Manuel Alonso (1822-1889)

Manuel Alonso (1822-1889)

Since its early colonial history, the literature of Puerto Rico has served as an artistic reflection of the island’s cultural reality. But it was not until the early romantic period in the 19th century that an authentic Puerto Rican literature would emerge.

Literary Beginnings and Development in the 19th Century

With the arrival of the first printing press in 1806, and the development of journalism during the first 40 years of the 19th century, various writers began to emerge whose themes and stylistic direction could be described as uniquely Puerto Rican. From a social standpoint, it was during this period that a class of landowning and literate criollos, or native Puerto Ricans of Spanish descent, began to develop and express a need for true cultural definition. Two important figures of the first half of the 19th century represent the initial attempts to provide the island with a sense of literary direction. María Bibiana Benítez (1783-1873) is considered the island’s first woman poet. In 1832, she published the ode “La ninfa de Puerto Rico,” in one of Puerto Rico’s first newspapers, La Gaceta. In 1846, Santiago Vidarte (1828-1848) wrote the famous poem “Insomnio” in the collection Cancionero de Borinquen, which would serve as an emblematic work of patriotic romanticism.

Literary compendiums, such as the Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño (1843), Album Puertorriqueño (1844), Cancionero de Borinquen (1846), and finally a second Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño (1846), evidence a new form of creative expression. The Album Puertorriqueño was the work of a group of Puerto Rican students residing in Barcelona, who, aside from responding to the literary conservatism of the first Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño, emphasized the importance of criollo cultural identity, while also expressing nostalgia for family and homeland. These works are the youthful product of a great love of country and a desire to forge a common destiny.

Perhaps the most important figure of this movement was Manuel A. Alonso (1822-1889), who wrote El Gíbaro (original spelling) in 1849. This work is the result of a profound sense of Puerto Rican cultural identity, produced under the overriding censorship and oppression of Spain’s colonial regime. The work reveals that Puerto Rico’s early writers were beginning to consciously exert true historical and cultural vision, and rally behind a great sense of patriotism. Alonso’s work comprises 13 essays, which are portraits of criollo daily life, in addition to eight short poems. Alonso transcribes and imitates rural speech patterns, describes the criollo view of the world, and exalts the jíbaros, or rural poor, who are seen in his works as people who could be educated, employed and effectively directed toward the island’s national causes, albeit within a plantation economy. In 1882, Alonso published a second expanded edition of El Gíbaro, where he builds on earlier themes and cultural critiques, most notably in the short story/essay “Perico Paciencia.”

Two historical events, the Grito de Lares (1868) and the abolition of slavery (1873), were politically crucial in Puerto Rico’s struggle to achieve independence and establish a more egalitarian society. However, at the time the island lacked the social conditions needed to succeed in liberation. From a socio-economic stance, the island’s upper classes maintained politically conservative viewpoints. However, in the works of art produced during this time, we find a defense of patriotic or separatist values, and a striving for a more open and modern culture.

José Gautier Benítez (1848-1880), Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1826-1882) and Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903) are among the key writers of the more mature romanticism that would mark the second half of the 19th century. Gautier Benítez’s Poesías, (1880), is a collection of poetry that expresses many of the profoundly romantic themes of this period—love, country, and death. Benítez’s greatest lyric works, such as “Ausencia,” “Regreso,” and “Canto a Puerto Rico,” which are filled with patriotic sentiment, would become the anthems for future generations.

Alejandro Tapia y Rivera stands as one of the first visionary contributors to Puerto Rican letters. His posthumously published memoirs, Mis memorias (1928) reflect a keen critical and ethical spirit. His works cover virtually every literary genre, and include the dramatic essay Roberto D’ Evreux (1848), the biographical drama Bernardo de Palissy (1857), the mythical legend La palma del cacique (1862), the drama La cuarterona, arguably one of his masterpieces (1867), the novels Cofresí (historical) (1876) and Póstumo el transmigrado (1872), the short epic poem La sataniada (1874), as well as his collection of critical writings Conferencias sobre estética y literatura (1881). He founded a unique literary review called La azucena (1874-1877) and showed tremendous talent as a historian with his Biblioteca histórica de Puerto Rico (1854). Tapia’s writings provide evidence of an evolving world of literary thinkers who sought to broaden the island’s culture by considering both local and universal themes.

