Francisco Arriví, Humanist of the Year 1982
To all present:
I confess with total sincerity that being so generously named Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities has surprised me to the point of disturbing me, because those recognized before me include professors of the stature of Dr. Margot Arce, Dr. Concha Meléndez and Lidio Cruz Monclova, of whom I can imagine being eternal disciples, but never their equals.
Along with Dr. Rubén del Rosario, Dr. Josefina Rodríguez and Dr. Antonio S. Pedreira, and all of the Spanish Studies Department, the professor of music and creator of the University of Puerto Rico choir, Augusto Rodríguez, put me on the launch pad for professional life with the lyrics (I am the author) of the Hymn to the Alma Mater: We sing together / a hymn to the Alma Mater / We sing with spirit / the hymn of life /that announces youth / love and freedom / of glory to the fighter / honor to the University. Yesterday, as today and tomorrow, the voices of youth who love the humanistic creed, of greater understanding among the Puerto Rican people of the essence of the national culture that is their own, will resonate from the past to the present to the future as a standard of redemption against the deculturation that imposed on us the teaching not of English, but in English, and even the teaching in English of Latin, the mother of our vernacular and of French, the sister language. Also, against the anti-culturation that three years ago began in the holocaust at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture with the separation of the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts due to priorities that were not part of what it was imagined for, created for and built for as the sanctuary of our soul and spirit as a Spanish American nation, entrapping the best spirits of heritage and covering up the assault under the weight of false national cultures in a zombie superstructure promoting the unintelligible designation of a nameless culture that is an act of de-legitimization for a people who have their own culture and it is that one — ours — they are and want to be.
In opposition to the deculturation of the vernacular language were these seven teachers and against anticulturation have been those who survived the holocaust of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture under the false flag of Puerto Ricannism.
No, I cannot compare myself to those seven teachers who have struggled against deculturation and anticulturation and instilled in me their humanistic creed. I will always hold them higher than myself, at age forty-five, in terms of their knowledge and work of the existential god of Borinquen, or in other words the active awareness of a national culture impelled by the will of the Puerto Rican…
I dedicate to them, therefore, this speech as the exercise of a semi-eternal student of theirs, which renews me with love and freedom and fills me with pleasure because I feel alive and, though silent in body, not in spirit, and my chest swells with the hymn to the Alma Mater.
I ask the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities, if it is possible, to credit this extraordinarily significant prize to a student of the humanities, if they so determine. If not, I will be content to be able to read this work dedicated to the seven teachers and all the others who have helped me be, if not intelligent, a loyal and meaningful fighter for the Puerto Rican culture. Among those who are firmly behind me are my wife and children, although they have seriously worried that it could cost me my life.
I know that giving my life for being a native of Borinquen is greater than losing it for implementing lethal deculturations and anticulturations in the Puerto Rican culture. I firmly believe through experience of the dark leading to the light and to unification, to cite a metaphor, that the will to be Puerto Rican came to me after a first period of unawareness, a second period of illumination, at the demands of my poetry, theater and essays, and one of unification. When I feel alive because of the active awareness of the national culture within, which I call, in the two-part poetic-dramatic work Deep in the Ceiba and Areyto-Cemí-Coquí, the existential god, reached earlier without name in the dramatic poems In the Tenuous Geography and Scupltor of Shadow, the latter experienced in 1971 as a theatrical adaptation. Anthropologist and poet Eugenio Fernández Méndez considered it (though I did not write it down, I remember it well) “a breakthrough in the advance of staging in Puerto Rico,” all because the central narrator becomes a ceiba in front of the eyes of the audience after a choir around him transforms into roots of the sacred tree. The choir should undress at the time of becoming roots, but it was not possible to do that as I proposed in the Playwright’s directions.
As an act of fusion and liberation in the existential god, I began asking in 1947 with Four Shadows on the Cemí or María Soledad (I should not have changed the first name of my drama five times rewriting it) for what did not come until 1976 with the Ponce Theatrical Company, under the scenic direction of Luis Torres Nadal. The nudity in my theater is nothing but a climax of the liberation of conscience — existential god — and if it is not done it cuts short the full arrival of the will to be Puerto Rican that it dramatizes.
Such appears the experimental setting of the dramatic book of poetry In the Tenuous Geography that propels a new entrance into Ceiba, as well as overcoming the reader, now pure voice in the air under open sky and above the nudity of roots, transparency of trunk and branches, repeated in Deep in the Ceiba with ramifications in the three progressive components of Areyto-Cemí-Coquí titled Of the Sacred Interior Areyto, Liquefy the Cemí that Enslaves You (final version of María Soledad) and Of the Coquí and the Sidereal Distances, roots and trunk, the first book of poetry and three levels of ramification, the second that allows the poet to rise to the infinite celestial spaces aided naturally by the energy of the imagination that authorizes his poetic license to metaphorize the will of the liberation of the soul and the spirit that urges him to redeem his natural being, in this case the Puerto Rican accosted by deculturation and anticulturation, which is more theatrical in the eighth and last book of poems in the series that evolved from Island and Nothing, a pure book of poetry, to Hurricane Parts the Wind, poems-drama-essay and the beginning of a novel, and is latent in the poems-drama Sculptor of Shadow, and progresses strength to strength in In the Tenuous Geography, Deep in the Ceiba and the three parts of Areyto-Cemí-Coquí, and broadens to a poem-drama-essay-novel in Hurricane Parts the Wind, in which the Poet of Fronda House and the Priest of the National Areyto Chapel faces Robot, Featherweight, Senile Buffoon, Helpfool and Flautítere Rabizo, disoriented vejigantes who try to become a rag doll to the maiden Borikén Borinquen, vestal del Temple of the Ceiba, for diabolical adoration of the Limboides, children of the annoying Limbocia, who stops the Poet from conquering her with silk-gloved claws and hiding in the Holy Ceiba. He is obliged with her to go toward celestial spaces, as he has discovered how to do it through a process of study and sensitization through the continuous metaphorical excitation essayed in Island and Nothing, to Frontier, to Cycle of the Absent and progressive discovery of the magic art in Sculptor of Shadow, In the Tenuous Geography, Deep in the Ceiba and Areyto-Cemí-Coquí. He takes advantage of this for the eternal salvation of the beautiful vestal Borikén Borinquen, like Güiraldes to the gaucho Don Segundo Sombra, in the Cruz del Sur: four intense bright stars that, in the country of limbo are called the Cruz de Mayo because they shine vertically over sea, plains and mountains in the month of the flowers.
