum Puertorriqueño (1844) and El Gíbaro (1949). These texts show how by the middle of the nineteenth century, there were discourses of cultural maturity, and, as well, the emergence of a literary representation that was being coined as the Puerto Rican “reality”. The existence of a culture of artist and educated young people revealed a significant social consciousness, and the view of particular colonial problems in their context and to portray them in literary terms and symbols. This was the first generation of Puerto Rican writers in history and they were very conscious about it. As cultural elites, they were ready to give metaphorical sense to the patriotic sentiment (a patriarchal one) to what will be known as the "Romantic discourse" of the nineteenth century. Alonso’s work, for example, gathers in his “costumbrismo” (costumes) discourse, the cultural identity and people’s particular way of being. In it he also graciously gives relevance to what was known as the Puerto Rican “jíbaro” (peasants mainly from the mountains) in his endeavors in the hacienda by means of some "costumbristas" poemas ("aguinaldos") short stories (legends) and essays. Above all, Alonso gives special attention in his book the specific political and educational problems of the colonial society of his time, not only in the folkloric and “costumbrista” sense, but he does it with a complex conflictive perspective (hidden codes of viewing complex understanding of the colonial existence). He achieves this way of encoding culture mainly in his essays (with somewhat complex debates) and the short stories (with some plots, in times when these views were not even well reached in Spain and the rest of Latin America. The modern Realism had not reached yet its capacity for representing social development with an advanced perspective (like happened later).
Alonso gave the cultural vision and discourse of the national peasant (his/her tradition and ethos) which has been followed until recently in Puerto Rican history (for almost a whole century, until the 1950 and 1960s). These metaphorical structures grasped the main patterns of literary representations and also of cultural criticism that we can encounter in the historical tradition (which will be discussed later). They became the models for literary representations of “reality” in an artistic form that the Island’s lettered men and women will follow (some archetypical characters and situations). We can define this as the beginnings of what will be known as Puertorricaness (patriotic feelings). The psycho-social process of constructing and representing the Island’s sirocco-cultural “reality” in the national literature is what I want to follow and discuss in simple details possible in this essay. It will be done by analyzing first the nineteenth century modernism, up to the so-called “postmodernism” of today.
By the second half of the nineteenth century, the classic conditions of colonial suppression became increasingly more severe (as imposed by Spain) and as a paranoic reaction to the liberation movements in the rest of Latin America. Lets have in mind Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and their independence revolutions . But even though these obstacles, the cultural advancement slowly reached by the socio-economical context of small towns on the Island and the haciendas improved significantly for the well been of the society. This symbolic grasping of the struggle gave substance to the Puerto Rican discourse of resistance and desire of freedom. "El Grito de Lares" (1868) was an attempt of a revolutionary movement, which failed, but it had a tremendous symbolic meaning until recently.
In 1806 the Island’s first official newspaper appeared, and it was called Gaceta de Puerto Rico, enduring until 1902. Other publications of this sort followed at the beginning of the nineteenth century; some were conservative and others more liberal as time passed. At the beginning of the century (1812-1814 and 1820-1823), during Spain’s Constitutional and liberal periods, some independent newspapers emerged: Diario Económico de Puerto Rico (1914), El Cigarrón (1914), El Investigador (1820), among others. This tells us how the city life voices, with a socio-economic standing, were increasing and becoming every time more complex an open to more modern ideas and social believes and ideologies.
Almost all the 19th century was the period of Romanticism (until the 80s, more or less) and it had taken some time to reach its full meaning. For the Island’s literary people it was difficult to abandon the ideas of the old Neoclassic style of the end of eighteenth century and especially the conservative mentality and ideology accompanying it (beyond the illustrated ideas of modernization). The Ilustration period’s criteria of advancement in history, achieved mainly by the hard work of the people, did not seem enough for the rich hacendados of those times. A lot of classists representational prejudices developed against the Puerto Rican peasants. These peasant workers were in strong demand by the dominant social classes (the Hacienda owners and welthy merchants and bankers) who were in need of cheap labor. The ending of the Illustrated period’s mentality and the beginning of the Romanticist worldview did get somewhat mingled in these times in Puerto Rico because of their inevitable modern structural visions in accordance with the times of economic advancement pulled by bankers and land owners. The Ilustration period was in general (mainly in Europe) more rationalistic, but the Romantic writers in the Island (who had allied with the people and de regular citizen) become every time, during the ninetheenth century, more expressive of their sentimental (subjective and passionate) approach towards native culture. They developed nationalist ideas in its formal and imaginary sense (in accordance to the European way of thinking) which gave latter great meaning to the Puerto Rican culture.
Modernization was taken up with enthusiasm by liberal sectors with their literary expressions’ and with great Romantic views elevating to a high symbolic standing the peasants and the islands beautiful nature. However, it should be pointed out how with this particular creative rhythm, literary discourse responded with more or less ironic dissidence to the oppressive colonial power of the Spanish government in the Island. In this colonial context, the liberal press was under continual colonial surveillance. From this point a somewhat defiant literary reaction would take shape in response to the colonial enforcement, but in an oblique and simulated way. This was beyond the repressive context established by the official institutions with all sorts of punishments and vigilant structures and official agencies.
In 1822, the newspaper called El Investigador, published a poem entitled “Coplas del jíbaro” by an unknown poet called Miguel Cabrera. It was written employing the jíbaro’s dialect, and it can be understood as an indirect criticism of the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812. Conservative people and vigilant institutions criticized the “Coplas”. The humor in the poem allows us to suspect the intentions of the author were to draw attention to the new Constitution of a colonial State, which continued favoring the powerful agents instead of the subaltern and poor islander. At the same time, the verses had the intention of exposing the characteristics of the subaltern “ingenuity” (as a subject) in accepting the new citizens ways and imposed regulations. Everything said in the poem should be interpreted considering the dissembling irony involved.
We can conclude that the poem reveals the intention of the lettered criollo to symbolically represent the subaltern “other” (land workers, countryman, and the jíbaro) as an icon of discursive importance and cultural relevance through the depiction of the “proto-national” desire and hidden intentions. In this way the image of “jaibería” (the subaltern’s sly ways) started to be represented as an expression of an “ambiguous discourse”, as part of the complex identity of the subordinated peasant in his response to the imperial powers and the liberal writer identification with the particular situation of the oppressed people (a sense of hidden pro-nationalism was involved).
After the journalistic development in the first four decades of the nineteenth century, some criollo writers, mainly poets, exposed the experiences and the will in finding styles of how they felt as liberal islanders and every time placed themselves more and more in a Caribbean colonial context. By 1812, some liberal actions of individuals and voices of desire for freedom, and also liberal independent newspapers, had emerged and continued their difficult but enthusiastic cultural responses along the nineteenth century. Some literary collaborations, of course, would be anonymous.
From an economical and social context, historians and critics recognized the landowners (the “hacendados”) as the social class provider, and as a real and symbolic center for a possible national activity and iconicity. Their educated followers and admirers were the ones capable of articulating the base and support of the particular world vision of a criollo culture and its customs. The economical base developed by the hacendados gave meaning to the social structure, which had a powerful folkloric identity of African, Indian and mainly southern Spanish (Andalusian and Canarian) ancestry. Under this context, criollo colonial writers looked for a definition of their cultural and political identity in a literary response in an autonomous fashion. Of course, they took for granted white-European racial, class and social identity and centeredness, and portrayed the jíbaro as an "otherness", and especially people who were black and mulato. To achieve a proto-national symbol, they had to keep some style of the peasantry and “otherness” to identify with their discursive expressions, which were also part of the objective demands of modern criollo bourgeoisie and the Romantic style of the epoch.
There are some bourgeoisie discourses during this time that critics have considered very reactionary because of their classist distance from popular culture. It is important to consider the “hacendados”, as a social class with liberal bourgeoisie tendencies that had a compromising dependence on superior colonial spheres, like rich moneylenders (“prestamistas”). These were mostly foreigners not interested in anything close to liberal, national or autonomous ideologies or literary expressions. In this sense, the identification of the “hacendado” with the peasants as a national symbol was ambiguous and it never showed as a social class willing to get involved in anticolonial activities. This was unlike other Latin Ameican countries that had been liberated from Spain since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Island’s independence had structural colonial and subaltern obstacles since the very beggining of these times.
Literature, as a discursive force, will be capable of textualizing and spreading what was understood as a cultural mandate (a myth): a somewhat romantic libertarian sense of the criollo “costumbrista” culture giving visibility to the autochthonous style and cultural values with an idealist and utopian feeling. Literature, in that sense, would become a refuge for a sector of young educated generation of artists and cultural thinkers. Their desire for liberation was refrained and ambiguous in its social concreteness and the praxis it could reach because they were not backed by a bourgeois class with independent objective and national interests. By the 1840s, young writers had to be very cautious denouncing the colonial power, and they felt identified with the workers of the haciendas as a political icon. According to modern day literature and cultural critics, this is why writers had to develop very peculiar discourse practices of ironic and inclined —laconic simulations— ways of expressing themselves.
Nevertheless, lettered men and artists unknowingly continued creating a national mentality as a copy of European romantic expectations. (Language works beyond individual mentalities and capabilities). Inspired by the ideas of nineteenth century nationalism, many Puerto Rican artists and thinkers began responding with reformist and liberal mindsets, and others with radical and separatists measures. These two mentalities, the liberal and the radical, will characterize literary ideological tendencies, the first being the most noticeable. Although, the radicals have been praised by the canon, in general, as the best writers.
On the other hand, if we follow the post-colonial ideas of today, we can argue how the feeling of patriotic and national identity comes out as a conceptual imitation (copy) of the European colonizer. In that sense, being a liberal was full of imperial contradictions and objective ambiguities as part of their times and context. In general, Puerto Rican idealists and radical politicians and ideologues desired to do away with their role as subordinate, and in reality they desired to occupy the official structure governing them (as I mentioned this will be discussed later, and should be best understood of part of our present post-colonial ideas and theories). For this reason Puerto Rican writers and intellectuals’ (mainly of white race) could have as much prejudice, elitism and oppression against those who occupied the position of the “other” or of a subordinate: black people, sick jibaros, and the supposedly lazy workers (“jornaleros”). The identification of the hacendados and their intellectuals, with the peasants, could be seen as idealist (and this is contrary to when seen from the postcolonial mentality of today). The traditional historian and literary critic of the last half of the twentieth century will not see it this way. He or she will admire a harmonious achievement of national identity by foundational writers in the ideal arcade hacienda in their imaginary. Usually they do not see the contradictions (dialectic thought) in history.
Presently, historians of Puerto Rican literature, like Francisco Manrique Cabrera in Historia de la literatura puertorriqueña (1957) and Josefina Rivera de Alvarez, in La literatura puertorriqueña. Su proceso en el tiempo (1982) have privileged and justified the ideological mentality and actions of the anticolonial struggle. This is a posture, which had been exclusively valued, until recently —in the 1970 and 1980’s. However, they did not emphatically denounce the important aspects of the injustices towards the vulnerable workers, black people and women in a systematic and significant way. By the end of the twentieth century, nevertheless, we are beginning to denounce the contradictions and arbitrariness of the literary discourse of the nineteenth century and its hidden prejudices in evaluating the popular expressions and the way of interpreting culture. Attention is being given to the negative way women were portrayed, along with racial and class prejudices, and also to what can be considered hidden gay abjections. The anticolonial critics will not take into account councious epistemological and hermeneutical effects that the post-colonial will denounce later during the beginning of the twenty first century,
Keeping with the reasons mentioned above, which are important for us today, my purpose in this essay is to look more deeply and critically into the fundamentals of the cultural and ideological conceptions employed by traditional canonical criticism. This is because this canonical discourse does not question the national ideals in class, gender or racial meanings. It also kept prejudiced criteria (in the semiotic and meaningful sense) favorable to the bourgeoisie mentality, the white race and the andro-normative demands in detriment to popular culture and the expressions of “otherness” and "difererence" in general. This happened most paradoxically given the popular base and foundations in a racially hybrid culture like that of Puerto Rico. This is why we have to be careful with the European point of view that we have developed along the two centuries and which we have not yet discussed well. Many contemporary critics do not take gender and racial prejudices into serious consideration. Intestingly, we have to be cautious because some intellectuals of the nineteenth century, like Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, nevertheless, were somewhat conscious of the situation and took it into account in their cultural discourse in its deep structure.
It has not been until the end of the twentieth century that literary criticism has altered the demands of the canonical patriarchal discourse and initiated a new critical approach like the one I am suggesting here. We need to have in mind a literature that claims a vast sense of liberty, which recognizes how that liberty responds to ideal constructs of traditional and canonical groups aspiring to dominate the colony for their interests and not necessarily for reaching justice and a sense of dignity for the oppressed people (especially for blacks and women). We have to keep an ironic distance from the colonialized as well as the colonizer as a dominant or subordinate subject in the Island. They both have their particular ideological interests and are not necessarily looking for humanist thoughts, actions and/or for a more democratic society. We are more conscious of these aspects today but we are still having problems obtaining our desires of freedom in a wider and more democratic sense.
Two important figures of the first half of the nineteenth century have to be pointed out for their particular way of symbolizing the Puerto Rican cultural identity: María Bibiana Benítez (1783-1873), mainly for her ode “La ninfa de Puerto Rico” (1832), and Santiago Vidarte (1828-1848) with his famous poem “Insomnio” (1846). In her poem, Benítez praises the imperial power and employs the language of an idyllic neoclassic pathway in its deep classical meaning. The poem situates itself in the imaginary of the national subordinate with a sense of territorial possession that can surreptitiously de-construct (criticise) the arrogant imperial power. Of course this is achieved by utilizing a subtle ideological distance and irony. For his part, Santiago Vidarte exposes the allegory of a subject that travels in a ship with her beloved, in search for the Eden-like motherland (the soil that Benitez in her ode puts to the “disposition” of the monarch). By the end of the poem, with its romantic views, the poet shows the moment of arrival in his character’s travels, in which it discovers that everything has been a dream. This establishes the anxious desire for a national imaginary yet unrealistic and too ideal. The allegory depicting a travel towards the motherland (or from it) will be successively continued as a leit motif by later writers like José Gautier Benítez, Eugenio María de Hostos, José de Diego, Luis Llórens Torres and Luis Palés Matos. In their lyrics they expose the image of a need to arrive to an idyllic place; and from there, create and defend the hacienda and the national interest and ideals of the “national Puerto Rican family”.
By 1843 an important generational issue regarding identity appears, and was valued until recently. Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño, proclaimed to be a book of “indigenous” and romantic inspiration. However, by understanding some criollo lettered men of the times we see how they were incapable of accomplishing a genuine sentiment of defense substantially as what was viewed as the ideal of criollo puertorricaness. This aspect is mentioned in the next journal, El Album Puertorriqueño (1844). The Cancionero de Borinquen (1846) followes this desires of presenting their constructions of national proudness. The first text of 1844 is composed by a group of students residing in Barcelona who, animated by the desire to respond to the conservatism of the initial Aguinaldo, gives particular relevance to the importance of the popular criollo identity. According to the students, they wanted to show respect and gratitude towards their parents (they adopt the patriarchal myth) by following the idea of “the Great Puerto Rican Family” tradition. They also wanted to express their love towards the motherland and demonstrate a desire for a common destiny. With this insistence in definig identity they demonstrate the first national signs of a modern teleology and a sense of a common destiny of a people-nation.
Above all of them, Manuel Alonso in particular, uses liberal ideas and achieves prominence with the publishing of El Gíbaro, a “costumbrismo” book that follows romantic traditions used in the Spanish literary field in general (giving folkloric images of the common national people). In the Prologue, we see that El Gíbaro became successful given the censorship and intervention of the colonial power to stop the entrance of the book in the Island. Some liberal authorities were very helpful in supporting Alonso in his effort, and the book finally was very welcomed in the Island.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, literary criticism has followed the cultural Puerto Rican aspirations and the socio-cultural and national projects since its begginings. Alonso is an initial metaphorical creator of what has been called the “great Puerto Rican Family” (racially, white, of course), with its allegories of happy communities that labor in farms and cities without significant conflicts (we can infer this explicitdly and implicitdly as we read). His stories and essays give an idyllic vision of the advancement of a culture that, as we will see later, becomes perturbed and betrayed in its historical development by a sense of failure and death as seen in the portrait El Velorio, painted by Francisco Oller (1994), and the novel La charca (1996), written by Manuel Zeno Gandía. Both works of art show a profound sense of conflict and pessimism regarding the present achievements and the future of the imaginary nation (Puerto Ricans did not achieved their independence efforts). The Romantic idealism of happiness turnes into pessimism as the second half of the century develops .
El Gíbaro is a classic work composed of thirteen essays, which frame customs of city and country life. It also contains eight rimes in which Alonso transcribes the spoken language of country people and their festive traditions. In general, the book contains the world vision of the criollo (the natives from the Island) and the hacienda social class and bourgeoisie values. In it, he also follows the desire of exalting the poor and very subaltern jibaro as a subject capable of being educated to undertake work in the national hacienda (the black race is not taken in consideration yet as a symbol of cultural importance in this book). The image of the jibaro in the book is that of the working subject that follows the ways of the patriarchal hacienda regarding been an obedient worker and passive subject. The book in general tends to be very festive in its rimes and very liberal and critical in its essays, reason why is been preised by its time and the tradition. It is a classic romantic book (with some tendency towards idealist realism).
Alonso will continue the creative cultural criticism and literary artistic enthusiasm with a second El Gíbaro (1882). In the short story-essay of this book, called “Perico Paciencia” (1865), a priest with patriarchal mentality ask the contries son’s (to the jíbaros in general but to Perico Paciencia in particular), to have the necessary patience and to repress the rebellious desires against the established rich people of the town. Perico is in love with the mayor’s daughter, and he has helped to arrange a city party. But when everything is ready, he is denied to participate in the celebration because of his poor origins and background. Upon consulting the priest on this matter, he is given to understand how he should be patient and quietly work hard to become rich and obtain the hand of his beloved. In this way, Paciencia can aspire to be accepted in his prejudiced society. He is, finally, allowed to have a relationship with the mayor’s daughter because he has worked enough to become rich. We have here a clear national allegory showing (in our interpretation) that the reformist and liberal restrains are different from the pro-independence radicalism of the political leader Ramón Emeterio Betances who, for example, asked for a confrontational struggle with the colonial powers. The closest to a national revolution was an 1868 insurrection called El Grito de Lares, which failed as a “revolt” but is still celebrated today.
In the historical field, the Grito de Lares (1868) and the abolition of slavery (1873) in Puerto Rico are capital events in the strife for most radicals trying to reach national independence and the petitioning of a more just and free society. This was in accordance with the most advanced societal ideas of these times. The abolition of slavery was accomplished, but there were not available the objective conditions for a decisive emancipatory strike in the national sense. The hacienda social class, by the second half of the nineteenth century, had a patriotic and liberationist sentiment, but at the same time they maintained conservative and reformist actions, as it is denoted in El Gíbaro II, specifically as we discussed with the case of Perico Paciencia. It was a social class with a dependency on foreign commerce agents who had the capital for the initial decision making in society. This is why the hacendados were subordinated to the ample colonial and political powers of rich bankers and foreigners from Spain on the Island.
Nevertheless, art has the potential to be somewhat autonomous in its imaginary, above the social demands and determinisms. Writers in general get very enthusiastic when elevating patriotic values and advocating radical and liberal modernity. José Gautier Benítez (1848-1880), Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1826-1882) and Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903) were three important figures in the national struggle for emancipatory ideas and actions in those times. From Gautier Benítez we have Poesías (1880), a book that shows a great romantic feeling in its themes about the motherland, love, death, nature, and God (as Rivera de Alvarez pants out). These were topics of the romantic times; just as they were in the European field with its liberal and national motives. His poems “Ausencia,” “Regreso” and “Canto a Puerto Rico” offer much patriotic feeling and the ideal of construction of the imaginary nation, but without explicit revolutionary signs. There is a sense of great nostalgia for what cannot be reached, which is not only a romantic motive, but also a nationalist frustration. In most patriotic poems there we can find an allegory of a romantic hero (individual) who travels on a symbolic ship to the island of Puerto Rico, expecting to find the great Puerto Rican National Family and the wealthy hacienda surrounded by exuberant nature as a promise of God. In general, the poems have been an emblematic guide for generations to come and readers in general that have followed that type of imagery until recently. The Island as a signifier of absent desire is symbolized in a similar manner, with a female lover-companion to be reached. It also follows the allegory of the traveler in search of the signifier of patriotism, already begun by Santiago Vidarte in his poem “Insomnio”. This is a poem that this poet created around 1845, and Alonso presents a criticism of it in his mentioned first book. In this beautiful poem, Vidarte depicts a subject, who after feeling sick as a foreigner in Spain, travels during the night to the island, and arrives in it during a beautiful morning with his beloved in his side. But at the end of the poem everything is a dream. Vidarte died few years later after composing this foundational poem.
