Short story writer, professor, literary critic, essayist and journalist. Through his work, he analyzed and examined Puerto Rican society, both on the island and beyond, and the existing relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico.
He was born in the Dominican Republic on March 8, 1926, the son of a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother. In 1930, when Leonidas Trujillo rose to power, his family moved to Puerto Rico, where he studied in elementary and high school. In 1946, he completed a bachelor’s in arts degree at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus.
In 1943, he published a collection of short stories titled En la sombra. Cinco cuentos de sangre (1945) came out not long after and was awarded a prize by the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. These first two books were focused on the suffering of the Puerto Rican rural worker. In 1948, the year he was the president of the socialist organization the Puerto Rican Youth Vanguard, he published El hombre en la calle, a more urban work.
He left the island that same year. From 1950 to 1952, he lived in Europe, where he worked as a news correspondent in cities such as Berlin, Paris, Prague and Warsaw. While in exile, he published the short novelPaisa: un relato de emigración (1950), which had a socio-political theme and was selected by René Marqués for inclusion in the anthology Cuentos Puertorriqueños de Hoy (1959). Later, in 1954, he published the collection of short stories titled En este lado, in which he touched on themes related to life in Puerto Rico, the United States and Mexico.
In 1953, he moved to Mexico where he completed a Ph.D. at the Autonomous University of Mexico. He obtained Mexican citizenship in 1955. Because of his political affiliation, the federal immigrationauthorities prohibited him from entering Puerto Rico for more than a decade. He worked as a professor at the university in Mexico and at universities in Guanajuato, Mexico; Toulouse, France, and at the Río Piedras and Cayey campuses of the University of Puerto Rico.
His next collection of short stories, Mambrú se fue a la guerra, was published in 1972. In it, he recreates the horrors and cruelty of war. It was followed by La galería y otros cuentos (1973), Cuento de cuentos y once más (1973); En Nueva York y otras desgracias (1973); Veinte cuentos y Paisa (1973), with a prologue by Pedro Juan Soto. Among his most notable stories are “La noche que volvimos a ser gente,” which picks up the theme of Puerto Ricans in New York, and “En el fondo del caño hay un negrito,” in which he describes the extreme poverty of the slums on the periphery of the city.
In 1975, he published “Historia de vecinos” in the magazine Sin nombre, a story about a Puerto Rican exiled in a major city in Europe. Along with Mónica Mansour, he published La poesía negra de América in 1976. The same year, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture published his doctoral thesis, Literatura y sociedad puertorriqueña: de los cronistas a la generación del 98. His next novel, Balada de otro tiempo (1978), received the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize.
In the 1980s, he returned to the genre of the essay with the publication of El país de los cuatro pisos, a social, political and historical analysis that divided the historical situation in Puerto Rico into four moments, or “floors” of a house. The first was the African-Antillean roots; the second, the European immigration of the 19th century and the development of an oppressive elite class; the third formed from the United States invasion and the radical change from a farming economy to one based on sugar mills owned by absentee capital; and the fourth, the era of political and cultural changes that led to the creation of the Commonwealth and its consequences for the Puerto Rican culture.
Other publications from this period are La llegada (1980); Las caricias del tigre (1984); El oído de Dios (1985); Nueva visita al cuarto piso (1986); the autobiography La luna no era de queso: memorias de infancia (1988); Antología personal (1990) and Todos los cuentos (1992), a collection of all of his short stories.
José Luis González died in Mexico in 1996. His body was buried in the municipality of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, alongside his parents.
Rivera de Alvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña, su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Ediciones Panteón, 1983.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Del Rosario, Rubén. Breve Enciclopedia de la Cultura Puertorriqueña. Hato Rey: Ediciones Cordillera, 1976.
Vélez, Rigoberto. Puertorriqueños Ilustres de todos los tiempos. Ponce: Editorial Centro Pedagógico, 1986.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.
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