The publication of this novelistic-poetic-dramatic-essay odyssey, impelled by the existential god of my homeland, homeland since lsland and Nothing, starting with the poem From the Silence that Could Be, says better than the author can…
All the voices of my island / dance me toward you / You / behind the wave that sounds hoarsely / over the sunken geography of coral / You / behind the waves of the blood-colored flamboyan/ wounded by the arrows of the trade winds / You / behind the dangling wings of the bamboo / rung by the flowing kiss of the rivers / You / behind the mockingbird that trills and lights / the sharp flash of the clouds / You / behind the fixed tremble of the stars / when the shadows stop the coquis / You / eternally you / presence of unfading silence / You hint without lips / without inspiration in forgetfulness / of the voices that dance me toward you: / voice of the sea hoarse on the coral / voice of the tremulous flamboyan in the trade winds / voice of the bamboo running with water / voice of the mockingbird lit by the light / voice of the coqui stopped by the shadows / Tell me, tell me! / what do you want of me / from your mute and deaf fountain? / Without stirring the air you lure me / toward the silence that could be/ while / like the whistle of the bat / only allows me to define the intangible contours of the sound /… and to the constellation of Borikén Borinquen in the Cruz de Mayo/ I dance toward inspiration / disguised in indescribable distances / I dance a counterpoint of galaxies echoing in themselves. The Poet returns to face the massacre of deculturation and anticulturation of merciless vejigantes, to be called Third Testament, (third Indo-Hispanic-African with respect to second Judaic-Helenic descendent of the first, Jewish) which leads to the prologue of the book Time of the Clock, poetry freed in verse, prose and dialogue, of 1929, when fleeing the student routines, One and one two / say no more goodbye / and /Patatin, patatao / you were sweeter than honey I wrote, looking furtively at the young, eighth-grade Spanish teacher, overflowing with sweet Puerto Ricanness and in love with our 19thcentury, when my heart looks at you / I become a star until the poem had to be recited by someone who would not murder it like me, who repudiates murder and the idea that I am murdered and murder myself, too.
Third Testament has as epilogue a poem-drama-essay-novel titled “Stronger than its Total Cross,” a short evangelization written in English with the purpose of rescuing the faith of the non-believers of our culture, worried victims of deculturation and anticulturation that have created schizophrenic Puerto Ricans. They are nationals misguided by the compulsion in their souls toward a different language that comes from the foreign economic-cultural power. Let me clarify here that for me, the Puerto Rican culture, as the basic spiritual support for our identity as a people, is above party politics, and the negative conduct of any of those who are against Borikén Borinquen constitutes a crime against nature.
In one way or another, all of us suffer a little, and need a vaccination against, the catatonia that is caused when we let ourselves be confused by the hurricane of culturation production from abroad that blows away the will to be Puerto Rican and against which there is no remedy other than a cocktail of Puerto Rican culture in the marrow of the being.
At the peak of Vejigantes, in 1955 I wrote the first poem of Island and Nothing, which established the poetic tone in Sculptor of Shadow and Cocktail of Mr. Nobody, inside out and backwards, respectively, with my identification with the existential god, or in other words, the fusion with the active consciousness of the cultural essence of the Puerto Rican man that Piri Fernández explained, in the face of the lack of understanding of Cocktail of Mr. Nobody in the essay “May Puerto Rico not Die!” published in the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Magazine, which led me to give birth to twins as I tried to write the same poem-drama In the Tenuous Geography and the wink of Highball of Serpents.
The first was published in 1970 and the second remains in outline (for nineteen years I have promised to finish it with a wink, without doing so) but I can assure you that this student’s exercise has brought me, among many inductions, to the clarification that I should write not something prophetic like Cocktail of Mr. Nobody, but puppetry in the key of what was prophesied then is lived now.
I put into play the highballery, the cocktailery, the night club serpents (excuse my invented words; one or maybe two are pepper that spices it up, but three becomes vomit!) well… I said that the three highballery night club serpents Pif-Paf-Puf descended the rapids in a coffin, the highballers governed by a man disguised as a vejigante, but for positive, not negative purposes, who was in charge of resuscitating Malandrín, Erratín, Zanganín, Masacotín and Bolondrín Rabizo, the precursors to Robot, Featherweight, Senile Buffoon, Helpfool and Flautítere Rabizo and free them from Burundanga, Babia and Limbocia, through the secret arts I hide, the lucidity of Puerto Ricanness that has the evolution from Burundanguism to Babiequismo to Limbocismo encapsulated within. Outside, it shows the mistaken purpose of collective schizophrenia that it suffers because of the external economic-cultural hurricane, one of those disoriented vejigantes being the most perverse Bolondrín Rabizo, father of Flautítere Rabizo and a future professor, or better put, disguised as a professor in the Temple of the Ceiba.
