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Puerto Rican Poetry

Puerto Rican Poetry: An Anthology from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times

Edited, Introduced, and with Translations by Roberto Márquez
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 528
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    Puerto Rican Poetry
    Book Description:

    This volume offers the most wideranging and comprehensive collection of Puerto Rican poetry available in English. It includes the work of sixtyfour poets, as well as many previously inaccessible selections from Puerto Rico's tradition of popular verse forms—coplas, décimas, bombas—produced by anonymous writers. All are presented in English, contextualized and individually introduced by Roberto Márquez, a distinguished translator and literary scholar. Book I, "Before Columbus and After, 1400–1820," focuses on the foundational origins of Puerto Rican poetry and the clash of competing visions embodied in the rich and heterogeneous corpus of anonymous popular verse forms. Book II, "The Creole Matrix: Notions of Nation, 1821–1950s," concentrates on the period in which a distinctively Puerto Rican consciousness emerged and the island's subsequent experience as a U. S. colony in the decades after the SpanishCubanAmerican War up to formal establishment of Commonwealth status. Books III and IV are devoted, respectively, to the era of insular "Critique, Revolt, and Renewal" in the midtwentieth century, and to the "New Creoles, New Definitions" that developed in the late twentieth century, including the distinct and parallel growth of Puerto Rican poetry in the mainland United States. In addition to a general introduction and concise biographical profiles of each poet, Márquez provides a detailed "Chronology" of the history of the island that has shaped the poets and informed their work. The resulting volume is a major contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Puerto Rican literature and the heterogeneous society in which it has been produced.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-124-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
    (pp. xxv-xxxviii)
    Roberto Márquez

    The idea for this book emerged, some years ago now, in response to a classroom teacher’s recurring need for a comprehensive collection of Puerto Rican poetry and with the translator’s initially tentative, only gradually articulated acceptance of the challenge that the desire to meet that necessity implied and would ultimately entail. The burden of the challenge having been assumed, my primary aim as editor has been simple enough: to widen an English-speaking readership’s direct general access to and overall view of Puerto Rican poetry’s long and various unfolding by offering a modest sampling of its rich and varied repertoire, one...

  5. Book One: Before Columbus and After, 1400–1820

    • Aboriginal Beginnings: The Areyto
      (pp. 3-10)
      Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés

      The earliest Puerto Rican poetry was the work of the indigenous Taino-Arawak communities that inhabited the island (and a major part of the Greater Antilles) for millennia before the arrival of the first Europeans. For three centuries before 1492, they lived in a social order organized as a series of regionalcacicazcos, or district chiefdomships, structured as provincially independent but also on occasion as loosely confederated dominions. The first poets were their singing storytellers; the distinctive lyric, a communal song. Theareyto, at once individual performance and collective ritual, declamatory narrative and congregational ceremony, possessed a substantive and regional scope...

    • The Colonial Crucible, 1508–1820:: Conquistadors, Tropical Spaniards, Mimic Men, Proto-Creoles

      • Juan de Castellanos (1522–1607)
        (pp. 11-21)
        Juan de Castellanos

        Juan de Castellanos arrived in Puerto Rico from his native Alanis, in the province of Sevilla, when he was only twelve or thirteen years old. Ten years later, one more among a new wave of Spanish soldiers of fortune, he was already taking active part as a conquistador in expeditions and speculative ventures that, between the 1540s and 1550s, had him moving peripatetically from Puerto Rico to New Granada, coastal Venezuela, the island of Margarita, the gulf of Paria, Trinidad, Santa Marta, and Antioquia. Wearied by the hazards of his soldier-adventurer’s life, he retired to the city of Tunja to...

      • Fray Damián López de Haro (1581–1648)
        (pp. 22-24)
        Fray Damián López de Haro

        A friar of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, Juan Damián López de Haro was born in Toledo, Spain. Having been appointed bishop of Puerto Rico in 1644, he arrived on the island on June 13 of that year and, after four years as insular prelate, died there, the victim of an epidemic of yellow fever. In the course of his brief tenure as representative of Spain’s ecclesiastical mission, he held a synod, promulgated new ordinances for the local church, and resigned himself to the disadvantages of an outpost of empire in which, as he noted, “there is not...

      • Anonymous (1644)
        (pp. 24-24)
      • Francisco de Ayerra Santa María (1630–1708)
        (pp. 25-27)
        Francisco de Ayerra Santa María

        The first native Puerto Rican poet of whom we have certain report, Francisco de Ayerra Santa María, was born in the island capital of San Juan. The colony was at the time, in the words of one contemporary, “a land so scant, there is no one to whom to marry its women, save some [Spanish] soldier or stranger.” The forlorn sparseness of an intellectual climate inadequate to encourage or sustain the aspirations of a talented young Creole man of scholarly bent or literary inclination was but another of the deficiencies of the island. Neglected by Spain except as a point...

      • Juan Rodríguez Calderón (1775–1839+)
        (pp. 27-35)
        Juan Rodríguez Calderón

        A scion of a Galician family of some social standing with links to the Marquesa de Santa Cruz, Juan Rodríguez Calderón was born in La Coruña, Spain. He first arrived in Puerto Rico, at the dawning of the nineteenth century, as a convicted felon. A member of the Spanish Corps Guard and apparently a man of moderately freethinking bent and possibly Masonic sympathies, he deserted from the army in the late 1790s and fled to France. After secretly returning to Spain as an agent of the French government in 1797, he was soon recognized and arrested. The earliest poems included...

