Puerto Rican literature has been and is, as a whole, because of the interests that promote and support its creation, a bastion of defensive and protective forces of our individual and national surroundings. The group of distinguished writers that emerges at the beginning of time in our arts, in 1843, and their successors and “continuers”,up to the present serve as testimony of their affirmation efforts toward a conscience of Puerto Ricanness, of a clear awareness of one’s country.
Immersed in the continuous struggle of saving our collective fingerprints, our authenticity as Puerto Ricans, these writers took on the task of unraveling the specifics of our particular way of being, and showing how that particular way of being, and feeling Puerto Rican, of being and living in our country, proudly shapes the feeling of our native land. They would dive to the collective island being through their reflections on the landscape; they would study in depth the experiences relative to the being and circumstance of the Puerto Rican man himself; they would also go through the customs, ideas, and myths, that are projected in time: legends, traditions, songs, dances, and other entertainment of popular roots, etc.; they will study their history thoroughly in search of penetrating into the hidden essence of the island soul, so that they could emphasize the radical being of our own idiosyncrasy, that unmistakable way of our insular being, and through it be able to find the diverse and serious problems that affect our society, and as a consequence, be able to capture in the written works the complex and disturbing realities that agitate in the material world as well as in the spiritual world.
Our writers have wanted and want that the son of the country should become the owner of a deep and true historical feeling that allows him to become conscious of his roots, so that he may discover his true being. The works of our men and women of the arts, aspire to perceive those realities of our own being that manifest themselves from the intra-history, driven by the vital energy that spills on the social group, characterized in our case, from the deepest part of the intimate essence, by trends that proceed from the island’s triple ethnic trunk: Iberian, West Indian, and Black Africa.
In the coming lines in this conference we are to explain how our rooted Puerto Rican being is outlined in time —until the present— as summarized in literature, because of the large chronological space of nearly a century and a half that has gone by since our literary beginnings until today. We are forced, in accordance with the time limit that we self-impose for this analysis, to keep the exposition of theme study to merely figures and works of the most historical relevance and significance in our march through our creation in the arts.
The decisive step in the path of the proposed topic shall be provided by Manuel A. Alonso, initiator of promoting national creolism, and the first of our authors who is to make of Puerto Rico an appropriate reason for elaborating in the field of literature. His work El jíbaro (1849), initial important production in the history of the arts on the island, represents a tight bundle of particular experiences at the heart of Puerto Rican society of the past century. It remains of special value as a document that studies our roots in the precise moment of its appearance, when the essence and analysis of our personality as Hispanic and Hispanic American people was still in the process of consolidating.
In the aforementioned work, Alonso presents and critiques countryside society as well as the one in urban areas, covering all social layers, from the levels of the Creole bourgeoisie to the humble strata of the people. Its author became the island’s first writer who tries to define the profile of our being and likewise the first to take island spirit to the level of literary work. This Creole feeling that Alonso practices would extend from him to the end of the nineteenth century. The authors who follow him would present the general life of the Puerto Rican people, with special attention to its traditional roots and the social problems that tone and condition the drama of our society. It would be appropriate to mention, among other important people, the names of writers such as: Manuel Fernández Juncos, Cayetano Coll y Toste, and Ramón Méndez Quiñones.
Through the route that Alonso had taken, which already pointed like a hurtful arrow toward the reality of our country and our being, Alejandro Tapia y Rivera would also follow. Of the voluminous polygraph production of this other writer, only a handful of his work echoes his concern and feeling for his country, but they represent his tenacious effort to explore the material reality and the human dimension of the Puerto Rico of his time. Two of his longest essays, Vida del pintor puertorriqueño José Campeche and Noticias históricas de Don Ramón Power, are dramatic examples of his interest in defining and clearing up the characters of our particular essence as American Creole people. Partly related to the previous works, the autobiographical book Mis memorias o Puerto Rico como lo encontré y como lo dejo (My memories or Puerto Rico like I found it and how I’m leaving it), of posthumous publication in 1928, is a volume that allows us to penetrate in the way of being and living of the country’s man in his time, which is not free of his critiquing attitude when facing negative aspects that that society displayed.