This time, the nineteenth time I’ve announced it, Highball of Serpents motivated the deculturations and anticulturations of being Puerto Rican, which showed heroic resistance to the refined Luis Manuel Rodríguez Morales, accompanied by the great founding project leader and evolution leader of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, Ricardo E. Alegría, those who watch over Borinquen, one, in the Puerto Rico Legislature, and the second in the same body that holds court in UNESCO, constellations that add to the mythical trio of the Poet of Fronda House and the Priest of the National Areytos Chapel, framed by the stars that can be clearly seen over the horizon looking from the Burundanga of Singles Club, or Babia of Cocktail of Mr. Nobody or the Limbocia of Highball of Serpents. The three countries are only farcical symbols of a Puerto Rico that is not the one that should exist but derives its existence from its natural being. I would not have to laugh bitterly about the tremendous tragedy of the soul and spirit of Camelot smashed in the Palace of Santa Catalina at the end of the 19th century and successively converted into the Burundangués kingdom, the Babieca realm and the Limbocio duchy, three and one and the same that suffer from zombie limbo before the tremendous reality that they rest on a mattress of atomic bombs.
I will casually clarify that this tragedy of Borikén Borinquen, redeemable with eternal life through creation based on her culture, is what motivates the absurd trilogy of puppets that began directed by me at the Student Fair at the Ponce High School and later in ten, fourteen, and I think no more than nineteen years later, was translated into Singles Club, final version, Cocktail of Mr. Nobody and ends in Highball of Serpents, with the appendix Singles 72, which was nothing more than a guide (Singles Club set to music and a little reformed in that the inanimate are animated) to the highballed that we see now.
Let me try to explain the implicit purpose of having simultaneously written Cocktail of Mr. Nobody and Sculptor of Shadow, which was to expose the tragedy of the Puerto Rican culture in the cocktail party at the time offering the cure of more of the same through a magic ritual leading to the conversion of the ceiba declared in Sculptor of Shadow. The new birth of twins did not set. I only achieved one of them, which was In the Tenuous Geography, or in other words, Sculptor of Shadow evolved. Found almost forgotten in the garage of my house, without being able to join it with its twin Highball of Serpents, evolution of Cocktail of Mr. Nobody, which it appeared did not want to emerge at that time, and which if I hadn’t written I would deserve to be impaled along with the deculturators and anticulturators. Its characters were screaming at me, like the six of Pirandello, not in a skeptical work consistent with reality, but in works of affirmation of the will to be Puerto Rican that brings dynamism to my poetry, my theater, my novels (paradoxically, the absurdity makes me remember my theory in Zig Zag, seminar of Jorge Felices and Carlos Soler Lacroix, fresh out of Central High School and I a senior student proposing to look at human achievement from the reverse).
This last genre is still latent, except for a story written at Central High School, The Blue Eyes, and the evocative Caguana Theater, but now feel like fighting with the twins Sculptor of Shadow – Cocktail of Mr. Nobody, expanding on them in the twins In the Tenuous Geography – Highball of Serpents (outline) basing the twinness on Ceiba-Areyto-Cemí-Coquí totally openly in Hurricane Parts the Wind, including in the appendix Stronger than its Total Cross, a little of which you can see in my earlier piece Bolero and Plena, Case of Death in Life, a fantasy-real drama in which a man under race and class pressures bears within himself the utopian will to be Puerto Rican. This work is the prologue of the trilogy Puerto Rican Mask that I expanded on in Bolero and Plena, a suite of two works inspired, respectively, by the bolero of Rafael Hernández, “Silencio,” and a plena, “Tanta vanidad,” by folk artist Jarea, written and perhaps surpassed by Hernández; Sirena, inspired by the danza “Vano empeño,” by Juan Morell Campos (Campito, he was called familiarly by all the people of Ponce, although he could not dance in the casino of the society that performed his danzas); Vejigantes, a bomba dance in three acts, inspired by the bomba of Loíza known as “Coralito” or “Joyalito,” part of the three works of a rite of death and resurrection of the African heritage of our culture and its social projections stirred up by a castrating prejudice. The ideal proposed by Clarita, the moral liberator at the end of the possession at the end of Vejigantes, when her mother, undone by racial fantasies, and her grandmother, brought from the back room of the Puerto Rican stage, march toward an Eden-like garden of the soul and the spirit of Borinquen. At that moment, Clarita says: “The blood of all men joins in tears of the flamboyans,” those that are rooted, triumphant and flowering in Remedios Necesidad, a central character in Cocktail of Mr. Nobody. But they can do nothing against her soul, the deculturators and anticulturators, because the Cemí that ensures the fertility of that which is planted, the Puerto Ricanized Santiago, now fighting for the fusion of Moors and Christians, and the Ogún of the mother jungle of the original man, call for inevitable union in the active awareness of the Borinquenness of the Puerto Rican man. Existential god’s urgency I outlined in realistic symbolic dramas. The Devil Becomes Human, Lighting, Four Shadows on the Cemí or María Soledad, Story of Hades, Case of Death in Life, Bolero and Plena, Sirena and Vejigantes, in the philosophical and comic-tragic play of Singles Club, Cocktail of Mr. Nobody, Singles 72 and in the poetry-drama-essay-novel magic of the Puerto Rican soul in the continuous lyrical existential flow of Island and Nothing, Frontier, Cycle of the Absent, Sculptor of Shadow, In the Tenuous Geography, Deep in the Ceiba, Areyto-Cemí-Coquí and Hurricane Parts the Wind, with prologue by Time of the Clock, an earlier book and the appendix written in English, Stronger than its Total Cross, which affirms the conscience / is an existential god within the skull / confronting impossible angles / in the pool game of the world.