      • Miguel Cabrera (Dates Unknown)
        (pp. 35-40)
        Miguel Cabrera

        Miguel Cabrera, “a cultured and courteous man” about whom little else appears to be known, was working as a schoolteacher in the north-central town of Arecibo when “TheJíbaro’s Verses” first appeared, in manuscript and unsigned, and began to circulate locally. The verses were ultimately published, still anonymously, in the second (June 22, 1820) issue of the capitaline journalEl investigador, only a month after the reinstatement of the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812. The seemingly antireform outlook of their author’s sardonic irony and humorously folksy observations on the reinstatement precipitated a lively firestorm of editorial comment and polemical ire,...

    • Vox Populi
      (pp. 41-52)

      The poetry of the more learned and prominent was not, of course, the only verse produced on the island. A rich and fertile oral tradition of popular and anonymous verse in a copious variety of forms and styles—coplas,décimas,turuletas, andromances;lullabies, riddles, and nursery rhymes;aguinaldos,villancicos,bombas,plenas,guarachas, and like modalities of lyric, song, and dance—emerged and vigorously flourished (and continues to prosper) alongside the more exalted literary expression of the privileged castes and classes.Coplasanddécimasare perhaps the oldest, most broadly embraced, and ubiquitous of these forms.

      Creations initially of the...

  6. Book Two: The Creole Matrix:: Notions of Nation, 1821–1950s

    • Emergence to Intervention, 1821–1898

      • María Bibiana Benítez (1783–1875)
        (pp. 55-60)
        María Bibiana Benítez

        Arguably the poet with whom a sustained tradition of highbrow Creole verse began, María Bibiana Benítez is also the first woman poet in Puerto Rico, the first dramatist on the island, and the eldest in a three-generation succession of poets from the same extended family clan that includes her niece, Alejandrina Benítez, and her great-nephew, José Gautier Benítez.

        Born in Aguadilla, where the family remained until María was fourteen years old, she lived for varying periods in Ponce (1797–1805), San Juan (1805–1809), Fajardo (1809–1819), Mayagüez (1819–1822), Aguadilla once again (1822–1825), and Guayama (1825–1839) before...

      • Alejandrina Benítez (1819–1879)
        (pp. 61-66)
        Alejandrina Benítez

        One of the group of foundational romantic, affirmatively Puerto Rican poets emerging to public notice in the early 1840s—and mother of José Gautier Benítez, the most distinguished nineteenth-century Puerto Rican poet—Alejandrina Benítez can also strike the reader as one of the most obviously intermediary and transitional poets. Clinging still to stylistic and topical elements of the neoclassical, she also brings to her lyrical persona the psychological mood, the tonal intimacy of “a thought … absorbed in [the contemplation] of its own desolation,” and the presumption that, as she writes to a friend, “poetry, when it is poetry, sums...

      • Santiago Vidarte (1827–1848)
        (pp. 67-69)
        Santiago Vidarte

        Born in the southeastern coastal town of Yabucoa, Santiago Vidarte is what the contemporary Uruguayan writer and poet Mario Benedetti might well describe as apoeta trunco—a lyric voice cut short and silenced at the very moment that the rich promise of its gift and potential were most obvious and undisputed. A precocious talent, Vidarte (né José Santiago Rodríguez Cintrón) began writing while still an adolescent. His first verse was published under the pseudonym that became his nom de plume in the anthologicalAlbum puertorriqueño(1844), which, with the seminalAguinaldo puertorriqueño(1843), served as one of the debut...

      • Manuel A. Alonso (1822–1889)
        (pp. 70-76)
        Manuel A. Alonso

        The 1849 publication ofEl jíbaro, Manuel A. Alonso’s signature collection of lyric vignettes, ethnographic prose sketches, and cultural reports, marks a watershed in the emergence of an explicitly Puerto Rican national consciousness. Its pithy presentations of insular traditions and poetic dramatizations of domestic mores, custom, lore, and (especially) “peasant ways” bring to something of a culmination his generation’s groping after a “wholly indigenous” idiom with which to “win for Puerto Rico a place in the world of letters.”El jíbaroemerged to become the island’s first universally acknowledged Creole classic.

        Alonso was born in San Juan, the son of...

      • José Gualberto Padilla (1829–1896)
        (pp. 76-87)
        José Gualberto Padilla

        Popularly known by his signal and celebrated pseudonym,El Caribe, José Gualberto Padilla is the most accomplished, winningly pugnacious lyric satirist and polemist of nineteenth-century Puerto Rico. Padilla was born in San Juan, but economic setback forced his family to move to the more remote, far-western town of Añasco. There his father took up employment as a notary public, and the young Padilla received his earliest schooling. In 1844 he left to complete his secondary education in Spain, where he also pursued a medical degree in Santiago and (after the death of his father in 1846) in Barcelona. While in...

      • Lola Rodríguez de Tió (1843–1924)
        (pp. 87-94)
        Lola Rodríguez de Tió

        The first among the women poets of Puerto Rico who produced a sustained and continuous body of work that received general literary acclaim and who enjoyed a wide-ranging international celebrity, Lola Rodríguez de Tió was also the most decisively engaged and politically active Puerto Rican woman of her generation. An early and staunch advocate of Puerto Rican independence, she authored the lyrics toLa borinqueña, the Puerto Rican national anthem, and is as often today remembered for the firmness of her patriotic convictions and acts of political courage as for the literary qualities of her verse. A major figure of...