In the social context of the last middle of the nineteenth century, the expansion of the subject’s poetic feelings in the colonial country continues to be each time deeper and more troublesome. On the one hand, the socio-political context is characterized by a refrained and slow reformism, but with the ideological ruptures backed by the literature of late Romanticism of the middle of the nineteenth century. Important exponents of these literary romantic ruptures and imagery of independence symbols and emotions is the prose of Ramón Emeterio Betances, the poems of Pachín Marín and of Lola Rodríguez de Tio (that will be discussed later).
The theatre and novelist writer, Alejandro Tapía y Rivera (1826-1882) has a very proliferous creative and outstanding production. He gave to our culture the dramatic essay “Roberto D’ Evereux” (1848), the biographic-drama Fernando de Pallisy (1848), the historical novel La palma del cacique (1862, the dense and complex poem La sataniada, the important drama La cuerterona (1876) and the essays Confesiones sobre estética y literatura (1881). In the novel Póstumo el transmigrado (1882) we find ethical dialogues satirically presented to criticize the political conceptions of his times in a universal sense. Tapia y Rivera was also the creator of the curious journal La Azucena (1874-1877) and he was a valuable historian with his Biblioteca histórica de Puerto Rico (1854). His literature demonstrates a world of lettered islanders who aspired to demonstrate their abundant sense of culture and deep reflexive thoughts in regard to local and universal problems and conflicts. His posthumous Mis memorias (1928) expresses how, by the second half of the nineteenth century, the work of these intellectuals and artists was targeted under a powerful colonial repression and a governmental censorship that served as an obstacle to the development of the Puerto Rican culture. Nevertheless, Tapia y Rivera’s works show how the colonial intelligentsia —the "Lettered City", as the Uruguayan critic, Angel Rama, would say— was aware of the most progressive ideas of the times and it had its ironic ways of depicting and confronting the colonial power. Along with many other scholars and artists, the struggle for the abolition of slavery —that Tapia defended so much— was finally obtained in 1873, and it shows the advancedment in social rights and the firmness of an intelligent artistic conscience. Even the most demanding critics and scholars from Spain, like Ramón Menéndez y Pelayo and Gili Gaya, called attention to Tapia’s literature, under the context of the best Latin American and European productions. Tapia died in 1882 reading, at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño in San Juan, a complex lecture about philosophy and aesthetics. Today, along with Hostos, is one of the most admired Puerto Ricans of the 19th century.
Another impressive intellectual figure of the last half of the nineteenth century is the patriot Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903). He is not so much a writer of fiction, but dedicated himself more to educational essays, while being an outstanding leader (and writer) in juridical, ethical and cultural thought in general. Hostos is the creator of the impressive eouvre entitled La peregrinación de Bayoán (1863), a novel-diary of Antillean, American and universal consciousness, of deep lyrical expressions and dramatic reflexions. The novel’s hero, Bayoán, is like an Antillean Hamlet in his anxieties in claiming the ideal of The Federation of the Antilles and also in defense of Pan-Americanism in general; almost in an unreachable-romantic way. It also presents the allegory of a romantic hero traveling through the Caribbean islands where he encounters his beloved, but sick girlfriend, Marien. Metaphorically, she represents a symbol of the weak national and Caribbean Eros, who places Bayoán at the crossroad of choosing either his personal happiness, with his beloved, or dedicating his life to political struggle, alone in its sacrifice for his cause. Finally, because of her illness, he has to travel to Spain in search of the “Tree of Science” to cure the beloved Marien, who stands as a high inspirational symbol. She nevertheless dies, signifying the impossible metaphysical aspirations of the poet. Still, the hero decides to continue his lonesome travel to the Americas in search of the ideal liberation from evil social forces (illnesses) that has discovered the Continent discovered by Columbus, but to be free.
As an essayist, Hostos confronts the social conflicts of his time with a rational and romantic sense in Tratado moral (1888) and Diario 1866-89, among other texts. Furthermore, he does it with a realist world-view and Positivists ideas, without been a materialist socialist or Marxist. In these essayistic practices, he argues about an ethical modern thought (somehow metaphysical and idealist) that still has pertinence for some scholars even by the second half of the twentieth century. They sustain that society is very much in need of permanent modern values, like Hostos demands in his books, especially in the educational and sociological field. Nevertheless, in postmodern times, Hostos’ ideas of reasonable ethics for the modern and imaginary nation can considered to be classic pieces of old concepts having no real effect on the actual social consumption dominated by opportunism of techno-mediatic and anti-reflexive cultures kidnapped by depredatory post-capitalism. For some serious intellectuals, Hostos’ life and way of thinking still gives an inspirational iconography for those who still appreciate cultural affirmative action and absolute values of justice along with the search for a libeal and rational truth. For postmodernists, “truth”, now very different from Hostos’s thinking, is taken as a metaphor and a cultural construction with a subjective and relative meaning.
As the second half of the nineteenth century advances, the Puerto Rican culture will have writers and thinkers very aware of Positivist ideas and debates coming from France, Spain and England. The influence of Positivism and Naturalism from the French novelist Emile Zola and the Spanish Benito Pérez Galdós, among other narrators of the epoch, are very influential by this time in the Island as well as in Latin America. As in Europe, Darwinian ideas triggered the development of sociological thought and influenced Puerto Rican intellectuals who were looking for answers to the “sickness” and negative racial inheritance of the people and the culture as a whole. For this reason, Puerto Rican novelists followed the biological and social determinism way of thinking, to see what was affecting the individuals (especially the working "jibaros") in their behavior in society. Without putting aside the prejudices these ideas had, Naturalist writers responded firmly, indeed, against the persecutions and instabilities of the colonial power and constantly denounced the extreme misery and illnesses of the poor people. But they, nevertheless, sustained the classist thoughts that insisted that the social illness and the pessimistic determinism inclined to considered the peasant-working population as weak and given to vagrancy. Even though there is great advance in social ideas, art in general was still dominated by elitist European ideologies and did not reached, in general, subaltern and clear anti-social class thinking in a colony were most artist were poor or close to it.
Realism and Naturalism will be the aesthetics of those times of the ending of the 19th century, and will “scientifically” reaffirm the reformist, liberal and patriarchal mentality and metaphorical view that bagan somewhat with Manuel Alonso in El gíbaro. It is important to point out here the work of Salvador Brau (1842-1912), a literary man, journalist and a historian. In his novel La pecadora (1997), he denounces, with a Naturalist view, the misery of the peasant population. In his essay “La campesina”, he shows with an acute naturalist perspective, the problems of Puerto Rican women in rural areas. Additionally, Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928), creator of the famous journal El Buscapié (1977-1833), uses a deep liberal and ironic perspective to show his great capacity for criticism in a colonial context each time more complex and shaken by the conservative sociological and political problems and debates dominating the end of the colonial century. Nevertheless, most of the artistic texts of this period reflect a literary discourse viewing the social problems in what thinkers consider, the inertia and weakness of the subaltern peasant: to take affirmative action. From a modern perspective, beyond the criticism in these times, although production in the hacienda and the bourgeoisie interests were the main tools of the dominant social actants (social agents), there is no reason as to why the subaltern population had to respond to modern demands and the desire of groups to get rich, and in control and domain in the colony. Present sociology allow us to see how the peasants would have been reluctant to obey the calls to work made by the powerful hacendado owners and the administrators of the colonial system that primarily worked for them. The effort of servile work was not well paid in a colonial system given to extreme exploitation of poor people. We can see that in the present context this has not changed significantly (consider, for example, the working situation in Wall Mart and KFC).
One of the writers during the end of nineteenth century Puerto Rican society, in all its psycho-social understanding and expressions, was Manuel Zeno Gandía (1855—1930). His first two important novels are Garduña (1896) and La charca (1894). In both novels he covers what he called “chronicles of a sick world” (“crónicas de un mundo enfermo”), which makes reference to the criollo society in general and follows the French realist narrators of his time (like French Emile Zolá). Zeno Gandía wants the reader of his novels to see the incapability of hacienda leadership to take command of a national destiny. This is why he denounces so much the supposed vagrancy of the people in general. In addition to this, he gives relevance to the imagery of social, mental and physical illness, the abused women and vulnerability and the material and spiritual misery of people in general. In his most renowned novel, La charca, the protagonist and his narrator, after recognizing probable saving solutions to political and economical problems of the colonial system (going over the "charca" dominating the culture), ends up paradoxically adopting the ideas they had initially criticized. In the end, he still believes in the incapability of people to intervene in social conflicts because of their mental and physical incapacities and negative biological inheritances (the ideas of the Establishment, the Power and its knowings). And the “hero” of the novel, called Juan del Salto, ends up too, as we see at the end of the plot, traveling (escaping) to Spain, when he finds difficulty in commanding realistically his initially own proclaimed social redemption in the homeland. The author sees with irony the dominant social hacendado of his time, the one who the protagonist represents as some king of anti-hero. The art definitively detaches from the conservative social commands.
Zeno Gandía’s first novel, Garduña, is radical in its criticism of rich people in the colony, but nevertheless the author treats the hacienda with privileged mythical presence. He sees the classic landowners replaced by immoral new rich people like Garduña, who is the anti-hero of the novel. This novel was written before La charca but published later. In his following two novels El negocio, (1922) and Redentores (1925), Zeno Gandía portrays the corrupt commercial world and its political intrigues under the colonial rule at the beginning of the twentieth century. In Redentores, he captures the political archetype of the colonial politician who abandons the idea of independence and becomes allied to the colonizer in order to opportunistically survive in a world of complex political and economical systems giving privilege to the Americanized way of life. In this sense, the novelist is not far in foreseeing the near future of the reformist and neocolonial government of Luis Muñoz Marín of few decades later. The 19th century close with a Puerto Rican society of high complexity and with a group of liberals ready to demand the independence from Spain.
The Invaded Country and the Cultural Transitions at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century.
The 19th century closes with the crucial event of the United States’ invasion in 1898. Many intellectuals would appeal and take refuge in the Carta Autonómica, which since previous years, the Puerto Ricans had requested and finally obtained from Spain. However, the new invader had no respect for this document when they took the Island as a war buskin (booting) and part of their political and economical expansion throughout the Caribbean. The weak Puerto Rican bourgeoisie of nineteenth century inheritance was displaced by the powerful new economy of the empire and the national hacendados, once in charge, would acquire a new subaltern status. The national owners had to submit to dealings with the North American "absentee bourgeoisie" and their financial endeavors, based mainly in the sugar cane production, when the Island had an economy based in coffee plantation. The new banking economy comes to modulate an Island directed by the old economic paradigms of Spain.
An aggressive process of modernization and transculturation was imposed on the Island by the invaders. By 1930, lettered islanders, regardless of their particular ideological tendencies, were prepared and willing to confront the colonial invader’s ideas and actions. Nevertheless, they were not able to react, to the material-economical development in a new social context of the capitalism of that era. The American’s severe colonial assaults with its antidemocratic actions on the Island’s territory was of different ideological sort in relation to the ones the radical and authonomous Puerto Rican politicians confronted when dealing the Spanish colonials before the invasion. But the political situation demanded an imperial submissiveness that was confronted with an ancient and coherent society of a proud Spanish past and cultural inheritance. It gave the Islanders the force to fight the aggression. This cultural strength also allowed the lettered and literary people to became particularly tied to the nationalist thought during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Assimilation like the Americans were expecting, with their Manifest Destiny, was not possible in such a strong Hispanic cultural sphere, much ancient and deep than the invader in itself had. The Puerto Rican people had created a subconscious and ideological imaginary which had no space for the infiltration of core American way of life. The politics could be manipulated but it was not the same with the intrinsic symbolic culture.
But we should also mention there are many socio-economical structures that grew effectively in the Island—like public education, health welfare, workers organizations and unions, and the beginnings of women’s liberation. It should not be denied that all of them propitiated a more democratic and advanced society in Puerto Rico. The Spanish past was a very classist and elitist one but the new one had its openings towards some democratic elements. This new paradigms allowed the islanders to achieve a progressive social transformation more in accordance with the characteristics of modernity of the first half of the twentieth century. It was a situation which began mixed feelings and expectations from the typical islanders regarding the Americans, and suspition among the lettered individuals regarding the transcultural changes involved. The principal lettered people began creating their own imaginary Republic.
In general, in this political context, literary expression took a defensive position of nationalist anti-interventionism. This position was compromised ideologically to the radical liberation ideas of the nineteenth century, adopted within the Spanish mentality. We know this particular past ideology (that had reached legally its authonomy in 1897) saw itself without a political concrete culmination given the unexpected invasion of 1898. The unforeseen event did not allow to continue the liberal an even reformist struggle that had taked so much energy from the pro-national leaders in the last two decades of the ninetenth century. That is probably why, regardless of the advancements in social and economical modernization that the invader brought, that literary groups in general rejected the American intervention, and continued tied to an idyllic past related to the “Costumbrismo” and in some way to the Avant-Garde. It was for them not so coherent to abandon a cultural current with autochthonous content and national reaffirmation, which had taken so much ideological and aesthetic effort (and protected by the Hispanic consciousness).
This resistance to accept American modernization had its effects. The obsessive anticolonial struggle that took place during the “Generación del 30” (term which will be better understood later on) imposed a national allegory on the lettered intelligentsia. of such historical period. This nationalist demand and force was so intense and absorbent that it limited the wide and diversified register of visions and perspectives that the literary expression could offer beyond the “limited” and radical ideology these groups followed. Not even Cuban literature and that of the rest of subaltern Latin American showed an obsession over national identity as Puerto Ricans demonstrated with great passion these times. It would not be until the 1970s that writers became willing to take a decisively rupture and ideological change against the dramatic mandate of the almost fanatic nationalism dominating art and thought in a nineteenth century style and mentality. This has been indeed close to a postmodern position taken by some recent thinkers, like myself (as I will explain later).
Since the beginning of these patriotic defense procesess, because of the actions taken by the Generación del 30, national lettered discourses remained anchored and obsessed with offering continuity and loyalty to the old nationalist tradition. This attitude gave writers little opportunity to recognize the new possibilities and negotiations offered by neocolonial modernity, taking place in a new social model and of fordist ideas the Americans brought. There was an aggressive commercial and mediatic market promoted by the Imperial Other, which was attractive to the general audience and the working class in general. The regular citizen did not show exactly a pro-nationalist sentiment, and at the same time s/he was not so willing to assimilate the American culture. These are ambiguities of a subaltern mentality Puerto Ricans have developed since the begginings of their colonial submitions in history. Who knows when Puerto Rican will be in command of their own destiny (perhaps the independent nations are no so free to achieve so either).
In general, literature of the cultural changes of the 1930 was not capable of viewing with ironic distance and tri-dimensional complexity (even the novel, as a dialectic genre) the process of colonial modernization with its different negotiations. (This does not mean the novelist had to accept them but s/he has to represent it at least with ironic distance). However, the general public was willing to accept and adopt, in part, and in a particular subaltern way, this neocolonial ideology imposed by the colonizer’s modernity. Even after 1940, when it was clear that popular culture was becoming fascinated with pro-USA assimilist media discourses, literature continued with its nationalistic obsession and detachment, with a nostalgia for the old hacienda and Spaniard ways. Nevertheless, workers were entering into fordist capitalism, which offered new ways of exploiting wealth (but also, and slowly, the organization of the working people). The canonical literary writers of these times began to feel detached from the regular citizen with modern and americanized mentality, mainly enforced and fashioned by the media (radio, the press, cinema (see Eliseo Colón).
Beyond the perspective of national defense of most well educated national men and women, some liberal and conservative politicians and the public in general (by the 1940s) began to accept the trans-cultural “invitation” that was transforming the country into a commercial and financial display-window —which was not as appealing to writers’ national gaze. The tendency (theoretically) has been to think that literature automatically reflects the mentality of people when in reality this is not necessarily the case. Many citizens accepted, with some irony and sinuosity, the appealing offerings of imperialism and they simultaneously developed ways of welcoming and rejecting complex negotiations with the Imperial Other (but maintaining their language and culture). On the other hand, literature, in general, would pose a strong rejection to the social neocolonial context that was visibly and symbolically dominating part of a socio-economical structural development with no coherent end. Writers liked to impose their images of nationalist demands in their writing and ignored the fact that there was a different ideological behavior in the socio-cultural context of the masses. These modern groups were not so academically oriented had "simple" (sometimes naive) colonial mental constructions (this was the new growing citizenship of the ending of 20th century modernity, as we previously said) far away from the interests and ideology of the lettered people, and this included high professionals). The Department of Education during the period proceding the 1940s used the cultivated literature of the patriotic creators mentioned before in this essay, but there was a strong interference of the popular media culture in the way in these times.
But lets go back in time again to understand this much better. By the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, in the literary aspect, and following the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (1867-1916), international movements known as Symbolism, Parnasianism and Modernism developed on the Island just as respectively in other countries of Latin America as well. These were literary and cultural periods which paid attention to a more advanced society with a growing sense of modernity, moving closer towards industrial and bourgeois societies ways of thinking. This happened even though industrialism took its time to enter in Latin American and in Puerto Rico particularly, during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Literature kept abandoning realist techniques of the past and began representing different and more appealing modern ways, to a society each time filled with more readers and with more complex views as it entered into the mentality of the Industrial Revolution. This had particular expressions in Latin America and in Puerto Rico, where we find agricultural countries that have to adapt to these movements brought from industrialized countries such as the ones in Europe and the United States. The social advancement towards modernity in Puerto Rico is seen in its literary development regardless of the nationalist restraint previously explained. This classic nationalism reacted very much against the modernizing orientation, brought in to the Island by Americans and their Fordist mentality. It was a little ahead in time, by the middle of the twentieth century, that this would change significantly.
But lets go back in time again to understand this much better. By the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, in the literary aspect, and following the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (1867-1916), international movements known as Symbolism, Parnasianism and Modernism developed on the Island just as respectively in other countries of Latin America as well. These were literary and cultural periods which paid attention to a more advanced society with a growing sense of modernity, moving closer towards industrial and bourgeois societies ways of thinking. This happened even though industrialism took its time to enter in Latin American and in Puerto Rico particularly, during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Literature kept abandoning realist techniques of the past and began representing different and more appealing modern ways, to a society each time filled with more readers and with more complex views as it entered into the mentality of the Industrial Revolution. This had particular expressions in Latin America and in Puerto Rico, where we find agricultural countries that have to adapt to these movements brought from industrialized countries such as the ones in Europe and the United States. The social advancement towards modernity in Puerto Rico is seen in its literary development regardless of the nationalist restraint previously explained. This classic nationalism reacted very much against the modernizing orientation, brought in to the Island by Americans and their Fordist mentality. It was a little ahead in time, by the middle of the twentieth century, that this would change significantly.
By the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, Pachín Marín (1863-1896) and Lola Rodríguez de Tio (1843-1924) are writers of an imaginary formation of Romantic and modernist movements. They were very conscious of the transitional ideas of the new epoch and are very related ideologically to the Cuban, José Martí (1853-1895) and his thought. Marín and De Tio inherited a Romantic and Symbolist poetic language along with patriotic impulses, which allowed them to offer new symbols and imagery of anticolonial confrontation at the beginning of the 20th century. Pachín Marín was a national poet who with Romances (1892), and later poems, went beyond the exalted and passionate Romantic Movement with a very laconic and clear poetic language. He is the author of the famous national poem “El ruiseñor” and the curious verses of “El trapo” which refers to the national flag with respect and irony. He died heroically in the Cuban revolution in 1897, and for that action he has been admired by the following generation of writers (until recently, when he has been forgotten by students of literature, in general).
For her part, Rodríguez de Tio, gave the lettered Caribbean community Mis Cantares (1876), Claros y nieblas (1885) and Mi libro de Cuba (1893). She offers very unique Caribbean thoughts and style and is also the author of the revolutionary national anthem, “La Borinqueña”. Some critics even see in her the beginning of feminist writing in the Caribbean, due to her way of approaching national symbols and the tendency to create a new poetry that does not use androcentric images and mental patterns of thought. She has been an inspiration for the feminist movement.