It is obvious in The Devil Becomes Human and Lighting that I still walk on the dark side of the soul, but soul, in the end, moved by spirit. From Four Shadows on the Cemí or María Soledad, I began to define myself as Puerto Rican from the most distant past of the Puerto Rican culture within its indigenous land. In Story of Hades, cut off of Case of Death in Life, I questioned the Afro-black component, which I found in the hopeful unification for the future that I began to dramatize in Cocktail of Mr. Nobody and consolidate, in a struggle not to let sink into the black hole (euphemistically the name jíbaros gave to the homes of demons) what memory brought me. Winking we went, to that pure word in Spain, the Spanish Americas, and Puerto Rico, brought euphemistically to the ear, but not to sight, in a television commercial in which a plump young woman arches her immensity of Tembandumba of Quimbanba and, pointing to a container of automotive liquid, says “And I know about coolant.” (Oh, fearsome subconscious that cuts the thread of my speech for such an example of deculturation that results from the example of anticulturization that occurs when, in a merciful attempt at decapitation, a philosopher, in ecstasy and free of irony, exclaims “Democracy is beautiful!” to say in Spanish: “¡Cuánta iniquidad!“).
I showed the absurdity of grave cultural deformations in Stronger than its Total Cross, one of whose poems begins / God is justly the life / a continuous crucifixion / the Golgatha began / with the awakening of awareness in man.
The economic-cultural power of the United States puts the little Borinquen of the soul in absolute danger of becoming a Portoricoiuesei,which it would already be if not for the Center for Caribbean Studies, crowned by the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities for valuable institutions that love the natural order that is Puerto Rican culture in Puerto Rico. Otherwise the terrible hurricane would leave us, a candy of a coqui, in the showcase of the five and ten.
Respect Malandrín, Erratín, Zanganín, Masacotín, Bolondrín Rabizo. We will be Indians, Spanish, Afro-mulattoes from the coast from Senegal to Angola, mestizos, Zambos, in short, a fair of multi-webbed skins, all violently together on the Hacienda of Juan Ponce de León in Caparra after the guaitiao of the Chief Mabó and the red-haired Spaniard on the hill between the Bayamón and Piedras Rivers. But by Tainos, Spanish and Dingas-Mandingas together eating the casaba bread of the former (baptized bread of the earth by the second, because of the lack of flour, and the third who were brought in slavery gave it no name), to work together (although the one from Spain gave the orders, punished, some thinking of the Cemí, others of Santiago Apóstol, dominator of the Moors, the third of Ogún), mixing concubinely, fighting together against the Caribs, pirates both within and beyond the law, armies within and from without, the Terrible 87, nation within and nation without and hurricanes, hurricanes, ad infinitum, they ended up one day recognizing all in one, the Puerto Rican man, descendent of one ethnic history and two prehistories and, recognizing a single soul formed by the cemi, the saint and ogun, the jíbaro of the coast or the mountains, the Boricua, Borinqueño, Puerto Rican with the will to be in a culture of their own, religious will of existential god of the land against deculturations ingested to nothing and anticulturations ejected to emptiness.
What is certain is the laughable, mistaken, euphemistic “coolant,” line of the laughed-at exile, and the senile application of the concept “Democracy is beautiful” when it was used, are nothing more than infamous examples of the crushing atomization of our vernacular language and the sclerotic overturning of our thought by the effects of the external economic-cultural cyclotron internalized in the depth of our heritage to the point that it has created a pacific civil war, sequel to the pacific revolution of previous years that loosed the industrial economy dependent on man that is the product of four centuries and so many years of solitude. After being formed in the violence of the Indo-Hispano-Afro broth of the Hacienda of Juan Ponce de León, followed by the Royal Farms of the Catholic Royalty Ferdinand and Isabel on the banks of the Toa River, the national man not seen beyond his borders until he stood up and put on his own map a redeeming poet and began to rise among the other nations of the world, not with the Casals Festival, Inc., which was imposed on the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts, but with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which created the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts to represent and explain to the internal and external world the particular humanistic conflict of the man representative of the island called Borikén by the first to enter it, San Juan Bautista by those who came to conquer it, and Borinquen when those who were brought in slavery and were added to the cake made by the same jibaridad, with more drums but the same at the base. They have ascended through the humanistic veins of a culture, which is always how they ascend through sex, food, work and a communal god, simple or complex, to spiritual unity, in this case, the Puerto Rican culture, daughter of three ethnicities and its transubstantiated combinations in the unifying embrace of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and not in the Casals Festival, lnc., which has been made today, by its prioritization by the long arm of the representative of our sacred national culture, into the ultimate agent of anticulturation and, at the same time, deculturation.
My absolute responsibility to defend the Puerto Rican humanities is forever truncated, incomparable to that of any other Spanish American people, when I communicate with other humanists of the world, to learn about how the Areyto Theatrical Arts National Foundation began with Emilio S. Belaval, backed by Vicente Géigel Polanco, president of the Puerto Rican Athenaeum, alongside the Theater of the Drama Department at the University of Puerto Rico, with exceptions, and achieved by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture through its Theater Promotion Office and the Festival of Puerto Rican Theater, supplemented by the Festival of International Theater, the theater festivals of Ponce and Mayagüez, the Avant Garde Theater Festival of the Puerto Rican Athenaeum generated by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which also generated the Festival of Latin American Theater at the Coop-Arte Theater, with the production by a group of stage artists of great theatrical merit, Areyto Mayor. All of this was subject to the responsibility to develop a national theater equal to the great international expressions of the theater of Latin America and the rest of the world. Result: Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts, the monumental thesis by Angelina Morfi, Critical History of a Century of Puerto Rican Theater, and the grand finale, Bibliography of the Puerto Rican Theater, Centuries 19 and 20, by Nilda González, extraordinary books for those who hope to add to the thesis The Dramatic Actor in Puerto Rican Society, by the same Nilda González, and Persona: Life and Mask in Puerto Rican Theater, by Matías Montes Huidobro, successive coronations of dramaturgical light on our national theater.
I unconditionally added my poetry, my theater and my essays to the cause of Puerto Rican man, of Taino, Spanish and black African arcs, beyond my bureaucratic position, to that of Augusto Rodríguez, in and beyond the University of Puerto Rico Chorus, the soul of Gautier Benítez, of Juan Morell Campos, of José de Diego, mounted on the bay pony of Luis Llorens Torres, with the urgent rhythms of distant Africa of Luis Palés Matos, the San Juan urbanity, sonorous and elegant, of Evaristo Rivera Chevremont and variations of the deep drama of Julia de Burgos.