      • José Gautier Benítez (1851–1880)
        (pp. 95-107)
        José Gautier Benítez

        As the most universally admired and celebrated figure of nineteenth-century Puerto Rican poetry, José Gautier Benítez represents the pinnacle of its mature romantic voice. In the verse of this poet—whom José Collado Martell was the first to dub “Puerto Rico’s Bécquer”—the initial foundational wave of Puerto Rican romanticism reaches its peak and culminates; with his death, it effectively comes to an end.

        Though the place of José’s birth remains still a matter of occasional debate, the scholarly consensus continues to favor Caguas over Humacao. Son of the poet Alejandrina Benítez and Rodulfo Gautier, theintendenteof San Juan,...

      • Francisco Gonzalo (“Pachín”) Marín (1863–1897)
        (pp. 107-113)
        Francisco Gonzalo (“Pachín”) Marín

        Francisco Gonzalo (“Pachín”) Marín, whose life and figure are linked to a certain aura of the mythic and legendary, is undoubtedly the most insurrectionary and combative of the Puerto Rican romantic poets of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Certainly, his verse is the first in which we find so decisive a call to take up arms, and not merely with metaphorical weapons, in defense of Puerto Rican independence and the Cuban right to self-determination.

        A native of Arecibo, Pachín (né Francisco Gonzalo Marín Shaw), was the first of seven children born to a family of means too modest...

      • Luis Muñoz Rivera (1859–1916)
        (pp. 113-124)
        Luis Muñoz Rivera

        An accomplished journalist and eminent politician, no less than a distinguished poet, Luis Muñoz Rivera was born in the humid central uplands town of Barranquitas. He was raised in a family of middle-class Creole merchants, and his first job was as a bookkeeper in a commercial firm jointly owned by his father and uncle. Homeschooled, he was an autodidact and an avid reader who, encouraged by his literarily inclined uncle, early began cultivating a talent for writing that soon had him publishing his first poems. Periodicals such asEl pueblo, El clamor del país, andEl buscapiéwould later also...

    • Tradition, Trauma, and Transition

      • Parnassians, Modernistas, Hispanophiles, Jibaristas

        • José de Jesús Domínguez (1843–1898)
          (pp. 125-131)
          José de Jesús Domínguez

          José de Jesús Domínguez was born in the far-western rural town of Añasco, just north of Mayagüez. After his primary schooling, he was enrolled in the Seminario Conciliar de Puerto Rico and, still in his teens, took to the study of pharmacology. In the early 1860s, he went on to study medicine in Paris. There he acquired some practical experience serving as a doctor in the employ of the French government during the Franco-Prussian War. While in France, he came into direct contact with the emerging trends in poetry then coming into vogue there. In 1870, doctor’s credentials in hand,...

        • Trinidad Padilla de Sanz (1864–1958)
          (pp. 131-134)
          Trinidad Padilla de Sanz

          An accomplished pianist and classical piano teacher who early demonstrated her precocious musical talent, Trinidad Padilla de Sanz was also an able journalist, essayist, writer of short fiction, and poet. Born in the central-northwestern coastal town of Vega Baja, and primarily educated by private tutors there, she attended the Liceo Maestro Ruiz Arau in Arecibo for a time. She later pursued further musical studies in Madrid. For her more general schooling—and for her literary education in particular—she was generally left to her own devices and the broad reach of an omnivorous and eclectic appetite for reading. A more...

        • José de Diego (1866–1918)
          (pp. 134-142)
          José de Diego

          A much esteemed lawyer, charismatic orator, and political notable of considerable influence and prestige, José de Diego was also a poet whose work, and much of his adult life, unfolded at the unsettling epicenter of a major epoch of historical transitions. Among the most celebrated and certainly one of the most salient public and cultural figures of his time, de Diego was part of (indeed, as The Gentleman of the [read:Our] Race, that he ultimately came to personify) the radicallyindependentistaCreole patrician response to U.S. colonialism in the years after 1898. Still regarded by some as the first...

        • Virgilio Dávila (1869–1943)
          (pp. 142-147)
          Virgilio Dávila

          A native of the small rural township of Toa Alta and son of the local village schoolteacher, Virgilio Dávila moved with his family to the city of Bayamón when he was seven. Initially schooled under his father’s tutelage, he eventually entered the Jesuit High School in Santurce and, in 1885, received his baccalaureate from San Juan’s Civil Institute. In 1888 he went on to obtain a teacher’s certificate. Two years later, following the elder Dávila’s example, he established his own school of primary and secondary instruction in the same city where as an adolescent he had served as his father’s...

        • Luis Lloréns Torres (1878–1944)
          (pp. 148-158)
          Luis Lloréns Torres

          Luis Lloréns Torres was born in the south-central coastal municipality of Juana Díaz, and raised on the family estate in the coffee-growing hills of the Collores that his verse so lovingly invokes. The grandson (on his mother’s side) of the founder of the town of Gurabo and (on his father’s side) of a Catalonian Spanish settler, he was heir to the seigniorial hacendado class of his parents and of the world created by the coffee-growing economy of the island that materially sustained its way of life. A scion of the insular aristocracy of the land, Lloréns Torres also formed part...

