As a literary group, the Generation of the 1980s arose in Puerto Rico from the disenchantment with the failed struggles of the previous decades of the 1960s and 1970s, which were characterized by great social and literary projects, class struggles and the counter discourse against that established by powerful interests and the authorities. The 1980s saw the clash of post-industrial discourses and, to a certain measure, was witness to the terrible failure of the university strike of 1981, the gubernatorial term of Carlos Romero Barceló, the Cerro Maravilla trial, the evictions of Villa Sin Miedo, the Mameyes tragedy in Ponce, the Dupont Plaza Hotel fire, Hurricane Hugo, the fall of socialism, post-modernismand its cultural industry, and the plebiscite of 1989. A poet of this generation, Mario Cancel, asserts that the result of this is an ironic outlook as a form of resistance and reaffirmation of radical individuality.

Thus the writers of the 1980s were seen as tied to the events, to a pessimistic view of the future and the failed relationship to the past in the face of a lack of great projects or occasions. This led to resistance, irony and ridicule as thematic elements and styles of discourse. These authors were committed to subverting perceptions of eroticism, the figure of the woman, and patriotism. They sought to break away from the formalisms and avant-garde postures that had become institutionalized.

Among the most recognized writers of this generation are Edgardo Nieves Mieles, Rafael Acevedo, Mario R. Cancel, Carlos Roberto Gómez, Janette Becerra, Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Luis López Nieves, Mayra Santos-Febres, Eduardo Lalo, José Pepe Liboy, Carmelo Medina Jiménez, Frances Negrón Muntaner, Daniel Torres, Alberto Martínez Márquez, Kattia Chico and Juan Carlos Quintero. These authors, for the most part, are still publishing and experimenting with poetry and narrative and essay prose. Some serve as university professors or columnists in the press, which allows them to expose their writing more broadly and reach out to the new generations of writers.

It must be noted the influence of Luis López Nieves as originator of the Masters Program in Literary Creativity at the Sacred Heart University and Mayra Santos-Febres, who promotes the Festival of the Word through the non-profit organization Salón Literario Libroamérica, an event that brings numerous local and international writers to the island and involves them in the schools and with the public at various levels. Both are internationally recognized prose writers, though Santos-Febres is also known as a poet, essayist and has worked in theater. Among their most recognized texts are, by López Nieves: Voltaire’s Heart and Seva; and by Santos-Febres: Glass Fish, Sirena Selena vestida de pena (Selena the Siren Dressed in Pain), Fe en disfraz (Faith in Disguise) and Our Lady of the Night. Both authors write historical novels with precision and elegance and bring new readings to historical events in terms of race, colonialism and gender roles.

At the crossroads of gender and race is Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, who explores topics of sexuality and blackness from a feminine perspective. Her best known works at the international level are Las Negras, Lesbofilias and Violeta, among many others.

The journal Letras Salvajes, the praiseworthy work of Alberto Martínez Márquez, has served as a link among Hispanic voices. Additionally, his post-modern poetry, carefully considered and irreverent, questions the notions of poetry itself from the Puerto Rican tradition and the canon. Along with Mario R. Cancel, he edited and curated the anthology El límite volcado. Antología de la generación de poetas del ochenta (Over the Limit, Anthology of the 1980s Poets), a collection of unequaled value in terms of historiography.

Janette Becerra is known for the awards she has received. In 2001, she published Elusiones, a moving book of poetry that was called one of the best of the year by El Nuevo Día. She later presented a collection of wise stories, Doce versiones de soledad (Twelve Versions of Solitude)which won first prize from the Puerto Rican PEN Club and second in the creative category from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. She also received one of the most important prizes in children’s literature, “El Barco de Vapor” for the novel Antrópolis in 2012, and the Institute of Culture’s International Short Story Prize for Ciencia imperfecta (Imperfect Science). Becerra provides plays on words and with the understanding of what is time, pain, solitude and the truth itself.

Among the writers who have received worldwide awards is Eduardo Lalo. La isla silente (The Silent Island), Los pies de San Juan (The Feet of San Juan), La inutilidad (Uselessness), Where, Los países invisibles (The Invisible Countries), El deseo del lápiz (The Pencil’s Desire) and Simone are among his works, some of which use photos as a central element with the text. He received the 2013 Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize for Simone, an award that established him as a writer and turned world attention to Puerto Rican literature. Lalo questions the means of expression, urban and psychological spaces, and Puerto Rican literature itself through the lens of invisibility.

The Generation of the 1980s is known for its diversity, however, to the point that critics such as José Luis Vega do not consider it a literary generation in the traditional sense. Its heterogeneous nature is shown by writers such as Edgardo Nieves Mieles, who plays with his own post-modern themes and styles while interacting with tradition and the prior generation. His books, A quemarropa and Un monstruo no debe tener hermanos y otras indiscretas orgías de soledad y desarraigo (A Monster Should Not have Brothers and Other Indiscreet Orgies of Solitude and Rootlessness) transcend the generational in his writing.

Rafael Acevedo should also be noted. He experiments with science fiction in Exquisito cadáver (Exquisite Cadaver), with oriental narrative in Flor de ciruelo, the inclusion of the genre of reguetón in Guaya Guaya, and a return to tradition in Elegía franca. Acevedo can also be included in the Puerto Rican avant-garde movement.

The writers of the Generation of 1980s can be said to have forged a literary school and style that set the foundation for new writers. From events as well as generations, poetic readings that arose on the island in the decade of 2000 served as a dialogue between the generations of the 1980s and the 1990s.


Author: Alexandra Pagán Vélez
Published: January 26, 2016.

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