In 1806, the printing press arrived, and later the Economic Society of Friends of the Country arose. These were two central developments for the diffusion of culture in Puerto Rico. Beginning in the 19thcentury, the first newspapers arose and, by giving space to the literary voices of the time, were the precursor to what would later become the island’s literary reviews. Because of the need for a space to bring literature to readers (and where writers could publish their texts), the newspapers set aside sections for literature. Those spaces were essential for the beginnings of Puerto Rican literature. Newspapers such as La Gaceta made minor contributions to the literature, but were important in establishing the literary history of the island. In 1832, María Bibiana Benítez published her iconic poem, “La ninfa de Puerto Rico.”
El Diario Económico, Boletín Instructivo y Mercantil de Puerto Rico, El Investigador, El Buscapié, Puerto Rico Ilustrado, El Imparcial, and other dailies also published numerous literary texts. However, the formation and growth of literary culture in Puerto Rico created a need for entities that not only brought together literary works, but also articles that talked about them. Literary magazines in Puerto Rico, as in other countries around the world, served as voices for literary communities and generations and, in turn, served as the foundation for disseminating literary movements. The following are some of those that literary critics have considered important in the development of Puerto Rican letters.
La Azucena, published by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera beginning on November 20, 1870, would be considered the first literary magazine of historic value on the island. Its main audience was women and it was created as a collaborative effort among José Julián Acosta, Ramón Baldorioty de Castro, Manuel Fernández Juncos, Salvador Brau, Tapia y Rivera, and others.
The Puerto Rican Athenaeum was founded in 1876 and two years later published the Revista Puerto Riqueña, initially edited by José Gautier Benítez. Also involved were José Julián Acosta, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Magdalena Plaza and Manuel Elzaburu. This magazine lasted a year and then re-emerged later in 1905. Its societal articles reflected the concerns of the time.
Manuel Fernández Juncos also contributed to the literary arena. In 1887, he founded Revista Puertorriqueña. It was among the first magazines to get international exposure. The Revista Puertorriqueña published works translated from French, as well as works by Spanish writers José María de Pereda, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Benito Pérez Galdós and Armando Palacio Valdés, writers from the Spanish Americas such as Rubén Darío, Ricardo Palma, Jorge Isaacs, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, among others, and Puerto Ricans such as Salvador Brau, Lola Rodríguez de Tió, José De Diego, Luis Muñoz Rivera, Cayetano Coll y Toste, José de Jesús Domínguez, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Manuel Elzaburu and José Gualberto Padilla, among other prestigious writers.
In the early 20th century, specifically in March of 1913, La Revista de las Antillas, founded by Luis Llorens Torres, was first published. Those who contributed as editors to the magazine included Nemesio R. Canales, José De Diego, Trina Padilla de Sanz, Josefa del Valle Zeno, and others. This magazine, like Revista Puertorriqueña , also addressed a variety of topics in the arts, the sciences, and culture, as well as current affairs of the time. La Revista de las Antillas is considered the precursor to and a representative of the avant-garde and modernist movements.
The magazine Los Seis was founded in 1924 by Luis Palés Matos and José de Diego Padró, along with four other poets. It was an avant-garde magazine that favored poetry and sought to become international. It was similar to La Revista de las Antillas. The magazine índice also deserves mention. It was founded by Antonio S. Pedreira, Vicente Géigel Polanco and other Puerto Rican writers and intellectuals. Its main interest was in establishing Puerto Rican identity, beginning with founders such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis, Francisco Oller and others. Other magazines were El Carnaval (1911), Juan Bobo (1915), Alma Criolla (1917), El Faro (1926), Vórtice (1927), Hostos (1928), and others that provided a vehicle for many Puerto Rican writers in the first half of the 20th century, even though they lasted only a short time.
It is important to mention the Revista de Estudios Hispánicos attached to the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus, which began publishing in 1928 (initially edited by Federico de Onís) and continues today. This magazine is academic in nature, but it has published many great Puerto Rican professors and writers, as well as those from other countries.
An avant-garde group, the atalayistas, founded the magazine Alma Latina in 1930. René Marqués, Luis Hernández Aquino, Luis Palés Matos, Nicolás Blanco and others contributed to its issues. The two magazines that brought Puerto Rican literature to an international reach, however, were Asomante, edited by Nilita Vientos Gastón beginning in 1946, and Sin Nombre, which she founded in 1970 after leaving Asomante. Works by Juan Antonio Corretjer, Olga Nolla, Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuban), Vanessa Droz, Rosario Ferré and others appeared in Sin Nombre. The same occurred with Artes y Letras founded in 1953 and contributed to by Nilita Vientos Gastón, José Emilio González, Manuel Méndez Ballester, Enrique A. Laguerre, Francisco Matos Paoli, and other renowned writers from the island.
Another intellectual and academic publication is La Torre, first published in 1953 and attached to the University of Puerto Rico. This magazine addressed the most universal topics. Two years after the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture was established, the Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña was established in 1958 and continues today. The pages of this magazine have captured the historyof both popular and “high” artistic culture, along with many literary pieces.
These magazines, however, are part of the institutions of the state. The need for a space for literature that developed discourses outside the system led to the creation of Guajana (Río Piedras, 1962) and Mester (Aguadilla, 1966), two entities that were very important in establishing a new literary generation in Puerto Rico. Both magazines shared writers, as well as a political and literary agenda: heritage, independence and social justice were the ruling themes. However, the search for a literary language and affirmation as a literary generation made these magazines important in Puerto Rican historiography. Two outstanding figures in these magazines are Jorge María Ruscalleda Bercedóniz and Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche. Today, the members of the Guajana group organize an International Poetry Festival and a poetry contest acclaimed by many contemporary poets.
In 1972, the magazine Ventana debuted, dedicated to poetry (but also including reviews and stories). José Luis Vega was an important figure. The magazine that was most outstanding for its design and its editorial board was Zona de Carga y Descarga (1972). It included numerous well known writers and intellectuals (to mention a few, Rosario Ferré, Olga Nolla, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Francisco Matos Paoli, áurea María Sotomayor, Hugo Margenat, as well as Latin Americans such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Severo Sarduy and José Lezama Lima). It was the starting point for what is considered a breakthrough for writers in Puerto Rican literature. Today, issues of Zona are considered works of art.
Later, in 1983, Filo de Juego, edited by Rafael Acevedo Rodríguez, was published. It featured writers who continue to publish and make up part of contemporary Puerto Rican literature: Mayra Santos Febres, Juan Carlos Quintero, Zoé Jiménez Corretjer, Frances Negrón, Edgardo Nieves Mieles, and others. In the 1970s and 1980s, university magazines appeared that are still being published, such as Plural, Ceiba, Faro, El Cuervo, Mairena, La Revista del Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y del Caribe, Exégesis, Cayey, Prisma, O’clip, Brisas and Cupey. Some notable magazines that have appeared in the beginning of the 21st century are El Sótano 00931, Taller Literario (both in Río Piedras), Identidad (Aguadilla) and Zurde (Mayagüez). These magazines showcase incipient Puerto Rican literature and some have gone on to become valuable editorial projects.
This review of literary magazines shows their importance as literary voices. The concurrence of writers and how they comprise the current literary canon denotes the importance and value of these kinds of publications in the development of writing as a means of artistic expression in Puerto Rican society.
Author: Alexandra Pagán Vélez
Published: August 25, 2015.
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