Manuel Méndez Ballester, Humanist of the Year 1993

This paper is the installation speech of Manuel Méndez Ballester as a life member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language, presented in 1981, when famed writer Salvador Tió presided over the academy. Because it addresses a topic of permanent public interest, Méndez Ballester felt it was most appropriate to express thanks for the distinction given to him this evening as Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities by reading this essay (revised and updated) to an audience of university students. Here is Mr. Méndez Ballester.

I am pleased and grateful to speak to you from the Inter-American University campus in Aguadilla, in this activity recognizing me as Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities. Many thanks to the Board of Directors of this institution and its executive director: my distinguished friend Dr. Juan González Lamela, who is here. I also present my appreciation and personal greetings to the rector of this institution, Professor Hilda Bacó, and Professor Carmen Cazurro García de Quintana, who has organized this activity.

Because of the importance the Spanish language has to me as a writer and as a Puerto Rican, I believe it is most appropriate for this humanities activity to present my installation speech as a life member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Language, which is titled The Puerto Rican Being and his Language in Light of the Philosophy of Heidegger.

Heidegger is one of the German thinkers who is most difficult to understand. That is saying something. It puts him in the company of Hegel, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Fortunately, a friend of mine who understood Heidegger’s philosophy in depth, advised me not to read Heidegger before I had read the Preliminary Study by Emilio Estiú as an introduction to the metaphysics of Heidegger. And so I did. It is an excellent introduction for beginning to study Heidegger, in reference to the philosophical aspects of this speech. With respect to the Spanish language and its initial clash with the insular Arawak language and, later, the other languages of the Americas and African dialects, I am indebted to the brilliant work by Puerto Rican philologist Manuel álvarez Nazario, titled Process in the Spanish Era in Puerto Rico.

A professor of philosophy and disciple of Husserl and his phenomenological school, Martin Heidegger is considered one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. Despite his brief and lamentable ties to National Socialism in Germany, his fame as a deep thinker continues on its own merits.

Heidegger is often categorized in phenomenology and existentialism, but his thinking transcends those two schools. Heidegger goes further. For his penetrating ontological analysis of “the being,” we can justifiably call him the explorer of the labyrinth of the self. His analysis of existence is only a preamble for formulating the key question of ontology: The question that asks about the existence of all things. For this thinker, the being is not existence, but rather the very condition of everything that can exist, because the being can be found scattered in the multiplicity of the entities or things that make up the universe. The human being, in turn is the “presence,” the existence, like other entities, but with the exceptional privilege of being the only entity capable of understanding, using words, the being that is present and apparent in each entity.

Heidegger appeared in the early part of this century, at a time when the history of philosophy was split between an excessive idealism and a troubling nihilism. The first thing Heidegger did was to attack the history of the traditional anthology to destroy the falsification that began with Plato and the Latin translators undermining the original ontological thought so brilliantly formulated by Parmenides and Heraclitus at the dawn of Greek philosophy. His thinking also marked a rupture with the entire philosophical tradition of the West in his attempt to restore the philosophy of Parmenides and Heraclitus, two great thinkers prior to Socrates. According to Heidegger, it was necessary to establish the foundation of a new humanism. Heidegger took on this task in his monumental work Being and Time, one of the greatest works of philosophy in the 20th century, published in 1927. In his Introduction to Metaphysics, in various essays and in his final writing and aphorisms, his writing took on prophetic and poetic tones, by showing that language is inseparable from the being and that the revelation of the great mystery of the being will come to the world in the words of great poets and thinkers.

The being is the most universal of the concepts, but also the most polemic, because of the meanings and interpretations given to it. In his analysis of the being, Heidegger turns to many sources, including grammar, although he rejects it because of its rigid mechanism. We see the grammatical meaning in the word “being.” As a noun, it is derived from the verb, “to be.” The source form is the infinitive, “to be,” which is an abstract, verbal concept in general thinking. We can say “the being” because we have transformed the abstract “to be” by putting the article “the” in front of it and indicating “that which is there.” With the linguistic transformation of the infinitive into a noun, the verb takes on a fixed nature and loses its indeterminate nature. We are no longer talking about “being,” but rather “the being.”