Wings unfolded from the bay pony like Pegasus, from the Ponce High School, where I founded the Student Fair with the support of directors Mariano Villaronga and Jacinto Sugrañes and student actresses Eloína Pérez and Onellys Hernández; at the Open Air School, where I founded the Puerto Rican Tinglado, inspired by Emilio S. Belaval, Enrique Laguerre, Manuel Méndez Ballester, Ligia Marchand, Madeline Willemsen, Lucy Boscana, José Luis Torregrosa, Rafael Benliza, Francisco Matos Paoli, with expert theatrical and all-around support from Lucy and Madeline, on Public Radio (WIPR- Radio) where José A. Buitrago backed the development of the Puerto Rican Tinglado, allowing use of the radio studio, from which we extended cooperation to the Experimental Theater of Nilita Vientos and René Marqués and to the Tapia Theater of Rafael Ríos. I was encouraged by Wilfredo Braschi, with his thesis Points for the Critical History of Contemporary Puerto Rican Theater, Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, with his Teyo Gracia, Alberto Zayas with his theater directing, Flavia Lugo and her visitor, Carlos Marichal, respectively, with their Childhood Joys and lessons on staging, José Antonio Ortiz with journalism and acting, then Enrique Laguerre with his Starting Points, until flying in the open sky of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture where Enrique Laguerre, again, Ricardo E. Alegría and Luis Manuel Rodríguez Morales, opened their enormous national hearts to mine, lit up by the will to be Puerto Rican. That will began as a child when I saw the waving shadow of a Puerto Rican flag and over the place of birth of my mother, transubstantiator of my jibaridad of crabs and oysters, if you will (in the Santurce Market Plaza, near where I lived, the jíbaros with guitars, bordonúas, cuatros and tiples, maracas, güiros and blacks from Loíza vejiganteando to the beat of the drums), read the poem of sirens and waves in front of the display windows of Old San Juan and was moved by the elegant handiwork and sweet voices of my two aunts, who like my mother, were artisans of my shirts and delicacies such as honey candies, rice with coconut, orange sweet potato candies and the beautiful drawings of letters to write when the heart sees you / it makes me the star/ and a farewell to the Spanish II teacher at Central High School with goodbye, white dove, goodbye / your wings on the air / your goal the illusion/ and to sing you a dream /Diaphanous are the waters of your eyes / like space without starry lights / or light shadows / or fleeting flash / disturb the cleanliness of your crystals / and a body radiant with grace / It was there… in the blue realm of fantasy / that a sculptor of dream images / lit the light of a hundred stars / in the chalice of the thought / It was there that the composite lily-light / with silken chisel like that of the wind / engraved with the verses of your hands / the exquisite contour of your body. I left it one day like a prophecy in the Poem Class. I wrote to Rubén because the annual El Caribe of 1934 evoked Camelot under a seal with a Latin motto Labor omnia vincit, which can be translated as “Work overcomes all.” (In the distance / between abysmal fissures / a marble castle / we conquer the castle! / In its towers illusions are purified / and Hope blesses its warriors / Griffins, monsters and dragons / guard the roads of the dream / We challenge the monsters! / If they beat us by force, let’s say / glorious those who are victors / divine those who fall in the challenge.)
The castle, as you have already imagined, appeared forty-six years ago among the abysmal fissures of Stop 22 in Santurce. But then as now, there was no Argamasilla de Alba to flatten me, not even the anguish of the beliefs of Kafka, deduced from his novel The Castle, that a nightmarish injustice ruled a man’s life from his birth to his death. Instead, in me prevailed the idea that in the course of the will that the land emanates, an existential god, the active consciousness of the cultural being, in my case, ordered to fight against griffins, monsters and dragons (or, in contemporary Puerto Rican society, Malandrín, Featherweight, Senile Buffoon, Helpfool and Flautítere Rabizo, perhaps a little better than in the Middle Ages because, contrary to the Bionic Woman, they encapsulate the will to be Puerto Rican).
We should not let the harassment of extraordinary negative powers stop us from pushing back against death in life, but rather challenge even harder on the bay pony with the wings of Pegasus that I mounted in my poetry, my theater and my books of essays on the Puerto Rican theater, whether In through the Roots, Puerto Rican Consciousness in Contemporary Theater, The Dramatic Author (I presided over the first Puerto Rican Playwright Seminar, outlined it and assigned the talks and wrote the basic Development of the Puerto Rican Author of 1938 at the First Playwright Seminar), Areyto Mayor, Puerto Rican Dynamic in Professional Theater, Drama Trajectory (self-thesis about my drama written in 1970, the time of the publication of In the Tenuous Geography and beginning of ten glorious years in theater in Puerto Rico, national and international), Theaters of Borikén, Early History of the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts, Program-Relegate-Plunder-Resign, Culture-Heritage-Theater-Anticulture-Holocaust (two titles, the last two make reading the brochure and the book unnecessary). Cemí Buried, Vejigante Sacrificed, content from the lectures read from the beginning of March to the end of November of 1982 in the global classes of Puerto Rico where, prior to this, I gave more or less twenty classes, mentioning the name of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture more than 400 times and, in my role as director of the Office of Theater, urged a collective effort for a national theater of Puerto Rico showing the will of the Borinquen and simultaneously showing theaters of other nations a greater reference for the humanistic work of Puerto Ricans, in their defense and praise. I believe with all sincerity that this is the road to the best redemption of our soul and liberation of our spirit from those Machiavellian cads pointing to the wealth of other cultures and the humble nature of ours since the 19th century. The wealth of creativity of Taino, Spanish and black African will has invested the love of Puerto Rico to the highest level of its races and is the greatest humanistic essence that characterizes us.