With the arrival of romanticism in Puerto Rico, toward the end of the first third of the 19th century, writers clearly pointed toward the idea of our national conscience. The work of Eugenio María de Hostos, most important encarnation of the intellectual man in our midst, in all of our insular history, echoes the efforts of one of the creators of modern culture on the island and in our America, and of the enthusiastic builders of the concept of the Puerto Rican nation, jointly in these matters with figures of the stature of Betances, Ruiz Belvis, José Julián Acosta, Baldorioty de Castro, etc.
Hostos symbolizes, because of his universal projection, the peak of this process of our arts in the 19th century. There are multiple writings of his in which we can find the spiritual bitterness toward the panorama that is presented to him by the island reality he faced, and where he exposes and analyzes with hurt feeling the political, social, and cultural problems that go through the native land, showing his deep sense of being our island’s son. Our writer worries about the colonial state our country suffers from, the status of education, the population’s physical situation, especially that of rural areas. Indignant, he describes that area of our society, and his words offer us a vision of our sick community, which needs to be saved from death. His patriotism is framed in a very concrete and specific reality; we should expose with just rage the separation from their own land that the intellectual class of the times suffered, and he tells us so in Madre isla with the following words:
A fuerza de enviciados por el coloniaje, ni aún los hombres más cultos de Puerto Rico… se dedican a tener iniciativa para nada, ni a contar por completo consigo mismos, ni a dejar de esperarlo todo de los representantes del poder.
Forced by those corrupted by colonialism, not even the most educated men in Puerto Rico… devote themselves to having initiative for anything, nor to completely counting solely on themselves, nor to not waiting for everything from the representatives of power.
In the pages of the diary he bequeathed, completed in the margin of his gigantic work for the confines of the America that saw him pass by, he talks to us about his multiple concerns as a man of thought reflection and letters, as a patriot and tireless fighter for freedom, justice, duties, and patriotism. Let’s remember, as a sample, some words taken from the diary, written on September 14, 1869:
Amamos a la patria porque es un punto de partida; la razón no sabría encontrar el punto de partida si no fuera por el terruño cuya imagen atrayente vemos por todas partes.
We love our native land because it is a starting point; reason would not know how to find the starting point if it weren’t for the homeland whose attracting image we see everywhere.
La peregrinación de Bayoán, novel that summarizes his great concern for the native land and for the sister West Indies, deepening the roots in the land, is a brave position on patriotism, social justice, and humanity. Even Spain, in his time, would recognize “the appearance of conscience in the 19th century”. Through his work, and with the example of his own life, he wants to show us true morality as the only way to find the path for saving our country.
Puerto Ricanness shall infuse a great part of the literary work in the field of lyrical poetry in the 19th century beginning in 1843. There will be numerous authors who represent a poetry devoted to the recreation of the image of the native country in terms of the most pure love, expressed in an affectionate and gentle way, but bursting with feeling for the native land. The most noticeable tendency of this poetic aspect is found in the verses by the greatest of romantic poets on the island, José Gautier Benítez. The deep expression of patriotic love in this author is compiled mainly in his famous trilogy dedicated to Puerto Rico (Ausencia, Regreso, A Puerto Rico). In this last poem, the feeling for the native land would reach its climax, when it praises with passionate and deep emotion the natural beauty of the native land, while stressing the distinctive traits of Puerto Ricans in comparison with the rest of our brothers and sisters born in other Hispanic American countries.
In addition, in our glance at 19th century island poetry, considered from the particular point of view of a channel for a patriotic feeling, we cannot forget Lola Rodríguez de Tió, woman of brave gestures against political injustice. Her verses are imprinted with rumors of our land in the traits of patriotic vibration when facing the native land’s pain.
A second era in the historical process of Puerto Rico’s romantic verse began in 1880, a time of incitement to rebelliousness, when a patriotic poetry of civic signs of combat appears, an eminent link to lyrical-political work dear to the hearts of the followers of Romanticism. Luis Muñoz Rivera would be the most important exponent of the libertarian claim against the ruling colonial despotism. This poet dives deep into misfortunes and tragedy to give us a lyrical work ignited with the dramatic strength of his patriotic agony and of his love for liberty. Many of the poems he refines in the book titled Tropicales, are unforgettable, such as “Nulla redemptio est”, “Minha terra”, “Sísifo”, and “Paréntesis”. The last composition connects —because of its melancholic and emotional remembrance for the native land—with the first aspect of romantic lyrical achievement mentioned before. In its final verse, Muñoz Rivera categorically reaffirms the beginning of the struggles for the native land that gave tone and substance to his political activity and his poetic expression.
