|Title:||Beyond the Island: Puerto Rican Diaspora in "America" and "América"|
|Publication info:||Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
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Beyond the Island: Puerto Rican Diaspora in "America" and "América"
vol. 3, no. 1, Summer 2001
Beyond the Island: Puerto Rican Diaspora in "America" and "América"
Mapping National Culture
Situated in between America (the United States) and América (all of Latin America including the Latino populations of the United States), Puerto Rico lies at the center of the most recent academic discussions over the space of contemporary Latin American culture.  As the migration of Latin Americans northward increases and as Latinos (recent and rooted residents of North America) further impact the political and cultural spheres of the United States, the boundaries of Latin America continue to shift, this time expanding beyond the boundaries historically imposed by colonial and imperial forces. In Puerto Rico, authors increasingly explore the nation in relation to the diaspora and a broader Latin American transnational space, consequently inviting profound shifts in the concept of a strictly insular or Nuyorican identity. The implications of these reconceptualizations are significant, for they challenge concepts of isolated national or immigrant identities and call into question highly charged notions of world regions.
Representations of a transnational Puerto Rican identity are relatively new.  As Arcadio Díaz Quiñones has pointed out, throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the political desire for Puerto Rican national sovereignty has dominated inquiries into the relationship between the United States and the island to such an extent, that the large migrant population of Puerto Ricans in the United States has been ignored (46-7). This absence within the Puerto Rican imaginary is best understood in relation to the production of insular nation narrations, shaped and complicated by the forces of imperialism, colonialism, creole elitism, and hispanophilia. Part and parcel of the historical process, these nation narrations have reflected and shaped debates over language, puertorriqueñidad, and the ethnic character and geographical location of the island, consciously omitting the diasporic population, whose sociocultural and geographical experiences complicate the essentialisms at the base of the foundational project.
The historical struggle to articulate through literature the spatial and cultural dimensions of a Puerto Rican national identity in the twentieth century is best understood in terms of two periods: one constructive, the other critical. Here I review this literary and cultural history as an ongoing struggle over representations of Puerto Rican cultural identity. I discuss how alternative, transnational configurations of the island emerge, uncovering the tensions and contradictions masked by previous local and insular definitions of national identity. Specifically, I examine Luis Rafael Sánchez's critical fiction La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1989) as one of the first attempts on the island to project a Puerto Rican diasporic identity onto a larger trans-Américas map. I nonetheless suggest that Sánchez's representation participates in another process of masking. Specifically, I demonstrate how Miguel Piñero's "This Is Not the Place Where I Was Born" (1985), and Aurora Levins Morales' "Puerto Rico Journal" (1986) reveal that not all Nuyoricans feel at home in the homeland, a tension that is lost to the unified transnational Puerto Rican identity articulated by Sánchez.
Puerto Rico, USA
The struggle to define the geo-cultural boundaries of Puerto Rico can only be understood within the context of Spanish colonial rule, United States imperialism in the Caribbean, and the subsequent relationships between America and América. This history continues to shape Puerto Rican identity in profound ways. As Juan Flores has stated in his "Pan-Latino/Trans-Latino," Puerto Ricans living in New York face the stigma of being what Willie Colón calls "legal aliens": "For Puerto Ricans, the 'blessings' of American citizenship have been even worse than mixed" (125). Despite struggles for alternative political configurations, the United States still owns the island of Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory. Puerto Rico is thus the oldest colony in the world. Even before occupation, United States politicians had long kept their eye on Puerto Rico and considered the island and Cuba "natural appendages to the North American continent" (Schoultz 48). Subsequent to the Spanish American War, in many ways the symbolic pinnacle of United States imperialism throughout the Caribbean and in the Pacific, Spain was forced to cede Puerto Rico to the United States as a tribute of war. Puerto Rico thus passed from the Spanish political map to that of the United States. While the takeover of Puerto Rico was an act of colonialism, not all Puerto Ricans were against partial incorporation to the United States. 
Historically, many of the intellectuals and artists on the island—the strongest advocates of Puerto Rican independence and nationalism—have played a foundational role in defining the identity of the island. The development of a national identity has, therefore, been both political and literary. Politicians have drawn on literature as a source for nationalist icons, and writers have authored texts with political ends in mind. As a result, much of twentieth-century Puerto Rican literature, art, and intellectual thought reflect the possible meanings of a liberated and autonomous Puerto Rican nation. Defending a Puerto Rican essence, unapuertorriqueñidad, against assimilationist programs, this intellectual minority has time and again throughout the twentieth century emphasized Puerto Rico's difference and its incompatibility with the Anglo culture of the United States. Accordingly, Puerto Rico has been placed onto a variety of different symbolic, spatio-cultural maps that resist the imperialist cartography: Puerto Rico, United States.
Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico: the birth of puertorriqueñidad
In part, the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States was welcomed by a Creole elite who, for some years, had worked to produce a national imaginary as part of their resistance to colonial rule by Spain. Amongst this Creole elite, the independentistas believed in complete freedom of self-governance while the autonomistas  wanted to remove the Spanish bureaucracy and abolish the privileges that the Spanish elite continued to enjoy on the island, but still remain Spanish. Most prominently Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903), Salvador Brau (1842-1912), and Manuel Zeno Gandía (1855-1930) made preliminary attempts to imagine a national community (la gran familia puertorriqueña) and articulate a national consciousness (puertorriqueñidad) by critiquing the colonial conditions of the island and projecting a future autonomous society.
Using literature to disseminate puertorriqueñidad, the Creole elite romanticized the mountainous countryside of the island and turned to the agrarian peasants of this land, the jíbaro (the Puerto Rican word for a campesino), as the symbol of the nation's present, and possible future. The inward motion of the elite's exploration, their journey toward the interior of the island, reflects a desire to construct a symbolic value of Puerto Rican culture, to found a home based on something essentially Puerto Rican. By turning to the interior, the Puerto Rican elite created what Janis P. Stout calls a "directional association" (6), whereby an imagined boundary directs value and thus creates a hierarchy. At this early stage, the Puerto Rican elite built a representational boundary which divided the coast and the hinterlands. This constructed cultural divide left out and thus devalued the largely African population of the coast. The hinterlands, like the pampas of Argentina or the selva of Colombia, became a future utopia, the site of autochthony, a space set apart from the colonial structure and thus conceived of as more authentically Puerto Rican.
Despite the romantic implications of returning to the land, the Creole elite believed that the internal frontier also needed to be healed. According to this elite, the plantation hierarchy on the cafetales (coffee-tree plantations) had impoverished the people both physically and spiritually, and as a result illiteracy and sickness were rampant. Nowhere is the culmination of all of these socio-spatial meanings clearer than in Zeno Gandia's novel, La charca (1894). A novel strongly influenced by naturalism, a literary movement influenced by theories of genetic determinism, La charca presents the jíbaros as a deteriorated people, exploited on the cafetal, and condemned by their ethnic identity to sickness and poverty. He contrasts the misery of the jíbaro against an opulent scenery of the mountainside of the island interior. Through such representations, the hinterlands became a social frontier open to the paternalistic motives of the Creole elite.
Just after the United States occupation, the search for puertorriqueñidad unified the autonomistas and the independentistas who had otherwise held distinct positions regarding Puerto Rico's future form of government.  Now united as nationalists against those in favor of statehood, this political group rekindled puertorriqueñidad, this time as a way to assert an independent identity and culture against "Americanization," which they believed was changing the foundations of Puerto Rican society. As Mariano Negrón-Portillo aptly points out, this position "would help this elite challenge the ideology of colonialism" (48) but, by the same token, it also provided a screen against the social differences and emergent identities which had taken shape after the occupation.
If in previous proclamations adherents to puertorriqueñidad spoke about gaining freedom from the antiquated customs of the Spanish, during the beginning of the twentieth century, the pro-independence Creole elite turned nostalgically to Spain with the hopes of returning to their roots. They heralded the Spanish language as the island's "natural" tongue and reaffirmed Spanish traditions as the base of Puerto Rican culture. This recourse to Spanish culture rendered invisible the popular majority, including the considerable population of African Puerto Ricans who were seized from their homelands and enslaved by the Spanish colonists on the island, bringing with them new languages, music, traditions and customs. Furthermore, those qualities of the African tribal cultures which had transformed the Spanish cultures were nullified as Puerto Rican culture was defended in whitened, Hispanic terms. Similarly, the voices of women and their struggle for equal rights were suppressed as the nationalist elite reaffirmed the traditional Spanish family and thus limited women's participation in public life. 
Despite the fact that the period spanning the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States in 1898 through the 1930s was the most unstable in the history of the island, the nationalists successfully disseminated a concept of nationhood and thus gained control of the dominant representation of Puerto Rico. Nonetheless their concepts of nationhood and national space were fragile for they failed to recognize the forces of difference, or what Juan G. Gelpí refers to as "dispersion" and "insubordination" (132). Instead, this elite sought to homogenize and thus contain the Puerto Rican population under a nationalism which privileged their own political desires and cultural values.
Turning toward the greater half of the twentieth century, the search for identity finds its greatest expression in literature. The first period between 1930-1950, has been associated with a return of "hispanophilia," now an established intellectual movement which again asserted and celebrated Puerto Rico's Spanish heritage. Except for Palés Matos who critiqued the movement and promoted an Antillean identity, most writers adhered to this eurocentric conception of Puerto Rican culture. A second period beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, marks a criticism of hispanophilia and a process of redefining Puerto Rican culture in general.