What I have looked for in my books of poems, Time of the Clock, poems in free verse, dialogue and prose, to Stronger than its Total Cross, a breviary of reconversion of the unfaithful who, with all their tragic trespasses, some conscious, some unconscious, beyond Hurricane Parts the Wind and Highball of Serpents and this retelling, are susceptible, under changing circumstances, to return to the faith. It is a question of teaching them the history of the nature that encapsulates them against destructive compulsions that originate subconsciously from external twisting and using the intelligence that leads to the self-unmasking of the vejigante in the garden of heritage.
From Cocktail of Mr. Nobody to the outline of Highball of Serpents, I cannot come to agreement with myself whether my drama is in charge of my poetry or my poetry is in charge of my drama (ask Juan Martínez Capó, who observed the phenomenon developing since Island and Nothing), but I can assure you they tell the secret of giving a ceiba the will to be Puerto Rican to defend against the hurricane that parts the violent winds. They also allow us to fly to the vestal of the Temple of the Ceiba constellation in the Cruz de Mayo and, returning to the Island of Disenchantment of today, to fight, with maximum poetic license (which I transfer to all of you by poetic fiat along with the spiritual force of Stronger than its Total Cross) the deculturations and anticulturations raging against the will to be Puerto Rican.Boricuas Borinqueños / is Borinquen to be / a perpetual elegy / stepping-stone of tangents / human migratory gulls / of empires devouring nations / peak between oceans / among narrow strips of land / at the edge of abyss depths of saltwater / object of vaporization / by atomic macro-explosions.
As for what will be my last book of essays, Ceibas, I report that it is extracted from the odyssey narrated by others from my particular identification with the existential god of Borinquen, which is nothing more than the principle of the search for the metaphysical god my affirming teachers of the will to be have reached in life and in death in my poetry, theater, essays and in a series of radio dramas “Heroes of the War,” “Soul of the Legend,” “Pages of our History,” “Hacienda Villareal,” and “Puerto Rican Radio Dramas,” and the television dramas “Yesterday and Today,” “The Boy God,” and “Luis Muñoz Rivera” and that in my perhaps a bit excitable novels in my earlier efforts, novels that wait, still latent, in the compilations of letters, bureaucratic memoirs and also bureaucratic responses to them, newspaper clippings, personal notes, with the four titled: Bureaucratic Crime, The Phoenix Returns to the Ashes, New Ashes, New Phoenix, and Phoenix, Phoenix.
This anti-death disposition, or anti-destructive, starts from the continuing example of the will to be Puerto Rican in the magisterial work of Dr. Margot Arce, who expanded my knowledge of Spanish American literature references to Puerto Rico, Lidio Cruz Monclova who, no less, pushed me into the history that begins with the three races on the estate of Juan Ponce de León and grounded me in Puerto Rican literature as a product of the man who grew, Dr. Josefina Rodríguez López, who in her course “Don Juan in Universal Literature,” covered the four hundred and more years and made me think that the man who sought sex without spirit could well be the symbol of the conqueror, originator of the interior lack of harmony in Borinquen heritage against which the Puerto Rican man has fought. It moved me to write the absurd Singles Club, in which the symbols represented by man and woman struggle for harmony, as later ángel, the school teacher, will struggle for justice among the classes in The Devil Becomes Human. This is the fusion of the same within the humanistic man who understands the devil more as a fault of himself than an external entity, which culminates in Gilberto, the journalist in Lighting, rebel inside the newspaper because of the deculturation and anticulturation of the heritage to someone whom life has shown in the midst of his great desperation due to the death of Beatriz, his wife, that procreation of the flesh brings with it renovation of hope. Dr. Rubén del Rosario, who made me travel the rocky ground of the Spanish language to the point of pointing to me as a possible recipient of the Menéndez Pidal medal, an option that detoured me to look over the Borinquen of Antonio S. Pedreira and Augusto, one asking me to write my first essay that I converted into graduate school paper, The Poetic Motifs of Rafael Hernández, on a two-week vacation between Christmas Eve and Three Kings Day, accompanying the friends Jorge Cestero, Raúl Grau Archilla, Jorge Grau Berreteaga, Augusto Palmer and Rafael Arzuaga, the last two who are still colleagues every day. The five slept in the camp in the watery heart of El Yunque after breathing deeply the love of homeland from the peak with a face of stone and dreams of clouds, while I turned my eyes to the Cancionero de Sal de Uvas Picot, read the lyrics, accompanied mentally by the music of / Preciosa / preciosa they call you / the bards / who sing your history / Beautiful cocoon of the wallflower / if you knew my pain / Perfume of gardenias /in your mouth / beautiful flashes of light in your look / There is in your eyes / the magic look /and the bewitched aroma of your being / Falls a tear, uselessly clear / Fall / crazy with contentment / with your burden / for the city / Elephant, monkey, zebra and boar / Quimbamba / Waken / waken / now the goldfinches are heard in their joyful reveille. After having heard for days and days a folk group dominated by a guitar in the center and surrounded by a flight of bordonúas, cuatros and tiples, branches of onomatopoeia and water drops of guiros and maracas in the key of Spanish and Puerto Ricanism and at the base the drums, which at the slightest pause took over the rhythm and established a protest, ending by sinking with relieved rebellion within the metaphorical fluid of Puerto Rican culture that results from the combination of Spanish instruments and Puerto Rican variations, their Taino complements, and the Afro-black blows of conscience. And look, between paragraph and paragraph through this mythical window, the yagrumo trees overturned on the slopes bathed in the full moon, to the Cemí on the peak of El Yunque, shining like that of my work Four Shadows on the Cemí, seducer of María Soledad toward an unjust past. And the other, Augusto Alejandro Rodrigo of Borikén, who achieved the miracle of making me sing (I am sure it did not come from me), who induced me to put lyrics to one of his danzas: There is an ardent rhythm / in my tropical land / that ardently enchants / at the moment of ardent enchantment / at the moment it sounds. And the three by Juan Morell Campos, one: What will be? / What will be / this illusion?; second: The conga/The sun gave to all my being / an ardent rhythm; three: A dialogue/ Wounds today in my shadow / a tremulous lily / a tremulous lily / like light wounded in flower. Later, I was credited with putting lyrics to the pentagrams of the same great master of our romanticism, to Damned Love: Your love is a bird without voice / your love is lost in my heart / Idyll / Pure adoration/ to dream of the blue lily; and to Memories of Borinquen by Luis Miranda: A blue sky / a clear sun / green earth always in bloom / lyrical palms / the voices dance / with those of the sea; and the bolero, That Love, by Andrés Tallada: To see the foam / on the blue of the sea / is to remember your love; and the song of art by Amaury Veray for María Soledad: Sweet torment / to search without direction / the pure lily / in the shadowed garden / that enchants..