José Gualberto Padilla (El Caribe) is also important. His civil and patriotic poetry of satirical intentions was commonly inspired on attitudes of militant rebelliousness against the tyranny of the colonial government, as well as in his rejection of the peninsular reactionary element that despised the Puerto Rican Creole. He is considered “one of the spokespersons for the conscience of Creole dignity” because of it. His Canto a Puerto Rico, not concluded at the time of his death, takes the cultivation of the patriotic topic to the peak of beauty. That poem aspired to review the material, historical, and spiritual essence of the native island. It is also necessary to mention Francisco Gonzalo Marín (Pachín Marín), exiled poet and tireless fighter for the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico. His dedication as lyricist, above all, to worshiping the native land, in strong and sonorous verses, full of rebelliousness makes him one of the great Puerto Rican bards of all times.
The observation of objective reality as a source of literary treatment shall be the distinctive characteristic of the realist-naturalist narrative produced in the country beginning in 1884 in the hands of writers such as Francisco del Valle Atiles, Salvador Brau, Matías González García, and Manuel Zeno Gandía, among others. The work of Zeno Gandía comes directly from his great concerns regarding problems of the Puerto Rican man of his time. His commitment to the history of our people would take him to develop as novelist in the series of his Crónicas de un mundo enfermo (Chronicles of a sick world) —a work devoted to analysis, with honesty and bravery, of the material and moral problems, as well as the politics of his native island.
Shortly before the beginning of the 20th century, the tragic historical tear that came to signify 1898 occurs in Puerto Rico, which seriously endangers our destiny as a country, our cultural heritage, and our personality as a Latin American nation. If the last six decades of the 19th century carved the foundation for cultural Puerto Ricanness, in the time that has passed in the present century, we would see how this disposition toward native land and culture was continued and intensified as a means of maintaining self dignity in the line with the historical essence of the country. It will be through the thought of an important nucleus of patriotic writers —who became inheritors of those nineteenth century founders of our national being— that we would survive the terrible commotion that 1898 would create for us. Said cultural resistance would suppose to an extent the overcoming of expressed intentions —declared or not— of tyrannizing our first-born being, protected by the new colonial order, taking it through channels foreign to the traditional personality of islanders. However, on the contrary, the country’s writers would continue to refine the profile of the inherited island culture, assuming in the course of said task, throughout this century, a brave vertical position of national affirmation.
This shall explain why modernism —first of the literary movements that reach us in the new century— essentially represented postures of nationalist and Latin American character. With the founding of the Revista de las Antillas, vital organ of our modernism and of the neuralgic and touching moment that the history of our country lived during those years, the explanatory keys of the tragic worry for the native land and culture that devastated us would remain sowed. “The terrible part of our reality ” said De Diego, was the urgent need to affirm our personality as a people, submerged as we were in the vortex of an ambiguous historical time, all of it shall saturate of patriotic politics and tradition the modernist work in the field of arts Puerto Rican-style, motivating the rise of a spiritual island awakening that would deepen the roots of the indigenous, the Creole, the Latin American. Our writers will defend and praise the vernacular language, the traditional essences of the native land, and the roots of the Puerto Rican people.
In Puerto Rico, José de Diego is the synthesis of the lyrical modes that move from romanticism to modernism. Focused on the historical events that brought on the change of sovereignty on the island, and hurt by the mystery that the political and cultural destiny of Puerto Rico presented, “an unfortunate country, endangered slave”, this poet declares his purpose of devoting from here on his verse to the service of the country that witnessed his birth. His lverse of entailed Puerto Rican accent, will send rounds to the wind with its most vibrant chorus, the scream both virile and anguished that comes from his interpretation of the political injustice victimizing the country. He would encourage a civil poetry of affirmation of the values of being Hispanic and of the Latin race, with a Latin American and West Indian conscience. His voice would become loud in Cantos de rebeldía as well as in Cantos de pitirre, favoring the country’s freedom and, as a whole, both lyrical books represent one of the most untamable and intransigent stands in facing the fundamental problem of the colony.