Another great literary figure of the 19th century is Eugenio María de Hostos. Hostos is known for his essays—which touch on such issues as education, ethics and culture—rather than his fictional works; however,he did write a romantic novel entitled La peregrinación de Bayoán (The Pilgrimage of Bayoán) (1863). This work reflects Caribbean, American and universal themes, and its hero (Bayoán) is portrayed as something of a Puerto Rican Hamlet. Hostos’s novel serves to foreshadow notions of a Caribbean federation. As an essayist, Hostos confronted many of the social and cultural problems of the time. Although his writing is influenced by a decidedly romantic sensibility, his vision of the world is entirely modern, and is marked by a great sense of poignancy and depth. His works continue to have an impact on intellectuals to this very day.

By the mid-19th century, Puerto Rico’s writers and thinkers were very much in step with the positivist ideas brewing in Spain and France. The works of these forward-looking authors were a response to the persecution and instability wrought by colonial Spain. While admittedly maintaining certain prejudices, they decried the utter misery suffered by their Puerto Rican compatriots. One of the most noteworthy poets of this period is Pachín Marín (1863-1896), whose writing is steeped in romantic and patriotic influences. His collection of poems Romances (1892), as well as later works, are outstanding examples of the romantic works produced on the island. He is also the author of the famous poem “El ruiseñor” (“The Nightingale”). Lola Rodríguez de Tió (1843-1924), another important poet of the time, made a number of contributions to the island’s literary history, most notably Mis Cantares (1876), Claros y nieblas, (1885) and Mi libro de Cuba (1893). Her works are thematically indebted to the Pan-Americanist notions of the Cuban José Martí, and she is the author of the revolutionary poem “La borinqueña.”

Two major literary movements, realism and naturalism, had an important influence on the island in the late 19th century. Salvador Brau (1842-1912) –a noted fiction writer, journalist and historian– exposed the miserable living conditions on the island with his novel La pecadora (1887). His essay “La campesina” displays a strong sensitivity for the plight of Puerto Rico’s rural women. Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928), who was born in Spain, founded the renowned literary review El Buscapié (1877-1883). His writings are a scathing and ironic critique of colonial rule and the complex social problems of the turn of the century. Perhaps the most vitriolic social critic of the times is Manuel Zeno Gandía (1855-1930). His works are also imbued with a profound sense of psychology, as is evidenced in his first two novels Garduña (1896) and La charca (1894), as well as in the later works El negocio (1922) and Redentores (1925). Garduña and La charca provide a “chronicle of a sick world” (Puerto Rico’s jíbaro or rural society) under Spanish rule. The two later novels deal with the corruption of capitalism and the political intrigues which prevailed once the island became a United Statescolony.

José de Diego (1867-1918)

José de Diego (1867-1918)

The 19th century would close with one of the most pivotal events in Puerto Rico’s history—the U.S. invasion of 1898. The Treaty of Paris granted the United States rights over the island of Puerto Rico, however many Puerto Ricans continued to defend the Autonomic Charter that they had obtained from Spain in 1897. With the arrival of the Americans, the island’s fledgling pro-Spanish merchant class would soon be quashed by overpowering U.S. economic interests, which quickly rooted themselves in the island’s sugar industry. An aggressive process of modernization and transculturation began to take hold, despite the outcry from the island’s artists, writers and intellectuals. By the 1930s, the process of Americanization was in full swing, with new and profound colonial implications.

This transitional period was marked by the appearance of various literary movements, many of which had been distilled from European sources, such as Parnassianism, symbolism, and modernism. An important literary figure of this time was the highly patriotic José de Diego (1867-1918), whose eclectic poetic creations reflected diverse influences ranging from romanticism to social modernism. This self-proclaimed “Caballero de la Raza” (“Defender of the Race”), followed the separatist philosophies of Betances and Hostos, and achieved literary renown for such outstanding works as Pomarrosas (1904) Jovillos (1916) Cantos de rebeldía (1916) and Cantos de pitirre (1950). De Diego’s “Patria” and “En la brecha” are his most important poems produced in the 20th century.