Augusto one day pushed me past the walls and kept me almost like a father, ordering me to write lyrics for his chorales, articles of the life and passion of the University Chorus, sending me around to theaters without singing, because it seems the magic had ended, a kind of double magic that granted me the spirit to sing and also mysteriously made me appear to be a tenor for two years in choir programs in Puerto Rico, the Spanish Americas and beyond the borders of our culture.
One day the will to be Puerto Rican was founded within me definitively with an ingenious chorus inspired by the lyrics and music of Rafael Hernández / Waken / Waken / now the goldfinches are heard in their joyful reveille / and from the mountain / the drivers come singing… Another invited me to present The Devil Becomes Human in the recently opened Theater of the University of Puerto Rico.
I have no doubt that the yagrumos leaning toward the cemí of El Yunque, the Puerto Rican cultural metaphor of the typical musical group, the graduate paper The Poetic Motifs of Rafael Hernández, the Puerto Rican and international choirs pushed by the hands and muscle of Augusto Rodríguez to a theatrical ritual, were revelations of the existential god that took the force I did not allow to death and even less to the belief that our culture is going to succumb to the flight of deculture and anticulture, if we defend with the magic arts the creation inspired by its vestal Borikén Borinquen. This has already taken shape in three bills in our Legislative Body proposed and approved by both Social and Cultural Development Committees by the majority of representatives and senators, as well as a joint resolution intended to give international flight to these three bills. This would send it flapping its wings toward the poetic eternity in the Cruz de Mayo, the beloved ideal of the Temple of the Ceiba, where poetry has to be invincible. From Stronger than its Total Cross: However / a gentleman never victorious / the will to liberate life / of the natural absurd / lights impulses against demonic mirrors / multiplied in phantasmal reflections / curse the pandemonium of enemy ghosts / while proclaiming an imagined Holy Grail / and heroics of heroics / claim an invisible frontier of eternity / beyond the inferno of shadow and of silence.
The push from the seven maestros, culminating in Amanece by Augusto Rodríguez, was a resurrection of having pledged in English to the adopted flag in Puerto Rico, not the natural one that unfurled later. It has meant everything in my life that I cannot believe that this world, which feels so distant from my heart, has disappeared because those who should be here are not where those who shouldn’t be are. The question is the struggle to retake the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in the light of the three constellations. It has been the task of Sisyphus for Puerto Rican mankind to raise the dignity of our culture, only to see it tumble into the abyss of deculturation and anticulturation. The Areyto Theatrical Arts National Foundation, led by Emilio Belaval, born from the successive vigor of El clamor de los surcos and Tiempo muerto by Manuel Méndez Ballester, to create the Drama Department of the University of Puerto Rico where the Puerto Rican playwright was denied, not by Leopoldo Santiago Lavandero, after presenting La resentida by Enrique A. Laguerre written in the spirit of Areyto.
I am going to tell you something: after 1898, the Spanish teachers at the High School looked under the rock and those of the Spanish Studies Department joined together for the uphill battle, and were joined by other teachers from various disciplines, history, theater, music, anthropology, sociology, economics, to save the dignity of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture from the fate of the Areyto Theatrical Arts National Foundation, demanding now a colossal new effort that should unite all of us as Puerto Ricans.
The push by the seven maestros of the University of Puerto Rico, especially the Spanish teachers of Central High School, especially Amelia Castro, with her lecture on my poems in Ode in Essence, The Blue Gentleman and Arrivistes and the prostrated poem of high school, now of contemporary poetry: Serene blue night / your profile of delicate lines / counterpoint to the disc of the full moon / moon of polished silver / like a rare and divine relief / The coin of idealism / -I said- / does not exist, but is present / and again / when my heart sees you / I become a star. The uncle, the mother, the two aunts, the brother and sister always distant and alone… the maternal grandmother lost in the mist, half Spanish guitar and a flight of guitars, bordonúas, cuatros and tiples and branches of onomatopoeia and water drops of guiros and maracas and drums of the original jungle of man. How it defines me! How deep, my Puerto Rican roots! How the culture flowers in me!
It was this grandmother of spontaneous folk humor, jíbara of the coast, who one day told me the legend that gave name to the place where I was born, the curve along the San Mateo de Cangrejos Church, alias Santurce, called Revolt of the Devil:
It happens that in the very center of the Revolt of the Devil, thirteen years before the 20th century, a man presumed dead and carried in a procession to the cemetery formerly for Indians, and now for Puerto Ricans (formerly called Seboruco) fell out of the bottom of the coffin and, having hit his head and butt on the uneven paving stones was not dead, but rather revived, asked the tearful mourners and his drunk friends for the name of the carpenter who had done such a poor job of nailing together the coffin so he could thank him. By falling on his butt, followed by his head, he had been returned to his homeland. All of this unfolded in disorder as they walked to the San Mateo Church where they extracted, like pulling a wisdom tooth, the one who held the cross to perform an exorcism of the resuscitated body demanding the name of the funeral carpenter. The priest, with the terrifying mission that he took on with strength, went to see the coffin, which, to his surprise, appeared recomposed in the exact center of an S curve, which could well signify Satan, something that was already on the mind of the gathered crowd.