Puerto Rico, Spain: Insular Hispanophilia in the 1930s
In the 1930s, the search for national identity reached a new apex mirroring in many ways the prior process of cultural mapping which had begun during the struggle for independence. Linked with the so-called "Generation of 1930," this period was marked by the works of Antonio S. Pedreira (1899-1939), Francisco Manrique Cabrera (1908-78), and Enrique Laguerre (1906). Like the Creole elite who preceded this group, these authors opposed American assimilationist programs by affirming the traditional heritage of Puerto Rican culture as Hispanic. The impact of their cultural production had a lasting effect. As Juan Gelpí has stated, this period has been described by some as a renaissance centered around the "founding voice" (19) of Pedreira's "Insularismo" (1934), an essay which defined Puerto Rico not only as Hispanic and insular, but also as pathologically affected by imperialism. The leading intellectuals of this time successfully abolished mandatory English-language instruction in public schools, and rejuvenated a political scene which had grown stagnant. Yet, in their attempt to revive a Puerto Rican culture, they resurrected hispanophilia and so disregarded emancipatory opportunities for blacks, women, emigrant and resident cultures of the working class, and furthermore whitewashed the African influences on all aspects of Puerto Rican culture. 
While this generation returned to their predecessors' concept of national identity in their reformulation of a Puerto Rican essence, they also departed from puertorriqueñidad by institutionalizing the jíbaro as an affirmative symbol of a rooted Puerto Rican culture, thus initiating "un nuevo ciclo jibaresco" (Pedreira 14). In contrast to authors such as Zeno Gandía who represented the jíbaro as a decrepit and exploited character—an allegory for an oppressed nation still colonized by the fading Spanish Empire—the jibaristas of the 1930s idealized the jíbaro. No longer a sign of atraso marking the need for modern progress, the jíbaro became a symbol of a pure, rural, traditional Puerto Rican essence untouched by the transformations brought about by the United States. This transformation of the jíbaro into a figure of folk culture is at once a nostalgic return, an attempt to recover an idyllic past and "pure" essence, and a protest against the United States development of the interior. The resurrection of the jíbaro also comes at the height of the migration of these agrarian people to the city. As Arcadio Díaz Quiñones has aptly argued, this migration becomes part and parcel of "la memoria rota" ("the ruptured memory") of Puerto Rico. The absence of any discussion of the migrant, "ese hueco y ese silencio" ("this gap and this silence"; 46-7) is covered over by the cultural rejuvenation of nostalgia for the jíbaro by the hispanophile elite.
Fused once again, the "internal frontier"  and the jíbaro provided the symbolic cuadro on which to plot Puerto Rican identity. A revised representation of the nation, the hinterlands and its jíbaro reemerge and are institutionalized as the national emblem of Puerto Rico. And yet, Pedreira takes this one step further. The jíbaro, he suggests, is not merely a reminder of the "good old days" of traditional Puerto Rican values and customs, he is also the source of the Puerto Rican psychology:
This attempt to universalize a largely Hispanic character marks a continuation of repression on the part of the elite, anxious to maintain the white, European, cultural hegemony, and suppress the African and Caribbean influences on Puerto Rican culture as well as the emergent identities of the working class, blacks, and women. This repression continues throughout the forties and fifties. During these years the recourse to the jíbaro as an icon by conservative authors such as Alfaro Díaz and the adoption of this figure as the party symbol by the PPD (Partido Popular Democrático; "Popular Democratic Party") mark a new institutionalization of this figure.  Against this conservative tide, Palés Matos, considered a maverick by the intellectual elite of the "Generation of 1930," symbolized the future rupture of this insular identity and the coming rise of AfroPuerto Rico.
Puerto Rico, Antilles:Palés Matos and Beyond
Luis Palés Matos was one of the first intellectuals to question the whitened construction of Puerto Rican identity. Through his theory of antillanismo Palés Matos called attention to the black and mulatto populations on the island, addressed racism, and contributed an alternative Antillean geo-cultural perspective of national space that countered the dominant representation of Puerto Rico. Specifically, Palés Matos critiqued the hispanophile identification of Puerto Rican culture endorsed by his peers by arguing that Puerto Rican culture was part of an Afro-Antillean culture:
Here Palés Matos offered a radically new map of Puerto Rico's cultural geography. To begin he emphasized the location of Puerto Rico as within the basin of the Caribbean. While this may seem obvious, hispanophiles repressed such an identification by avoiding the coastline where most of the black populations lived. Second, Palés Matos emphasized that Puerto Rico was not isolated but instead culturally joined to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. By highlighting these associations Palés Matos therefore questioned and, in part, discredited former attempts to plot the island as an insular appendage of Spain.