José de Jesús Domínguez (1843-1898), a precursor of modernism, produced the lapidary collection of poems Las huríes blancas in 1886. Other clearly modernist poets include Jesús María Lago (1873-1927), the author of “La princesa Ita-Lu” (1904) and Cofre de Sándalo (1927); Arístides Moll Boscana (1885-1964), who wrote Mi misa rosa (1899-1905); José de Jesús Esteves (1881-1918), the author of Crisálidas (1909) and Rosal de amor (1917); Antonio Pérez Pierret (1885-1937), who produced the poem cycle Bronces (1914), and Antonio Nicolás Blanco (1887-1945), whose El jardín de Pierrot appeared in 1914.

Three literary reviews had a considerable impact on the development of the island’s literature in the early 20th century—Revista de las Antillas, El Carnaval and Puerto Rico ilustrado. Virgilio Dávila (1869-1943) and Luis Lloréns Torres (1878-1944) stand as two of the most important poetic voices of this period. Dávila enriched the island’s poetic heritage with his collections Patria (1903), Pueblito de antes (1917), and Aromas del terruño (1916). Lloréns Torres served as director for the Revista de las Antillas (1913-1914) and was responsible for founding the local movements of Pancalismo (rooted in aesthetics – “all is beauty”) and Panedismo (“all is verse”). He adapted many of the Criollista themes forged in the 19th century to such works as América (1898), Al pie del Alhambra (1899), Sonetos sinfónicos (1914), Alturas de América (1940), and his drama El grito de Lares. “Canción de las Antillas” and “Valle de Collores” are two of the most renowned poems by this major 20th-century writer. José P. H. Hernández (1892-1922), the author of Coplas de la vereda (1919), El últimocombate (1921), and Cantos de la sierra (1925), is another important poet from this rather eclectic period. Hernández is the author of the madrigal “A unos ojos astrales.” Virgilio Dávila’s son, José Antonio Dávila (1899-1941), also a noteworthy poet by his own right, penned the renowned collection of verse Vendimia (1940).

Nemesio R. Canales (1878-1923) is considered one of Puerto Rico’s greatest prose writers of the early 20th century. Canales employed a barbed yet philosophical sense of humor to deride the prejudices and dogma of the time with such works as Paliques (a series of essays appearing in the Ponce newspaper El Día), and the two novellas Hacia un lejano sol and Mi voluntad se ha muerto (1921). Another important prose writer was the Neocriollista Miguel Meléndez Muñoz (1884-1966), who achieved acclaim for his articles in Retazos (1905), his novel Yuyo (1913), his essays in Estado social del campesino puertorriqueño (1916), as well as Cuentos del cedro (1936) and Cuentos de lacarretera Central (1941).

Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959)

Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959)

The trappings of modernism began to fade by 1920, only to be replaced by Vanguardismo and the more militant tendencies of the 1930s. In the 1920s, many poets began to discard many of the precious, purely aesthetic concerns of modernism. Small literary movements such as diepalismo (founded by the writers José Isaac de Diego Padró and Luis Palés Matos), euforismo (based on notions of creative euphoria), noísmo (created by the Dadaist “No Group”), and Atalayoismo (a movement formed by the Atalaya Group, which attempted to revolutionize Puerto Rican poetry by breaking with decades of romanticism both in content and form) began to emerge, which aimed to modernize poetry and forge new cultural perspectives, largely based on the influences of Spanish and Latin American vanguardismo.

Writers of the Generation of 1930 sought to bring clearer focus to issues of Hispanic identity and nationhood. Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959), one of the region’s most important writers during this period, is credited with founding the Afro-Antillean movement in Puerto Rican poetry. His impressive and groundbreaking collection of verse Tuntún de pasa y grifería (1937), which shares many of the key characteristics of vanguardismo, is one of the pivotal works in Latin American literary history. Like the Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, Palés Matos uses irony, parody, and a great gift for rhythm and colloquial speech to break with all established cultural canons by bringing African influences to center stage. His works are a celebration of the African experience in Puerto Rico.