José de Diego (1867-1918) was a militant man of strong anti-imperial arguments and pivotal patriot actions, very admired during the first decades of the twentieth century. With a very eclectic poetry, he takes a transit from the Romantic and the Symbolic imagination of the nineteenth century ending, to the new Modernist movement, but it was in the formal but not the elitist (Rubendarian Modernism) sense of this movement. He was a men of democratic ideals. This “Caballero of the Raza,” as he was referred to, was a strong and passionate follower of the pro-independence ideals following Ramón Emeterio Betances and Eugenio María de Hostos. He was a firm state-man immersed in governmental activities in a more modernized context and in the threshold of the two centuries and its ideologies. De Diego was also very aware and skillful regarding the handling of modern colonial intrigues of the official powers (the imperial Other).
He left behind books of poems like Pomarrosas (1904), Jovillos (1916), Cantos de rebeldía (1916) and Cantos de pitirre (1950), for the Puerto Rican literary tradition in which he adopts in general a Modernist tendency (not in the precious, Darian escapist sense). De Diego achieves, with new and modern originality, a “criollista” transparent language, and creates new poetic contents, ranging from themes of general myths to a personal Eros, both combined with metaphors of Death and the desired destiny of his motherland. Very few poets of his era could manage this particular and dramatic way of creating verses. “Patria” and “En la brecha” were very recognizable poems for the traditional memory of the twentieth century readers. These poems codify his profile as a classic defender of national ideals in the lyrical imaginary, even after his death. Much later, the educational political system adopted by the neocolonial political elite —already in power by the 1950s—, employed many of the cultural imaginary of dramatic liberation which De Diego as a social and cultural fighter represented. Nevertheless, once the Island becomes immersed in assimilated politics and ideologies of the 1980s, this brilliant national lettered man will loose his firm position in the Puerto Rican imaginary, and the poems he left to tradition will cease to be appealing to colonial instructors and will begin disappearing from the educational field on the Island. Young students and general audience have already forgotten him and his period almost completely.
Important Modernist, follower of the French Parnassians poetic movement, was José de Jesús Domínguez, (1843-1898). In 1886, he published (two years before Azul by Rubén Darío) “Las hurries blancas”, a long poem that we can consider under the Modernist characteristics in Latin America. This long poem anticipated some aspects of the Ruben Dario’s movement.
Puerto Rican poets that can be called “Modernistas” in all its rigorous definitions, are Jesús de María Lago (1873-1927) with “La princesa de Ita-Lu” (1904) and Cofre de Sándalo (1927); Arístides Moll Boscana (1885-1964), with Mi misa rosa (1899-1905); José de Jesús Esteves (1881-1918), with Crisálidas (1909) y Rosal de amor (1917); Antonio Pérez Pierret (1885-1937), with his only book of poems, Bronces (1914); Antonio Nicolás Blanco (1887-1945), with El jardín de Pierrot (1914) and Alas perdidas (1914); and José I. de Diego Padró, with La última lámpara de los dioses (1921).
By the end of 1910, many poets reacted to so-called Postmodernist verses and began preparing for the reaction against traditional Modernist poetry. The Postmodernist used the owl as a sign of wisdom and “ugliness”, against the artificial beauty of the swan the Modernist employed. Immediatly following this cultural process, the Postmodernist literary transition allows poets like Palés Matos to prepare for the avant-gardist movement of the 1920s and the militancy of the “Generación del 30” that came after. The national romantic-criollista stream of rural and folkloric imagery will be also present and visible during this period, and will endure with its diverse facets and changes in Puerto Rican literature until the 1960s with the journal Guajana.
The national militancy that will gain advocacy and followers from the 1930s onward, following the radical separatist ideology of Pedro Albizu Campos in the socio-historical arena, required writers to leave behind the elitist Modernism and their aristocratic imagery. It also became somehow cautious with the avant-gardist literature of the 1920s and its modernist tendencies. For this reason, during the 1930s, “criollismo”, as a literary tendency and style, will be greatly defended, even though artists understood the need to modernize literature, maintaining autochthonous and national symbols of bucolic and rural traditions and historical remembrance. Writers became very aware of the need to appeal and approach the reader with a city-like identity, but who also held a memory of country and peasant imagery of romantic nationalist imaginary.
Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922) is an important syndicalist and feminist writer from the beginning of the twentieth century. She is like a big parenthesis in all this process, showing a taste for extreme radicalism and eccentricity along with clear discourses of militant and anarchists ways of expressing herself. Probably this is why she was not very well understood in her time and even in posterity. Capetillo expressed herself in peculiar texts, short essays, narratives and plays like Ensayos libertarios (1909), La humanidad del futuro (1910), Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer (1911) and Influencia de las ideas modernas (1916). Both in theater and in essays, Capetillo was a follower of socialists and anarchist utopias, like that of Leo Tolstoy, and she initiatiated the modern-radical ideas about women and humanity’s utopia freedom in general. The content of her works tend to be very idealistic, with arguments and plot endings in rational and understanding ways, lacking dialectics and contradictions of representing reality. She likes to imply there are happy benefits for all people if good faith and good will are followed.
In her personal life, sometimes Capetillo would appear as a cross dresser (dressed as a man) in some public activities, which brought her some legal and social problems. This intriguing and intellectual personality, represents a big parenthesis and surprise in the history of our literature. For critics she is very actractively different and still appealing and lovable in the literary works she has left to Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage.
By the beginning of the century, three journals, contributed to the island’s literary development: Revista de las Antillas, El Carnaval and Puerto Rico ilustrado. They are very important in modernizing the national literature and in putting the island’s writers in contact with international literary and cultural currents. Two poets of relevance deserve to be mentioned: Virgilio Dávila (1869-1943) and Luis Lloréns Torres (1878-1944). The latter was the director of the prestigious Revista de las Antillas (1913-1914) and the creator of the literary movement “Pancalismo” (everything is beauty) and “Panedismo” (everything is a verse). These movements are a prelude to the avant-gardist movement and new literary modernity of innovative and dynamic city styles, which were fashionable since the 1920s. Lloréns Torres was also the continuator and modernizer of the nineteenth century “criollismo” tradition, which was imposed for many decades to come. According to some critics, he offered the most important contemporary poetry in Puerto Rican literature: América (1898), Al pie del Alhambra (1899), Sonetos sinfónicos (1914), and Alturas de América (1940). Lloréns Torres also composed the drama El grito de Lares (1911), which reminded audiences of the idealized patriotic acts of 1868, a revolutionary time in Puerto Rico, which people who were pro-independence have valued and remembered for so long. In these books, he presents literary models of transparent and direct anticolonial imagery convenient to the ideological and metaphorical dissidence of the twentieth century artists and intellectuals. Two of his most famous poems, “Canción de las Antillas” and “Valle de Collores” are proclaimed pieces of art used by the imaginary and dramatic emotionalism of the Puerto Rican patriotic and lyrical audience until the 1960s. He left many inspirational models for his contemporaries and lastly for those who were followers of the desired national myth and imaginary of liberationist hope of victory against colonial invaders.
Also recognized in these aspects is Virgilio Dávila with his gentle poetry books, like Patria (1903), Viviendo y amando (1912), Pueblito de antes (1917), Aromas del terruño (1916) and Un libro para mis nietos (1928). His poems are more inclined towards the ideals of national people’s unity and love in the imaginary motherland, rather than to the abjections or negative emotions against the rival invader. In its lyrics he presents new metaphors enhancing the natural beauty of the Island, and of natives in a happy relationship giving unity to the “great Puerto Rican family” ideal. This is why his poems have been so appealing, especially to children.
José P. H. Hernández (1892-1922) with his Coplas de la vereda (1919), El último combate (1921) and Cantos de la sierra (1925) is seen as a valuable poet of this eclectic and uncertain period of the first century decades. He is the creator of the famous “A unos ojos astrales”, a poem with very universal, beautiful and high quality verses even for most demanding readers and critics. José Antonio Davila (1899-1941) is the author of the very acclaimed book of poems, Vendimia (1940), used in secondary schools with great proudness until recently.
All of these poets and their works created the bases for a patriotic scriptural spirit that would last in until the 60s and the 70s. They supplied the most creative metaphors and symbols of the century and its artistry can be matched with the best in Latin American literature. These are the poets who first encountered the imperial forces in their ideological effort to alienate the islanders from themselves, enforcing an education in the English language and Anglo-American culture (having Puerto Ricans in general resisting the linguistic and cultural changes imposed by their "implicit" imperialism). Through their writings, these almost epic literary personalities were the initiators of the creative language and discourse that would give the tools (the symbols and the cultural imaginary) that necessarily opposed from the enormous USA colonial power. The imaginary and symbolic idealism of patriotic culture also gave the national identity of the Puerto Rican literature for their future defense of national culture even thought the Island did not reached its independence and began having rivals of the own natives who were in favor of the American impositions and infiltrations in the national culture. This Federal amerind power uses its instrument of repression which included death to the opposers (like Albizu Campos)
José Nemesio Canales (1878-1923) is also a brilliant and important prose writer and narrator of this difficult period we are referring to. He pronounced himself against the dogmatism and the social and moral prejudices of his times, even from his own anti-national pairs, by means of his famous essays published as Paliques (1913), which first appeared in El Dia Newspaper in Ponce (an important and proud city in the south of the Island). He wrote two short novels, Hacia un lejano sol and Mi voluntad se ha muerto (1921). His irony makes him one of the cleverest and most powerful critics of his culture.
Another hard working and valuable writer is Miguel Meléndez Muñoz (1884)-1966). He was a prose and narrative writer who followed the neo-realist “criollismo”, avoiding the too metonymic avant-gardist language of his time. He has distinguished himself for his articles in Retazos (1905), his novel Yugo (1913), his essays Estado social del campesino puertorriqueño (1916), and Cuentos del Cedro (1936) and Cuentos de la Carretera Central (1941). With a deep social sensibility towards the criollo peasants problems and struggle to survive, Meléndez is a recognized writer both at popular and Athenian lettered levels as well.
In this period, we encounter many writers who have been either too liberal or extremely radical, and who showed a great fear of loosing what they considered their deep and unchangeable native and criollo identity. We find, mainly in the lettered world, subjects which can feel free in their vernacular language and primary culture, and who feel that a complete and stable being and desire should not be changed absolutely, as if it were something natural and not cultural. That’s why more Americanized and modernized people in the country would provoke paranoid and suspicious feelings and expressions of abjection and distrust in most nationalist writers. This tension also included the rejection of people closely related and familiar to city life and its new subjectivities and behaviors so diferent from counter-side oriented people. The popular and more Americanized population had the tendency to adopt a colonial and political-modernity, which accepted and tolerated ideological relativeness and colonial-subaltern silences and negotiations. This new psycho-social situation gives the artists and national writers the force for a social struggle against what was considered foreign and invasive. There was also rejection of the somewhat defiant outside symbols; and we can say this was including what could be considered valuable to the enrichment and advancement of culture in general. The technological culture developing in the Island gave favorable views to the American culture.
But against our globalized an cosmopolitan mentality of today, we should understand the national defensive feelings and movements under a proper context. They were precisely the aspect giving innovative and particular meaning and attractiveness to literature and its powerful cultural perspectives developed throughout a little more than the half of the twentieth century. The national literature and culture gave its best aesthetics views to the society and it kept the spirit of being Puerto Rican to its highest standard. Currently, younger cultural critics unjustifiably ignore the writings of this period for its nationalist content and form. This rejection is not only for this literature’s ideological contents but also for its formal and aesthetic character. Today’s writers prefer to look ahead towards an international and heterogeneous media aesthetics, avoiding national culture in its homogeneous and authoritative nationalism. Following the contemporary critic Juan Gelpí, they considered this nationalists culture to paternalistic.
The Avant-Gardist Movement of the 1920s and the Generation of the 1930s.
After 1898 invasion, during the first decades of the century, given in part to the economical and political context, the absent North American bourgeoisie took the best lands and welt resources of the island. But it not able to completely impose their Anglo cultural idiosyncracy on the native Puertorricans. This was due, in part, to their minimal personal presence and because of the islanders’ conscious and subconscious unwillingness to significantly assimilate the ways of being and the ethos of the “ex-centric "outsider, the “Yankee” or “gringo” invader. Liberal politicians and radical lettered groups handled concepts and world visions in continuity and response to the “uses and customs” of the past Hispanic culture, to the strong and ancient sense of criollismo and its motherland appealing, to the romantic view and patriotic imagery of nineteenth century prolonging and memorable orientation. Hispanic tradition was very different from the Anglo American customs and ethos, not assimilated because of its ethno-cultural strong differences and lines of origine and precedence, si different. These behaviours were very notizable especially in the lettered field. Nevertheless, the typical colonial citizen did not exactly felt threatened by the invader’s core political actions and felt comfortable and secure with the presence of the USA economy and military modernity. This gave a big contrast with the Old Spanish colonial ideologies, so obsolete. But the Puerto Rican literature kept more closely related with the European and Latin American literary tradition than the North American one. One thing was cultural protection and another one political and ideological intervention which allowed some negotiations in other to give flow to the economical sphere.
After the First World War, we see the eruption of a literary and cultural movement typical of Hispanic tradition in its thought and aesthetics. I am referring to the Hispanic and Latin American modernization of artistic forms and ways of exposing symbols and the handling of language in general. In Puerto Rico, as in other places, the critics talked about the Vangardism. Specifically in the Island they made reference to literary and cultural movements like “ismos” of the 1920s: Diepalismo, Euforismo, Noísmo and Atalayismo. Before that, during the transition from 1911 to 1920, after the poets insisted in searching for aesthetic beauty throught the literary movement called Modernism (the elegant swan is their sign), the artists changed to the “ugliness” sign of the owl as a disarticulator symbol of elegance. The literary movement had changes to what as called, postmodernism (1911-1918). The Modernist poets praised preciousness and the former ones prefered wisdom and knowledge. The final achievements, at the end of the mentioned decade, seem to give a particular definition to lyrics and perspectives of the cultural-artistic forms of the twentieth century. We have to keep in mind that Modernism and Postmodernism were movements inspired in cosmopolitism. The “criollismo” of rural, naturist and folkloric imaginary also continued flourishing, with its transformations and adaptations during these fast changing times from the 1910s to the ending of such decade. At the beginning of the 1920s, poetic proposals became very aggressive and defiant in their Manifestos, but as the decade passed, poets and cultural artists seemed to be preparing the discursive expressions, especially the last Atalayistas of 1928, who gave impulse to the foundations of the next generational writing. During the next decade in Puerto Rico, this process will bring the so called “Generación del 30”. This is a promotional group of artists, primarily insisting in giving special defense and continuity to the Spanish inheritance and its discursive insistant presence in Puerto Rico. Special attention was given during these times to the Generation of 98 and the Generation of 27 from Spain. In contrast the popular culture began having and showing its strong influence from the United States media, evident by the 1930s in Puerto Rico. Literary critics and historians have not analyzed properly these unequal cultural expressions, for a better undestaning of our cultural diversity and ideological complexity and contradictions. All this should be the subaltern ideology ample and its ways with creating diverse agencies within cultural performances. Culture should not be seen only from the lettered and literary perspective.
Unlike the avant-garde, Generation of 1930's writers were not as inclined to the play of language, the using of experimental literary signs and aggressive textual manifestos. It is true the “Generación del 30” maintained in part the futuristic views of the 1920s, with its strong consciousness in innovating language and the formal structural discursive aspects of the literary phenomena. But they were not inclined toward the extreme formalism of avant-gardists language uses and theories, as we notice when comparing their Manifestos and the theorizing about culture and literary matters which they supported. This new generation or promotion of writers were more inclined in presenting frontal struggle and defence of their Hispanic tradition, while confronting the North American invader with blunt language, and denounce their views and cultural and imperial aggressions. They strongly opposed the use of English as a first language and rejected the imposition of the invaders ways of interpreting history and culture in general,. Latin American thinkers like José Martí (1853-1895), from Cuba, and José E. Rodó (1871-1917) from Uruguay, and Spanish thinkers like Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) and José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), were emulated and admired. This is while important North American thinkers, in general, remained unknown. We do find some exceptions with some specially admired writers like Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe.
During the 1930s, national independence became an obsession for the majority of the lettered people. This political ideal leads them not only to establish a frontal fight against the invader but also its materialist modernity. This advancing towards modernity was seen coming from the USA or “Yankees” imperialists. This is perhaps given to the fact that this modernity, for the elitist intellectual and artist, was beginning to trap the attention of the masses and the general public by means of the triumphant industrialized propaganda and dynamics in financial marketing. The new type of modern and popular American ideology was very aggressive and visible on the Island to the amazement of the intellectuals who were very conservative in these matters. The comercial and its consumerism were not seen compatible with art, in the artistic view. The new American social implementation also gave employment to many people and created a new middle class willing to assimilate the American ways. It it important to have in mind how the “imperial” invader’s new ideological media processes were taking place in Latin America as a whole as well. Latin American intellectualls began a paradigmatic resistance of cultural radical perspectives, new anti imperialistic views. Avant-gardist poets like Pablo Neruda (1904-1973, in Chile) and Cesar Vallejo (1892-1938, in Perú) are importan in these reactions. Modernists of the previous generation, including Puerto Ricans in general, had followed the ideological perspectives of José Enrique Rodó (1871-1917) with his anti-American Arielism ( which was idealistic and elitist, by the way). The Arielism had a more philosophical manner rather than a realistic political stand because the socio-economical structures in general did not respond to these radical and liberal ideals (it was the beginning of the Century). Also it should have in mind in the cultural complexities how, little by little, some Puerto Rican as political and liberal leaders will start assimilating the American “democratic” rhetoric and discourse, while abandoning some of their Hispanic cultural and ideological heritage. Here we have the beginning of the pro-statehood people in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, they were far away from translating their ideology into literary and clever metaphorical ways. Culture in the hands of intellectuals was becoming more leftist, nationalist and marxist.
Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that the poetic discourse of lettered artists was taking its expression in accordance to a long historic tradition of a scholarly artistic language. On the other hand, popular culture began to take its new city-like expressions from the radio, cinema and in the form of non-intellectual and light journalism. This opened the door to what we call today the “mass culture.” In the 30s, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset had ample influence in Latin America with his elitist but clever ideas and his rejection of popular culture, with his influential book The Revolt of the Masses (1930). The beginning of the 1930s was a time of double perspectives in socio-cultural developments: on one side, we have the learned lettered sector, and on the other, the new mass and popular culture with their means of creating and entertainment. The prominence of modern means, like radio and cinema, were important in these changes, which allowed the popular voices to be heard and commercialized. In the future the intellectual artistic expressions will have to to adopt to these new processes.
The discourse of the masses was trans-formed by media and techno-economical sectors that were dominated by bank marketing and colonial and imperial propaganda coming from the United States. It began taking prominence after the First World War (the fordist culture of workers in Europe and USA). As the result of this there is the influential lettered groups reacting and adopting ethical and ironic distance from the ideology originating from modernity’s view and cultural performance of the invader. The new imperial communicative action imposed on the masses began even to enter the private spheres of regular citizens’ actions, employing the “instrumental reasoning” of the capitalist economy in its industrial stage and city-life dominium. This included new devices like radios, films, newspapers and popular journals. The changes went in detriment to the learned “criollismo” in literature and also to the country’s peasant (jíbaro) life styles, which had been characteristic of the general Puerto Rican population. Puerto Rico continued as an agricultural sugar cane society but also started becoming somewhat industrialized in production areas were this product, among others, were processed and commercialized (in Guayama, Arecibo, Ponce, and Mayagüez). Literature, for its part, was still taking its inspiration from traditional country life with imagery not so related to industrialism. But the new modern and instrumental world in the long run began infiltrating the literary world, bringing in a new and different modern discourse. Canonical Puerto Rican literature and old cultural views took a long time to accept changes and to get adapted to the city-like modernity and its commercial sphere and dynamics. Nationalist mentality, by its part, negatively rejected this process, mainly because it was brought by North Americans imperialism and imperial intervention.
The growth of mass media culture and its proposal as a way of life would be more and more decisive in the construction of popular consciousness and imagery as the middle of the century advanced. Lettered artists, on the other side, were reluctant to participate or be part of such a process. We could say this was happening in a general cultural in the modern world, and it occurred in Puerto Rico in particular, during the avant-gardism of the 1920s and the “Generacion del 30”, before the Second World War. We can argue that this is one of the reasons the national discourse inclined itself towards elitist pessimism and showed the a political distancing from the less learned population's discourse. This populist sector had the tendency to be timidly liberal, reformist or inclined towards conservatism. Popular culture was not willing or capable of rejecting frontally the colonial interventions from modern USA. However, these popular groups on the Island grew in democratic and geographical importance and had more presence and voice, mainly effective and decisively later, during the industrialized world of the 1950s in Puerto Rico. For example, musical groups, like Los Panchos, Cortijo and the Gran Combo, can show the emergence of a strong and creative popular culture. The Generation of the 70s will later rescue, and will accept these popular expressions and ways of creting and it incorporated them to their literature.