While Palés Matos' cultural theory created the base of antillanismo, his poetry, for which he was most famous, has been associated with cultura negroid. While Palés Matos sought recognition of the African element in Puerto Rico, his poetic portrayals were primitivist, mythic, and transcended the real life conditions of blacks on the island. For example, his poem "Numen" from Tuntún de pasa y grifería depicts the following primitivist scene:
According to Juan Giusti Cordero, these type of poetic depictions of blacks, as well as his exotification and idealization of black women (see for example "Pueblo Negro") mark Palés Matos as part of cultura negroide:
Indeed, Palés Matos defended himself against critiques that his treatment of lo negro was not grounded in a social reality, a common critique at a time when poetry with a social or political commentary was en vogue. Against comparisons with his Cuban contemporaries, Nicolas Guillén and Emilio Ballagas, he would state, "si bien el negro de mi obra no resulta actual, en mi proyección lírica lo es en su esencia" ("if the black in my work doesn't seem real, in my lyric projection he is real in his essence"; Palés Matos 10) .
Palés Matos' theory of antillanismo, and his discussion of spiritual and psychological affinities, demonstrate how he consciously sought to poeticize essence. And yet, his interest in human essence cannot be separated from the currents of the time, when biological discourses on race survived through primitivist aesthetics. Furthermore, despite the essentializing nature of his poetry and his exotification of the African culture, the power of Palés Matos cultural intervention cannot be underestimated. By challenging racism and the hegemonic constructions of a Europeanized Puerto Rican identity he questioned elitist, eurocentric notions of culture. He insisted on portraying African influenced culture in Puerto Rico, most particularly the influence of African rhythms, and he introduced a new geographical and cultural consciousness with which to reimagine Puerto Rico. As a result of the power of institutional racism, this consciousness had little impact at the time, but antillanismo was later to become the predominant influence on intellectuals and artists in the 1960s and 1970s.
Despite Palés Matos' intervention, and perhaps as a reaction to it, literature produced up until the 1960s continued to promote a Europeanized version of Puerto Rican culture. Even in 1968 Enrique Laguerre writes: "Puerto Rico [es sin duda] uno de los países más hispánicos de América...[y el jíbaro es]...la más profunda expresión de nuestra identidad de pueblo" ("Puerto Rico is without a doubt one of the most Hispanic countries in América... [and the jíbaro is] the most profound expression of our collective being"; xii) . According to Juan Gelpí, the final vestiges of hispanophilia can be found in the work of René Marqués (1919-1979). Although his literature did not focus on the jíbaro, he nonetheless continued to promote nostalgia for the rural culture lost to industrialization in works such as La carreta (1952). As hispanophilia began to deteriorate, however, a new literature began to emerge  which turned away from the land and the world of the jíbaro. This literature, represented in the works of José Luis González (1926) and Emilio Díaz Valcárcel (1929), increasingly treated urban themes in response to the industrial development of the country and the consequent displacement of Puerto Ricans from rural to urban settings and from the island to New York City. Yet, even as New York and the working class were treated as themes, the Puerto Rican population of New York was not incorporated into the Puerto Rican national imaginary until the 1990s.
Puerto Rico, América
In the 1960s a Latinamericanist perspective began to develop which provided another alternative spatial representation of Puerto Rico. The graphing of Puerto Rico onto a Latin American map is interesting and complicated for several reasons. In contrast to most Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, Puerto Rico was not saved by the great Wars of Independence led by Símon Bolívar. The Wars of Independence marked both a temporary and lasting collective experience, but most of all provided tremendous symbolic weight to the integrity of Latin American national identities. This integrity was not only expressed by the emerging nation-state, but by the people who populated the newly carved nation spaces.
Until recently, Puerto Rico has held an anomalous position among the Latin American nations. Puerto Rico not only remained outside the reach of the wars for independence and the subsequent symbolism they engendered, but it experienced autonomy only for a number of weeks before being recolonized by the United States. In this sense Puerto Rico was long outside the scope of Bolívar's imagined "América." Furthermore, the continual cultural associations with the Spanish on the part of the island's elite has been viewed as antiquated by the majority of intellectuals throughout Latin America. After the Wars of Independence, the Latin American elite continued to differentiate themselves from the Spanish in their search for a unique American expression and, therefore, demeaned everything Spanish. These opposing cultural perspectives with regard to Spanish culture continued through the twentieth-century.