Evaristo Rivera Chevremont (1896-1976) is often considered one of the more influential poets in Puerto Rico’s history. Rivera Chevremont was a prolific writer who expounded the virtues of “pure” poetry. His works, which also reflect the influence of vanguardismo, are tremendously rich in social commentary and criticism. Some of his more important writings include El templo de los alabastros (1919), Tierra y sombra (1930), Color (1938) Tonos y Formas (1943), Anclas de oro (1945), Verbo (1947) and Creación (1951).

In 1929, the literary review Indice appeared, and with it the beginning of a new cultural period. This publication featured the work of many great authors and critics, who, under the creative leadership of university professor Antonio S. Pedreira (1899-1939), would be credited with launching the Generation of 1930. The stock market collapse of 1928 and the crisis in the U.S. sugar industry based in Puerto Rico triggered radical responses among the local writers of the time. Patriotic ideals, such as Puerto Rican independence, and defense of the Spanish language and the island’s cultural heritage, were espoused in an attempt to awaken the Puerto Rican conscience. According to Pedreira, the writers of this time provided a reflection of who the Puerto Rican people were and where they were headed within a truly global context. Pedreira’s seminal works, which include Hostos, ciudadano de América (1927), the visionary and polemical text Insularismo (1934), El año terrible del 87 (1937), and El periodismo en Puerto Rico (1941), would dominate the Puerto Rican cultural horizon well into the 1970s.

This period also witnessed the emergence of many important literary and cultural critics, such as Tomás Blanco (1897-1975), whose influential and scholarly essays Prontuario histórico de Puerto Rico (Historical Compendium of Puerto Rico) (1935), El prejuicio racial en Puerto Rico (1942) and Los cinco sentidos (1945) dealt with a range of issues and topics. Concha Meléndez (1895-1985), Margot Arce de Vázquez (1904-1990), María Teresa Babín (1910-1989), and José A. Balseiro (1900-1990) are among the many distinguished critics writing during this time. The academic fervor of the period can also be seen in the works of the linguist Rubén del Rosario (1907-1995), the inspired poet Carmen Alicia Cadilla (1908), and the poet and critic Francisco Manrique Cabrera (1908-78). Manrique Cabrera’s Historia de la literatura puertorriqueña (1956) is the first attempt to chronicle the history of Puerto Rican literature. Another essayist, José Ferrer Canales (1913-2005), is noteworthy as a defender of Pan-Caribbeanism/Pan-Americanism and the ideals of Eugenio María de Hostos.

Enrique Laguerre (1906-2005) is undoubtedly the most renowned novelist of this generation. His works include La llamarada (Flash of Fire) (1935), Solar Montoya (1941), El 30 de febrero (1943), La resaca (1949), La ceiba en el tiesto (1956), Cauce sin río (1962), El fuego y su aire (1970), and Los amos benévolos (1976). Emilio S. Belaval (1903-1972), who served as President of the Puerto Rico Atheneum, is noted for his tremendous skill in the writing of short stories and plays, with such works as Los cuentos de la universidad (1935), Cuentos para fomentar el turismo (1946) and Cuentos de la Plaza Fuerte (1963). “El niño morado de la Monsona Quintana” stands as one of his greatest short stories.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the theatrical works produced in Puerto Rico began to take on a decidedly philosophical tone, most notably with Emilio S. Belaval’s La muerte, and with the plays of Manuel Méndez Ballester (1909-2002), such as El clamor de los surcos (1938) and Tiempo muerto (1940).

Francisco Arriví (1915-2007)

Francisco Arriví (1915-2007)

With the rise of neocriollismo in the 1940s, and the urban literature of the 1950s and 1960s, the works of Puerto Rican writers would be dominated by a sense of nationalism until the 1960s. Some of the major figures from this period include Juan Antonio Corretjer (1908-1985), Francisco Manrique Cabrera (1908-1978), Clemente Soto Vélez (1905-1993), and Luis Hernández Aquino (1907-1988). Corretjer’s epic poem “Alabanza en la Torre de Ciales” (1953), is considered one of the emblematic works of this period and has had a strong influence on many later poets.