All of the direct modifications of the verb “to be” trace back to three sources: from Sanskrit, the word “asus,” which means the life, the living, the constant; from the Indo-European language, the word “bheu,” which means that which breaks forth, which rules and remains in that position; and the German word “sein,” which means to inhabit, remain or stay. So the word has three different meanings from three distinct sources. But suppose for a minute that the infinitive did not exist and we did not understand what the word meant. “What would happen then?” Heidegger asks. “Would it just be a name and a word in our language?” “No,” the philosopher answers. In that case, there would be, in general, no language, and therefore we would not be able to name the entities that make up the universe. There would be no culture and nothing to talk about, because the only one who talks, speaks and names is the human being. Speaking, talking, naming is “his destiny, his mystery and his misery,” according to Heidegger. This destiny differentiates the human being from the other entities.

Formulating the question of being, as Heidegger did, is equivalent to asking the most important question of philosophy since its origins in ancient Greece. The great Greek philosophers prior to Socrates and Plato, upon turning their inquisitive gaze onto the world around them, on the universe populated with entities, or in other words, things, first asked what is the being of these things. What is the tree? What is the stone? What is the sea? What is a Greek, a Roman, an Egyptian? And the first answer is that each of these entities or things exists. The sun is. The stone is. The sea is. The Greek is. The entire universe is. But immediately, they asked, what does it mean to exist? What is it that each of these things or entities, no matter what they are, does? It becomes obvious that each entity has its own particular way of being. Why is an entity named a certain way: the river, the mountain, the elephant, the ant, the Greek citizen, are entities and not non-entities. After further observation, these thinkers stumbled onto the key question: What makes the entity exist? Why can the entities be compared and distinguished from one another? Each has its own configuration, its name, its design. But the being of the entity, that which makes it what it is and not something else, does not allow comparison. Upon asking this question, the Greeks then discovered that the entity contains something else that it sustains and maintains but remains hidden and invisible. What enigma is this?

Parmenides and Heraclitus were the first to become aware of this phenomenon, that in this world of entities, of existing things, that we can see, there is something that is present but remains, however, hidden. And that is called “the being.” The Greeks called this existence “physis,” which to them meant something that emerges before our eyes, whatever it is: man, beast, tree, everything, in the end, from the distant splendor of a star to the sigh of the wind. The Greeks used the word “physis” to designate the being itself, which makes it possible for every entity to exist and to be observable. “Physis” is, then, an omni-comprehensive word that covers the being not only in its singularity and its plurality, but also in its totality. But translators twisted this word and gave it the meaning of “nature,” making the dawn of Greek philosophy, Heidegger says, into a philosophy of nature, a material representation of all existing things. The being, the “physis,” in the meaning of the original word, covered everything because it is spread throughout the multiplicity of the entity, governing everything. “Everything is full of what is,” said Parmenides, for whom the being is “the self, stays in the self, lies in the self, and there remains.” As Heraclitus says in his Cosmology: “This world, which is the same for all… always was and will be… nature loves to be hidden. Having harkened not to me but to the word, it is wise to agree that all things are one.” This concept of the being by the early thinkers, as something that rules over everything and endures and permeates all and is unique among the multiplicity of things, was twisted again, according to Heidegger, by later philosophers who conceived the being as an idea, as something that was outside the entity or beyond the entity and, in this way, an abyss opens between the being and the appearance, between the world of the senses and the intelligible world. In this way, Plato divided philosophy into two worlds by interpreting the being as an idea, by separating the things that we see, and the being from the things themselves, and conceiving the being as a transcendent idea, thus beginning a subjectivist current of thought that leads to modern philosophy that totally disfigured the original Greek thinking.