Initially, the Latinamericanist vision of Puerto Rico was political and came out of anti-imperialist sentiments in the growing "social revolutionary process"  which had spread throughout the Southern Hemisphere. In a sense, the discourses of anti-imperialism, as well as the initial inspiration caused by the Cuban Revolution, provided an easy association for Puerto Rico with Latin America. It certainly provided an opportunity for the independentistas to revise and broaden their own political platform. A latinamericanist vision for Puerto Rico was presented by Manuel Maldonado Denis, in which Bolívar, José Martí, Ramón Emeterio Betances, and Hostos figure as the progenitors:
Maldonado reveals an América which once included Puerto Rico.
The hegemonic representation of an Europeanized Puerto Rican culture and its attendant hispanophilia begins to weaken amidst this new vision and a series of local and international crises. On the one hand, the economic development program Operation Bootstrap proves a failure, and, for the first time in twenty-five years, the ruling PPD (Partido Popular Democrático) loses its election. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans become increasingly attuned to the growing strength of the social revolutionary process felt throughout Latin America and the United States. The cataclysmic events behind this process included the Civil Rights movement in the United States, the student movement and subsequent massacre at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, and the worldwide protests to the Vietnam War. These struggles for political freedom, cultural recognition, and equal rights contributed to a state of critical consciousness to which intellectuals, students, and artists involved in Puerto Rican politics were hardly immune.
From this charged environment, a more sophisticated approach to culture and a more honest critique of the cultural roots and influences in Puerto Rican culture eventually emerged and ruptured the hegemony of an insular hispanophile identity. The main forces behind this rupture, authors Rosario Ferré, Ramos Otero, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Edgardo Rodríquez Juliá and Ana Lydia Vega, all began to question and break open the discourses and metaphors used to represent Puerto Rican culture, thus attending to issues of class, gender, and racial prejudice in nationalist constructions of identity. At the structural level these authors also produced a rupture by exploring alternatives to the highly realist and totalizing narratives of the past. Drawing on new modes of representation, including, but not limited to the use of multiple voices, fragmentation, the inclusion of popular forms and voices, and the juxtaposition of multiple times, these authors began to create new literary practices, re-exploring literary boundaries between reality and fantasy. Furthermore, the literature of this period began to remake place by redefining Puerto Rico. Creating a crucial forum during this period, Rosario Ferré's literary magazine Zona de carga y descarga (1972-75) as well as Nilita Vientós' journal Sin nombre (1970-1985) both served to break through the literary insularity of previous generations and open up communication between the island and the rest of Latin America.
As part of this critical rupture, antillanismo slowly began to gain popularity and develop into a broad-based aesthetic and political movement. As Giusti Cordero has suggested, antillanismo of the 1970s and 1980s had some of the same components of cultural negroide, but in historical and political terms it differed markedly. Rather than view black culture as an essential "spiritual" influence, this later development of antillanismo, based largely in Palés Matos' earlier conception, viewed African culture in more holistic terms. Furthermore, many of the later adherents to antillanismo viewed black culture as the strongest element shaping Puerto Rican culture (63). Antillanismo not only shaped artistic and intellectual currents on the island but also had a major impact on Puerto Rican culture in the United States, including the development of salsa music by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades.
Contributing to the rupture in the early seventies, Isabelo Zenón's Narciso descubre su trasero (1974) and José Luis González's El país de cuatro pisos: notas para una definición de la cultura puertorriqueña (1980) dealt serious blows to hispanophilia by critiquing the dominant representations of the island's culture. Both books radically criticized past representations of national space. In his Narciso, Zenón counters the false representation of blacks and African culture produced by the white elite on the island by methodically tracing the discourses which have shaped racist depictions of blacks throughout Puerto Rican institutions and by providing a comprehensive study of the many facets of black cultures including art and literature, the survival of African religions, language, song, dance, and sports.
In his El país de cuatro pisos, González argues that the reality of Puerto Rico is one of sharp division between "la cultura élite" and "la cultura popular." He not only rejects el jíbaro as a valid symbol of Puerto Rican culture, he suggests that this symbol has been used to erase the social and racial differences that characterize Puerto Rico:
In contrast to the jíbaro, González takes up the working class as the "true representative" of a collective Puerto Rican identity. He therefore moves away from a folklorized notion of popular culture toward a more politicized notion of the popular tied to social class. For both Zenón and González, Puerto Rican culture is shaped by a history of slavery, struggle, survival, repression, and denial that require new representations.
América en español
As Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones has stated, in a country where over forty percent of the population has left to work in the major cities of the United States, the history and study of emigration "ha brillado por su ausencia" ("has shined as an absence"; 46). Until recently, the emigrant and diasporic populations living in the United States or elsewhere have been viewed as aberrants or completely disregarded in their home countries. This attitude has existed not only in Puerto Rico, but prevailed with equal, if not more force in Mexico, Cuba, and in Argentina, albeit under different conditions.  Just as the diasporic population of Puerto Rico has been negated in narratives of national identity, by the same token New York, where much of Puerto Rico's population now lives, has been excluded as a significant place in the Puerto Rican imaginary. 