Luis Lloréns Torres is one of the most important poets in the history of Puerto Rican letters. He is the main figure of insular modernism, founder of Revista de las Antillas, which would serve as champion and last resort for our Puerto Ricanness, shaping a poetry of civic breath that would have as its two main purposes moving our national conscience and defending the redemption of its people. On one hand, the patriotic topic will take Lloréns to the grandiose manifestation of his nationalist feeling as in Canción de las Antillas, his mater work, poem whose verses offer us a geological, descriptive, and prophetic interpretation of the destiny of the West Indian archipelago. On the other hand, Lloréns encouraged a modernist work of Creole inspiration that gathers the essence of the Puerto Rican soul: very especially the series of his décimas that are inspired in the rural life, conceived in some verses in which the attitudes and way of being of our people stand out.
Creole lyricism of country roots also has Virgilio Dávila among its best exponents in Puerto Rican poetry. This poet will sing with the most authentic island emotion to the country and mountains of his land. Dávila was able to capture in synthetic form the fundamental traits of the rural environment and psychology in the educated language of his verses. For the majority of Puerto Ricans, many of the verses in his book titled Aromas del terruño, are unforgettable, in which the poet communicates his love for his native country and its traditions.
In the creative framework of our modernism and later eras, Miguel Meléndez Muñoz’s essays and narrative deserve separate mention for his interpretative vision of the Puerto Rican peasant as depository entity of the defining traits of the island’s collective soul, and therefore, the most important key to rediscovering and understanding our particular essence as a people. In the pages of his narrations are: the novel Yuyo, Cuentos del Cedro, Cuentos de la Carretera Central, etc.; various island types framed within our distinctive ways of Hispanic American people. This man of letters also registers various circumstances of historical order in the island’s development, of unquestionable value for today’s understanding of our society’s evolutionary process.
When the magazine Indice (1929-1931), appeared on the island, planted since its beginning on the unpostponable need for deep reflection and analysis of the insular essence, the accomplishments and failures of our people up to then, and the projections for its development in the future, the literary work of the 1930’s generation began, which would be characterized by its sense of patriotic affirmation and its eagerness for universalism. Writers who belonged to that generation, anguished by the uncertainty of Puerto Rico’s destiny —”ship adrift”, as Pedreira sees the country, he is the founder of said magazine and guide and leader of the generation— our country was impoverished physically and spiritually because of the circumstances and political, economic, and cultural pressures that the new colonial order established in 1898 brings, they will try to find our roots, what we are and how we are as Puerto Ricans, they will begin that search by reconstructing the historical past in order to be able to revalue the present and define the patriotic being.
These writers wanted, through their work, to trouble and bring forth problems to the conscience of the country’s son, so that he might face the tragic reality we live in. These writers would confirm the foundation of all things Hispanic, of the Creole —which belongs to our culture— in its indigenous roots as well as in its African origin; they will evidence the need for urgent social, moral, political, and economic reforms; they would refine and delimit the dimensional profiles of Puerto Ricanness.
Antonio S. Pedreira, master of said generation, best defines the spirit of revaluation that it proposes. All his work is focused on the purpose of gathering and organizing Puerto Rico’s spiritual assets, of connecting loose threads of the collective personality of Puerto Ricans —threads separated by the impact and consequences of 1898— of examining them with a critical mind and tracing the routes and the processes that we as Hispanic American and Caribbean people should take in the future. His essay work is supported deeply on exposing different phases of our insularism. His book titled Insularismo —explanation and definition of the essence of Creole existence— becomes the most valuable approach, despite the judgment they’ve overcome, that would have never been done on purpose for our problems and flaws. This essay becomes Pedreira’s key work, summary and climax of his concerns as son of our land.