The Greeks also made another marvelous discovery by observing the world of entities. They saw that among all of the entities, there was one that was privileged, unique, fearsome, who questioned the universe of entities, the one who questioned and had the audacity to tear the curtain of appearance and reveal the truth of things. Who was this audacious, extraordinary entity that dares to challenge the great enigma of the being? This entity is the human being, whom the Greeks considered a fearsome entity that inspired terror by its violence. This entity is violent, in the Greek sense of the word, because it is rebellious, at odds with the way things are and thus attacks them, and this forces him to reveal and discover his true being. The human being is violent because he subverts and transforms the world of appearances in search of the truth. “Many things are fearsome” – says the first verse of the chorus of Antigone by Sophocles – “nothing, however, is more terrible than man… He lives between the laws of nature and the laws of the gods. Man” – the chorus adds – “is found in the sound of the word and understanding.” In a single sentence, Sophocles reveals the gift of the word, of language. In other words, man marches to the beat of language, with understanding, embracing all, gathering all that exists and that he encounters in the world, says Heidegger, in “in a state of openness,” a receptive state, in communication with the other entities in our world in order to understand his peers. This entity that defies the gods, this Prometheus who defies the gods, Heidegger called “Dasein,” or “the existence,” which may no longer appear but is there in each human. In each human, Heidegger says, the being is evident. Human beings are the symbol of being. “Wholly indecipherable being,” the great poet Holderlin would later write. This “Dasein,” this human that exists and is in each one of us, is not just the support post behind the others. This “Dasein,” this existence, understands itself, starting with its own existence in the world with others. The act of understanding, perhaps, surrounds the possibility of interpreting and owning that which is understood. And what makes this understanding possible? And now we come to the key point for better understanding the terrible nature of the human being. What makes human comprehension possible is speech, language. Language expresses communication. Language is the articulation of comprehension, the foundation of interpretation, which makes possible the revelation of the being itself through the means of words. Speech is the constituent factor of the existence of the being because it is language that brings the being the “state of openness” in the world. Understanding is a form of being-in-the-world. What the being understands or interprets of existence in the world is time. Time is the horizon for all understanding and interpretation by the being. In the sense that the being is located in time, but not in the conventional sense of time, but rather ontological. Merely by resting our gaze on ontological time we discover the temporal nature of the being, which we can only explain to ourselves when we look at death. Yes, the being finds meaning in its temporal nature. This, in turn, is the possibility of historical truth. For Heidegger, historical truth is ontological. Historical truth is the work of the being in time. But although the being came before the historical experience of the world, the being is revealed in conventional time and conventional history, in the history of the world. Thus, the Puerto Rican entity is a particular form of displaying the universal being, in the same way that it is shown by the Chinese, German, Russian, American or Spanish entities. The Puerto Rican entity is shown to us, like others, in multiple forms, because Puerto Ricans are white, black, mulatto, assimilationists, autonomists, pro-independence, Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Evangelicals, educated, illiterate, faithful, cynical, businesspeople, industrialists, workers, bosses, professionals, etc. How, then, do we find unity among the multiplicity? How do we remove these multiple appearances to try to discover what we really are? If we ask what is a Puerto Rican, we will be told, among other things, a person born in Puerto Rico, and that says very little. If we ask what the word Puerto Rican evokes, we will be told many things. Undoubtedly, we will get nowhere, because the definition reveals nothing of the being. The truth about the Puerto Rican being, what gives it unity, exists inside but is covered by appearances. For the Greeks, appearance belongs to the being. In other words, for them the being is essential to the appearance although each is in conflict with the other. The unity and conflict between the being and appearance was the subject of deep thought by the first Greek philosophers. This question was also illuminated by the tragedies of the great poets of Greek classic theater. Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, is a masterful revelation of the conflict between the being and appearance. “The tragedy of appearance,” Karl Reinhart called it. Allow me to explain.

Oedipus appears in the beginning of the tragedy in all his splendor as a just ruler and a good man. He is worried about a plague that is affecting his kingdom and the people are desperately coming to him to save them from the calamity. Oedipus sends for the oracle to show him how to end the plague. The oracle reveals that the cause of the plague is Oedipus himself, because he will disgrace the throne. And he says more, to the shock of everyone. He says that Oedipus will murder his own father and will marry his own mother. Oedipus trembles at what he has just heard. Thinking about the horrible news the messenger has brought him, he sets off on a valiant search for the truth, and at the end of a difficult quest he comes to the terrible act of his life, when his being is revealed and he learns he has murdered his own father and committed incest with his own mother. Upon removing the veil of appearance and discovering the horrible truth of his life, Oedipus punishes himself by tearing out his eyes and presenting them to the public as witness to the truth. Now blind, walking one day on the plain of Colonus toward his final destiny, a villager stops him. Oedipus asks the man to take him to his king so he can give him advice. “And what advice can a king receive from a blind man?” asks the villager. Oedipus answers: “All the words I say are seeing words.” They are words of a man who has seen the root of his life. The case of Oedipus is one of the infinite ways in which the veil of appearance is removed by the being in search of the truth. Oedipus is a typical example, according to Aristotle, of the highest Greek tragedy.