Nevertheless, there are some very distinctive writers apart from these generalizations. Somewhat distant from the Hispanophile elitism of the “Generación del 30” (the Pedrerian followers) is the very proclaimed poet, Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959). He is known mainly as a writer of black oriented literature, even though he was not of that race, but his poetry was important in racial issues and consciousness; he was aware of black writers from the New York area. One of his most famous and avant-gardist books is Tuntún de pasa y grigería (1937). Palés contributes in an impressive creation of myth-oriented poetry of great value to a literary refined culture. He his also the creator of the fictional-poetic character, Filí-Melé, which holds deep value for critics in the country. As a writer Palés Matos is mainly famous for been capable of presenting black culture and ethos as the valuable “other”, giving it national importance and attractive semantics. In general, until Pales Matos, literature significantly ignored the symbolic importance of being black and a hybrid Caribbean in Puerto Rican culture, which is a contradiction in a general mulatto culture like ours. (There are some exceptions like Luisa Capetillo).
In the last poem of his famous book, “Mulata Antilla”, Palés portrays the archetypical voyage with the beloved “mulata” as a symbol of national Eros. She was created to be seen in a mythically poetic and profound meaning, unlike nineteenth century tradition of a white feminine subject, which other poets of other periods portrayed. In his poem, Palés is inspired to go on a trip —not to Spain or to the Universal archetype, like previous poets—but through the Caribbean Sea, in a lyrical voyage, using imagery never before seen in Puerto Rican literature. The poet travels as a captain with a Mulata thought the Caribbean sea showing its authentic meaning to the core of the racial culture. Contrary to the white Hispanophile culture and the poetic “neo-criollism” of the beginning of the century, Palés identified his lyrics with the cultural marginality of racial and cultural negritude and its Antillean identity. Today he is one of the most well-known and accepted poets of his times at a contemporary international level, especially in subalternity studies.
Concha Meléndez (1895- 1993) and Federico de Onis (1895-1966), two of the most important critics and scholars of the “Generation del 30,” considered Evaristo Rivera Chevremont (1896-1976) to be one of the major poets of our times. According the top critic and academician (Josefina Rivera de Alvarez), this great poet “has a sonorous palace in Puerto Rico and his own house in the Latin American, Hispanic and universal letters”. He was a prolific writer who created “pure”, avant-gardist poetry and who used social content in his abundant and admirable lyrical productions as well. We just have to mention: El templo de los alabastros (1919), Pajarera (1929), Tierra y sombra (1930), Color (1938), Tonos y Formas (1943), Anclas de oro (1945), Barro (1945), Verbo (1947) and Creación (1951). Along with Luis Lloréns Torres and Juan Antonio Corretjer, Rivera Chevremont is a highly respected poet with large productivity immersed in somewhat clacisist and erudite versification of his time. Nevertheless, the two other poets mentioned have lasted longer than Rivera Chevremont in the country’s historical memory because they cultivated with more emphasis the patriotic and national myth with lyrical forms, which are less classic and more understanding regarding the popular taste, and sentimental and patrotic expectations.
In 1929, the journal, Indice initiated a new literary epoch, different from the previous formal avant-gardist epoch. Collaborators in this journal were young artists and critics, who along with the master, Antonio S. Pedreira (1899-1939) created the important “Generación del 30.” The ideas of these groups of intellectuals will endure until the 1960, and even today some people will still quote them.
In the economical field important events impacted the culture significantly. The Wall Street stock market crash in 1929, the sugar cane production crisis and the too colonial main economical project in the Island taken by the United States absentee bourgeoisie, had ideologically mobilized and alarmed a new generation of writers. A group of young artists and intellectuals became aware of taking more command of the social and political development on the Island. With a direct and frank confrontational thinking they found a new impulse to articulate, redefine and elaborate a sense of struggle and action for a new national orientation. It was from the ideals of national independence they gave a new turn to national culture and political thought in general. With a very hegemonic reaction against United States colonial past and present policies, they were capable of giving a definite turn to the Puerto Rican cultural ideology. These are the writers who asked, “what are we and where do we go as Puerto Ricans, globally considered” (as Pedreira said).
Seminal in this crucial ideological questioning will be the book Insularismo (1934) written by Antonio S. Pedreira. He invites, what could be called here the “national Puerto Rican subject” to go beyond its insularism with its negative immersion almost compulsively in negative national aspects, and without the necessary desire to listen to some other considerations. Pedreira instead called the Puertorricans to adopt a more modern and universal mentality, open to some other voices from the outside. But he was insistant in keeping in mind that the legacy of the Spanish inheritance should not be displaced and that people had to be cautious with what he (Pedreira) named the “mediocracy” of the North American culture or “horizontal” thought that he considered affected culture in all profound sense. This claim and opinion became part of the autonomist and liberal ideology after the 1930s. Some group of liberals and autonomist agreed with Pedreira that the old insular mentality as well as the mediocracy of the new North American civilization, with its quantifying (materialist) intervention, could be the new Puerto Rican enemies. But al the same time it was important for him that the North American culture was materialistic, horizontal and qualitative (following the Arielian thinking of the influential Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó). The Spaniards, on the favorable contrary, were considered more vertical and qualitative in their old European thinking tradition. In these ideas he followed mainly the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), who proclaimed an anti-mass culture mentality. Most of these ideological predicaments go along, of course, with prejudices of Pedreira, influenced by Ortega’s thought (in the first half of the 1930s), and it exhibits ambiguities and profound contradictions. Later in the 1990's influential critics like Juan Gelpí will be very critical of these ideas that dominated almost the whole 20th century.
Additionally, Pedriera also asks for a culture that does not ignore the substantiality of the Spanish insular culture and scholar tradition but which can also adopt, accept and be aware of the development of a universal European culture. Nevertheless he asks not to abandon the strong North American body (as a metaphor) and the materialist civilization (not culture) that it has to offer. However, Pedriera thinks this should be done having Puerto Rico’s independence always in mind.
It is also important to mention the essayist, historian and cultural thinker, Tomás Blanco (1897-1975), author of the important and most read book Prontuario histórico de Puerto Rico (1935); and also El prejuicio racial en Puerto Rico (1935) and Los cinco sentidos (1955). These books were very well accepted until the 1970s for their equilibrium in cultural and socio-historical criteria that avoided Pedreira’s positivists prejudices. Pedreira was more inclined toward the metaphorical (dilettante) discourse; Tomás Blanco, nevertheless was a better-trained historian and sociologist, and less and artistic essayist.
In literary criticism and academically, Concha Meléndez (1904-1989), Margot Arce de Vázquez (1904-1990), and María Teresa Babín (1910-1989) were very distinguished sholars. With their work and highly educated textual productions they claimed and obtained distinctive visibility as most capable scholars in an academic atmosphere dominated by men and their “subconscious” sense of exluding women. Meléndez, Arce de Vázquez and Babín presented to the academia and culture in general, impressive texts with critical thinking showing abilities of lettered women at its best, and demonstrated an intellectual command of the highest capabilities in the Latin American tradition. Without rejecting modernistic advantages of the early twentieth century, they proclaimed and defended autochthonous cultural values in an idealistic sense even though their radicalism. It id wirth mentioning that as female thinkers, they are still very admired and treasured in postmodern times which are inclined indeed to defend subaltern feminist subjectivity.
Rubén del Rosario (1907-1995) was a valuable linguist who modernized these studies and gave works that are quoted even today. Francisco Manrique Cabrera (1908-1980) was also important as an avant-gardist poet who knew the Generation of 27 from Spain. He was a dedicated educator with socialist ideas and a literary and cultural historian who, like many thinkers of his time, mixed nationalism and Marxism. In postmodern times, he’s been somewhat ignored and forgotten for his nationalist and conservative socialists views.
José Ferrer Canales (1913-2005) was also a great essayist and Americanist who stood firm in his teachings of the Cuban thinker José Martí. He also followed the ideas of the important “procer” (founding father o national hero) of national intellectual atanding, Eugenio María de Hostos, with his Hispanic Pan Americanism. Enduring as a respected and admired neo-Kantian and a very ethical thinker and leader, Hostos continued to be a strongly motivating and inspiring force to be used in the teachings and national thought, until the end of the twentieth century. Hostos went from complex Romanticism to erudite Positivism and Pan Americanism, as a mature thinker, honorably remembered by most of the Generación del 30 thinkers. Ferrer Canales inherited his most vehement and patriotic ideas and gave a refreshing continuation to the thought of Hostos.
Francisco Manrique Cabrera (mentioned above) wrote the first Historia de la literatura puertorriqueña in 1956. This text was a magnificent scholarly achievement, which contributed in a paradigmatic bibliographic way to classify and codify literary discourse in its historical and aesthetic value and development until his (Cabrera's) own intellectual promotion, the “Generación del 30”. This erudite effort helped to guide and inspire the national thinkers who followed him and educators for the next three or four decades. However, this book has already lost its importance, even though it has given to historians important structural criteria in the handling of literary memory and evaluations of texts within time periodization of literature and culture in Puerto Rico. He follows the Spanish and Latin American scholarship in evaluating literary culture and not so much the American tradition. Because of his strong and conservative nineteenth dentury nationalist criteria underneath his critical discourse, postmodern times have displaced him to an unfair oblivion. Recently this book have been published in a new attractive edition.
Unfortunately, dedication to research in Puerto Rican cultural and intellectual production that characterized essayist of the “Generación del 30” and contributed so much to the creation of cultural identity and symbols that we still use today to consolidate our own identity, have recently been relegated and put aside. This leads us to a very uncertain future and takes away the need to give continuity to national intellectual and artistic heritage and for the capacity of subjects in academia to maintain historical and intellectual cohesiveness of culture in our mediocre wikipedia times. These intellectuals of the ‘Generacieon del 30’gave us through their writings the educational skills needed to see and maintain the importance of identity, something that in a segregated posthuman world can be of great importance and its been lost. This is particularly true for a subaltern culture like ours, which not only faces the colonial rival of the United States Federal government but also transcapitalism and globalization of today.
Enrique Laguerre (1906-2005) is the most outstanding novelist of the “Generación del 30” and his serious work as a thinker and as a lettered man will last until the end of the twentieth century. His brilliant begginings as a writer is seen in his novel La Llamarada (1935) and continues with Solar Montoya (1941), 30 de febrero (1943) La Resaca (1949) La ceiba en el tiesto (1970), Cauce sin río (1962) El fuego y su aire (1970, and Los amos benévolos (1976). His first novel (La llamarada) is also the most well developed piece of narrative in the mimetic and formal (diegetic) sense. It gathers the socio-ideological problems of the sugar cane society and its corrupt business. The decisions made by the hero at the end of the narrative argument are very idealistic and unexpected but it cannot be died the narrator exposes very skillfully the turbulent and social conflicts and ambiguities of his protagonist (who achieves symbolic image as a very conscious subject of his times). In general, we can say Laguerre’s novels reflect the social conflicts of countrymen and city subjects of various decades, as he uses the best and most advanced narrative techniques of the times to communicate so. Buy most of his novels lack the discursive irony and the historical dialectics needed to sustain itself as an attractive aesthetic text. Furthermore, they also lack the structural and social cohesion found in (for example) Alejo Carpentier’s novels in Cuba since the 1940s and some other important narratives in Latin America. Laguerre’s novels do not have the components that communicate with a narrative autonomous voice, and the ironic detachment necessary to be read for fictional and metaphorical interest. This is, independently of the real social problems he wants to portray; the novel is too net-realistic; even thought this has an enormous important informative value. All his ample fictional production should be newly evaluated with present narratological theories to put it in its proper perspective as narrative expressions. Traditional criticism has not been the best tool to evaluate this hard working and acute writer who should be seen with a more acute and narratological evaluation.
With interesting contrast with La Llamarada there is En Babia (1940), written by De Diego Padró (1896-1974). It deals with the very subjective, almost neurotic and schizophrenic problems that the New York City environment can bring to its (anti)hero, who also shows great sense of solitude and decadence. It is an unnecessarily extensive novel, which was incapable of capturing the attention of the average intellectual reader, like Laguerre’s novels did. En Babia has been excluded from the canon because of its uncanny content and anomalous voluminous form. Lately, new critical perspectives and interestingly new narratological and poststructural theories have been applied to De Diego’s texts, precisely because he was not so mentioned.
A very well known and appreciated short story writer and dramatist is Emilio S. Belaval (1903-1072). He is especially known for Los cuentos de la universidad (1935), Cuentos para fomentar el turismo (1946) and Cuentos de la Plaza Fuerte (1963). He is one of the best narrators in the Caribbean, and can be considered at the artistic level of Juan Bosch (1909-2001) and Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980), two of the best narrators from the Dominican Republic and Cuba, respectively.
Cuentos para fomentar el turismo is one of the best books written by Belaval, with one of the best neo-realist short stories of his time: “El niño morado de Mosona Quintana”. With an acute irony and broad symbolism this short narrative represents the situation of an old female peasant from the poor rural areas deep within the Island. The story depicts the impoverishment and misery of the main character (Monsona Quintana) and her conflicts, while paradoxically been narrated with great metaphorical beauty. It presents crudely the dramatic death of her latest son (of the many she had), but the most beloved one. With a shocking contrast Belaval shows at the end of the story the insensible modern day display that rich tourism could bring to the Island. He handles his creativity with the complexity of literary irony (not so much displayed in Puerto Rican narrative writings in general). In many of his rhetorical handlings, he shows in a great textual and aesthetic discourse that is accompanied with the depiction of colonial reality in an innovative form in contrast to the traditional “costumbrista” style. Above all, he has the discursive capacity to denounce the new colonial process that took place in Puerto Rico throughout the 1930s. We find in his works a very anticolonial consciousness and a pro-independence militancy reinforced by a strong socialist sense that goes side by side with nationalism.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the theater was also very aggressive in its reaction to the imperial aggression that the national culture suffered. In this respect, the Ateneo Puertorriqueño leads the Sociedad Dramática del Teatro Popular (Areyto). Existential plays, like La muerte (1953), written by Emilio S. Belaval, bring new meanings to literary expressions. Also Manuel Méndez Ballester (1909-2002) gave us important dramas, in which criollism is mixed with classic styles, like in El clamor de los surcos (1938) and Tiempo muerto (1940). The last one is a drama that depicts a poer family in times when there is no jobs in the sugar cane production. The sick father in the play has to give up his doughter in order to get a job. She is raped by the man in charge of the industry production center and this events provoques de revenge of the broter in the family. The final situation is full of bloody and persecution scenery, and the mother (archetype of the defense of the national family) ends up alone in the most somber and almost tragic end. Tiempo muerto is an example of the sophistication the drama, in the formal-literary sense, has reached in Puerto Rico. The symbols of a compulsion of death and the impossibility to find the proper Eros (Love) in the Puerto Rican Family continues as a motive like in the classic novel La charca (1894) of the previous century. This image can be seen also along side with the Existentialism philosophy of the times, exposed mainly by Jean Paul Sartre (in France). Ballesteros writings can be read and evaluated with a universal mentality of lost and despair of the modern humankind (which is part of the universal philosophy of his times). In reality these were remarkable writers if we think in all the obstacles they had in a colonial context.
These dramas have attracted the attention of directors and actors throughout the twentieth century, and are still shown in theaters today. This is not only due to its content but also because of its well-defined theatrical forms. Fernando Sierra M. Berdecía (1903)-1962) was also in particular a dramatist who handled modern techniques and applied them in Esta noche juega el joker (1938). In this play the creator depicts migratory subjects and the formation of new identities in modern spaces. One work that stands out is El desmonte (1938) by Gonzalo Arocho del Toro (1898-1976). Some of these plays will follow the “costumbrismo” style and world view but some other ones will pay more attention to the modern ideas in identities, costums, city characters and migration. The can also have the reading of the displacement and migration of the modern subject of the new capitalist society with its alienation (searching for new meanings) of the men-woman of the times.
But in most plays written and performed between the 1930s to the 1950s, the imperative was to obey the call to national defense (following the nationalist of Albizu Campos, 1891-1965). This nationalist ideology defines in great measure the theatrical discourse until the 1970s in the Island. Later, from the 1980s onward, the epic portrayals and allegories of defense of high poetic ideals of this type of theater become very incompatible with postmodern times and its contexts. This is a socio-cultural period, which tends to ignore with some detachment the deep national symbols originated by dramatic creators I just mentioned. The popular audience seems now to be more interested in cinema an TV and its ways of depicting society. The literary texts have to struggle with the semiotics of these new postmodern times, which bring their new cognitive and paradigmatic advantages (and disadventages as well).
During the last two decades of our century, the lost of faith in classic discourses of the 1930s have debilitated the theatre, a genre that tends to depend so much on dramatic poetics deeply integrated to foundational and totalizing allegories coming from old national and anti-colonial feelings and struggles. Epic and allegorical defenses of high poetic ideals have been transformed and even eliminated because of the incompatibilities they bring to postmodern times so anti-modernist in its ideology. This is a postmodern epoch, lighter and in-different in its approach to aspects of art in the modern sense. The Puerto rican literature is waiting for the new Postmodern critics (or whatever you may want to call them).
By the 1980s this is already notable by the domination of performative dramas and media narratives consciously superficial, and interested in keeping distance from deep symbolisms of the classic past. The change is not only due to the transformation in national emotions, which are necessary for the theatre, but for the general worldview in all genres, including poetry and the novel. Nevertheless, theatrical ideology and world visions created and inspired by artistic minds since the 1930s, has left us with the best dramatic pieces of the twentieth century. However, as I just implied, theatre is the genre that has suffered very much the cultural changes, due to private and public spheres transformations performed by mass media, informatics and different means of representations which seems to have interest in different aspects of representation and interpretation of art and history). (Even the concept of history has chance nowadays). Postmodernists are more inclined to virtual imagery of new techno electronic and cybernetic devises. Even with this situation, as we will expose later in this work, our theater goes through positive developments and changes and its audience still assisting and supporting the most oustanding performances in this classic form of art. It seems to be that the genre is adjusting to new times.
From 1940 Rural “Neo-Criollismo” to Urban Literature of the 1950s and 1960s
Nationalist and patriotic tendencies in art reached its limits from the 1930s to the 1960s. This happened mainly because the political response to the aggressive context, principally economical and military, imposed by imperial activities taken by the United States toward Puerto Rico. Voices of this vast literary period of resistance and identity empowerment are (to mention e few): Juan Antonio Corretjer (1908-1985), Francisco Manrique Cabrera (1908-1978), Clemente Soto Vélez (1905-1993), and Luis Hernández Aquino (1907-1988). Corretjer is known as the “national neocriollista poet” of Puerto Rico due to his personal political militancy and the patriotic sentiment shown in Agüeybana (1932), Amor de Puerto Rico (1937), El leñero (1936) Yerba bruja (1957), Distancias (1957), etc. His “Alabanza en la Torre de Ciales” can be considered an epic hymn, which became an iconic inspiration for many anticolonial artists since the 1930s and that endures until today among patriotic people, although not only nationalists but of many ideologies.
Francisco Matos Paoli (1915-2000) is equally prolific as a national poet, mainly with his books Hablante del eco and Teoría del olvido (both in 1944), Canto a Puerto Rico (1947) and Canto a la locura (1962). This last one was written while he was a federal prisoner due to his political “subversive” activities as a nationalist. Despite its sinuosity, most authorized contemporary critics in the country, like Mercedes López Baralt, glorifies the high value of this long poem. Matos Paoli’s search for liberty goes beyond simple politics and reaches ontological and mythic levels. He was considered for a Nobel Prize.
Some other poets during the 1940s and 1950s became very elevated and metaphysical in a literary movement known as Transcendentalism. The most renouned poets of this period are: Félix Franco Oppenheimer (1912-2004), Francisco Lluch Mora (1924-2006), Jorge Luis Morales (1930-1997), and José Emilio González (1918-1990). Christian symbols are abundantly employed in their poems to portray a sense of patriotic martyrdom, suffering and spiritual transcendence. Some critics believe these writers wanted to reach absurd metaphysical limits and a forgotten formal modernism in art. But their poetry is part of a historical and cultural process not only in Puerto Rico but in some other countries as well.