      • Feminists, Mystics, Negristas, Vanguardistas, and Nationalists

        • Clara Lair (1895–1973)
          (pp. 159-167)
          Clara Lair

          The daughter of the poet and journalist Quintín Negrón Sanjurjo, the niece of the eminent Autonomist Party leader Luis Muñoz Rivera, and the cousin of Luis Muñoz Marín (founder of the long-dominant Popular Democratic Party, insular governor from 1948 to 1964, and the most decisively influential Puerto Rican public figure of the twentieth century), Clara Lair (née Mercedes Negrón Muñoz) inherited family ties to some of the most distinguished members of the political, cultural, moderate, and modernizing populist intellectual Creole establishment of Puerto Rico. Beyond whatever room may have come with that inheritance, the choice of a pseudonym would ultimately...

        • Evaristo Ribera Chevremont (1896–1976)
          (pp. 167-174)
          Evaristo Ribera Chevremont

          With some twenty-three books of poetry to his credit, Evaristo Ribera Chevremont, is one of the most uncommonly prolific and creatively bountiful Puerto Rican poets. He was born in the historical Old City of San Juan and received his earliest schooling in the capital. There, too, at the age of fifteen, he entered the work force as a factory hand and then held a succession of odd jobs. An autodidact by force of both circumstance and a disciplined studious inclination, he made the San Juan Carnegie Library the first campus site of his higher literary education.

          Emerging to literary notice...

        • Luis Palés Matos (1898–1959)
          (pp. 174-186)
          Luis Palés Matos

          The inaugural voice and archetypal figure of thenegristamovement and one of its signal exponents within the wider Hispanic Caribbean, Luis Palés Matos is the most universally recognized and widely acclaimed modern Puerto Rican poet. Son of the distinguished poets Vicente Palés, a schoolteacher and French tutor, and Consuelo Matos, he was born and raised in the southeastern coastal sugar plantation town of Guayama. Offering early proof of his precocious talent, Palés Matos published his first book of poetry,Azaleas(1915), while still in his late teens. Reflecting the impact of the romantics, symbolists, andmodernistas, its verses (in...

        • José Isaac de Diego Padró (1899–1974)
          (pp. 187-193)
          José Isaac de Diego Padró

          Although he ultimately turned to narrative for its broader scale and scope, emerging thereafter as a novelist of more than passing heft and distinction, José Isaac de Diego Padró began his life in literature as a poet. De Diego Padró was considered an often overlooked modernizing pioneer and an unjustly neglected precursor of the craft by some of his novel-writing compatriots of a later generation. His poetry, too, is held by some to reveal an unsung early herald of a subsequent and more immediately contemporary “antipoetic” sensibility and lyric disposition, a herald of a verse whose conversational tone and prosist...

        • Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo (1901–1977)
          (pp. 193-197)
          Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo

          Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo, a musician and poet, was born in the northeastern township of Carolina. After working as a public-school teacher for nine years in the 1920s, he left the classroom for the relatively fewer hours and better pay of employment as a mail carrier in metropolitan Santurce. For more than three decades, and until his final retirement, he was thus the affable embodiment of that anxiously or apprehensively awaited and familiar figure “of smiling aspect / satchel hung from the shoulder / … / [who daily carries] secrets he can’t divine / … [, as he conveys both] sadness...

        • Clemente Soto Vélez (1905–1993)
          (pp. 197-203)
          Clemente Soto Vélez

          Reminiscent of the bold conceit of the Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893–1948) creationist dictum, “The poet is a demi god,” Clemente Soto Vélez’s more Nietzschean assertion of the poet’s calling as plenipotentiary avatar, “We are gods complete, or we are nothing at all,” became the even more grandiose opening proclamation of his poetry. Fusing the literary iconoclasm and flamboyant novelty of one of the initial group of Puerto Ricanvanguardistasand the lyric proclivities, anaphoristic, and metaphoric inventiveness of the surrealist with the passionate partisanship and insurrectionary temper of a radical nationalist, his verse would later further acquire a dimension...

        • Juan Antonio Corretjer (1908–1985)
          (pp. 204-212)
          Juan Antonio Corretjer

          From the moment in 1920 when Juan Antonio Corretjer—not yet in his teens—wrote his first poem, “Song to Ciales,” dedicated to the rural municipality in the mountainous central spine of Puerto Rico that was his hometown, his life and poetry were a devoted paean and spirited defense of his native land. A passionate nationalist commitment and militant call to the cause of Puerto Rican culture and identity, insular political independence, and ultimately a vision of an island socialist republic underpin his work. The multiple books of verse; sundry volumes of prose writings; occasional short fiction; and assorted essays,...

        • Carmen María Colón Pellot (1911–2001)
          (pp. 212-218)
          Carmen María Colón Pellot

          Carmen María Colón Pellot presents us at once with an enigma, an anomaly, and something of a conundrum. She is the author of a single, equivocal, and oddly striking collection of verse,Ambar mulatto(1938), and we know very little about her beyond what is offered by the barest and still insufficient biographical data. Born in the north-central coast area of Arecibo—a traditionally agricultural region of cane fields, dairy cattle, and small farming that now produces machinery, plastics, clothing, and sporting goods—she went on to pursue a course of study in education and community service at the University...

        • Julia de Burgos (1914–1953)
          (pp. 218-226)
          Julia de Burgos

          Julia de Burgos has been aptly described as “a bridge [that] extends from the later vanguardism of the thirties to the anguishing existentialism of the fifties.” Like the work of Clara Lair, de Burgos’s poetry was a “premonition” of the insular feminist verse that would so powerfully emerge in the two decades after de Burgos’s death. As such critics as Efraín Barradas and William Luis properly note, she similarly presages (in such poems as “Farewell in Welfare Island” (which was written in English in New York in the months before her death) elements of some of the later themes and...