Women begin to exert greater prominence in Puerto Rico’s literary scene with such authors as Clara Lair (1908-1973) and Julia de Burgos (1914-1953). Burgos is often considered by literary critics as one of the most important poets in the Americas, and her works, such as Poema en veinte surcos (1938), Canción de la verdad sencilla (1939) and El mar y tú (1954), and perhaps most notably her poem “Río Grande de Loíza,” have had a tremendous impact throughout the hemisphere.

Francisco Matos Paoli (1915-2000), a militant nationalist poet, is most widely known for his works Hablante del eco and Teoría del olvido (both 1944), and Canto a Puerto Rico (1947). Matos Paoli’s Canto de la locura (1962), a seminal epic poem, was written while the poet served time in prison for involvement in independence movement activities.

The 1950s brought a period of rapid industrialization to the island, largely due to the expansion of free-market capitalism and the policies of Luis Muñoz Marín. It was during this time that a significant middle class began to form, characterized by consumerist and assimilationist ideologies, and the country began its precipitous plunge into dependence on U.S. economic support. Neocolonial ideologies, however, were by and large eschewed by the island’s intellectuals, who were more likely to side with left-wing nationalist or anti-imperialist factions. The post-apocalyptic trauma of World War II would cause many writers to grapple with existential anxieties about the future, which were also plaguing Europe’s literary scene at the time. The island’s newfound dependence on colonial hypercapitalism led many writers to wax nostalgic about the loss of fundamental Puerto Rican values and oppose absorption into the rising tide of consumerism and other expressions of the colonial urban vortex.

From the 1940s through the 1980s, writers such as Abelardo Díaz Alfaro (1919-1999), René Marqués (1919-1979), José Luis González (1926-1996), and Pedro Juan Soto (1928-2002) would use their literary talents to challenge these new impositions of colonial modernity. It was their contention that Puerto Rican national integrity, at least as it had been formulated since the 19th century, was now under siege. With this context in mind, works such as Díaz Alfaro’s Terrazo (1949) provide a dramatic, existential confrontation to the threat of cultural assimilation facing Puerto Rico. Díaz Alfaro’s stories “El Josco” and “Los perros” have been highly praised, even by critics in the United States and elsewhere.

José Luis González, author of the short story “En el fondo del caño hay un negrito” (in the collection En este lado, 1954), is credited with launching the genre of urban literature that deals with the marginalization of the working class. Another work recognized for depicting social or class struggle is the novel Los derrotados (1956) by César Andréu Iglesias (1915-1976). The novel Spiks, by Pedro Juan Soto, which focuses on the heart-wrenching experiences of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, made a tremendous impact when it was first published in 1957. These narratives break with many of the stylistic traditions established in previous works by Puerto Rican writers. The prolific author René Marqués has also received critical acclaim for his works, which include La carreta (The Ox Cart) (1951) and Los soles truncos (1963). Marqués’s dramas, considered among the most outstanding produced on the island in the 20th century, portray some of the more tragic aspects of Puerto Rico’s historical trajectory. A similar ideology can be found in Marqués’s novel La víspera delhombre (1959), the short stories compiled in En una ciudad llamada San Juan (1960), and his essay “El puertorriqueño dócil” (1960). Francisco Arriví (1915 – ) is another dramatist who has tackled issues of national identity, as well as existential and universal themes, in such works as María Soledad (1947), Bolero y plena (1956), and Vejigantes (1958).

The anti-colonial struggle continued to serve as a core literary theme in the 1960s, with the novels Usmaíl (1959) and Ardiente suelo fría estación (1961) by Pedro Juan Soto. The poignant novels produced by Emilio Díaz Valcárcel (1929 – ) such as El hombre que trabajó lunes (1966), Figuraciones del mes de marzo (1972), and Harlem todos los días (1978), depict Puerto Ricans as victims of the ruthless conflicts of modern urban life.