How can Puerto Ricans find their own being, our own reality, that thing that sustains us and remains above the multiple appearances? We are going to try to do that with the help of Heidegger. Remember what we already said, that although the being comes before the historic experience of the world, the being is revealed in conventional history. If we now turn our view toward our history, we see that there is a common effort among Puerto Ricans, a collective destiny. Heidegger used this expression, “collective destiny,” to label this historic labor of the community, the people, the public. This destiny is not the combination of individual destinies. No, Heidegger says the “collective destiny” is the shared struggle that daily forges this destiny existentially and dialectically, in constant conflict with our selves, with nature and with the elements. It is a process of transformation and change in which we have been making and continue making our historic events, our own way of life. In other words: our culture, which is our work every day in all its multiplicity and its unity. That culture is that which creates in us a general will, a sense of solidarity to continue thinking of ourselves as Puerto Ricans despite our differences and disagreements. The culture we find is a multiplicity of things. So we must keep looking for that which gives unity to the culture, that which maintains and sustains it. And, in that search, we find that the thing that gives unity and direction to our culture, because it understands and explains and speaks and interprets it, is our language, the Spanish language as Puerto Ricans speak it. The language is the magic key for penetrating and understanding the kingdom of culture and the finite and contradictory existence we live.

Puerto Rican culture is the dialectic synthesis of three distinct ethnicities: the Spanish, the Taino and the African, and by dialectic we mean the constant struggle of humanity with nature, himself and his peers. It is the conflict of mankind as simultaneously the protagonist and spectator of his transformation and change. From the three-way biological, linguistic and economic confrontation that was created by the Spanish conquest and colonization emerged that which is Puerto Rican and configured the phenomenon of our culture, expressing it in the Spanish language. Let’s go to the heart of the matter. Let’s continue this exploration of the paths of the culture.

The Spanish conquerors imposed the Western culture on the pre-Columbian indigenous cultures by force and violence. Human butchery repeated. The catastrophe of conquest for power was the signature characteristic of Western civilization from the moment it flowered in the first civilizations on the plains of Mesopotamia. From the earliest mutterings of the oldest myths appears the violence at the hands of the ruling gods who held on to their power with the help of shamans, witches and priests. Since those remote times, violence, politics and religion have walked together obliquely, looking for a chance to strike a coup and rise to power. Machiavelli, that sharp-eyed Italian observer of politics in the times of the Renaissance, after knowing well the most illustrious politicians, popes, diplomats, kings and captains of armies, constables, and mercenary soldiers who had served princes and pontiffs, and then advanced in years, sat down and described politics with a single word: Power. Politics is the pursuit of power, free of obstacles and philosophical theories, free of idealistic interpretations and utopian republics. Power is pursued through force and violence and for that it was necessary to allow the new nation states what was called the monopoly on violence to protect themselves against those who defied power and to carry out the policy of the state, whatever it might be. The truly tragic part of all of this is how the repellent absolutist philosophy of Machiavelli and Hobbes consecrated the powerful European empires that governed the world from the Discovery until the two World Wars of this century. This half dozen superpowers, legitimate descendants of the Roman Empire, were baptized with Machiavelli’s holy water, beginning with the powerful Spanish empire which, along with Portugal, an expert in the sale of African slaves, and with the cooperation of the Catholic Church, established with admirable skill and with the later intervention and help of the British empire, the Dutch empire and the Napoleonic empire, a colonial system in almost all of the New World whose disastrous consequences we see today: poverty, hunger, pornography, drugs, crime and disease everywhere.

The conquest led to the confrontation with the aboriginal cultures of the New World and, of course, the clash between the Spanish language and the pre-Columbian dialects.

The horror of the catastrophe of the conquest is that those of us condemned to this mass murder, this historical holocaust in terms of ethics and justice, are left confused and perplexed because despite the universal butchery of the conquest, despite slavery and human suffering, this actor and observer, this violent and horrible being, which is the human animal, has been able, despite his violence, his voracity and selfishness, to raise himself ever further from his animal condition and even go to the moon and walk upon it, defying the laws of nature. And what is even more surprising: creating a human being in a laboratory test tube by making use of technology made possible by his nature. Who dares judge this human entity, violent and enigmatic, source of both fratricidal war and the astonishing progress he has brought to the world? Who can explain this incompatibility, this surprising paradox? It is like saying humorously: “He who possesses the violence can do anything with impunity as if he were Nietzsche’s superman.” It may be an obvious contradiction, but to the best of my knowledge, I know of no theologian or philosopher, no scholar or historian, who has explained, to my complete satisfaction, this effable paradox. Not even St. Augustine himself, in The City of Gods, not even the dark genius of speculative German philosophy called Hegel, in his Philosophy of History, not Spengler in his Decadence of the West, not even the surprisingly learned scholar of history, Arnold Toynbee, with whom I had the privilege of speaking when he was honored by the Legislature while he was here at the invitation of the University of Puerto Rico, shortly before I took a seat in the House of Representatives. None of these great scholars of history have been able to explain to me this paradox. The only thing I’ve found that’s thoughtful is a philosophical expression by a character in Shakespeare who says: “There are other worlds beyond your philosophies.” But let’s get back to the language.