        • Francisco Matos Paoli (1915–2000)
          (pp. 226-230)
          Francisco Matos Paoli

          A native of Lares, Francisco Matos Paoli’s first book of verse,Signario de lágrimas(Signet of Tears)—written as “the offering of a soul [that] has suffered the loss of a mother” who taught him “the ineffable alphabet of God” and “directed [his] steps off toward the cosmic distance”—appeared in 1931. It was followed byCardo labriego y otros poemas(Laborer’s Thistle and Other Poems [1937]);Habitante del eco(The Echo’s Inhabitant [1944]), from which “Antisonnet to the Noble Sea” (reproduced here) is taken;Teoría del olvido(Theory of Oblivion [1944]); and an irrepressible cascade of lyric fecundity. The...

        • Violeta López Suria (b. 1926)
          (pp. 230-234)
          Violeta López Suria

          Violeta López Suria was born in Santurce. After graduating from the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras as a secondary-school teacher, with a particular concentration in Spanish language and literatures, she went on for a time to practice her neophyte educator’s profession. She soon earned a master of arts degree from her alma mater and—having completed a year of advanced study at Columbia University in New York in the mid-1950s—received a doctorate in philosophy and letters from the University of Madrid in 1961. In the years following, on her return to the island, she reassumed her teaching...

  7. Book Three: Critique, Revolt, and Renewal

    • Hugo Margenat (1933–1957)
      (pp. 237-243)
      Hugo Margenat

      Hugo Margenat was born in San Juan and attended primary and secondary school both there and in Santurce. In 1954 his education was brusquely interrupted when he was drafted, after which he reluctantly completed his two years of obligatory U.S. military service at army bases in the towns of Vega Baja and Salinas. By then he had already composed a collection ofPrimeros poemas(First Poems), dating from 1950 and 1951; a set of poems assembled inBreves palabras de las horas prietas(Brief Words of the Darkest Hours), written in the two years after; and an assortment of poems...

    • Iris M. Zavala (b. 1936)
      (pp. 244-248)
      Iris M. Zavala

      A native of Ponce, the second most important metropolitan center on the island, Iris M. Zavala acquired her early schooling in San Juan. She went on to the University of Puerto Rico and then to the University of Salamanca, in Spain, where she earned both a master of arts degree and a doctorate in the humanities. One of the most wide-ranging talents of her generation, she first emerged to public recognition as a scholar-critic, sociologist of literature, historian of ideas, and literary theorist. Beginning with an examination of [Miguel de]Unamuno y su teatro de conciencia(Unamuno and His Theater...

    • Rosario Ferré (b. 1938)
      (pp. 249-254)
      Rosario Ferré

      Rosario Ferré is perhaps the most generally recognized and internationally prominent contemporary Puerto Rican woman writer. Daughter of Luis A. Ferré—industrialist, financier, philanthropist, and first pro-statehood governor of the island (1969—1972)—Rosario was born in Ponce, into that sector of the insular Creole gentry that later became the privileged site and recurring object of her scrutiny and exploratory attention. A graduate of the Dana Hall School, Manhattanville College, the University of Puerto Rico, and the University of Maryland, Ferré initiated her literary career as cofounder and co-editor of and contributor to the journalZona de carga y descarga...

    • Olga Nolla (1938–2001)
      (pp. 255-262)
      Olga Nolla

      Olga Nolla was born in Río Piedras. An editor, journalist, literary critic, novelist, scriptwriter, and short story writer descended from a family of writers and poets, she was raised in Mayagüez. After attending a high school run by Catholic nuns, she went on to study biology in New York, before returning to the island in 1967 to complete a master’s degree in literature at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1972 she and her cousin Rosario Ferré became cofounders and co-editors ofZona de carga y descarga, which published some of her early verse and prose. She was employed for...

    • Marcos Rodríguez Frese (b. 1941)
      (pp. 263-267)
      Marcos Rodríguez Frese

      The 1960s ushered in a new era and with it a fresh cohort of talents and new poetic voices. Among them were the several poets connected with the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico who—first gathered into an Association of Young Puerto Rican Writers—are today more familiarly referred to as the Generation ofGuajana. For more than two decades after the 1962 appearance of the vigorous and influential poetry journal known asGuajana, it continued to be creatively sustained by their collective editorial work and individual efforts as writers and a general view of the...

    • Andrés Castro Ríos (b. 1942)
      (pp. 268-272)
      Andrés Castro Ríos

      After completing his primary and secondary education in the local public schools of his native Santurce, Andrés Castro Ríos went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and a master of arts degree in literature from its Center of Puerto Rican Studies.

      While still an undergraduate at the university, he initiated his wider public career as a poet and—with Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche and Marcos Rodríguez Frese, among others—formed part of the founding nucleus of writers congregated around the seminal journalGuajana. He was editor ofGuajanaand one of its most regular contributors...

    • Hjalmar Flax (b. 1942)
      (pp. 273-277)
      Hjalmar Flax

      Hjalmar Flax, who was born in Bayamón, draws his poetry from the prosaic commonplaces, pedestrian realities, and “small labyrinths” of his daily round and ordinary living. It is the stuff of a sober realist’s attentive observation and the witty revelation of his poetic persona’s—and our —unexceptional and even “antipoetic” quotidian existence that give lyric pitch and impious inflection to the pithy keenness, unexpected twists, and sardonic irreverence of his verses. Turning humor, puns, paradox, parody, self-deprecation, satire, ambiguity, and surprise into strategic device and critical method, his poetry explores, mocks, exposes, deflates, protests, and caricatures. Its privileged targets are...

    • Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche (b. 1942)
      (pp. 278-280)
      Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche

      Vicente Rodríguez Nietzsche was born in Santurce. He acquired his primary and secondary education in Santurce and went on to study at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras before joining the managerial staff of the government-run telephone company. An editor of the journalGuajanasince its inception, he has contributed works to a variety of other journals on the island—Bayoán,Mester,Sin nombre,Mairena, andInstituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, among others—as well as to journals abroad.

      In 1965 he published his first book of poems,Domingo,lunes,martes(Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). That same year the book...

    • Jorge María Ruscalleda Bercedóniz (b. 1944)
      (pp. 281-286)
      Jorge María Ruscalleda Bercedóniz

      A member of the faculty in the Department of Hispanic Studies on the Mayagüez campus of the University of Puerto Rico, Jorge María Ruscalleda Bercedóniz, a native of Aguadilla, received a bachelor’s degree from the Río Piedras campus in 1966 and a master’s degree in 1972. He taught briefly at the Colegio Nacional de Cayey before going on to receive his doctorate in literature from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1988. In addition to writing a thesis onEl negro en la poesía de la Segunda Generación Republicana de Cuba(Blacks in the Poetry of Cuba’s Second Generation...

    • Juan de Matta García (b. 1947)
      (pp. 287-289)
      Juan de Matta García

      The author, thus far, of a single book of poems—Prietuscos y tarcualitos(Dusky and Uppity Folk [1991])—Juan de Matta García was born the sixth of his parents’ ten children, in the Malpica district of the town of Río Grande. He completed his primary and secondary schooling there, and in 1965 participated in an international cultural exchange program with students from Latin America, Europe, and the United States. He went on to graduate in political science and sociology from the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. After moving to Arecibo, where he had a successful stretch as a...

    • Manuel Ramos Otero (1948–1990)
      (pp. 290-296)
      Manuel Ramos Otero

      Acuentero(weaver of tales), an experimental novelist, and a poet who was also one of the most heretically nonconformist voices of contemporary Puerto Rican literature, Manuel Ramos Otero was born in the semirural northern coastal town of Manatí. After moving to Río Piedras when he was seven, he got his primary and secondary education in the local parochial schools of that more urban and capitaline setting before going on to receive a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Puerto Rico in 1968. In that same year, “chang[ing] cities like one who changes islands,” he emigrated to New...

    • José Luis Vega (b. 1948)
      (pp. 297-301)
      José Luis Vega

      José Luis Vega—discerning critic and sagacious anthologist whose works include a study ofCésar Vallejo en Trilce(1983) and an important collection of contemporary Puerto Rican short stories,Reunión de espejos(Gathering of Mirrors [1983])—is a native of Santurce. He graduated from the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in the social sciences and subsequently went on to complete a graduate program in literature there. In the years since, he has taught Spanish American poetry as a member of the university’s faculty in Hispanic studies and is currently dean of the Division...

    • Luz Ivonne Ochart (b. 1949)
      (pp. 302-308)
      Luz Ivonne Ochart

      Luz Ivonne Ochart was born in Santurce. A one-time commentator on the local educational scene, author of the collection of short storiesEl fuego de las cosas(The Blaze of Things [1990]), and a university professor, she emerged to public attention as a poet as contributor to a variety of insular literary journals, magazines, and periodicals, includingZona de carga y descarga,Crisis,Alicia la roja,Guajana, andClaridad. Her work also began to appear in several new anthological compilations, among themPoesiaoi: Antología de la sospecha(1978) andAntología de la poesía de la mujer puertorriqueña.

      After beginning her...

    • Vanessa Droz (b. 1952)
      (pp. 309-313)
      Vanessa Droz

      Vanessa Droz hails from Vega Baja. A graduate in comparative literature from the University of Puerto Rico, she has served on the editorial boards of such notable journals asZona de carga y descargaandPenélope o el otro mundo. In 1980 she cofounded and co-edited yet another jounal,Reintegro. Droz is a writer familiar to readers of not only these but also other local and some international periodicals, such asSin nombreandCasa de las Américas. Her poetry had also earned a place in several anthologies—among themPoemario de la mujer puertorriqueñafrom the Institute of Puerto...

    • Pedro López Adorno (b. 1954)
      (pp. 314-318)
      Pedro López Adorno

      “The truth,” Pedro López Adorno argues, “is an enigma.” His work as a poet, he writes, consequently proposes “synecdoches of enigmas as discourse-invisibility-splendor-ruin-concert-disobedience-reverie-craft; metonymies of ascension in the face of these mute descents are the silences of discernment; metaphors of the body of intensity of desire meeting the rigor of my surrender; the hyperboles of its faithful labyrinths that call to me from the flesh; the transparency of its internal music; the geography of the bonds and abysses of being.” Simultaneously suggestingneoconceptistaechoes of the Spanish and Spanish American baroque; the thematic and figurative primacy of (classical and popular)...

    • Lilliana Ramos Collado (b. 1954)
      (pp. 319-322)
      Lilliana Ramos Collado

      Lilliana Ramos Collado, a native of San Juan, was one of the founders and, with Vanessa Droz, co-editor ofReintegro. After attending the high school of the University of Puerto Rico, Ramos went on to major as an undergraduate in natural science and mathematics and then to pursue graduate study in comparative literature. An essayist, a critic, and a translator whose credits include the complete poetry of Charles Baudelaire, poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, and selections from the work of T. S. Eliot, Ramos Collado has also collaborated on adaptations from other genres for the theater. For a time, she served...