Luis Rafael Sánchez (n. 1936)

Luis Rafael Sánchez (n. 1936)

Hugo Margenat (1933-1957) stands out as one of the poets who transformed Puerto Rican verse in the mid-20th century. His works broke with the metaphysical approach of the transcendentalist poets who dominated the literary scene in the 1940s. Collections such as Lámpara apagada (1954) and Intemperie. (1955) present an art that is committed to serving a militant nationalistic agenda. Literary reviews appearing in the 1960s, such as Guajana, Mester, and Palestra, followed this pattern by championing similar social and separatist causes. This trend continued into the 1970s, with publications like Ventana (1972). Some of the important poets of this period include Vicente Marcos Nietzsche (1942 – ), Andrés Castro Ríos (1942-2006), Edwin Reyes (1944-2001), Manuel Torres Santiago (1940 – ), Marcos Rodríguez Freese (1941 – ), Wenceslao Serra Deliz (1941 – ), Edgardo López Ferrer (1943 – ), Ramón Felipe Medina (1935 – ), Marina Arzola (1938-1976), Irving Sepúlveda Pacheco (1947 – ), Luis Antonio Rosario Quiles (1936 – ), Víctor Fragoso (1944-1982), and Luz María Umpierre (1947 – ).

The early 1970s brought even more radical departures from patriarchal and elitist literary traditions. The writers who made their initial impact contributing to the publications Zona de carga y descarga, Penélope y el nuevo mundo, and Reintegro, have continued to dominate Puerto Rico’s literary scene to this day. Rosario Ferré (1938 – ), who founded the review Zona de carga y descarga, and also published the novels Papeles de Pandora (1976) and Maldito amor (1988), is an avant-garde feminist who has garnered international acclaim. Another outstanding author who emerged from this group, Olga Nolla (1938-2001), produced a noteworthy collection of poetry Dafne en el mes de marzo (1989), as well as the novel El castillo de la memoria (1996).

Luis Rafael Sánchez (1936 – ), another writer to achieve both local and international renown, carved out new narrative territory with his short story collection En cuerpo camisa (1966). In 1968, he wrote the highly acclaimed drama La pasión según Antigona Pérez (The Passion According to Antigona Pérez), and in 1976 he published the novel La guaracha del Macho Camacho (Macho Camacho’s Beat), a post-boom tour-de-force. Sánchez’s works in the 1980s include the drama Quíntuples (1887) and the novel/essay La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1988) (The Importance of Being Daniel Santos). He is also the author of the controversial short story/essay “La guagua aérea.”

Another major author to emerge from this generation is Manuel Ramos Otero (1948-1990), whose gay-themed writings, such as Concierto de metal para un recuerdo (1971), La novelabingo (1976), Invitación al polvo (1994), and Página en blanco y staccato (1987), sent a shock wave through local cultural sensibilities. Iván Silén (1944 – ), one of the poets who collaborated in the literary review Mester, has published various collections, including Después del suicidio (1970), El pájaro loco (1971), and Los poemas de Filí-Melé (1976). José Luis Vega (1948 – ) is the iconoclastic creative mind behind Signos vitales (1974) and La naranja entera (1983), as well as the short story collection Reunión de espejos (1983). The short story collection Animal fiero y tierno (1977) is the work of another important poet of this period, Angela María Dávila (1944-2004). Joserramón Meléndez (1952 – ), the leading poet among the youngest writers of this generation, presents a highly original poetic discourse with Desimos désimas (1972-76). Intricate and innovative narrative structures are presented in the novella Veinte siglos después del homicidio (1971), by Carmelo Rodríguez Torres (1941 – ). Carmen Lugo Filippi (1940 – ) and Ana Lydia Vega (1946 – ) are the co-authors of Vírgenes y mártires (1981). Vega, one of the most talented prose writers of this period, would later publish Encancaranublado (1982) and Falsas crónicas del sur (1991).