The Spanish that the conquistadores transplanted to the Indians of the Caribbean, where they first settled after discovering the New World and before beginning to penetrate the continent, was not the traditional language of Castile or the old kingdom of Leon and the Asturias of old medieval times. As noted by the current president of the Puerto Rican Academy of Language, the notable Puerto Rican philologist Manuel álvarez Nazario, in his valuable work titled Process in the Spanish Era in Puerto Rico, the Spanish that came to Cuba, Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico, was the result of a harmonized union of the language of New Castile, of Toledo, the dialects of Extremadura and the Andalusia border, and in part the language inherited by the re-conquistadores with Mozarabic origin or Arabic-Andalusian influence. We have to remember that the Muslim invasion of Spanish territory lasted for eight centuries and ended in the time when Isabel discussed with Christopher Columbus the terms of the memorable voyage that ended with the discovery of a new world. To all of this varied range of Spanish forms we have mentioned, we have to add the dialect of the Canary Islands and the vocabulary and phraseology of the Cantabrian region, the linguistic injection of Mediterranean sailors, as well as the additions of Andalusian, Basque, and Portuguese travelers. This diversity of elements, along with an abundance of indigenous words coming from the pre-Columbian languages and Afro-Antillean dialects, came together and formed, over time, what the great Spanish philologist, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, later called a common language like Castile, with the unmistakable seal of Seville, the city that was then so important because it was the entrance to passage to the Indies of the New World.

According to philologist álvarez Nazario, the mark that the insular Arawak language left on the Spanish of the Greater Antilles since the late 15th century is extremely important. It was the Arawak culture the Spanish clashed with when they arrived in the New World. Despite its brevity, the Arawak language contributed more than 500 indigenous words to Antillean Spanish, collected, by ear, by the first chroniclers, Spanish priests and royal officials.

In the same way, says álvarez Nazario, the various vernacular African languages contributed, to a lesser degree than the Arawak, a vocabulary of African and Afro-Spanish words, as well as words from so-called “black speech” that continued until the late 19th century in Puerto Rico.

In this long night of Spanish colonialism that lasted four centuries, in this type of slave society in which we were born, Puerto Ricans searched with cleverness and instinct for our archetypes, as Jung would say, in search of our identity, in search of our Puerto Rican roots to be able to identify ourselves, until one night we discovered the archetype of the Puerto Rican jíbaro. We discovered him to the sound of local music, from the strings of a cuatro guitar at a Christmas party in the high coffee country. He was playing a folk song and the jíbaros were dancing around him until dawn. But coming down from the party, we find the brother archetype to the jíbaro, of African descent, with a machete in hand, who was the one who planted and harvested the cane and made possible the powerful sugar industry, our sweet and bitter cane, which provided us with sustenance for four centuries. This is the archetype of Puerto Rican blackness that was consecrated forever in the work of our great poet Luis Palés Matos. The theme of blackness was also consecrated in the work Vejigantes by our playwright, Francisco Arriví, and in the drama La resentida, by Enrique Laguerre, the author of La llamarada, a unique novel about our cane plantations. The culture of Puerto Rican blackness is now in full display, thanks to the extraordinary explosion of popular music and our Afro-Antillean music on the international level. We continue looking for the most expressive brushstrokes of our culture until we link together in our literature the language of the jíbaro, the mulatto and the Creole. Popular poetry claimed the décima, and made of it an abundant, broad and varied expression. Folk stories proliferated like the décima. We invigorated ourselves with the lyric breath of our romantic and modernist poets. Our land and its problems found expression in novels, short stories and in the theater, and now we have the hard work of linguistic renewal to incorporate into the wealth of our language the hybrid speech of our times and new voices that come to our territory from the sciences, industry and technology.