Participation in female discourses achieves a very singular presence in the literary and lettered national scene since the 1930s, especially with poets like Clara Lair (1908-1974) and Julia de Burgos (1914-1974), among many others. Arras de cristal (1937) and Trópico amargo, and Más allá del poniente (1950) are important books of Lair. Julia de Burgos wrote Poemas exactos a mí misma (1937), Poemas en veinte surcos (1938), and Canción de verdad sencilla (1929). “Río Grande de Loiza” has been one of Julia 's poems recited by Puerto Ricans across time and even today because of its deep national, aesthetic and mythic meanings. Her poetry tend to evoke the traditional patriotic reaction of the invaded motherland (metaphor of the national body and feelings), but also pay attention to the particular sensuality of women as she values the energy and the pleasure of the female body in a new symbolic sense. Her search for feminism can be compared with the new writers who followed the feminist view in the ideological and philosophical sense (Virginia Wolf in England and María Luisa Bombal in Chile, for example) Burgos also emphasizes mythical claims as a lyrical feminist employing water and land archetypes never before elaborated in the national poetry with strong emotional and lyrical strenth. Her lyrical tone and skillful handling of symbolism is of the highest quality in poetic discourse and this is one of the main reasons why she has become so notable and singularly relevant. We know that Burgos (like many feminist today) claims canonic androcentric literature to be more cerebral and conceptual than sensual and corporeal (like the feminist one) in her poetry. With this particularity, her verses offer the most attractive and paradigmatic examples of female literature of the first half of the twentieth century. For the first time in national literature, women’s participation in poetic culture and national discourses has grown with a very distinctive style and reception. Traditionally men and their ways of thinking and feeling dominated mainly literary culture with minimal feminist intervention. In this respect, Julia de Burgos represents perhaps the most important intervention in andro-centrism (one sided masculinity) of our colonial literary culture they is changing so much the culture of young people today.
Another important aspect in the lyrical works of this modernized period, which is not mentioned as much but is still studied are the works of Soledad Lloréns Torres (1880-1968), Carmen Alicia Cadilla (1908-1994), Carmelina Vizcarrondo (1906-1983), Amelia Ceide (1908-1987), Carmen Marrero (n. 1907) Magda López (n. 1900), Olga Ramírez de Orellano (n. 1911-), Haydée Ramírez de Orellano (n. 1912), Nivia Vicéns (1914-1998), Amelia Agostini (1886-1986), Laura Gallego (1924-2007), and Violeta López Suria (1926-1994). All of these women initiated as a coherent group the feminist poetic discourse in Puerto Rico. Some decades later, female members of the “Generación del 70” continued their efforts to express their different voices and emotions into a world that was already city oriented. Where and when women could claim more opportunities to express themselves, is something that escalated to be diferent and gave the beggining of complex definitions and started becoming independent from a culture dominated by chauvinist obsessions. The feminine literary production began to see with significance their difference from a one-dimensionally andro-normative world reinforced and guided by canonical historical tradition. In this sense, historical times begins to favorably change for women’s literary presence and participation.
By the 1950s Puerto Rico starts to enter into a new process of industrialization. Some liberal and conservative colonial sectors take advantage of the situation and procure mainly their own particular wealth. They are followers of the liberal politician Luis Muñoz Marín (1898-1980), who was also a prestigious poet and very knowledgeable in North American politics. He was also an extremely articulated and convincing politician with strong ties to liberal followers of President Roosevelt in the USA. He was the first governor elected by the people of the island in colonial State elections from 1948 to 1964. He successfully began his projected socio-economical transformation of Puerto Rico thanks to his knowledge in how to appeal to the typical poor rural workers, which he appreciated (having in mind their electoral votes). During his incumbency, most of the governmental budget was assigned to public primary and secondary education and to the University of Puerto Rico. There was a large intellectual development on the Island and the qualitative production of a lettered population and literary artist increased under his liberal colonial context.
Puerto Rican middle class and bourgeoisie also began to consolidate their political institutionalized power in this period. They took advantage of the doors opened by the colonial “liberals” and their sly political and economical maneuvers. It was a social class lacking sympathies for nationalist interests; they tended to be rather pragmatic and materialistic in their claims and expectations. These were big times for the development of the Banco Popular, Fomento Económico (a governmental bank), and sectors interested in industrialization and tourism favoring the American market. It was pivotal how political leaders took advantage of the money from Federal aids, which was arriving to other States in the Nation, including Puerto Rico. Along with this economical growth came also the ideology for cultural assimilation and consumerism of United States products and its colonial and ideological imaginaries and values (which were interpreted and assimilated in a subaltern way).
The situation propitiated a fast economical dependence on the USA, welcomed and controlled by a powerful and wealthy group of Puerto Ricans who were mainly followers of the Partido Popular Democrático, which had an ambiguous idea of association (the Commonwealth) to the rich and prosperous Metropolis. These opportunists groups saw this advanced Fordist United States Nation as an enviable complex production force of an industrialized, liberal and popular nation with a government, worthy of follow-up and emulation; something the popular sectors accepted in general. This was in spite of the fact that these politically and socially powerful and influential groups on the Island were not ethnically or legally part of this admired Nation. In reality this group of colonials did not know much about the USA social and political complex tissue and ethos. The main purpose for them was economical interest of particular financial groups and the military colonial interests of the USA with their financial plans and inteventions in the Caribbean Islands. Some jurist and political leaders (along with artistic lettered people) were alarmed because they knew what was to come from being a subordinated colony and what the imperialist American interests in Puerto Rico were. They were not heard, nevertheless, by the alienated masses. People in general wanted to be part of the American Dream, which was proposed by the followers of Muñoz Marín who took advantage the popular voters and citizens. At the beginning of his political campaign, this popular leader promised independence, but later became one of the worst enemies of this ideology.
Artists and intellectuals, in general, did not participate in the changes of the new colonial ideology even with its modern attractions. They despised the political offerings from the rich and wealthy Islanders and the sastute dominant colonial interventions of the Federals. On the contrary, artists and lettered groups became, more ideologically identified with leftist anti-imperialist sectors, not only with the ones on the Island but on an international level as well. This reached its peak at the end of the 1960s, when they even became identified with civic liberals and leftist activists from the USA (like Angela Davis and Martin Luther King). There was a strong attachment to international radical movements (Marxists, syndicalist, socialists and communists), and lefties from the United States, like Herbert Marcuse (from the German Frankfurt School) and the Mexican American civic leader, Cesar Chaves (1927-1993).
Beyond the colonial issue in Puerto Rico, at an international level, the Second World War (1939-1945) and its somber effects created an Existentialist sense of being-in-time in writers and intellectuals, following philosophers like Martin Heidegger (1889) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1986). Let us not forget the new dependence created by the imperial-Other (USA), organized on the Island, and the ties with the new ultra-capitalism that came after the war. The situation urged writers to look for new metaphors and symbols to depict and represent the type of new world that was being rejected for its anti-humanist orientation, and the alienated objectionable experiences it offered. For this reason, lettered artists in general tended to follow the avant-gardists mentality, before and after the war conflicts in Europe. They kept memories of the Generation of 27 from Spain and avant-gardists from the 1920s and 1930s in Latin America, who had grown in their discourse and fame (Cesar Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca). The new literary generation at the middle of the century, also developed an anti-capitalist and anti middle class sentiment which guided them in presenting a new thought and a different literary styles.
In a national aspect, the 1930 sense of nostalgia increased given the slow disappearance of the rural and criollo ambiance. There was also a resistance to get closer to the horizons seen ahead brought by the increasing consuming society and its aggressive financial capitalism. The transitionl panorama also motivated artist and lettered people to reject the new colonial-city that by the 1950s and 1960s became more visible and consolidated as it was replacing rural life and its values. This is an important moment in literary expression when new left-wing writers prepared themselves to fight the incoming techno media cultures. Of course, the new stage of ultra-capitalism and its alienating aspects rejected the ideas of a literary nationalist exposition. Now, writers were not only dealing with the unresolved problem of the 1898 military invasion, but also with the infiltrations of this aggressive economical and political structure and socio-historical stages spreading throughout both the material world and the subjective consciousness of a new society.
Middle class and most working class sectors in general accepted reformist formulas and some adapted to its processes and media, in a kind of “Viva las Vegas” culture. Most lettered groups, on the other hand, insisted in employing, almost frenetically, the common places of the nationalist sector’s ideology and its worldview. We find an ideology very immersed in its compromises, to the old rural and seigniorial imagery and allegories. It was something that happened in general with artistic depictions and ways of representing during the 1930s and 1940s, which somehow, in its deep and hidden meaning, continued under a nineteenth century Spaniard type of mentality.
While some texts offered a new aesthetic, artistic and discursive creativity, many writings insisted in keeping classic national allegories. Unfortunately, sometimes this insistence would not allow their discourse to achieve the artistic irony nor the detachment necessary for the ideological dimension that could elevate art from its most obvious and clisé socio-cultural of representing conflicts. Some artistic groups were not as effective in properly critiquing, through art, the social structures created by the industrial and media society that began to dominate the “industrial” society. Some writings of this time in Puerto Rico were simply against the colonial establishment in their ideology and did not elaborate the necessary artistic display needed to maintain the ideological distance that good art tends to look for. This is why there are so many mediocre productions, which have been forgotten or ignored. Buy in general, according to even the most rigorous critics, there is good art worth mentioning from this difficult period.
This is probably why in postmodern times, by the end of the twentieth century till now, writings of the 1940s were so prone to skepticism and reacting against difficult ideologies from the past, and have been displaced and even ignored. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that some writers presented texts of relevant and impressive ideological and artistic value that was very skillful in the national and as well as in a universal sense. Since the “Generación del 30” there has been a great debate regarding to how colonial literature should insist in reaching above all aesthetic and universal levels, and to go beyond insular cultural gravity and national interest.
Later in history, even by the 1970s, the insistence in this national ideology did not allow some writers to see how political oppression would come, not from a frontal and visible political empire (and this was the influence mainly by the national politics to artist, since the 1930 and the 1940). Ideological oppression came in the 1970s from areas with more structural and invisible economical forces than explicit political and confrontational ones with the North-American territorial expansionism as it had been seen in the past. After the Second World War there was a new socio-economical growing and expansion not only in the colony but also in the world at large. The cleverest artists had to adopt their art to these changing maneuvers and its defiance against humanity. During the 1970s, Marxist Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) will be one of the most relevant scholars in explaining these transitional aspects in Eros and Civilization (1955) and One-Dimensional Men (1964). His books were very much read by the Puerto Rican new intelligentsia of the alluded times.
The confrontation and debate sustained by socialist artists and intellectuals during the 1960s and 1970s will confront socio-cultural changes that can be called ideological as well as aesthetic. The artists tried to overcome the literature of simple national and colonial reflection and dichotomous political expressions. New artists looked for a more experimentalist, ludic and ironic, trans-avant-gardist discourses. It is believed that due to their influence, the achievements in new literary forms of expression have lasted until today.
These were new achievements. Since the middle of the 1960s, a new group of writers had to become more adjusted to city demands with its new horizons and viewing of intra-subjectivities. With these changes, literature adapts and becomes more aware of the transforming socio-cultural situations and begins abandoning the idealism of Pedrerian times (1930) and the modernist “costumbrismo” of writers from the 1940s and 1950s. The tendency to confront simplistic unsularists ideas of the past, especially during the 1970s, was mainly because of old attachments to old Positivist prejudices against popular culture. Lets see how this complex historical and artistic process developed in general, with some specific examples.
Abelardo Diaz Alfaro (1919-1999), René Marqués (1919-1979), José Luis González (1926-1996), and Pedro Juan Soto (1928-1979), were new notable writers that emerged during the transitions brought about by these changes and paradigms. From the end of the 1940s till the 1980s, they confronted the some aspects of the new colonial modernity that, in their eyes, threatened the national integrity valued since the 1930s Pedrerian worldview. With his book, Terrazo (1949) and two particular short stories, “El Josco” and “Los perros”, Abelardo Díaz Alfaro confronted the United States aggression with dramatic and existentialist sensibility. In “El josco” we see the clash between a beautiful black bull representing Puertorricaness, which will confront a white North American beast brought to the national farm to supposedly change the embitterment of the race. It is curious that in this story, the author himself is not aware that it is the Puerto Rican owner of the hacienda who voluntarily brings the white bull to displace the black one even though the black one has finally won an almost epic struggle. It can be said that this is related to how the Puerto Rican bourgeoisie gave privilege to and welcomed the North American force. Here we have the ideological situation of the national rich social class rejecting the autochthonous and favoring the foreign. Nevertheless, in its formal structure, the story offers a display of majestic metaphors at the beginning to depict the aesthetic importance of the national bull. It also presents a clear plot with some suspense and a tragic ending. The plot and the suspense will attract readers with the ideology of independence sustained in it. Alfaro’s “Los perros” is also one of the best existentialist short stories written in Latin America, with great artistic and humanistic emotion. Although his stories in general present rural decay, they also keep in mind the modern city reader with great nostalgia for the lost past.
In the short story “En el fondo del caño hay un negrito” which appears in En este lado (1954), José Luis González gives what will be the beginning of urban literature of the working class marginality with acute psychosocial insight. In this short story, he depicts the allegorical failure of saving the national black child from death that brings the new industrial work that distracts the working Puerto Rican society from its poetic (the child’s narcissism, the seen and acceptance of himself). The author demonstrates great racial and class-consciousness; this is something that gives him a much better ideological perspective to represent the literary field.
Recognized in the areas of social struggle was the somewhat attractive novel Los derrotados (1956) by César Andreu Iglesias (1915-1976). The ending of this narrative can be considered a pamphlet and ideologically biased toward simplistic socialism against radical nationalism. He gave coherent and complex ideological explanations of the new ideological problemas of modern society, but lacking the artistic complexity of González and Marqués, for example.
Spiks (1957), by Pedro Juan Soto had a great impact on the reading public in general. In these short stories, he recognized the suffering of a migratory sector of Boricuas that has left to New York City. Soto was a migrant himself, for a while. “Los inocentes” is the best story in this book, and allegorizing the despair of loosing the mental stability of the metaphorical national child and offers the sense of enclosing “the innocent” migrant people of the island, thrown to the fearful and inhuman foreign city. The pessimism and fear of the modern outside world —which belongs more to lettered groups than to migrants themselves— will be surpassed by José Luis González some decades later in his story “La noche que volvimos a ser gente” (1970). It is a story about a character stuck in the New York subway. When he is finally able to get out, he encounters an electric blackout in the whole city, finding later a big celebration in his home because a new child has been born. Finally, the character goes to the roof of his building and notices the stars, which he sees as symbols of freedom and poetic continuity in existence.
In this narration, the migratory event is not portrayed as a nationalist rejection or with a paranoid attitude. The story also shows how narration is at the highest form of handling artistic representation. González proclaims to be one of the best storytellers of his generation and beyond. In its artistic neo-realist follow-up, he has been always compared with the magnificent Dominican short story mastery, Juan Bosch.
The dramatist, essayist and narrator, Rene Marqués, wrote very important literary works that became quite popular. Regardless his nationalism, he is probably one of the greatest readers of North American literature of the period (Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams). La carreta (1951) and Los soles truncos (1958) can be considered the best drama of the twentieth century in Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America. These plays represent the tragic national destiny and the denial to accept the modern industrialized American world imposed by new historical and economical processes. Imposed by the Americans, La Carreta in its popular manner, shows islanders moving from rural areas to the “barrios” of San Juan (La Perla) and finally to the ghettos of New York City. Los soles truncos is tragic drama presenting three women and their descent into poverty until they set their house and themselves on fire in Old San Juan. Though its insistence in ideological matters, the dramas develops high aesthetic goals and classic tragic values. A similar ideology and sense of existential despair in colonial living is shown in the novel La víspera del hombre (1959) and also in the short story, En una ciudad llamada San Juan (1960). Marques’s essay “El puertorriqueño docil” (1960) becomes very controversial by by by placing the blame of the USA assimilation process onto what he considers alienated people in Puerto Rico. Let us not forget that these times when writers tend to despise this process of manipulation taken by the mass media.
In 1959, Marqués publishes a valuable anthology of short stories, Cuentos puertorriqueños de hoy, with an important “Introduction”. In it he selects what critics consider the best short narratives of the times. His introduction clarifies the modern transition literature was going through. His drama, El apartamiento (1961) dramatically shows the absurdist tendencies of mechanized and dehumanized modern society, taking place in the 1960s, and which became even more emphatic later in the future. According to some contemporary critics, his second novel, La Mirada (1976), contains some political anachronisms and references to gender traumas the author seems to hide. This is a strage case because according to people who knew him well, he lived with another man most of his adult life. Nevertheless, the novel is very homophobic.
Francisco Arriví (1915-2007) was a play writer who was attentive to national problems and presents them in his work with an existential and universal approach. He is the author of dramas like María Soledad (1947), Bolero y Salsa (1956), and Vegigantes (1958). Most of these works are very simple, but are very well organized and portray the behaviors of hybrid culture with precision and passion.
Theatre begins to be more performative and less literary. Dramas like Cristal roto en el tiempo (1960), Absurdos de soledad (1963), La trampa (1964) and El impromptu de San Juan (1974) by Myrna Casas (b. 1934) are very innovate in their existentialist and laconic style. Casas is one of the most prolific and serious dramatists of her time, and is still very productive today. Pedro Santaliz (b. 1938) is a play writer very knowledgeable about new and surprising ways of representing cultural and colonial sitiations, like in Cemí en el palacio (1969). Rosario Quiles’ (b. 1935) plays El juicio de Víctor Campolo (1970) and La movida de Víctor Campolo (1972) are highly proclaimed and have a big audience. Walter Rodríguez’s (1945-2010) experimental play La descomposición de César Sánchez (1973) was very impressive in these times. Gerard Paul Marín’s (1922-2011) play En el principio la noche era serena (1961) is also very well recognized. These dramatists confronted the sociocultural changes that impacted Puerto Rico from the 1960s to the 1970s with great creative and complex effort.
During this time Puerto Rico was entering into a more dynamic and turbulent colonial modern phase than the one experienced by previous generations, the ones did not have to deal with television and mass media and its new ideas in representing culture. The notion of the existential, the absurd and desolation in the universal sense is also shown in these plays from the 1970s. Dramatists were very conscious of the artistic equivalents presented on an international level in Europe and Latin America. This is one of the reasons they are less insular and more modern and experimental (avant-gardist). They were more interested in the teatre from Latin American, rather of what Broadway in the United States was offering. The University of Puerto Rico and the Island’s theatres were very open to all kinds of expressions in this genre and the government gave them the economic assistance necessary to function.
But it should be taken into consideration non-academic and pop theater flourished and began to claim its space and public. Some artists and entrepreneurs from television began exploring on very light comedies and characters, like Sunshine’s Café, Luis Vigoreux Productions, Antonio Pantoja with his gay performances and political satires. They took their art to theaters for general audiences in cafes and city carnivals. From the 1930s to the end of the 1970s, for critics we find the best period in Puerto Rican drama and theatre. For them somehow, closer to our time, dramatic productions have lost their capacity and symbolic strength for depicting Puerto Rican cultural ethos.
In the narrative field Pedro Juan Soto’s novels Usmail (1959) and Ardiente suelo, fría estación (1961) are extremely well known for their presentation of the anticolonial struggle of this period. We can say that Soto was very serious about his profession and his ideology, but his narratives tend to be deficient in their narrative structuring and the development of plots detached from conventional nationalist allegories. He sold books to leftist ideological followers who wanted a modern novel but who kept these types of heroic and tragic narratives of the past in their field of expectations.
Emilio Díaz Valcárcel (b. 1929) writes more interesting and avant-garde novels like El hombre que trabajó el lunes (1966), Figuraciones del mes de marzo (1972) and Harlem todos los días (1978). Some of these works have won international prizes because of their experimentalism with new narrative techniques and plots. In these narratives, we find attractive and innovative metaphorical representations of the Puerto Rican world trapped in colonial cities and imprisoned by modernity in a more ideological and alienated sense. He achieves this without being ideologically inclined towards nationalist dichotomies. In this sense, Valcárcel is a writer who has left rural problems behind and has given plain attention to representations of modern urban conflicts on a psychosocial level. With him we have entered in an art more inclined towards the artistic forms of the ending of the twentieth century.
These types of novels have caused Puerto Rican literature to distance itself from the dramatic and tragic “criollismo” and the neo-realism that had dominated since the nineteenth century rural world, which was emphazied in 1940’s narrative. In these novels we find a portrayal of an ironic worldview and experiences of colonial city subjects without prejudices of a nostalgic or tragic national past. They also paid attention to new ways and demands in representing socio-historical processes with more perspectivism in the clashing of ideologies, something necessary in good modern literature. Usually many writers have taken a pro-independence view, but the obsessiveness given to this ideology has not allow them to adopt the literary irony and perspectives (an heteroglosic sight) of modern art. The best modern literature, in general, since the middle of the twentieth century has tended to pay more aesthetic attention to the events in complex commercial, colonial and “mass media” city. As the century devolopes with its colonial complexities, literature give us representations from different points of view (with its heteroglosic and multiple voices and perspectives) and does not follow the nationalist world view with such anxiety. The modernity in this literary process has already displaced rural mentality and its “neo-criollista” metaphors and nationalistic allegories.