Some of the most important poets of the 1970s include Etnairis Rivera (1949 – ), Vanessa Droz (1952 – ) Luz Ivonne Ochart (1949 – ), áurea María Sotomayor (1951 – ), Nemir Matos Cintrón (1949 – ) Lilliana Ramos Collado (1954 – ). These women have created a complex and heterogeneous poetic universe, which has helped to define the new feminist Puerto Rican poetry. Other poets who began to leave their mark later in this decade include Salvador Villanueva (1947), Jorge A. Morales (1948), Jan Martínez (1954), Marcos Reyes Dávila (1952), Félix Córdova (1944), Edgardo Nieves Mieles (1957), and Rafael Acevedo (1959). The works of these writers range from the sublime and the meticulous to the colloquial and the anarchic.

The academic scene in the 1970s would produce a number of Marxist and populist critics who challenged some of the elitist attitudes forged by Antonio S. Pedreira’s followers. The outstanding social analysts of this period include Juan Flores, with his Insularismo e ideología burguesa (1979), ángel Quintero, notably his essay Conflictos de clase y política en Puerto Rico (1986), José Luis González, with El país de cuatro pisos (1980), and Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, with La memoria rota (1993) and El arte de bregar (2000).

Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá (1946 – ), one of the more important writers of the mid-1970s, produced a series of autobiographical essays, such as Las tribulaciones de Jonás, (1976), El entierro de Cortijo (1981), and Una noche con Iris Chacón (1986), as well as several groundbreaking novels, such as La renuncia del héroe Baltazar (1974), La noche oscura del niño Avilés ( 1984), and Sol de medianoche (2000). Magali García Ramis (1946) is the author of the provocative Felices días, tío Sergio (1986). Marta Aponte Alsina’s La casa de la loca (2001) is an unusually gripping narrative. Other skilled fiction writers and essayists from this period include Mayra Montero (1952 – ) and Edgardo Sanabria Santaliz (1951).

Mayra Santos Febres (n. 1966)

Mayra Santos Febres (n. 1966)

Many of the writers and intellectuals of the 1970s have more recently come under attack by such poststructuralist thinkers as Juan Duchesne, Carlos Pabón, Ramón Grosfoguer and Arturo Torrecilla. Publications such as Bordes, Nómada, and Postada, which began appearing in the 1990s, have served as the main platforms for these new cultural analysts, whose interpretations of Puerto Rico’s history have had a tremendous impact in all forums of cultural debate. Some of the works reflecting the new range of poststructuralist approaches include Literatura y paternalismo en Puerto Rico (1993) by Juan Gelpí, La raza cómica (2002) by Rubén Ríos, Ciudadano insano (2001) by Juan Duchesne, and Nación postmortem (2002) by Carlos Pabón. Also of interest are the essays by the Marxist Rafael Bernabe, which are an attempt to respond to the excesses of the poststructuralists. These include Manual para organizar velorios (2003) and La maldición de Pedreira (2004). In the field of creative writing, Mayra Santos Febres (1966) provides a generational transition through her works of poetry, as well as in such short stories as Pez de vidrio (1995), and her novel Sirena Selena vestida de Pena (2000). Angel Lozada, Rafael Acevedo, and Eliseo Colón offer formally innovative representations of contemporary society in their novels La patografía (1996), Exquisito Cadáver (2002) and Archivo Catalina. Memorias On Line (2000).

Despite the cultural crisis currently facing Puerto Rico, many writers have continued to produce important works of fiction, such as José Luis Ramos Escobar (1950) El olor de popcorn, Abniel Marat (1958), Roberto Ramos Perea (1959) Mala Sangre (1987), and Teresa Marichal (1956) Paseo del atardecer (1985).

In keeping with the postmodern disposition of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, various anthologies have appeared which bring together samplings from many of the writers who entered the limelight in recent years. These collections include the two-volume set Los nuevos caníbales (2000 and 2003) put out by the Isla Negra publishing house, as well as Malhablar, Antología de nueva literatura puertorriquena (1997), edited and with a prologue by Mayra Santos; El límite volcado (2000), edited by Alberto Martínez Vázquez and Mario R. Cancel; El rostro y la máscara (1995), edited and with a prologue by José ángel Rosado, and Literatura puertorriqueña del siglo XX, edited by Mercedes López Baralt (2004).


Author: Dr. Luis Felipe Díaz
Published: September 15, 2014.

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