  8. Book Four: Of Diasporas, Syncretisms, Border Crossings, and Transnationalizations:: An AmeRícan Sancocho

    • Rosario Morales (b. 1930)
      (pp. 325-332)
      Rosario Morales

      Rosario Morales’s parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the year before she was born. She grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx, “among children of Irish, European Jewish, Puerto Rican, Southern Black and Afro-Caribbean migrants,” she notes. At twenty, while studying at Hunter College, she married another New Yorker from a politically radical Ukrainian Jewish family. The couple moved to Puerto Rico, where their three children were born and raised. For the first five years, they farmed and sold a variety of produce, and they became active organizers in support of minimum-wage legislation, cooperatives, women’s issues, and...

    • Jaime Carrero (b. 1931)
      (pp. 333-337)
      Jaime Carrero

      Born in Mayagüez, Jaime Carrero was initially trained as a painter and began his artistic life as a visual artist. After attending local primary and secondary schools, he received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Polytechnic Institute in San Germán. He spent four years thereafter studying art in New York (at the Pratt Institute and Columbia University) and in Florence, Italy. As much the graphic as the literary artist, he has experienced both local and international public recognition. Some of his paintings are among those that hang permanently in the Puerto Rican Museum of Fine Arts. In the...

    • Jack Agüeros (b. 1934)
      (pp. 338-343)
      Jack Agüeros

      Jack Agüeros was born in East Harlem, a year after his parents arrived in New York from the rural island townships of Naranjito and Quebradillas. He thus attended local public schools and was raised in and came of age during a crucially formative transitional period in the evolving history of the city of New York and its Puerto Rican community. It was the period that extended from the half decade or so before World War II (nearly a decade before the arrival in the United Sates of any of the later island-born Nuyorican poets who spent their earliest infancy in...

    • Miguel Algarín (b. 1941)
      (pp. 344-353)
      Miguel Algarín

      In 1975 Miguel Algarín founded the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (“Loisaida”). That same year, the appearance ofNuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings, which Algarín co-edited with fellow poet Miguel Piñero, gave the then still novel neologismNuyoricanthe wider public literary debut from which, in very short order, it achieved the popular currency that it enjoys in many quarters still.

      Like Jaime Carrero’s earlier and more fleeting coinage ofNeoRican, the use ofNuyoricanwas a first, signal response to the (still ongoing) search for terms appropriate to the facts of...

    • Lydia Cortés (b. 1942)
      (pp. 354-356)
      Lydia Cortés

      Lydia Cortés’s parents left Ponce and Peñuelas for New York during the depression era of the late 1920s and 1930s. They eventually settled in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where this Brooklynboricuawas born and raised. She attended Girl’s High School for a year and later transferred to Erasmus High School, from which she graduated in 1960. After graduating from St. Johns University in 1964, she almost immediately began the teaching career that had her working at virtually every classroom level in the New York City school system until her retirement in 1996.

      A brief, four-year residence in Rome...

    • Pedro Pietri (1944–2004)
      (pp. 357-371)
      Pedro Pietri

      A poet, playwright, Vietnam veteran, and one of the founding contributors to the 1975 establishment of the Nuyorican Poets Café, Pedro Pietri was born in Ponce. Having moved to the United States at the age of three, he grew up on the streets of Harlem; attended neighborhood public schools; and, in 1960, graduated from Haaren High School. A year later, working as a page restacking books in Butler Library at Columbia University, he came in contact with the poetry of Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and William Butler Yeats. This influence initially inspired him to attempt writing his own.

      The son...

    • Louis Reyes Rivera (b. 1945)
      (pp. 372-380)
      Louis Reyes Rivera

      The poet-essayist Louis Reyes Rivera, known as the “Janitor of History,” has authored and/or edited more than fifteen volumes of poetry and prose, includingPoets in Motion(1976);Womanrise(1978); John Oliver Killens’sGreat Black Russian(1989);This One for You(1983); Adal Maldonado’sPortraits of the Puerto Rican Experience;Bonafide Roja’sPelo Bueno(2003); his ownwho pays the cost(1977), from which “no hole in a punctured poem” is taken; and the award-winningScattered Scripture(1996), from which “the adverb” and “like Toussaint, so Martí” are taken.

      Reyes Rivera was born and bred in the Marcy Projects in...

    • Miguel Piñero (1946–1988)
      (pp. 381-388)
      Miguel Piñero

      Miguel Piñero, the foremost, most notorious and renowned figure of the “outlaw” branch of Nuyorican poetry, was a playwright and poet best known as the subject of director León Ichaso’s 2001 film,Piñero, and as the author ofShort Eyes. This graphic and vivid portrayal of prison life and of coercive power as metaphor was awarded an OBIE and the New York Critics’ Circle Award for best U.S. play of the 1973–1974 theater season.

      Born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, and raised on the Lower East Side of New York, Piñero was a junior high school dropout who began his...

    • Julio Marzán (b. 1946)
      (pp. 389-394)
      Julio Marzán

      Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Julio Marzán first came to the United States at the age of five. Growing up in the Bronx, he completed his primary and secondary schooling in its local public schools. He graduated from Fordham University with a bachelor’s degree in 1963, earned a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University in 1971, and then went on to receive a doctorate in literary studies from New York University. Currently an associate professor of English at Nassau Community College, he is also a member of the governing board of Poets’ House in New York.

