The essay is a malleable genre with a controversial spirit. It encourages questioning of ideas. The provocative nature of the essay allows the author to analyze and reflect, without intending to give answers. Questioning is central, not asserting or providing answers. This subjectivity does not take away from the validity of the expression of the topic, but on the contrary it adds liveliness and depth. This dynamic makes the reader an active participant.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was an atmosphere of iconoclasm in the Caribbean. The political, economic and social scenes created an ideological need among writers and thinkers in the region. From that time on, a collective awareness with a sense of belonging began to form.

The decades of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s were crucial to the work that followed later, as it was a decisive moment in the definition of the social, political and cultural features of the Caribbean region. Among the outstanding writers were Juan Marinello and Jorge Mañach, part of the 23 generation, in Cuba, and Antonio S. Pedreira and Tomás Blanco, of the 30 generation, in Puerto Rico.

From the time of the conquest and colonization, people had struggled for freedom. Once it was obtained, the focus shifted to political, social and economic reorganization. This restructuring involved conflict, however. During this period, defenders of the established structures inherited from the empires faced the defenders of modern structures. The environment was favorable for questioning the rules and the institutions in power, which sought to perpetuate their hegemony. These differences created an environment that stimulated thought. Intellectuals traced a path toward the search for the self, in both its collective and individual forms.

The Caribbean, united by similar historical and political circumstances, shared certain limits that established conformity of thought. A common denominator among the Antilles is the political and economic intervention of the United States.

Literature reflected and catalyzed the political and social environment of the time. The basis was anti-imperialism, valuing autonomy and investigating the foundation of identity. Varied and extensive ranges of essays were produced during this period. The genre of the essay became a weapon of complaint and defense. Writers reassessed the defining features of each region with the purpose of consolidating and strengthening the sense of belonging. The intention was insular national unification, which could reach its most advanced form only when each region obtained its freedom.

Cultural identity is closely tied to national identity, and the two make up the representation of a people. Culture is not just a collection of knowledge, but also a way of life determined by a cognitive construction. To the extent that each person identifies with the culture, he or she will identify with the nationality.

The genesis and development of the local island culture was expressed in the island literature, which established the basis for differentiation. This rhetoric is established in the search for identity. The purpose is to display and extol the culture.

Author: Carmen Rebeca Fraticelli
Published: December 20, 2011.

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