We can see now how the last five years of the 1960s brought a very important transitional period in which Puerto Rican society and culture became more concerned and critical in regards to what is financial and media oriented as it came from the United States and hold capitalist contradictions. Literature eventually abandons the previous way of representing colonialism and begins creating new imagery that is more in touch with the new colonial realities, as it was above mentioned.
Migration had been imposed on the Puerto Rican population since 1898. It was however during the 1940s onward their literature has gained importance. By the 1930s we see writings exposing the experiences of migrant colonials to the United States. At the beginning of this migratory process, literature follows many of the imaginary, allegories and national Puerto Rican symbols. Some Puerto Ricans left the Island and established themselves as subject who became part of the Diaspora, with a different mentality as artists and intellectuals. As time went on, this literature grew and exposed its experience independently of the political and ideological pertinence it had for the lettered islanders. The literary expressions of migrants began to grow with its own content and form, especially from those in the barrios and ghettos in the New York area during the 1950s and 1960s. The migrant’s literature until today has grown so much that it has its own discourse and cultural process.
It was by the 1960s and 70s that migrant writings started to show different expressions that corresponded to migrant ethnic and cultural in particular ways of struggling through art. These texts start to create its own and independent characteristics, apart from the ones living in the Island.
Trópico en Manhattan (1951) is a novel written by Guillermo Cotto Thorner (1916-1983), which exposes much of the initial migration process. Memorias de Bernardo Vega (edited by César Andreu Iglesias in 1979), also reveals initial experiences in New York City and employs a testimonial discourse to understand the inaugural aspects of this new migrant subjectivity in its different way of being. Writers who showed the different experiences of these migrant colonial subjects grew and expanded their symbolic capacities and ways of communicating through various artistic forms.
A group of artists has emerged who offer singular experiences and ways of exposing the lives of subaltern migrants, in a multicultural context, and that of the so-called “minorities” in the United States. In this aspect we have to single out Piri Thomas’ (1928-2011) Down These Mean Streets, (1964); Nicholasa Mohr’s Nilda, (1974); Nicholas Kanellos (Editor of Revista Chicano-Riqueña from Texas); Miguel Algarín’s (b. 1941) Mongo Affair (1978); and Tato Laviera’s (b. 1951) La Carreta Made a U Turn, (1979). A very well known artist of Newyorican poetry is Pedro Pietri (1944-2004) with his Puerto Rican Obituary (1973). Another writer who has made valuable contributions in art and literature is Elizam Escobar (b. 1949), a nationalist imprisoned in the United States and now works freely in Puerto Rico. David Hernández, Frank Varela, Julio Noboa, Sandra María Estevez, among others, are important and valuable writers forming part of the literary culture from Chicago. La Revista Hostosiana/ Hostos Review (Vol. 2, 2005) offers a volume entitled Open Mic/Micrófono abierto, in which the works of new artists are presented. Papiros de papel: Antología de la poesía puertorriqueña en Nueva York (1991), by Pedro López Adorno, gathers the experience of Boricuas from the United States and poetry from the 1930s. Revista Chicano-Riqueña, created in 1973 and directed by Nikolas Kanellos, gave importance to the Mexican-American presence within the migratory process and the growing Latino culture in the United States. In 1979, Kanellos created the Arte Público Press, an editorial that has published important eouvres of minorities in the USA. This includes works of Tato Laviera, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and Miguel Alarín.
Literary Modernity by the Middle of the Twentieth Century and the Generation of the 1970s.
By the middle of the twentieth century, Hugo Margenat (1933-1957) transformed Puerto Rican traditional poetry that dominated until the 1950s. He transcended the works of “criollistas” and Transcendentalists before him and opened the language to a new lyrical and metaphorical way of expressing subjectivity in relation to the “otherness” in a political and “mystic” sense using inner subjectivity. He offered a kind of poetry that looks ahead to the future, and created a rupture within the metaphysical poetry dominating before him. He also avoided classic nationalists symbols while renovating the language of this ideology to make it more modern.
According to some critics, this was done reaching the point of absurdity. Margenat also started a political militancy offering a new visibility to the city language and the new meanings of urban life. He was also interested in “compromised social art”, without abandoning the struggle with daily situations and new human labyrinths seen in the modern industrial society. His work still employs some mystical views, but unlike the so called Trascendentalistas poets of his time. His poetry includes a new personal and deep psychic dimension, something not undertaken as he does it in literature during his time.
Poets like Margenat increased the use of ideological protests in works like Lámpara apagada (1954) and Intemperie. (1955). He was well viewed by poets who were interested in the defense of patriotic values and actions but were looking for new ways of expressing personal experiences and a different sense of lyrical art within the imaginary (and in many aspects, real) nation.
The poets of the 1960s literary journals like Guajana, and Mester y Palestra were also very active and creative in these aspects of looking for a new form of art. We can affirm nevertheless, the Guajana poets, in particular, maintained the ideology of the old “criollismo” and in their aggressive literary commitment they were conservatives. Nevertheless, they struggled with an innovative aesthetics consciousness belonging to the new industrial and mediatic realities of the 1960s and also with a strong militancy against imperialism.
By the beginning of the 1970s, an important journal called Ventana (1972) brought more avant-gardist poets, than the previously mentioned journals. It had innovative textual and discursive ways of handling expressions more in dialogue with what was happening in Latin America leftist movements. These poets had strong faith in the Cuban and Chilean revolution during the decade of the sixties.
Poets tthat held such dynamic, ideological and artistic views were, for example: Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche (b. 1942), Andrés Castro Ríos (b. 1942) Edwin Reyes (1944-2001), Manuel Torres Santiago (b. 1940), Marcos Rodríguez Freese (b. 1941), Wenceslao Serra Deliz (b. 1941), Edgardo López Ferrer (b. 1943), Ramón Felipe Medina (b. 1935), Marina Arzola (1938-1976), Iris M. Zavala (b. 1936), Angela María Dávila (1944-2004), Irving Sepúlveda Pacheco (b. 1947), Luis Antonio Rosario Quiles (b. 1936), Víctor Fragoso (1944-1982), and Luz María Umpierre (b. 1947). Many of of them were very creative in regard to new imaginaries and the radical ideological militancy of the 1960s and the 70s. Even today, the great majority of them still very productive and have a firm poetic and militant insistence in their views of culture and language. A different type of postmodern literature is now, at the beginning of the twenty first century, taking over and bringing a new breed of writers.
We should keep in mind that in the 1970s writers from Ventana’s times (1967), and after, renovated the language and textual complexities of the new trans avant-gardism as a reaction to the post-war conservatism of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. They gave form to a more combative and different verse dealing with cultural perspectives and expectations relevant to particular cultural and social events in the seventies. They also dealt with socio-cultural structures that had changed drastically in a conservative ideological context built in the past. In reality, they were the first poets to receive impact from the media and techno capitalists context that from the 1950s to the 1970s mutated the relations between the conscience of the subject and the post-natural and artificial world built with new structures and artifacts never before seen in history (mainly techonological). For these reasons they took a more ironic and ludic standing in approaching the poetic voice in the textual productions, which were intrinsically tied to Romanticism and Criollismo. Furthermore, they organized their discourse with a communicational perspective and the pragmatic effect of language never seen before. Crónica de tres décadas: Poesía puertorriqueña actual —de los sesenta a los ochenta— (1989), by Rubén González, is a book that offers a very good critical view and an ontological selection of poems, of the period being discussed.
In general, the “Generación del 70” writers created a rupture in the patriarchal canon and the changed the tendency of the nationalist elitism in the first half of the century’s literature. This was due in part to the relevance of popular culture, which acquired new visibility and significance not to be ignored. In this respect, we have to mention outstanding journals like Zona de carga y descarga (1972), Penélope y el Nuevo mundo (1972), the already mentioned Ventana, and later Reintegro (1980). We find in them some of the literary innovators that, having a clear idea on how to defy the past cannon, will take command of the lettered scenery or the imaginary “lettered city”. This is taking into consideration they have now undergone changes during the 1980s and 90s. By the middle of the 1980s, they started facing strong resistance and criticism from postmodern thinkers. Due to certain epistemologies and perspectives these former writers represent an epoch change of paradigm. As time goes by, another new socio-cultural structure would appear, bringing perspectives that were not necessarily well viewed by previous 70s artistic conceptions. The following half of the 1980s decade will bring very proliferous young creators with different ideas regarding literary creation. They will be more eclectic and heterogeneous in their way of articulating culture and literature and they begin to abandon the old “narratives” and poetical procedures.
Before this chanhes, Rosario Ferret (b. 1938) along with the distinguished poet, Olga Nolla (1938-2001), was the director of the radical, enthusiastic and experimental journal Zona de carga y descarga at the beginning of the 1970s. Together with Manuel Ramos Otero they included in the journal writers that confronted what they called the “Vacas Sagradas” (Sacred Cows). They were referring to people in the Hispanic Studies Department from the University of Puerto Rico and their old scholarly practices like that of Concha Meléndez, Margot Arce de Vazquez, and Francisco Manrique Cabrera (the last one, monetary collaborator, curiously, of this journal). We find now young writers given to experimentalists and the avant-garde and were against the established academia and traditional scholars. Also they had strong attachements to the Latin American “boom” narrators, like Vargas Llosa (1936- ), García Márquez (1927- ), and Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012). They were also inclined towards the anti-poetry of the Chilean Nicanor Parra (1914- ), and to the new sociology of historical and cultural proceses of the Marxist critic, Angel Rama (1926-1983).
Rosario Ferré was the creator of bold feminist poems and short stories published in her book entitled Papeles de Pandora in 1976. With it, she gained a reputation as a feminist and trans-avant-gardist writer of international prestige. Later, she published the very interesting and well defined historical and feminist novels Maldito amor (1988) and La casa de la laguna (1996). During the 1970s she was a self-proclaimed pro-independence socialist, but later changed her ideology and became more conservative and contradictory. Due to this change, Ferré has been the object of reproach by some people and critics especially since her father (Luis A. Ferré, 1904-2003) was the conservative pro-statehood governor of Puerto Rico from 1968-1972).
Luis Rafael Sánchez (b. 1936) is one of the most avant-gardist and talented writers of these present times. By the 1960s, he was already well noticed and mentioned in lettered communities, especially for his initial theater work. It was his short stories in En cuerpo de camisa (1966) and his drama, La pasión según Antígona Pérez (1988), which brought him extraordinary fame on the Island. In this drama he represents characters and portrays pertinent symbolic events of the modern complexity of city life. As an interpretation, and its deep structure, the play calls for the end of national and patriarchal discourse and foretells of a new period dominated by the ideological cynicism of archetypical dictatorial authorities in the world. This is the way is seen in the tyrannical character of his drama, Creón. In the text he also pays attention to new media manipulations and maneuvers of the present culture, which declares the death of the classic Socratic protagonist of the oeuvre, Antígona Pérez.
In 1976, Sánchez published the impressive avant-gardist anti-novel, La guaracha del Macho Camacho, and a decade later the drama Quíntuples (1887), and the novel/essay, La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1988). He is also the author of the famous essay/short story “La guagua aérea” (1894), which “mocks” the back and forth migratory travels of Puerto Ricans; not only because of their uncanny behavior but also their particular sly (subaltern) psychology. In this text he also offers a new chronotopy (notions of time and space) of what could be the first critique of Puertorricaness and its metaphorical transits and traumas as a people. His newspaper skilled essays (articules) published (mostly in El Nuevo Día and Claridad newspapers) presents with great irony and hard humor the latest cultural problems in Puerto Rico. Regardless of his trans-generational captious language and ironic social thought about present society, some contemporary postmodern thinkers consider Luis Rafael Sánchez to be very nostalgic and avant-gard modern writer (in a negative sense). In my opinion, he is one of the best Puerto Rican writers of the century and his nostalgy is part of a literary path that should to be analyzed. My only reproach would be his ambiguities about gender in these somewhat liberal and open times.
An important and very different writer was Manuel Ramos Otero (1948-1990). He surprised and shocked readers of his time by offering narratives and poems that went against the canon, especially with his gay literary expositions. His most notable writings are Concierto de metal para un recuerdo (1971), La novelabingo (1976), Página en blanco y staccato (1987), and Invitación al polvo (1994). Contemporary writers appreciate him in general regardless of his sexual preference but he was not so well understood in his own time. He was either avoided or beloved for his bluntness and sense of desolation in life.
Iván Silén (b. 1944) is another innovative and neo-surrealist poet who collaborated with the journal Master (1967) and who wrote some curious but serious texts, like Después del suicidio (1970), El pájaro loco (1971), and Los poemas de Filí-Melé (1976). José Luis Vega (b. 1948) gives an innovative voice in Signos vitales (1974) and La naranja entera (1983). Vega is the author of an important anthology of short stories entitled Reunión de espejos (1983), with an exemplar and well thought introduction and very good selections of short stories. He is a very respected scholar, who has participated in La Real Academia de la Lengua Española in Puerto Rico and is well known for his leadership and defense of the Spanish language and culture.
Angela María Dávila (1944-2004) is a follower of Julia de Burgos, in a complex and inspirational and avant-gardist manner. She is the author of the most original, complex but inspired poems in Animal fiero y tierno (1977). This is one of the most impressive books of poems that have been published in the last few decades. It uses feminism in an ideological and mythical-maternal dimension. José Ramón Meléndez (b. 1952) brings us a very original, defiant and linguistically complex poetic discourse in Desimos désimas (1972-76). He has been a literary leader and inspirational source for young writers during the last few decades. He is a follower of complex poets in Latin America (Borges, Lima) and he enjoys subverting the poetic language phonetically and grammaticaly. Carmelo Rodríguez Torres (b. 1941) is the author of a complex an interesting novel and very well written short, Veinte siglos después del homicidio (1971), and Tomás López Ramírez (b. 1946) offers the innovative (and later ignored and forgotten) collection of short stories, Cordial magia enemiga (1971). Carmen Lugo Fillipi (b. 1940) and Ana Lydia Vega (b. 1946) published some very well received short stories in Vírgenes y mártires (1981). Later, Ana Lydia Vega published Encancaranublado (1982) and Falsas crónicas del sur (1991). She is an anthologist in El tramo Ancla (1988), which contains skillfully selected essays showing the ironic mentality of already mature writers of her Generation del 70. She is one of the best expository writers due to her quick and referential but stylistic use of the Spanish language, which is demonstrated mainly in her essays in Claridad and El Nuevo Día newspapers since the 1980. Some postmodern writers are beginning to see with irony her ideas because of the nostalgy they maintain in what regards a neo-national (somewhat ideal) past which seems to be better tan the present postmodern time. This may be true but it is not a critical attitude, rather part of the Postmodern Manifesto. A critic should analyze literature and culture as she/he thinks it is in the best comprehension of the text, and not as it should be ideologically or aesthetically. The Postmodern are perhaps the most fanatical and jealous thinkers in the twentieth century, with their ideas about culture and the ideological positions any contemporary subjects should take.
Since the 1970s, in Puerto Rico we can distinguish a significant group of innovative voices in complex lyrical discourse such as: Etnairis Rivera (b. 1949), Vanessa Droz (b. 1952) Luz Ivonne Ochart (b. 1949), Aurea María Sotomayor (b. 1951), Nemir Matos Cintrón (b. 1949), and Lilliana Ramos Collado (b. 1954). All of these writers have contributed to create a varied and complex poetic universe of signs and metaphors, which situates them into artistically diverse discursive perspectives, that defines feminism somewhat differently from the one of the 1960s. In general, they abandon the patriotic and nationalist commands of the 1930s symbolic and imaginary inheritance and give more relevance to being a woman in their quotidian and petit experiences. They begin to react strongly to andronormative hidden commands within culture. This allows them to find a new metaphorical discourse visibility and literary performance.
Since the beginning of the 1970s we also have the prolific and very productive lyrical voices of José María Lima (1934-2009), Hjalmar Flax (b. 1947), Salvador Villanueva (b. 1947), Jorge A. Morales (b. 1948), Jan Martínez (b. 1954), Marcos Reyes Dávila (b. 1952), Félix Córdova Iturregui (b. 1944), Alfredo Villanueva Collado (b. 1944), Edgardo Nieves Mieles (b. 1957), Carlos Rodríguez Matos (b. 1949), Víctor Fragoso (b. 1950), Rafael Acevedo (b. 1959), Erik Landrón (b. 1953), among many others.
They become part of a generation of poets defining a new lyrical discourse that fluctuates from the very sublime and aureatic to a quotidian and down-to-earth wayway of viewing the imagery in poetic practice. Many of them remain inspired by traditional allegoric and patriotic defense, but nevertheless they do not deny or avoid self-recognition in the minimality anand daily expressions of a materialist existence without utopian visions. For this reason, they tend to abandon “romanticism,” neo-realism and “neo-criollism” that we still find in the so-called Guajana Generation from the 1960s.
Poets from the 1970s tend to adopt a more metonymical and experimental form in their textual presentations as they recapture the avant-gardist tradition of the 1920s, which includes cubism, expressionism, futurism, creationism, etc. They provide modern society with a redefinition of the avant-garde, which can be considered an admirable effort, and something followed by the more postmodern poets of today. Like most radicals from the 60s and 70s in Latin America, given their faith in the social revolution, the 1970 poets still maintain some ideological utopias but also believe in language and literary revolution. This explains their tendency to disarticulate language, as we know it, with its remainins of Modernist and Symbolist movements in the twentieth century. This is not only in the case of poetry, where the textual intervention is more evident, but in other genres as well. Some of them even come close to the postmodern tendencies of today.
Since the middle of the 1970s, Edgardo Rodríguez Julia (b. 1946) offers us important and original testimonial essays (memoirs) like Las tribulaciones de Jonás, (1976), El entierro de Cortijo (1981) and Una noche con Iris Chacón (1986). He abandons the elitist Pedrerian intellectual cabinet and comes closer to popular social sectors in his referential uses of perspectives and philosophies of common life. He is also the author of wll narrated situations in La renuncia del héroe Baltazar (1974), La noche oscura del niño Avilés (1984), Sol de medianoche (2000) and Mujer con sombrero panamá (2004), among many others. For some foreign critics, these texts make him one of the best writers of present day Latin American narrative.
Magali García Ramis (b. 1946) is the author of the impressive best-seller called Felices días, tío Sergio (1986). In this novel she gives the story of a girl narratin nostalgically her experiences with a nationalist ang gay uncle. She wrote also interesting short stories in La familia de todos nosotros (1976), and recently, she has published Las horas del sur (2005), paying attention to aspects of the modern historical development and memoir in the Island life of the bigginins of the twentieth century.
In Seva (1984), Luis López Nieves (b. XXXX) creates an innovative news debate within the literary text about the ambiguous relation between fiction and history. In the beginning, many people read this fictional story in the newspaper Claridad as if it were a real historical event about the invasion of the USA. But quickly they came to understand everything was just a game and a joke. He is now the founder of a popular electronic websitepage, and the author of Barataria (2012)
Marta Aponte Alsina (b. 1945) bring us singular narrations in La casa de la loca (2001) and in the novel El cuarto rey mago (1996). Critics, unjustifiably, have not paid enough attention to this serious and capable writer. Mayra Montero (b. 1952) is another important narrator with many books like La última noche que pasé contigo (1991), which has been very well accepted by readers. She also deserves more attention by the readers and critics. Nevertheless, she is very well known for her cultural criticism in a weekly column found in El Nuevo Día newspaper.
Edgardo Sanabria Santaliz (b. 1951) is a clever young writer in poetry, essays and narrations, which include El día que el hombre piso la luna, (1984). Edgardo Nieves Mieles (b. 1957) is the author of El relamazo del semen en la mejilla ortodoxa (1987) and El amor es una enfermedad del hígado (1993). These are his first books of poems in a growing literary collection. He can be considered an avant-gardist and at the same time an ideologically modern writer. He also demonstrates to be an eclectic poet, whose cyber-blogs are of rebellious comments, and a polemist critic of literary culture.
Most recently, Félix Córdova (b. 1944) has published El sabor del tiempo (2005), a novel with favorable criticism from important literary experts, because of his polished style and the firm ideological and radical persistence in contemporary culture. His publications include short stories like: Sobre esta difícil tierra (1993), which are modern in their perspectives and intertextualites. He is an expert in economics, and has recently been leading a new radical political party (PPT – The Partido del Pueblo Trabajador) on the island (in the elections of 2012).