Of all of Pedreira’s disciples, educated on his heated Puerto Rican ideals, Enrique A. Laguerre has been and is the one most likely to continue until now the concern and attitudes of his teacher regarding the fate of culture in our country. Essayist Laguerre becomes a spokesperson in his Hojas libres, journalistic exposure of deep and sincere concern for the modern development of the island culture in its various phases of literature and arts in their dimensions of greater latitude, in education, society, politics, etc. On the other hand, in creating novels,
Laguerre is certainly our greatest exponent of all times. The greatest work he has created in almost six decades (13 published novels and one on its way) has its merits on erecting a Puerto Rican version of the famous Episodios nacionales by Pérez Galdós. In said narratives we see the total essence of our life as a people, from the beginning of the last century (in La resaca) until today, focused on the problems of the rural world (in La Llamarada, Solar Montoya) and also on the life in urban areas, in whose scenery the circumstances of global development of the Puerto Rican society throb. Beginning with Cauce sin río, El fuego y su aire, Los amos benévolos, Infiernos Privados, Por boca de caracoles, and in his last published novel, Los Gemelos, he will offer an analytical vision of the country’s material and moral status of today, judging our existential panorama as a whole of its becoming a life chronicle “beyond its visible history”, in which course the novelist projects the veneration of our past and the burning desire of keeping our roots alive, traits of our national identity.
Other writers such as: Tomás Blanco, Emilio S. Belaval, Vicente Géigel Polanco, Manuel Méndez Ballester, Nilita Vientos Gastón, Margot Arce de Vázquez, Concha Meléndez, Francisco Manrique Cabrera, Cesáreo Rosa Nieves, María Teresa Babín, etc. also present in their work, with agonizing strength, the problems of our social, economic, and cultural reality of our country. The trying to build the national conscience through a survey of the origin of the Puerto Rican being, defining our nature and its development possibilities with the purpose of re-guiding and channeling island culture.
A similar attitude toward the country’s essence and problems will be translated into the various motivations that propel the poetic creation of this generation. Luis Palés Matos’ Black poetry mostly compiled in his book titled Tuntún de Pasa y Grifería, is a testimony of this author’s concern for the reality of blacks and blackness in the country and in the West Indies, penetrating in the cultural forces that grant its true Caribbean dimension. Mercedes López Baralt says that this lyricist starts a poetic conception that constitutes the first response to the search for Caribbean specificity”.
On the other hand, Evaristo Rivera Chevremont, best known for creating a lyric of metaphysical topics, also feels and loves the Creole essence of his native land: he sings then to the scenery, especially the sea, to the West Indian woman, to misery and exploitation of our jíbaro (country people). His poetry of social and political commitment reflect his proletarian concerns and shall be found in poetry collections such as Barro, El hondero lanzó la Piedra, antecedents of the lyrical work of social protest of the 1960’s.
The Puerto Rican poetic devotion of Juan Antonio Corretjer, completely devoted to cultivating the native land, will take him down the path Lloréns and De Diego began, devoted to cultivating a poetry that sinks roots in the ingredients of what constitutes the material and spiritual reality of Puerto Rico: a poetry that translated into the eager search for roots that are key to our unmistakable Puerto Rican essence, of our national being. The poet finds a grip for his song of patriotic exaltation in the contours of island scenery and in our history’s process. In the poetry collection titled Amor a Puerto Rico he expresses the desire to create a new native land. Lastly, it is necessary to mention Julia de Burgos in this tight bundle of great lyrical figures of the 1930’s that worship Puerto Ricanness; this poet has an intimate and erotic expression but she also sings to the native land, its scenery, its nature, its Río Grande de Loíza. Like Rivera Chevremont, Julia will align her poetry toward the new social reality, expressing in her verses her desire to save our authenticity through self-knowledge, with a gesture that announces poetry of social worry and women’s liberation of the lyrics of the 1960’s.
-We have stopped in certain eras and figures of Puerto Rican literature that cover from 1843 to 1945 because in said authors and their work the foundation of our cultural Puerto Ricanness is found. In the last 48 years we shall see how that disposition of native land and culture that the previously mentioned authors passed down shall continue through the creative thought of multiple patriotic writers that become inheritors of said founders of our being, captured in the kingdom of the arts. These new creators shall defend and conserve the profiles of culture in Puerto Rico through literary substance.