Luis Rafael Sánchez's La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1989) attempts critically to reimagine Puerto Rican culture by plotting the island in relationship to other geographical and social spaces. More specifically, Puerto Rico is revealed as a central satellite in the production of the bolero by way of the Puerto Rican diasporan bolero performer Daniel Santos, who popularized this romantic song form throughout Latin America. Sánchez thus remakes place by exploring the bolero connection between Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America. A collection of the recuerdos, the memories, of those who listened to Santos's music, La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos, contends with the representation of collective sharing, or the simultaneity, experienced through performance, the radio, and the adoration of popular celebrities. By showing how culture travels across great distances and how people from disparate shores share similar sentiments about music and the feelings music inspires, Sánchez recasts Puerto Rico as a musical and emotive source for América.
And yet, La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos differs from previous efforts to remake place in important ways. In contrast to foundational hispanophile fictions, Sánchez replaces the folkloric figure of the jíbaro with Daniel Santos, a bolero singer who had emigrated to New York in his youth. Sánchez, therefore, rejects eurocentric and insularist literary practices by centering his new imaginary on a popular figure from the Puerto Rican diaspora. Furthermore, Sánchez represents Puerto Rico as part of a pan-Latin American community. His concept of a social culture that binds Puerto Rico to Latin America is more popular than political and thus quite different from the revolutionary definition of culture espoused by Maldonado. In all of these ways Sánchez transgresses the confined socio-structural and geo-spatial articulations of place in past elitist literary representations.
As a result, Luis Rafael Sánchez's La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos has few if any characteristics which could be considered novelesque, in the traditional, bourgeois sense of the term. There is no narrative, no transparent plot, and no beginning or end to the central chapters of the book. Time sequences seem to coexist; the past and the present intersect. Furthermore, Sánchez crosses ethnographic and literary discourses, incorporates a self-reflexive narrative, and critically, but also playfully, mixes "high" and "low" culture. Here the power of totality in narrative, under erosion since Borges, has completely disintegrated. Instead, the text is a nonlinear, highly fragmented, multi-located metanarrative. This type of experimentation is not new to Sánchez's work, for La guaracha del macho camacho (1976) also draws on montage. In fact, Sánchez's aesthetics exemplify what Clifford Geertz refers to as a "refiguration of social thought" (19) in which the boundaries that previously separated critical inquiry and imaginative writing become porous and allow these two forms to inhabit each other.
As George Marcus has suggested, developing new forms of writing, such as the technique of montage, is the only way "to render a description of a cultural process that occurs in transcultural space" (40). In Sánchez's experiment, montage is not merely a new mode of writing, or a movement beyond traditional narrative forms, it is an attempt to both rethink and recreate identity and geography, to represent the terrain of diasporic identity. Specifically, he moves beyond the boundaries of the Puerto Rican nation to explore identity as fragmented, mobile, and yet rooted. He demonstrates how many places and histories shape Daniel Santos. To begin, Daniel Santos is an immigrant who initially feels torn from his homeland. He moves to New York but constantly feels nostalgia for his home, Puerto Rico. Daniel Santos becomes increasingly mobile as he climbs to fame as a bolero singer and ultimately reaches mythic stature. As a transnational celebrity, he moves back and forth between his homeland and New York but also throughout the Latin American hemisphere. In an attempt to represent this mobile identity, Sánchez explores his travels as a series of randomly ordered coordinates. There is no particular geographical logic to Daniel Santos's character. He is a man of many places and this mobility fuels the fire of his mythic reputation. By the same token, Puerto Rico has a centripetal pull on the narrative. The narrator continually returns to Puerto Rico thus marking the island as the defining point in the identity of the text.
At the same time, Sánchez explores the diasporic dimensions of culture by highlighting the transcultural affinities created through music and musicians in América. Sánchez explores how music unites people from different and vastly distant locations. By building his fiction around the bolero, Sánchez suggests that culture is diasporic in so far as it travels beyond social and spatial divisions. Specifically, Luis Rafael Sánchez's draws on the concept of diasporic cultural forms as a way of demonstrating that "Puerto Rico y lo puertorriqueño son fruto nutricio del árbol latinoamericano" ("Puerto Rico and 'lo puertorriqueño' are the nutritious fruits of the Latin American tree"; 72). The music of bolero, therefore, provides the bridge between Puerto Rico and Latin America. The birth and development of the bolero places Puerto Rico at the center and origin of a culture which over the course of fifty years spread throughout the entire continent. One of the accepted dates of initiation of the bolero is 1898, the year of the Spanish-American War and the subsequent occupation of Cuba and Puerto Rico by the United States. 1898 not only marks the beginning of a new struggle for independence, but this year plays a crucial role in the advent and future tone of Latin American modernism. As Iris M. Zavala states in her El bolero: Historia de un amor, the bolero expresses, embodies and performs sexual independence and cultural democratization, thus it is symbolically associated with the two most important narratives of modernity: "En cuanto texto cultural el bolero transmite toda la cartografía amorosa hispanoamericana moderna" (30). While this point is not overtly stated in La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos, Sánchez nonetheless articulates the same point by revising cultural identity through the lens of popular forms.