A group of academic essayist became relevant in the “Generación del 70”, with their proposal of new socialist, populist and leftist perspectives in general. These views were in opposition to elitist mentality, nationalism and conservative modernism by previous intellectuals, dominating since the generation of Pedreira in the 1930s. We are undergoing paradigmatic ruptures with these writers. Juan Flores, in Insularismo e ideología burguesa (1979), presents aspects of rebellion against the national canon that criticizes culture in general. These are important essays, where he takes an anti-Pedrerian perspective, not grasped by anyone before and more in tune with the radical ideas of migrants from USA (Puerto Ricans and Chicanos) and with Latin American Marxists. He had a big impact on the islanders’ readers and was received with some amazement because his iconoclastic style and sorprizing approach.
The sociologist Ángel Quintero’s, in Conflicto de clase y política en Puerto Rico (1986), gave an essay with a paradigmatic example for a new historic structuralism of British tradition. This allowed him to bring new Marxist interpretations of the Island’s history and society. The cultural critic José Luis González brought polemic and innovative views in El país de cuatro pisos (1980), especially in his accusations to what he considered was a racist tradition of academic historians and nationalists in Puerto Rico since the nineteenth century. With this book, he brought a new way of thinking about culture on the Island. He used to live in México since the mid 1950s and in his visits to Puerto Rico during the 1970s he became a very dynamic polemist, with a calm and rational attitude. The literary and cultural critic Arcadio Díaz Quiñonez, in La memoria rota (1993), denounces, with a hidden nostalgia, a turn of the twentieth century culture unaccustomed to remember and valorize its own history and national heritage. He is very aware of the cultural changes previously mentioned and capable of expressing it in a simple and scholar manner. During the 70s and 80s, he was a strong believer in socialism and its political possibilities on the Island.
These texts of the 1970s and 1990s generation of cultural thinkers just mentioned, begin to abandon the patriotic idealism of the past 1930s traditional canon and become more related to the historicism of the new Marxism (from the 1960s and 1970s,) which connected to the intellectual tradition in Latin America. Advocating a national modernity and having a popular culture in mind, they left behind the elitist “lettered city” notion proclaimed by the Uruguayan scholar, Angel Rama. They also claimed and insisted in a redemptive and anti-imperial effort that, in their opinion, had to be taken by all Puerto Rican citizens. These were intellectuals interested in a radical democratic society and socialism and they felt followers of the best of the rational and political thought of the twentieth century in the sense proposed by the Marxist Hungarian, George Lukacs (1885-1971) and the Marxist and Existentialist Jean Paul Sartre.
By the 1990s they became somewhat surprised by a group of young scholars who were more intellectually inclined towards postmodern and deconstructive epistemologies. These were new thinkers responding to anti-national globalization and ideas that disarticulated the premises behind socialist and neo-national modern ideas attached to falling socialism at the end of the 1980s. Nevertheless, by this time Juan Flores and Arcadio Díaz Quiñones adopted some post-structural and postcolonial visions and thoughts, which made them more reflective about aspects affecting identity and historical constructions and developments in times that were undeniably technologically-globalized and full of rapid changing transcapitalism.
By this times Arcadio Díaz Quiñones’ El arte de bregar (2000) is a book charged with new metaphorical tropes. He resided in Princeton since the mid 1980s, and was this time surrounded by an intellectual atmosphere of postructuralists and postcolonial erudites that influenced him into changing his old national Marxist views. This transformation was even more intense in a younger group of scholars who studied in the USA and in Europe at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. Some of these scholars stayed in North American soil and others returned to Puerto Rico with new ideas and confronted the Puerto Rican thought and sense of identity developed since the neo-national Pedrerian times. At the same time, the leadership in charge of the colonial States does not take students and literary people into consideration for their social and cultural projects and proposals anymore. In general, regular citizen have entered into the routine of voting for demagogues, anti-intellectuals and propaganda oriented politicians. Literary and intellectuals enter in a new socio-cultural paradigm that puts them in a subordinated plane and in a displaced social bubble.
New Cultural Paths
During the New Millennium’s Threshold
Today, many creators and, specifically, many cultural essayists of the 1970’s movement in Puerto Rico will be under aggressive criticism by postmodern thinkers like Juan Dushesne, Ramón Grosfoguel, Carlos Pabón and Arturo Terrecilla. By the last half of the 80s and the 1990s, new journals on the Island, like bordes, Nómada and Postdata became the main sources of expressing cultural deconstructions feelings following contemporary philosophers like Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Gianni Vattimo, and Julia Kristeva (among many others). In theoretical fields in Europe and North America, in general, there is a transformation in the thinking that had defended and implemented past modern ideas and philosophies. These modern ways of thinking had been dominating since the Illustration and Romantic periods of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was the avantgadism of the 1920s that began questioning these modern concepts fundamented in the ideas of lineal progress and advancement in history. Especially this was so on the lefists Marxist movement, which proclaimed the triumph of humanistic hopes through socialism, which collapsed by the middle of the 1980s. The appearance of the latest Poststructuralism and Deconstructionism theories since the 1980s has been transforming drastically the field of socio-cultural criticism of almost the whole twentieth century, and its been having its strong effect in Puerto Rico.
Some of these innovative ideas began in the 1930s with the Frankfurt School in Germany. Most of their members started escaping from European Fascism to America before the Second World War. Similar theories continued to develop in France especially during the 1960s when many renowned books with radical ideas about the Humanities and Social Sciences were translated into English and Spanish. Liberal North American universities began incorporating this new paradigm of thought since the 1980s with their teachers, courses, journals, ciber-blogs (the NortAmerican thinker, Fredric Jameson, was pivotal in these changes).
These postmodern ideas had its effects in Latin America, givin a change from the anticolonial ideas, and radical ideologies dominating until the 1970s, to the changes in postcolonial and subaltern thinking. This was following thinkers who were racially and ethically (intellectually) diferent, who began dominating the western academia with their postructural, socio-semiotic and postcolonial theories. Some of these cultural critics were, emigrants from the third world who studied in Western official universities: Homi Bhabha (b. 1949), Gayatri C. Spivak (b. 1942), Edward Said (1935-2003). Puerto Rico was no exception and was influenced by these paradigmatic transformations in cultural thought, which claimed for an intense, skeptic and nihilist ways of thinking and conceiving the subaltern positioning of the third world people. This allowed the new generations of the 1990 and from the 2000 on, to write a different literarure.
Students who traveled to European and North American universities during the 1980 and 2000 incorporated these new theoretical thoughts capable of rapidly creating new thinkers and critics with their different Manifestos, theories and the famous Cultural Studies. Most of them returned to Puerto Rico and some have stayed in United States creating a new semiosphere of Puerto Rican writers and critics who go across national territorial boundaries and create new symbolic and imaginary frontiers.
This new generation of Puerto Rican thinkers since the middle of the 1980s criticized the persistence of traditional Puerto Rican anxiety in defending neo-nationalist modern ideas, and in their incapacity to get rid of the pro-independence haunting, its uncounscious demands, its frustrations of failure and cultural anxieties, which comes fron the nineteent century struggles and failures. These postmodern primordially want to emphazise the post-capitalist and globalized media dominating now what can be called a post-society within a post-historical period. Around the world, there has been a move towards the transformation of socio-economical structures and views, even in the most powerful nations, including the United States. As a result, in the 1980s, Puerto Rico’s colonial situation began changing drastically and affecting the traditional and established academics and artistic sectors. For the modern pro-independence Puerto Ricans it has been of course very difficult to understand these structural changes in social thought and critical, poststructuralist and subaltern thinking. At the base of all this there are economic, political and cultural forces transforming from regular fordist capitalism to transnational transcapitalism (postfordism). The “welfare state” and the economical dependence that Puerto Rico more or less successfully developed during the 1950s and 60s (the highest achievement of Modernity in the Island), began to enter in a big financial and ideological postcolonial crisis along the failures of United States afeter the Clinton era. At the same time independence movements in Puerto Rico began loosing the political and popular power they had achieved. Their language, philosophies and literature were not in tune with the changes and the new mental structures of the more mediatic young people.
This had its affects in conceptual literary and aesthetic productions and constructions. A generation of younger theorists and social thinkers begin to adopt new critical views and language, using a more post-colonialist and post-cultural interpretation of reality to be in tune with the changes. They began to talk about post-history, imaginary cultural constructions, new paradigms, and “cultural studies” (mixing high culture with the so-called low, popular culture).
From a postmodernist’s view, the events and structures transforming the international community had an impact in the Puerto Rican community as well. Now colonization not only came from the visible and invasive Imperial Other (the United States) — like the neonational think—, but also from the technological and postcapitalist powers dominating the “global-village” with its tecno-media devices and somewhat transparent enforcements and commands. Postmodern are very much against the intellectuals and artists who kept the past anticononial ways of thinking and struggling (the pro-independence and radical movements) without realizing these typical and modern actions were not so accurate and affective any more. They began calling this leftist established groups, neo-nationals.
In last few decades, Carlos Pabon and Juan Dushesne Winter’s post-historical ideas have caused a strong impact in cultural debates. They reject the nationalist historical perspectives and traditions, which have been haunting both radicals and liberals in the twentieth century tradition. Above all postmodern critized, as a dramatic example, the way neo-nationals privileged independence over statehood. Postmodern proposed how independence thought was privileded (taken as something natural) among the other existing views, like pro-statehood (which was seen as something friovolous and artificial). According to postmodern the “modernist elite” (the so called neo-nationals) was dominating the cultural and educational institutions during the lasts centuries in Puerto Rico, and depriving views and actions with other socio-cultural possibilities. To them, Puerto Rican independence is not a natural and moral demand as it has been traditionally thought by the pro-independence sectors of the population. We can say that a great deal of contemporary writers are not pro colonial imposition by USA in Puerto Rico, but they call for a rupture with pro-independence and radicals. Of course, this ambiguity is not well understood. Postmodern artists can be considered radicals in a different way than we normally think about these issues. The paradigms of thinking and evaluating artistic productions are changing dramatically everywhere and they do not denounce Power the way it was regularly done.
Some of the most important latest books signal new tendencies of criticisms in a poststructuralist and postcultural views: Literatura y paternalismo en Puerto Rico (1993) by Juan Gelpí, La raza cómica (2002) by Rubén Ríos, Ciudadano insano (2001) by Juan Duchesne, Nación postmortem (2002) by Carlos Pabón, and La ansiedad de ser puertorriqueño (2004) by Arturo Torrecilla. The anthology of essays in Globalización, nación, postmodernidad (2001), edited by Luis Felipe Díaz and Marc Zimmerman, offers a general view of these new ideas and debates. In this anthology, Francisco Vivoni’s essay is very valuable in explaining the cultural changes these postmodern paradigms bring to the cultural debate. In 1999 the Revista de Ciencias Sociales from the University of Puerto Rican dedicated two volumes to the postmodern debate and Cultural Studies, demonstrating that there are already groups of intellectuals occupying these matters in the academic field.
Within these ideas and debates, the books like Manual para organizar velorios (2003) and La maldición de Pedreira (2004) by Rafael Bernabe are of particular interest. Bernabe is a neo-rationalist and Marxist intellectual different from other postmodernists that are more nihilist followers of F. Nietzsche. He takes into consideration the new cultural effects brought by globalization and tecnocapitalism, but he rejects many of the ideological positions of postmodernist and their aversions to neo-nationalist and socialist ideas. He expresses solid arguments in defence of a new independence views. In 2012 he was also the candidate for governor of Puerto Rico by the radical Partido de los Trabajadores (PPT) in it had its impact within cultural thought and political thinking.
Three of Luis Felipe Díaz books contribute to historizing the cultural and literary canon in Puerto Rico, also adopting for it postructural and postcolonial ideas without abandoning critical modern views. These books are Modernidad literaria puertorriqueña (2004), La na(rra)ción en la literatura puertorriqueña (2008) and De charcas, espejos, infantes y velorios en la literatura puertorriqueña (2011). Even though Diaz can be considered a post-structuralist, he follows the canon with an ironic critical view in dialogue with traditional historians and scholars.
In the United States, a group of academic scholars not only offer discourses in reaction to the traditional Puerto Rican ideas of national identity, but they also contribute critically to what these identities and transnationalisms represent within the context of the variety of multi-ethnic migrant groups in the nation. By the end of the twentieth century, some essayist with different ideas would appear with their particular ways of criticizing transcultural aspects. Agnes Lugo Ortiz, co-editor of Herencia. The Anthology of US Hispanic Writing (2001), Luz María Umpierre (The Margarita Poems, 1987), Frances Aparicio (Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin popula Music, and Puerto Rican Culture, 1998) and Frances Negrón Muntaner (Anatomy of a Smile and Other Poems, 2006), are some of the notable contemporary voices of subversion regarding attacks on the androcentric and patriarchal discourse in academia and society in general. They write mostly from universities in the United States, which allows them to bring issues regarding the established migrant population of “Boricuas,” (this term is used to refer to Puerto Ricans the USA). In this aspect, one preceding book to consider is La sartén por el mango (1985), edited by Patricia E. González and Ileana Ortega (ed.).
Cultural Studies, Postmodern and Postcolonial theories oversee the complexity of changing the times their interpretations in these complex subjects about the migrant issues in Puerto Rican culture. We can mention for example: The Commuter Nation by Carlos Antonio Torre and other editors, (1994), Puerto Rican Jam: Essays on Culture and Politics, edited by Frances Negron-Muntaner y Ramon Grosfoguera (1997), Jose, Can You See?: Latinos On and Off Broadway by Alberto Sandoval Sánchez (1999), Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (2004) by Frances Negron-Muntaner, Latinos, Inc.: The Marqueting and Making of a People (2001) by Arlene Dávila, Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad, (1997) by Frances R. Aparicio y Susana Chavez-Silverman, Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (1998) by Frances R. Aparicio, Mambo Montage: The Latinization of New York (2001), edited by Agustin Lao-Montes y Arlene Davila, From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (2000) by Juan Flores, None of the Above: Puerto Ricans in the Global Era (2007) edited by Frances Negron-Muntaner, Boricua Pop: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (2001) by Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez, Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States (2002) by Jorge Duany, and Queer Latino Testimonio, Heith Haring and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails (2008) by Arnaldo Cruz Malavé.
Recently, Marc Zimmerman published a book of essays: Defending Their Own Cold. The Cultural Turns of US Puerto Ricans (2011), which analyzes Puerto Rican literature and culture in the United States. It also considers Boricuas under the ample Latino identity in a pluri-ethnic view, as seen in the United States. He takes into consideration some of Chicago’s Puerto Ricans, which are not mentioned as much by other critics who normally pay more attention to east coast New York migrants. The book brings the scholarly perspective of an expert in ethnicity and Latin American Studies, presenting other social groups’ perceptions towards the Boricuas.
The last two chapters of Puerto Rico in the American Century, its History since 1898, published in 2011 by César J. Ayala and Rafael Bernabe, offers a comprehensive overview of the development of cultural ideas and social struggles on the Island during the twentieth century. This is a valuable and complete study (especially the last two chapters) presenting the Puerto Rican social, economical, and ideologically political development during the past century.
Fictional literature has become important in depicting socio-cultural changes into aesthetic forms. The bilingual edition of Uñas pintadas de azul (Blue Fingernails) and Cuentos (2009) written by Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes has been well received. Another popular book is Esmeralda Santiago’s memoirs When I was a Puerto Rican (1993), in which she presents a narrative of the Boricuas surviving as migrants in United States since the 1950s.
In Puerto Rico, by the end of the 1980s and 90s, Mayra Santos (b. 1966), a black feminist writer and scholar has become popular as she establishes a generational transition with her innovative poetry (Anamú y manigua 1991) and some short stories, like Pez de vidrio (1995) and El oso blanco (1998). They have won important national and international priozes. Santos is the author of Sirena Selena vestida de pena (2000), which is one of the most interesting and original queer novels of the last decades. Dadia V. Celis and Juan Pablo Rivera have presented an anthology of critical essays dealing with the work of this young writer in Lección errante: Mayra Santos Febres y el Caribe contemporáneo (2011), published by Isla Negra Editores. Mayra Santos is well known for her seminars in writing techniques and as a lettered activist of international reputation.
Angel Lozada, Rafael Acevedo and Eliseo Colón are also exponents of new representations of the new and complex reality within their novels La patografía (1996), Exquisito cadaver (2002) and Archivo Catalina: Memorias On Line (2000), respectively. La cabeza (2007) is a cyber-novel written by Pedro Cabiya, who also has published the short novel, Trance (2008). He is one of the first postmodernist writers in Puerto Rico, given to the fantastic, the gothic, the uncanny and science fiction, in his work Historias Tremendas (1999) and Historias atroces (2003). Rafael Acevedo has written Flor de Ciruelo y el viento (2011), a metatextual novel dealing with fantastic narrations; Elidio La Torre Lagares has published Correr tras el viento (2011) a “police-ganster novel” related to violent fictions in narcotrafficking society; Manolo Núnez Negrón has written Barra china (2012), another “police-ganster novel” dealing with the story of a Chinese migrant who has to survive in the world of clandestine and illegal drugs, and gives a good example of the trend many narratives are following lately. Isla Barataria (2012) is a superb written novel by Juan López Bauza, with a kind of parodic text with quixotic and picaresque reminiscences. Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro has published las Negras (2012), which contains three stories about black women suffering slavery in the conquering and colonializing times. Eduardo Lalo has written the very apocalyptic and avant-gardist novel, Simone (2011). Janette Becerra has published Doce versiones de Soledad (2012) that gives examples of short stories written in accordance to the best contemporary narrative techniques with a universal orientation. It is for this reason that some of them have won international prizes.
Skillfully queer as novelists is Daniel Torres, in Conversaciones con Aurelia (2007); also Osvaldo Cintrón, in De Buena tinta (1997), and Luis Daniel Estrada, in La viuda de Rafael (2007). La patografía (1998) is a novel written by Angel Lozada, which deserves special attention due to its content and form, which makes his text one of the best narratives of modern and postmodern transitional period. He also writes No quiero quedarme sola y vacía (2006), a postmodern novel that deals with a deep psychological nocturnal city and its schizoid-attitudes and self-aggressions on a gay subject.
We find narrators who recognize the new post and trans colonial dimensions of city-life and the attitudes of its subjects towards old traditional prejudices and struggles against persisting social stereotypes. The formal (artistic) ways of their narrations adopt a singular “lightness” in these most contemporary narrative techniques by the beginning of the new millennium. The previous generation’s novels, on the contrary, had the tendency to expose deep allegorical and symbolic contents (like the ones of Laguerre or Rodríguez Julia). The queer novel, Rosa Mystica, written by Carlos Varo in 1987, for example, can offer a noteworthy contrast with its the complexity, whern compared with the new narrations quoted above.
But in terms of content, these postmodern oeuvres can bring new perspectives in regards to understanding the new social constructions and subjectivities in our present culture. They are more prone to use futuristic, gothic, kitsch, pastiche, pop, cyborg and detective narrative’s techniques of the postmodern culture. They should not be analyzed and considered within the old criticism because they belong to a cultural paradigm that w responds to the lightness of tecno-postmodern culture.
Recent narrative and poetic anthologies gather much of the aesthetics and initial ways of writing properly from the end of the past century and the beginning of the present one. Two volumes should be mentioned: Los nuevos Caníbales (2000 and 2003) published by Isla Negra Editorial. These books bring new lyrical and narrative approaches to Caribbean literature. Equally important are: Malhablar, Antología de nueva literatura puertorriqueña (1997), edited with a Prologue by Mayra Santos; El límite volcado, (2000), edited by Alberto Martínez Vázquez and Mario Cancel; and El rostro y la máscara (1995), edited with a valuable Prologue by José Angel Rosado. Mario Cancel brings a comprehensive criticism of postmodern literature in Puerto Rico in Literatura y narrative puertorriqueña: la escritura entresiglos (2007). In 2003, the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña publishes eXpresiones: Muestra de ensayo, teatro, narrativa, arte y poesía, with very distinctive sample texts showing contemporary literary expressions. From these anthologies and texts we can extract samples indicating the definitions of new styles and concepts responding to a different postmodern culture. These books are more conscious and interested in including other Caribbean writers, not only from the Hispanic islands, but also from the others ethnicities as well.