The new literary generation of 1945 will be born within the warmth of Asomante magazine. In the work of the writers that make up said generation, there will be a deepening reaffirmation of our roots, which will allow them to see clearly how the new roles that now rule the country’s socioeconomic structure will be greatly responsible for the rise of a new bourgeois class of alienated feelings and positions, dictated by a harsh materialism, who will slowly forget the most important traditional values in the shaping of the sense of country. This gradual march of cultural and spiritual disintegration will increase in time, and in facing that palpable deterioration of the esteem for our most expensive heritage of collective essence, the members of this generation, who are writers, will work on understanding the great problem that brings as a consequence the intensification of the process of material and mental Americanization of Puerto Rico; said writers keep the hope of being able to conserve our conscience of Puerto Ricanness alive in its fundamental traits.
The work created by the writers of 1945 —its essayists, narrators, playwrights, and poets— captures in the variety of its texts a variety of situations: the abolished past, the empty living of the bourgeoisie, the abandonment of workers in the country (the ones in rural homes, abandoned to the miserable luck, as well as the urban worker, member of a new class of proletariat), the emigrant that abandons our beaches in search of pink horizons of life and work, all of this, by pointing fingers and making evident the disintegration of an entire order of people and things. The most representative authors of 1945 are many and diverse. In numbers, and risking omissions, we mention the following names: René Marqués, spokesperson for his generation, versatile writer, of greatly distinguished work, especially in the genre of stories (in books such as Otro día nuestro, En una ciudad llamada San Juan), theater (with works such as La carreta, Los soles truncos, Mariana o el Alba), essays (with titles such as El puertorriqueño dócil, etc.). His literary work, fundamentally, is geared toward cultural, social, and political concerns for Puerto Rico, leaving us a panoramic framework of the moral and ethical problems faced by today’s son of the country. With his Ensayos he positions himself on the same line of thought and literary action Pedreira had begun.
In René Marqués, Puerto Rico has one of the most important values in the panorama of its contemporary works. Abelardo Díaz Alfaro echoes in Terrazo, with deep island feeling, the situation of our jíbaros and of our people, gathering the truly significant contours of our country’s scenery and man. José Luis González’s work reflects his political, social, economic, and cultural concerns, making them into testimonies of the transformations that have taken place in the island’s historical existence. His narrations focus on the vital problem of the working class, of the common man, of the Puerto Rican emigrant in New York, capturing the collective ways that measure what belongs to Puerto Rico. In his essays, he presents, under new focus, the island society’s historical-social-cultural reality. In El país de cuatro pisos y otros ensayos and Nueva visita al cuarto piso, he captures focuses that contradict the ideas that traditionally have been believed as true. Pedro Juan Soto, a man true to his time and his country’s reality, proves in his narrations, beginning with Spiks, the intense concern that agitates him regarding Puerto Rico’s social and cultural problems, going deeply into the analysis of wrongs that afflict our society in the present—in the country as well as in its territorial extension that is New York Puerto Rican`s area. He does so in his novels as well.
Francisco Matos Paoli is a poet in whom the feeling of native country reaches its most notable and artistic expression. His Canto a Puerto Rico and the verses of the poem titled Invocación a la patria, are works that in time shall remain in our arts as two of the great lyrical offerings that have yielded the essence of our native land. He also cultivates a poetic work that is inspired in the objective and solid reality of a plan to challenge the various evils of today’s island society, and claim especially that they represent a serious undermining of the patriotic substance and social order. Francisco Arriví, alter creating a play of universal motivations more than of terrigenous motivations, will align his theatrical work toward new deeply-rooted approaches in our insular history and collective behavior, searching for the ethnic and cultural elements that operate in shaping the insular soul: Vejigantes, Bolero y plena, Medusas en la bahía.
Ricardo E. Alegría who, in the words of Laguerre, tries to scientifically define “Puerto Rican”, responds in his texts (to great extent works of historical interpretation) to a deep and fruitful feeling of native country and a burning struggle that focuses on cleaning up and saving the profiles and ingredients of our particular historical-cultural identity. Salvador Tió is presented as paladin of our Spanish language with work that arise from an authentic patriotic feeling and a deep concern regarding the various phases of today’s insular problems: social, cultural, and political. His essays, critical and satirical interpretations (not exempt of natural comic and humoristic force) of daily life on the island, invite us to review in a new light the essential values of our collective life, contributing to creating a more upright and authentic vision of what being Puerto Rican is. With sustained persistence, a work of linguistic investigation dedicated to studying Puerto Rican Spanish is contributed by Manuel Alvarez Nazario; this work is made real as testimony of deep love and devotion to the native land.