There was another source of surprise when he opened the top of the recomposed coffin with many sayings to drive away the devil in all his names: Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Enemy, and others. New protests of demons arose when he found a note in the coffin, which he took in his fingertips, with one eye on the sky and the other on the coffin where those who are buried forever should be, but this one definitely was not, though he was afraid he would reappear. With his eyesight distorted, he read with a fright: “Bury in this coffin,” prayed the paper of the formerly dead man, “the son of the Great Mother who wanted to bury me alive.”
I deduce that the man defended Puerto Rican culture in the time of the Terrible Year of ’87, and had therefore been a victim of an evil potion that did not kill him, but rather left him catatonic for a time, and he recovered during the funeral when his butt, and then his head, hit the ground.
What I don’t understand is the high style of “Great Mother,” too considerate given what had happened, because the victim could be expected to use the low style. If don Quijote, the super-stylist, did not hesitate once in a while to say a son of a bitch!
I can confirm through my own experience that returning almost from the tomb to the miracle of life, with all its deculturations and anticulturations, increases the energy for facing and living with great energy until the day we depart this world in good standing, or at least in better standing that the demon who administers lethal potions and later exorcises the poisoned one, which is possibly who came to look for the resurrected one of the legend of the Revolt of the Devil to cover the largest moral debt Satan could incur.
I give thanks to my woman and my children, who asked me animatedly not to die, a petition I was happy to fulfill.
The other Spanish grandmother I did not know, but I am satisfied to know the Puerto Rican and to have heard her tell the legend that explained the strength of the Boricua in the multiple personalities that helped strengthen me and moved me to be a poet, playwright and essayist (and, who knows, maybe a novelist), determined by the will to be Puerto Rican that calls my soul in the face of the economic-cultural hurricane of the United States, whose power to tear apart Puerto Ricanness, as we say in the Spanish language of Borinquen, is not the feather of a bird, the seed of a breadfruit, nor even less, the husk of a coconut.
Let me clarify that I am speaking of a suspicion toward the enormous imperial power that is behind the theocratic, monarchic, democratic or socialist façade. I am inclined toward the old-modern wisdom, used in part by Edward Wilson in his theory of sociobiology, that the most powerful are the greatest danger for the weakest.
The great historian Toynbee, who examined the events of the empires from the point of view of the evolution of the culture and civilization, understood us as half assimilated, a half soul and spirit as Boricuas Borinquens, exactly that which began to counter the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture by encouraging creativity within our “masked vejigancia” almost at the point of fatally sinking into the frank collective destructive schizophrenia of nationality.
My poetry, my theater and my essays can basically be summed up as the ritual of a priest of a tribe against a grave ill that destroys it: the loss of the soul which brings the annihilation of the projection of ourselves in the spirit that is our own. Frank Dauster says in his essay “Francisco Arriví: The Mask and the Garden,” that all my literature is a rite of “healing the soul” and I add that we Puerto Ricans can only cure ourselves by supporting our intimate creativity, as irrevocably shown by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture from 1955 to 1980.
The truth is that the powers send us economic vitality at the same time lashing us with a hurricane of deculturations and anticulturations for which the schizophrenia portorricensis is the routine expression from head to toe in the Island of Enchantment. This can only be overcome by attending to the three proposed constellations that are nothing more than three progressive orientations: the sincere and frank superimposition of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture above partisan politics, its amplification to terms of world relations and its poetization to universality in the ideal of the la Cruz de Mayo.
The “May Puerto Rico not die!” of Cocktail of Mr. Nobody and the conversion of the ceiba in Sculptor of Shadow are more valued today than yesterday because the Puerto Rican schizophrenia of today is more serious than that which was diagnosed then: through the poetry, theater and essays, and even the novels, that have begun to arise in my poems-dramas-essays-novels, a single will has been founded in me, the will to be Puerto Rican: that of becoming a ceiba to resist the hurricane and spread seeds for a new spring.
The legend of the grandmother was the basis when I picked myself up after not one, but two funerals and from the beginning of March to the end of November in 1982 I was able to complete the speeches for various cultural institutions:
1. Effects of Puerto Rican Schizophrenia on the Development of our Own Culture (No less than the House of Representatives in 1982).
2. Overview of the Puerto Rican Theater of 1980 with Preliminary Notes on the Great Fair of Ponce after the Terrible Year of 87.
3. The Coming to Be of the Puerto Rican in the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera Theater.
4. The Coming to Be of Puerto Rican Theater (1938-1980).
5. Evaluation of Contemporary Puerto Rican Theater.
6. The Theater of Manuel Méndez Ballester and of René Marqués as seen by an Intermediate Author.
7. The dramas of René Marqués at the First Puerto Rican Theater Festival.
8. Madeline Willemsen Live and with Us, the Exiles of the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts who Dream Up, Do, and Build.
9. For the Rescue of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Return of the Three Theaters Center or Fine Arts.
These talks, along with the Will to be Puerto Rican in my Poetry, Theater and Essays, make up the book Cemí Buried, Vejigante Sacrificed, whose publication will be possible with the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities prize, if they grant it.
Through books, I hope to continue fighting for the survival of Puerto Rican culture.
I end with Stronger than its Total Cross, evangelization against those not faithful to the will to be Puerto Rican:
I may be a phoenix
excuse me if I die
and come back to life.
April 23, 1983
San Juan, P.R.
Author: Francisco Arriví
Published: May 14, 2015.
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