Theatre, both textual and as live performances, is the genre that has suffered the most postmodern changes that have impacted the national canon and traditional culture. It becomes also the target in a society that brings media and late modern postculture capable of creating new and more dynamic and attractive entertaining texts to a young generation which is drawn to the auditory and the lightly visual than the deeply conceptual meaning that old theatre can bring. Beyond this crisis it is worth mentioning: El olor del popcorn (1996) written by José Ramos Escobar (b. 1950), Tres lirios cala (b. 1997) by Abniel Marat (b. 1958), Revolución en el infierno 1983) and Malasangre (1990) by Roberto Ramos Perea (b. 1959), Paseo del atardecer (1986) by Teresa Marichal (b. 1956), and Sucio difícil (2005) by Nelson Rivera (b. 1953). With these books the creatos bring use different representations in their scenes to keep alive the theatrical tradition in Puerto Rico, accepting the challenge of bringing semiotics to literary and theatrical performance, which struggles to represent artistically the new postcolonial daily events. They have also been giving relevance to the desire of transforming the old-modern ways of representing (the one of the dramatic-political modernity). With the new theater they keep searching for ironies, parodies and dramatic techniques, to attract the young public seduced by performative-media and by the new post-cultural entertainment such as cinema, videos, television, and computers imagery. The postmodern theatre has accepted with dignity these challenges.
In the field of literary and cultural criticism required reference in schools and universities in Puerto Rico has been the encyclopedic book Literatura puertorriquena: Su proceso en el tiempo (1983), by Josefina Rivera de Álvarez (b. 1923). She presents, in a magisterial and scholarly manner, the Puerto Rican literary process from the Spanish Conquest and Colonization of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries up to the 1980s. Efraín Barradas (b. 1947) is a proliferous critic and reviewer of literary texts and cultural newspaper commentator. In 1980, he published the important anthology Héroes y mistificadores: muestra de poesía puertorriqueña en Estados Unidos. Edgar Martínez Masdeu is the editor of 22 conferencias de literatura puertorriqueña (1944), an anthology of erudite and critical monographic essays discussing the literary process over the last 50 years. He gives continuity to the classic essays presented in 1962, in 20 conferencias de literatura puertorriqueña, by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Mercedes López Baralt is the author of a polemically received anthology of poetry and prose entitled Literatura puertorriqueña del siglo XX (2004). Another important work which is used in colleges and universities as a text book is Antología crítica de la literatura puertorriqueña (siglos XVI-XIX), (2006). It has been skillfuly prepared by Ramón Luis Acevedo, who is one of the most outstanding scholars in Puerto Rico studies. David Caleb, Moisés Agosto and Luis Negrón are the compilers of Los otros cuerpos (2008), an anthology of texts with gay themes. Cachaperismos: Poesía y narrativa lesboerótica is an innovative anthology of lesbian literature edited by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro in 2010.
Mélanie Pérez Ortiz is the author of Palabras encontradas. Antología personal de escritores puertorriqueños de los últimos 20 años (Conversaciones) (2008). She presents the commentaries and opinions taken from her recent interviews to important modern and postmodern writers of the last two decades more o less. It is one of the best books in demonstrating the ways of thingking and creating of a new era of writers creating since the 1970s. It is also worth mentioning the work of Lowell Fiet and his newspaper criticisms in the last decades (in The San Juan Star newsparer and Claridad), in addition to his latest and very important book which deals with a very complex genre and its transitions in the Island: El teatro puertorriqueño reimaginado (2004).
The emergence of new editorials shows the great critical and latest creative vitality that have risen in literary production in Puerto Rico. Isla Negra Editorial, Editorial Callejón, Ediciones Terranova, Ediciones El Sótano 00931 are consistent and productive publishing institutions, offerng the public the best of new Puerto Rican voices in literature, like Jardín (1997) by Jan Martínez, Cannibalia (2005) and Instrumentario (1996) by Rafael Acevedo, Kitsch (2006) by Federico Irrizarry, Frutos subterráneos (2007) by Alberto Martínez, Estación Delirio (2006) by Edgar Ramírez, Al otro lado de sus párpados (2006) by Hugo Ríos, Viaje a la noche (1989) and Aún (2007) by Carlos Roberto Gómez, Hilo de voz (2005) by Noel Luna, 8% de desk-cuentos by Carlos Vázquez Cruz, Esta carne proscrita (2004) by Miguel Ángel Náter, Fracturas del devenir (2006) and Fiebre de Fresno (2009) by John Torres, Casquillos (2008) by J. D. Capiello Ortiz, Rehalidades (2006) by Amarilis Tavárez, Mariconerías (2006) by Daniel Torres, Veinte (2000) and La carencia (2008) by Guillermo Rebollo Gil, Barrunto (2000) and Residentedellupus (2006) by Raúl González, Animal Pedestre (2004) by Néstor E. Rodríguez, Manifiesto sobre las tristes (2009) and Miss Carrusel (2010) by Myrna Estrella Pérez, El mal de azares (2010) by Karen Sevilla, and Vidrios ocultos en la alfombra (2004) by Javier Ávila.
Attention should also be paid to the new publishings of Kathia Chico in Efectos secundarios (2004), Urayoán Noel in Las flores del Mall (2000) and Boringkén (2007), Javier Avila in La simetría del tiempo (2005), Alabalacera (2006) by Mara Pastor, Alejandria (2006) by Marcos Pérez Ramírez, Sobre todos tus silencios (2006) and Poemas para ser leídos en el tren urbano (2009) by Juanmanuel González Ríos, and El tiempo de los Escarabajos by Ángel Antonio Ruiz (2012). In feminist and lesbian literature we have Las Negras (2012), some short stores by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro and Cachaperismos. Poesía y narrative lesboerótica (2010), edited by the same mentioned author.
We should also mention Carlos Vázquez Cruz with his Dos centímetros de mar (2008) and Sencilla Mente (2010), Dosis (2008) by Mayda Colón, Vicios de construcción (poetry) and Correr tras el viento (a novel) by Elidio La Torre Lagares (2006), Con un tenis de menos (2009) by Diego Meléndez Berdeguer, Candela (2006) by Rey Emmanuel Andújar, Brevario (2002), by Juan Carlos Quiñonez, El imperio de los pájaros (2001), by Abdiel Echevarría, and Fiebre Fresno (2009) by John Torres.
All of them present to the new readers very heterogeneous poetry. It is interesting to note they are not afraid of influences from the past poets or of the lyrical genre itself and its formal and stylistic demands, even though they search for expressions to impact and surprise a new audience. Instead of anxiety of influence or originality, they are more preoccupied in finding the required discourses and inter-textualities, which could bring them to express their existence as writers in negative and paradoxical times. It seems they feel the negative, the contradictions and pararoxical sitiations are signs to be search in their deep meaning for the postmodern reader. It is not theur desire to escape contradictions or abysms but rather journeying deeply into them as they show in itselves (we can say metaphorically), as “black holes”. Some of them as writers are very conscious about the formal requirements and demands of language but others tend to be very “cautiously” “sloppy” and disorganized, like “raperos” or “reguetonistas” (viewing that this not necessarilly a defect but a new “artistic” skill). They like to go back to the minismalist poetry, and to performe orally in front of a live audience and follow somehow the patterns of popular music (with salsa, ballads and bolero influence). Like the musical artists of these genres, who do not care necesarilly about “singing well”, some of these new poets are more into letting things come out in a more spontaneous and performative way. That is probably why the previous generation of poets from the 1970s has not been too fond about their new conceptions of the lyrical art. The postmodern or antimodern can be very anti-culturalist, anti-elitist artist but they do noy deny they can have have ties with modernist views of art (even medievalists and classisit ties).
Important and dynamic space of expression is the Collective El Sótano 00931. Poets and enthusiastic members of this journal get involved in blog practices on the Internet and as creators of a new editorial with powerful works and activities giving liveliness and exposition to contemporary writings. Angel Rosado Ruiz is the leader of a literary gay group called ‘Homoerótica’, whose blog gives testimonies of constantly creative and live activities with an “open mic” for all kinds of cultural gender textual interventions, in cafes, museums, libraries, plazas, etc. For his work in general, and especifically for the poems in El tiempo de los escarabajos (2011), he has been praised by some already recognized writers and literary critics (like Mayra Santos, Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá). Mariana Reyes Angleró, Gabriela Cruz and Luis Fernando Coss are Editorial Coordinators of 80 Grados, a blog, focusing mainly on contemporary socio-cultural issues and human rights journalism. They give strong and seminal analysis of our very contemporary and conflictive situations in the actual post-society, keeping in mindo the average learned reader, as well as the very intellectual one in our culture.
One of the most recently acclaimed books of short stories has been Mundo cruel (2011; English translation in 2013), written by Luis Negrón, in which he deals with gay issues with a new stylistic content and with an approach prone to narrative performances like contemporary picaresque stories. Some short stories can be read as oral performance texts of gay styles in terms of speech and social conduct, with almost avant-garde rhetorical street rhythm. It has been a popular book on an international level.
Freddy Acevedo has published an audacious book of theatrical performances called Teatro vulgar (2011) that tells of his live performances in places like buses, trains, restaurants, plazas, and abandoned areas. Some of these young creators are giving more presence and pertinence to a postmodern literature that disarticulates and confronts the traditional culture and the way of showing it. They are also looking for innovative artistic ways of expressing whatever calls the attention of a postmodern audience with different demands of artistic entertainment. At the same time they are trying to maintain the distinctiveness of aesthetic languages and literature (not in the modern and elitist way) in the face of dispersed and viral languages of commercial media. Some of them, in an opposite manner, are not afraid of viral infections from the postmodern and cyber world; they incorporate these metaphors in innovative ways of “communicating”. With this attitude and behaviour they do not react anxiously to what some believe are very corrosive and apocalyptic postcultural times. Anamín Santiago is an actress who have been doing “street”, baudevill theatre, especially with a play of political satire called Sara Goza, which incorporates not only female prostiturion by queer performances.
In general, most of the mentioned young creators chose to remain related to modern and postmodern poetics, with pastiches and even serious expressions. They can also be seen as trans-avant-gardists who deal with history and intertextuality, while using the best traditional discourses and looking for ways of exposing the informational society. These young performers also keep searching and inquiring the meanings of new post-culture and its proliferous and dynamic heterogeneities of cultural deconstruction. This is in a society that has rapidly given new meanings, frontiers, devices, and experiences to young writers who want to transform art with a sense of difference and sameness, and who have the desire for a unique paradigm that may not be, paradoxically, possible or accessible. Surprising paradoxes and aporias (contradictions) are their best searches and imageries.
In the face of strong avant-garde expressions and the radical compromise of the 1970s, new artists from 1990 onward, prefer not to reject the ephemeral and light experimentalism, they do not hesitate in employing and interacting textually with the ontological and poetic deepness searched for by modern writers of the ninteenth and twentieth centuries. At the same time, there are no aversions or rejections to mass media, like the previous generations; even though the younger generation tends to assume these expressions with irony and sometimes hidden parody.
But their concepts of subjectivity and communication have evolved from what we knew of past modern worldviews. The embracement of expressions interrelated with the cyber and techno-media culture are patent and visible in their textual productions most times. The sense of ideological compromise held is somewhat different from the one we knew in the radical sixties. Sometimes, it seems they find themselves “lost” and desolated in the postmodern desert of media culture. Furthermore, traditional language and its discourses has mutated quickly and radically into adopting notions of subaltern hybridity and scriptural wondering in their art (“Alice in wonderland” is a good metaphor for them). In face of the dense modern poetics, they place the immediacy and the fugal language close to the commercial publicity slogan; they do not reject light aesthetic and ephemeral proposed by consumption and financial banking. Moreover, they like to adopt the ironic and carnival celebration of cyber space and post-culture.
The latest writers show an uncanny disenchantment and disillusion with socialists and neo-national militancy, the activists of the 70s and the desires for social change. Above all, they are disapointed with its ideology of rupture and heroic aspirations. Society has entered, for them, into a time when the concepts of creative transcendence, sublimity, authenticity, originality, monumentality and individuality —all of which are important in the presentation of modern writing and performance— have been corrupted, worn out and no longer deserve the attention and following they use to claim. Instead of disciplined writing they choose to improvise, preferring light discourses instead of deep ones from the past. They are not afraid of rapid demands, putting aside the polished and illustrated efforts of modern writers. The ideal revolution is displaced by the “whatever” immediacy, the ornament within the kitsch and the pastiche are welcomed, preferably to the memorable and permanent monument. These new artist like to capture the lassitude before the lasting of compromises; they do not repel the post-aesthetic merchandizing that ignores the sublime and perdurable. The preference of instantaneous, the indifferent and minimal resistance are well received, instead of the ideological compromise. Regarding the search for depth and dialectics of the texts, they would rather look for margins, frontiers, hybrids, the otherness and nothingness, the silence, the absent, the lack of lack itself, and the non-existential loosing of the self. Jean Paul Sartre and existentialists are left behind and they are more interested in Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard and their postmodern explanations.
However, for many present artists, these aspects do not represent a Manifesto or an imperative action. What atracts them are inadvertent and unknown abysses, conflicts and uncertainties. Among them we can find some that could still be somewhat cloesest to late modernism, keeping the faith in the romantic and nostalgic, while searching for the post-metaphysical “lost object”. It seems to be that they cannot escape the fact they are desire-machines that copy, scan, apply simple cut and paste and mix like de DJs. They keep the window open to use cyber-dictionaries, to continue editing the “lack” of a text in the (in)human and microelectronic postculture that has been left to us at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of twenty-first.
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 “Criollo” refers to the native islanders who began to take form in their ethos and socio-cultural traits by the end of the 18th century. It is a subject different racially, socially and ideologically from the Spaniards, and the foreigners who were not born in Puerto Rico. But the descendents of the last ones will be, regardless of their social status or race, without any question criollos. See Manrique Cabrera, Historia… pp. 17-65.
 “Haciendas” are the agricultural centers of production, belonging most of them to white foreigners, and were bought or given by the Crown since the XVI century and they took notoriety by beginning of the 19th century. Usually there was a big “hacienda” farm, sorounded by little enclaves of slaves and free workers. “Haciendas” were big and wealthy mansions of the landowners, who by the beginning of the 19th century were mainly Spaniards and Latin Americans rich oligarchs escaping from the independence movements in their countries. The Spanish colonial government had also special programs to give vast land to this type of migrants. They had slaves before 1973, and offered poor working conditions and salaries to the free colonials. See Angel Quintero (1979, 1988) and Picó (2008): 225-226.
 These were organizations sponsored by commercial groups of the Island, with Illustrated and Romantic mentality. SEAP was an organization since the eighteenth century, in charge in many countries in Europe, to give impulse to agricultre, industry and commerce and piublish books. By the beginning of the XVIII century they were organbized in Latin America. They opended the first competition for scholarship for developed students in the Island. It was founded in the Island in 1813.
 “Jíbaro” is a word of unknown origin but it refers mainly to the peasants of Spanis origin (some of them mixed with the natives Indians and then to Africans), the people from the mountains with their peculiar speaking and dressing (and even waking) styles. They become a folkloric symbol of Puerto Ricaness when they are the ones, following their Adalusian and Canary Islands tradition (from Spain) that gave the culture different traits and characteristics. Their way of changing the phonetics of the Spanish language and of singing had its peculiarities and distinctiveness by the beginning of the 19th century. By the 1950 in the XXth century it began to have a negative connotations given to modernity’s prejudices against the rustic maintain people. See Álvarez Nazario.
 See the first and second chapter of my book La na(rra)ción en la literatura puertorriqueña.
 See the poem and the commentaries of Ramón Luis Acevedo in Antología crítica de la literature puertorriqueña, pp. 89-94.
 “Otherness” is a structural concept referring to the subject who occupies the marginality in relation to the official centers (logocentrism). It also refers to what is different, adverse, negative and non acceptable according to someone arbitrary authoritative decision. The subconscious, women, blanks, gays, foreigners, are classic examples of otherness. See deconstructionist ideas of Jacques Derrida in A Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
 “Costumbrismo” is a literary style of the middle of the 19th century in Spain, which gave prominence to the description of the natural ambiances, the folkloric, the people of the country side. The poetry of this movement tended to be bucolic (pastoral) and romantic. Our poets in Puerto Rico followed these tendencies, because of their unfinished national imaginary, which began in this period with its ideology, until the middle of the 20th century.
 See page 88 and note 17.
 This is an idea that will be followed since this considered period until the 1960 in Puerto Rico. It is the united national family the “hacienda” landowner aspired to create in the country during the 19th century, and the nationalist fallowed this imaginary in the fist half of the 20th century. Angel Quintero explains it in his first two books cited in the Bibliography.
 There is one short story in the second volumes (1882) entitled “La negrita y la vaquita” which portrays the blac peole as servant, not participants yet of the “national” problems, The blacks are in an extreme “otherness” discourse positioning.
 In the postcolonial theory of the last decade, “subaltern” is the subject that belongs to the periphery, who is in the colonialized territory. Indians in front of the British people, Latin Americans in front of white dominant North Americans and Europeans, are “subalterns”. The Puerto Rican have a subaltern territorial and even psychological relation to the official Other from the United States. These are poststructuralist ideas presented since the 1980 in the academies. For subaltern concept see Literary Theory and Criticism by Patriacia Waugh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006: 350-361).
 In 1897 Spain conceds to the Puerto Ricans what is called the “Pacto de Sagasta”, a decret given to a group of autonomits which is cancelled when United States pays to the Spanish Crown (in Tratado de Paris) a sum on money after invading the island in 1898. In 1900, United States signs the Forker Act, claiming Puerto Rico a its territory. The Island continues its classic colonial satus; Cuba obtains the independence and Phillipins Islans get some authonomy. See Maldonado Denis, pp. 45-59. Picó: 252-253.
 The tem refers to the assembly line productions that developed Henry Ford (1863-1947 in the United States in his automovoles factories since 1908, until it was replaced in the 1980 by the Jappanese Toyota transnational style of production.
 José Martí (1853-1995) was a Cuban poet, polititian and social-cultural thinker with strong ties to the Puerto Rican independence movement since the end of the nineteent Century, in New York and through neuspapers. His influence still notizable until today’s radical thought, troughout Latin America.
 Deconstruction and poststructuralist theories since the 1980s make a wide rupture with modern apistemologies that will analyse reality and that will conceive a direct relation with subject and object (in the Kantian sence). This new thinkers, like Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, will follow the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) idea that language (its imaginaries and symbolic ways) mediantes between the subject and reality. For them “reality” is a costruction, a metaphor, a signifier, and not and objective phenomena. These are not to welcome ideas and theories for pro-independence people and Nationalist, who have been modern, Hegelian and some of them Marxists in their approaches and perspectives to political culture. See my book Modernidad, postmodernidad y tecno cultura actual (2001). These are maily French Theories whose books have been translated into the English language and who have dominated the Nort American liberal universities.
 Before these post-colonial thinkers the Puerto Rican inteligentsia was very much influenced durin the 1950s and 1960s by the existentialists ideas of Jean-Paul Sarte, the anticolonial ideas of Albert Memi and Franz Fanon. See my Modernidad, postmodernidad…
 The Cultural Studies emerged in the 1950s in England, after the epistemologies of the postwar founded in the differentiated, marginal and the otherness (with consciousness of the populist in the mass and urban cultures) in opposition to the essentialist and elitist culture that had characterized the education of the Modernity. These studies are related to the post-structuralists ideas offered by Lacan, Althusser, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, the School of Frankfurt, etc. Raymond Williams (1921-1988) y Richard Hoggart (1918- ) are the initial creators of these studies of a culture, adopting the criteria of the marginal and non canonical (in Culture and Society (1958), The Long Revolution (1961) and Politics and Letter (1957), of the former, and The Uses of Literacy (1957), of the latter (1979). A book having much to say in the 1980s is Mythologies by Roland Barthes. Angel Quintero and Juan Flores, keeping the Marxists models, are opposed to the patriarchal elitists models of the criollo bourgeoisie in the colony. But before popular culture, these analysts would prosecute the idea of the proletariat. By the beginning of the 90s Juan Gelpí, in his book, Literatura y paternalismo en Puerto Rico, assumes an antipatriarcal and anticanonical critique to culture, having in mind a deconstructive perspective grounded in the problem of gender 1993). In the last five years of the 80s anti-seventies dissidences can be perceived (see final chapter by Luis Felipe Díaz en La na(rra)ción en la literatura puertorriqueña (2008), with culturalist influences of the the ones named at the beginning of this quote.
 See note 13. The new ways of structuring and organizing production in the global worl d is associated with “postfordism”, which began with the Japanese Toyota’s was of producing globally in contrast with the national Fordist ideas.
 This is a union of “global” and “local” wolds, meaning that that the national politics have to be envolved with the globalized transnational economies. See the last chapter of my book for a review of these ideas.