Other authors of 1945 such as Francisco Lluch Mora, Jorge Luis Morales, Violeta López Suria, Emilio Díaz Varcárcel, César Andreu Iglesias, Ester Feliciano Mendoza, Edwin Figueroa, Edelmira González Maldonado, José Emilio González, Eugenio Fernández Méndez, etc., show their love for this land with their verse and prose. The literary work of all these authors deepen in the consideration of the personality of Puerto Ricans, contributing to maintaining our essential physiognomy of Hispanic and Hispanic American people alive.
At this point of our analytical speech we reach the last two literary generations in Puerto Rico’s cultural history: the perspectives of 1960 and 1975 which are still in full active process of literary elaboration. Both generations have lived a time that is considered great crises in the aspect of Puerto Rico’s political, social, and moral conscience, which as a consequence brings on the highlighting among its members of a powerful national conscience in facing the palpable worsening of the cultural and political deviation the island suffers.
The literary works of the writers of these generations, as a whole, represent a reinforcement of the topic proposed in this essay, and they are steadfast in facing the strong winds that hit and threaten our essentiality as a people. In their texts we see how a new way of feeling about the native land and conceiving its history develops. Perhaps influenced by the words of Peruvian Vargas Llosa, in the sense that “the greater the patriotism, the greater the cruelty in showing us our own embarrassment, to show not only where the historic pus is but also the ridiculousness, the corniness, the mediocrity of human beings”, these writers we now study will make of the written work of their generations a live testimony of the truth.
The writers of 1960 cultivate a challenging literature of sharp critical spirit —which comes from the direct contact with the hurtful truth of material, spiritual, and political crisis the country faces— and express their will to modify it. The members of the generation of 1975 will dedicate their critical passion to strengthening the sense of Puerto Ricanness by going deeper into the causes that contribute to distort our national identity. They use a rather sentimental and human cynicism, tempering the censorship regarding social decomposition, leaving behind the thunder and discordant of the generation of 1960. They fix their attention on our collective unstable existence, on man to current use, trapped by the new economic, social, and political changes that have been taking place after World War II, changes that represent the move from a capitalist industrial society, in whose pattern Puerto Ricans are submitted to new economic orders that do not fit the essence of an “unproductive” society like ours today.
Both literary generations present in their work a terrifying picture of alienated Puerto Ricans, uprooted from what is theirs, product of a consumerist society that only aspires to the enjoyment of material goods, worsening, with greater strength each time, the state of decay the country faces. This literature represents a new consolidating opening of the sense of what is Puerto Rican, because of its eager search of the being and its significant roots in time and space.
Among the most decisive authors in the topic of Puerto Ricanness, Luis Rafael Sánchez, stands out. He is a short-story writer, novelist, playwright, and essayist, without a doubt the most distinguished writer in these last two literary generations. The topic of nation in his work reflects his concerns regarding various problems that harass us: social, political, cultural. The Puerto Rican reality of today serves as background to his narrative, which reaches its climax with La guaracha del Macho Camacho, representative frame for the collective tragedy of our contemporary society, in evident state of degradation, sunken in chaos and alienation, suffering from a serious crisis situation regarding moral and spiritual principles, and damaged in the base of its political essence.
Other important writers —important because of the work they have done until now, based on the topic of concern for the native land— are, among others, Carmelo Rodríguez Torres, Rosario Ferré, Ana Lydia Vega, Magali García Ramis, etc.
Literature that has been cultivated in Puerto Rico throughout time, as can be seen, is revealed in poets, narrators, playwrights, and essayists with all the characteristics of being a sign of the roots of Puerto Ricanness, and becomes a true reflection of the cultural resistance safeguarding the positions of courageous feeling of nation that, with the passing of time, our people have assumed for the permanence of our profiles as a people and a nation. This encourages us to test our conscience, to reflect, critique, and self-critique. Our texts today are more Puerto Rican than ever before, despite the tendency of universalist order that insular literature has expressed beginning with the generation of the 1930’s. According to José Santos Chocano “the more we belong to our land and our race, the more universal we may become.”
Author: Josefina Rivera
Published: September 21, 2010.
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