Daniel Santos, the man 
Daniel Santos grew up and spent his teenage years in the poor and working class neighborhood of Tras Talleres where he was raised, and where, as a teenager, he joined a gang of "delinquent street kids." When Santos was twenty, his father moved to New York City and took a job in an automobile factory in order to care for his family. Soon thereafter the entire family left the island and joined the Puerto Rican diaspora in Brooklyn.  Here Santos's rough life-style flourished. He continued to drink, gamble, steal and get into fights, but now his rebelliousness was transformed by the struggle to survive in the belly of the imperial beast. While Santos sang for years in the clubs of New York, earning at times ten dollars and all the alcohol he could drink for three nights of work, it was after many jobs and military service that he gained success as a musician. Once he made his fame as singer in the music scene in New York, the new technologies of records, radio and cinema, made him one of the many musicians who popularized the bolero throughout Latin America. Thus, unlike his contemporary, Carlos Gardel, who popularized the tango but became famous as a symbol of "la gran Buenos Aires" only after his death, Daniel Santos popularized the bolero throughout Latin America and also lived through the glory of his fame. With the improved modes of transportation, Daniel Santos performed his interpretation of the bolero throughout Latin America and so joined the international entertainment scene during the zenith of the bolero in the 1950s. Like other male and female musicians of the time who performed the highly seductive and sensual songs of bolero, Daniel Santos was transformed by his fans into an idol. Even though Daniel Santos did not write his own songs but sang many of the most well known boleros composed by Rafael Hernández and Pedro Flores, he made the bolero his own through his voice and his performance.
The Geography of Memory
La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos begins with the following premise: the myth of the famous Puerto Rican bolero singer, Daniel Santos, and his interpretation of the bolero have been engraved in the collective memory of his fans and admirers throughout the greater Latin America, from New York to Lima. The central protagonist, self-reflexively presented as a fictional ethnographer named "Luis Rafael Sánchez" (from here on referred to as "Sánchez"), taps this collective memory and uncovers the common ground linking Puerto Rico to New York and to all of the great urban cities of Latin America. "Sánchez" reconstructs the geography of the collective memory of Daniel Santos by presenting a fictional record of the voices and memories of those who remember him. Like a travelogue, Sánchez highlights each place he visits in italics at the beginning of each testimonio, introducing the site and the location. Some examples include the following: "In a catholic refuge in Old San Juan...Transcription of an event that took place in a bar in Lima...A chunk of an interview held in the Avenida Reforma of Mexico City" (22).
Traveling through the major cities of Latin America, Sánchez' text thus reveals the urban geography of Daniel Santos's bolero. Departing from San Juan, Sánchez travels to Buenos Aires, Panama, Habana, Caracas, Lima, Tijuana, Cali, Mexico City, New York, Santo Domingo, Guayaquil, and Managua. "Sánchez" does not move amongst these points in any discernible pattern, but keeping with his montage style, moves randomly to his destinations throughout "América en español." This geography is embellished as several of Sánchez's informants make references to the surrounding national geography. For example, one informant from Caracas states: "Lo juro que en Venezuela se hubiera bebido el Orinoco si el Orinoco condujera líquidos embriagadores" ("I swear that in Venezuela he would have drunk the Orinoco River if it had flowed intoxicating liquids"; 35). At other points his informants make references to regional foods: "Me puse a concinarle una marifinga con leche" ("I started to cook a marifinga with milk for him"; 25). All of these references serve to demonstrate the cultural variation throughout Latin America, the specificities of place through which Daniel Santos and his music travelled.
As a collection, these testimonios serve as the critical-constructive part of Sánchez's text and transcultural map. Throughout América, "Sánchez" collects memories and stories about Santos and the power of his impact on those who saw him in concert. Specifically, "Sánchez" sets out to observe, record, and write about "el rastro de su popularidad" ("the trace of his popularity"; 14). In this case popularity poetically refers to several things at once: it describes the class of people, namely the "popular" or working class, to which his music catered, and it also makes reference to the kind of commonly shared culture, created by new technologies and transported through mass communications, in this case, the culture created by radio. Finally, popularidad refers to the spirit of admiration and desire for the singer which makes him dreamlike or mythic to his audiences. As Sánchez states at one point: "Incesante es el hilo que teje su leyenda" ("Incessant is the thread which seams his legend"; 34).