All of this linguistic-cultural wealth is ours. It belongs to the Puerto Ricans as the work of language and indigenous, Spanish and African blood, a linguistic and biological web in which our culture flowered to the beat of the words, with language as the way to a Puerto Rican being, as a display of nationality and national awareness, a phenomenon common to all the peoples of the globe. This same national phenomenon is the one that broke out into the wars of independence by the Spanish-speaking people of the Americas at the beginning of the last century; the same phenomenon that, after five centuries, reappears today under the sign of autonomy for nationalities in Spain, in Canada, in Great Britain. A strange phenomenon, this nationality that appears to be inseparably tied to language and culture since the late Middle Ages, when the Romance languages began to form from the ruins of Latin and for the first time the word “nation” was heard among students of the first medieval universities who grouped themselves into “nations” based on the languages they spoke and the kingdom they came from. We talk of this step, when this national sentiment was institutionalized and politically organized as one that could become a movement of affirmation and defense of nationality, but it also could become a chauvinist movement at the service of ignoble causes such as el racism and imperialism.

Language is a unique happening in evolution. It marked the culminating moment when the human animal made the great metaphorical leap and separated from nature to become part of the kingdom of culture, of ideas and understanding, through a system of phonetic symbols radically different from the genetic code. Along with language appeared the mysterious cognitive function of awareness that makes it possible for the human being to identify himself as an entity and a thinking being. Thanks to language, we can explain the structure of society as a complex system of communications through symbols.

There is a connection between being Puerto Rican, our thought and our language that cannot be dissolved, which is why it is essential to take care of our language. Forgetting it is the same as forgetting our being. In the same measure that we set aside our language, we will lose our sensibilities as Puerto Rican beings. In the measure that we displace our language and acquire another, we are transforming our way of being and thinking. We are transforming into another being that would not be the Puerto Rican being. It would be another, but not ours. In my view, this dangerous transformation is already begun in our community. This metamorphosis is in large measure the consequence of the deep political division that exists in the Puerto Rican community and the moral decay we suffer in the form of disorientation, doubt, cynicism and apathy in Puerto Rico today.

Mainly responsible for this decay is the colonial system under which we still suffer. Of the Western institutions that the Spanish conquistadors brought to Puerto Rico and the institutions that they created, some have disappeared and others are in the process of deterioration. Slave society disappeared, as did the slave trade. The system of distributing land and indigenous people as slaves to settlers by the crown also disappeared. The huge plantations disappeared. All of this was transformed into another system of colonial exploitation for the exclusive benefit of Spain, disguised with the resonant name of European mercantilism under the protective mantle of an absolutist state. This system ended with the war between Spain and the United States in 1898. Since then, for more than a century, Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Human societies, without exception, are constrained by their own nature to renew themselves periodically due to the incessant creativity and discovery of the human being, through scientific and technological developments and through the mysterious passage of time in history. This means that now is the time to renew our aspirations, our view of the world. We must reflect on our collective lives and reclaim what is best for us politically, always keeping in mind that our main weakness is the economy. The economy is an essential factor in achieving stability in human communities. Without the economy and without the language, human existence is not possible. I believe that with wisdom, mutual understanding, good faith and sacrifice, we can build our own economy. What we should never do is negotiate or renounce our language in exchange for the economy. That would be our collective suicide.

Language cannot be changed the way one changes citizenship. Citizenship is a legal concept. Language is not. Language is an enigma of human evolution. Each language has its own peculiar lens for understanding the world, a unique relationship with the poetry of its landscape, with co-existence, religion, politics, the arts, and with the habits, customs and aspirations of those who speak it. Language is our unique sign of identity. When we insist on caring for it and preserving it, it is not that we are repudiating other languages nor trying to isolate them, but rather the contrary. We want self-affirmation, like other languages, within the context of our culture. We want self-affirmation within the universal plurality of languages. We do not mean to say that our language is superior, but that it is the only one appropriate for expressing who we are. Only Puerto Ricans can explain our own reality, our own truth.

I repeat. This is the moment to raise the paradigm of our collective aspirations. Move forward without fear or regret, always attentive and vigilant to the important role of politics. Move forward working, reading, learning, informing ourselves of everything important that happens in the world, in the field of natural sciences, in the arts and in sports, in technology, in the humanities and in high culture, with the powerful help of our mother tongue, the universal language of Don Quixote of La Mancha.

Author: Manuel Méndez Ballester
Published: April 22, 2015.

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