      He emerged...

    • Alba Ambert (b. 1946)
      (pp. 395-407)
      Alba Ambert

      When her mother died (a victim of tuberculosis)—leaving two-year-old Alba Lambert with the pain “of an amputated limb”—Alba was sent from her native Santurce to live with her grandmother in the South Bronx. After Alba and her grandmother returned to Puerto Rico in 1958, Alba did not leave the island again until she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1974. Having graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, she went on to receive a master’s degree in psycholinguistics from Harvard University a year later. While working toward her doctorate in...

    • Felipe Luciano (b. 1947)
      (pp. 408-421)
      Felipe Luciano

      Born and raised in Spanish Harlem, Felipe Luciano was an early and important participant in the awakening of the new consciousness-raising radicalism among Puerto Ricans in New York and across the country in the late 1960s and 1970s. He was a founder and chairman of The Young Lords, the organization universally credited as “indisputably the main catalyst for the second [U.S.-basedboricua] generation’s baptism into radical politics.” He was instrumental in its success in promoting an agenda of militant direct action and community empowerment, ethnic pride, and civil rights, which fought against the discriminatory typecasting of “Puerto Ricans as a...

    • Sandra María Esteves (b. 1948)
      (pp. 422-428)
      Sandra María Esteves

      A visual and performing artist, director, teacher, and poet, Sandra María Esteves was born and raised in the Bronx. Esteves was the only daughter of a needle trades factory worker from the Dominican Republic who migrated to New York in the mid-1930s and a merchant seaman from San Juan who arrived sometime later. Her parents separated before her birth, and Esteves grew up in her mother’s Hunts Point household, with the help and support of her paternal aunt. After seven years at the Holy Rosary Academy, a Catholic boarding school run by nuns on the Lower East Side (which she...

    • Victor Hernández Cruz (b. 1949)
      (pp. 429-439)
      Victor Hernández Cruz

      Victor Hernández Cruz was born in the small town of Aguas Buenas, in the lush mountainous island terrain of the traditional coffee—and tobacco-producing interior, southwest of San Juan. After migrating with his family to New York in 1954 at the age of nine, he was raised in Spanish Harlem and later become a familiar of the more typically bohemian downtown East Village and Latino/a Lower East Side (Loisada). Early drawn to writing and the arts, he published his first book of poems,Papo Got His Gunin 1966, while he was still in his teens. From 1967 to 1969,...

    • Tato Laviera (b. 1951)
      (pp. 440-446)
      Tato Laviera

      A poet, playwright, producer, performer, and musician, Tato Laviera was born in Santurce, during (as he puts it) “the springtime of the Commonwealth” of Luis Muñoz Marín. The son of a nationalist contractor, whose family originally came to Puerto Rico from Venezuela, Laviera left for New York with his mother in the summer of 1960 and, from the age of nine, grew up on the city’s Lower East Side. He graduated from high school in 1968 and later enrolled for a time at Cornell University and Brooklyn College before becoming director of the University of the Streets adult education/college preparatory...

    • Judith Ortiz Cofer (b. 1952)
      (pp. 447-452)
      Judith Ortiz Cofer

      Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in the rural southwestern town of Hormigueros. In 1955, when she was three years old, her family moved to Patterson, New Jersey, while her father was stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Over the course of the next thirteen years, Judith grew up in Patterson, with extended annual visits to her grandmother’s home in Puerto Rico. When Judith’s father retired from the U.S. Navy in 1968, the family moved to Augusta, Georgia. After completing her final high school years there, Judith attended Augusta College, graduating in 1974. There she met the man she would marry....

    • Aurora Levins Morales (b. 1954)
      (pp. 453-458)
      Aurora Levins Morales

      Aurora Levins Morales was born in the island town of Adjuntas, lived in New York from 1956 to 1961, returned to Puerto Rico when she was twelve years old, and spent a year of her adolescence in Chicago. She earned an associate’s degree from Franconia College in New Hampshire before moving to California in 1989. After completing her undergraduate studies at Mills College in Oakland, Levins Morales served as an affiliated scholar of the Beatrice Bain Feminist Research Group of the University of California at Berkeley between 1993 and 1995 and received her doctorate in woman’s studies and history from...

    • Martín Espada (b. 1957)
      (pp. 459-466)
      Martín Espada

      Martín Espada was born and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn. He went on to the University of Wisconsin and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1981. After he earned his Juris Doctor degree from the Northeastern University School of Law in 1985, he was admitted to the Massachusetts and Federal Bar. He worked as a lawyer, dealing almost exclusively with issues of housing, health, employment, education, and civil rights that most directly affected the lives of low-income, Spanish-speaking tenants in Chelsea, Massachusetts. From the mid-1970s to the 1980s, he rediscovered the poet’s vocation from which...

    • Naomi Ayala (b. 1964)
      (pp. 467-470)
      Naomi Ayala

      Naomi Ayala was born in New Haven, Connecticut, while her parents were visiting at the home of her paternal grandparents. More than a year later, Naomi was taken to Puerto Rico, where she grew up in the town of Río Grande. She did not return to the United States until 1978, when she went back to New Haven alone. There she completed her secondary schooling and learned the English in which she would later write her poems. She attended Wheaton College for a year before leaving intent on “educating [her]self and becoming a better writer.” She soon became an enthusiastic...

    (pp. 471-484)
    (pp. 485-490)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 491-491)