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Dream Nation

Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Dream Nation
    Book Description:

    Over the past fifty years, Puerto Rican voters have roundly rejected any calls for national independence. Yet the rhetoric and iconography of independence have been defining features of Puerto Rican literature and culture. In the provocative new bookDream Nation, María Acosta Cruz investigates the roots and effects of this profound disconnect between cultural fantasy and political reality.Bringing together texts from Puerto Rican literature, history, and popular culture,Dream Nationshows how imaginings of national independence have served many competing purposes. They have given authority to the island's literary and artistic establishment but have also been a badge of countercultural cool. These ideas have been fueled both by nostalgia for an imagined past and by yearning for a better future. They have fostered local communities on the island, and still helped define Puerto Rican identity within U.S. Latino culture.In clear, accessible prose, Acosta Cruz takes us on a journey from the 1898 annexation of Puerto Rico to the elections of 2012, stopping at many cultural touchstones along the way, from the canonical literature of theGeneración del 30to the rap music of Tego Calderón.Dream Nationthus serves both as a testament to how stories, symbols, and heroes of independence have inspired the Puerto Rican imagination and as an urgent warning about how this culture has become detached from the everyday concerns of the island's people.A volume in the American Literature Initiatives series

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6548-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-45)

    In a world in which Chechen, Catalan, Scottish, and Sri Lankan nationalists, among others, command significant attention calling for national liberation, Puerto Ricans have perplexingly rejected political independence.¹ Puerto Rican independence (through political action or by force of arms) is an anachronism, a relic buried under more than a half century of electoral rejection.²

    Given that political reality, why are themes of independence still so powerful in Puerto Rican culture? Why do many Puerto Rican writers on the island and in the United States cling to this ideal? Who among them has opposed this established position? Why has cultural independence...

  6. 1 Literary Tradition and the Canon of Independence
    (pp. 46-79)

    In his most famous novel,La guaracha del Macho Camacho, Luis Rafael Sánchez presents those who follow the dream of independence in lyrical, transcendent terms:

    Sueño vivo, sueño agazapado en la mirada de los muchachos y las muchachas que altisonan y vendenClaridad y La Hora[. . . ] Sueño vivo, sueño trémolo o esa transparencia agresiva que se muda o demuda en los rostros que oyen hablar a Mari Brás: deslumbrados porque la historia los invita a hacer el viaje; habla Mari Brás y ellos lanzan el pecho hacia el mañana porque en las manos les conversa la...

  7. 2 Breaking Tradition
    (pp. 80-109)

    Puerto Rican national culture has been built up by the great works of its literary canon, itself shaped by institutions like universities and cultural centers, by documents like classroom syllabi and anthologies, by the media that promote culture, by activities like literary festivals, by communities of culture that award prizes, etc. The communities that produced the early canon believed that culture would directly and unequivocally boost the island’s struggle for independence. Until recently, the loftiness of that ideal (as well as peer pressure) meant that few writers dared to break with the dream nation. The traditional literary world in Puerto...

  8. 3 From the Lush Land to the Traffic Jam
    (pp. 110-131)

    Puerto Rican culture from every era shows a deep and abiding love for the island itself, for the geographic territory (in its olden incarnation), which is more often than not referred to as La Isla; the capitalization is the mark of an exceptionalist conception of the nation. This affection for the scenic beauties of the land is in many ways tied to nationalist emotions, to patriotism, to the hoped-for independence, and it contributes greatly to the dream nation.

    The patriotic love of land took hold of the national imagination during the Romantic movement, when it was tied to nineteenth-century Latin...

  9. 4 Dream History, Dream Nation
    (pp. 132-155)

    A satisfying and long-standing cultural mechanism for those who regret that independence never came to pass is to rewrite/reinvent Puerto Rican history in order to recycle, reimagine, and reconstitute the bits of the past that relate to (dashed) hopes for an independent nation. From these arise interesting stories, fascinating heroes and heroines, and allegories full of significance. And even if you have doubts about the political viability of independence, its use as historical background can spice up stories.

    The critic Silvio Torres-Saillant notes how Caribbean cultures have “inventive ways of looking at the past, including what Édouard Glissant has called...

  10. 5 Dreaming in Spanglish
    (pp. 156-175)

    If the only Nuyorican writers you have read are the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Esmeralda Santiago—among the most popular and anthologized of Latino writers—you would think all Puerto Ricans everywhere wish for the island’s independence. Nevertheless, there is a divide between writers like Santiago, who use romanticized notions of La Isla, and writers like lesser-known Judith Ortiz Cofer, who embraces a more realistic and paradoxical view of the island seen through bicultural Latina eyes.

    The historical context of the Nuyorican intellectuals is that the most visible literary figures were steeped in independence from the get-go. Juan Flores has...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 176-178)

    Culture, as is evident and well-known, is most compelling when it finds stories and tropes that explore, capture, and summarize significant, shared emotions from the personal, sociopolitical, and economic stew from which it arose. The dream nation—the fiction of Puerto Rico as a Lush Land where a valiant people continue to fight for freedom—is sometimes nostalgic decoration, sometimes wishful thinking. It can be a sign of willful forgetting of painful and necessary realities, particularly the Puerto Rican preference for dependency. It can also signal the vitality of the push-pull of contradictory impulses in Puerto Rican hearts and minds....

  12. Biographical Appendix
    (pp. 179-182)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 183-186)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 187-200)
  15. Index
    (pp. 201-206)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-207)