Thus, on the one hand, "Sánchez's" informants recall the magnitude of Santos's popularidad: A venezolano claims: "Venezuela todo era suya" ("All of Venezuela was his"; 48), while a man of Guayaquil recalls this memory of a public concert:
A man in Panama not only refers to the numbers of people that followed Santos but remarks that he was particularly popular amongst the working class:
Other testimonies reveal Daniel Santos's general appeal to the popular classes and show that he brought different classes into the same place. For example, one fan,another venezolano, describes Daniel Santos's concerts as a contact zone for the poor and the rich: "Se llegaban a oírlo la polilla y lo mejorcito del lugar—que en este país es una vaina muy seria" ("The dregs and the gentry came to hear him—a serious thing in this country"; 46).
Through more testimonies we learn why Santos stood out from the crowd of bolero singers which numbered over thirty at the time. As one of the witnesses from Mexico City reveals, Santos made his fame by taking the bolero to another level:
As this account suggests, Santos not only sang the bolero, he enacted the drama of the text. A cubano in La Habana makes a similar point: "Y para cerrar con broche de oro...salía él. Cosa más grande, caballero. Hasta el micrófono lo respetaba...Pulmón sinceridad eran sus sellos de garantía" ("And to close the show with a gold pin...He appeared. The most amazing thing, man. Even the microphone respected him. Lung and sincerity were his guarantee stamps"; 53). According to another informant in Tijuana, Santos not only performed the bolero as a soloist, he galvanized his duo performances with all of the most famous female singers of bolero in México including Eva Garza and Toña la Negra: "Se acoplaban tan saboreado el varón y las hembras...Dúos para la Basílica!" ("The man and the ladies fit together delightfully...Duos fit for the Basilica!"; 42). If other singers were famous for the songs they composed, Santos gained his fame as a performative interpreter of the bolero. He interpreted the bolero with passion and sincerity.
Santos also gained his fame as a sex symbol, awakening desire amongst women and gay men throughout the continent:
As the narrator informs us, Daniel Santos was also a "mujeriego" ("ladies' man/womanizer"): "Aún se dice que a Don Juan le salió el primo de América" ("They still say that Don Juan had a cousin in América"; 19). In his travels throughout Latin America the narrator, "Sánchez," collects various testimonies from women regarding their contact or romantic affairs with Daniel Santos. Through these testimonies Sánchez, indeed, reveals Santos as a Don Juan: "Dañaba amarlo. Dañaba el castigo de su amor de un día. Dañaba su promesa como de marineros que besan y se van" ("It was painful to love him. The punishment of his love for one day was painful. His promises pained like those of sailors who kiss you and leave"; 34). But "Sánchez" also reveals how women seduced Santos: "[Cuando] un hombre me hacía tilín no me quedaba en casa a hacerle un brujo...Lo embobaba como el lagartijo a la mosca. Lo dependía de mi voluntad" ("When a man turned me on I didn't stay at home to do magic on him...I made him stupid like the lizard does to the fly. I made him depend on my will"; 22-3). In sum, Daniel Santos is revealed as a conduit for the release of passion and sensuality, but also sexual desire throughout the Américas.
Through one of the final testimonies collected in the Dominican Republic, Sánchez moves closer to his own theory about Daniel Santos's charismatic personality and his unique interpretation of the bolero. Here a man named Persio Almonte makes the following claim:
Unlike the previous witnesses that attest to Santos's charismatic and seductive performances, Persio Almonte moves beneath the surface. He suddenly grounds the discussion by making a connection between Santos's character and his music. This is achieved through the words excess, disorder, and populachero, which all produce a new vision of Santos and his music. The word populachero, generally used by the upper classes to distinguish themselves from the lower classes, particularly shapes this vision of Santos. Literally translated as vulgar, "populachero" carries several significations including unsubtle, unrefined, and tasteless, all of which make class associations. And yet, populachero is not used here to debase but to affirm, for the witness applauds Santos for funneling chaos into his music.
Drawing on this revealing testimonio, the narrating protagonist "Sánchez" highlights the view that Daniel Santos provided an alternative, transgressive interpretation of the boleros he sang: "...transgrede la norma y degrada la conducta" ("...he transgresses the norm and degrades "proper" conduct"; 133). By performing excess, and by transgressing the established norms and codes of conduct, Santos breaks through social repression and provokes his audiences to feel. On the one hand, "Sánchez" suggests that this transgression is not felt by one social sector, but moves all classes including "los burgueses, los oligarcas, los ricachones" ("the bourgeoisie, the oligarchy and the filthy rich"; 90). On the other hand, "Sánchez" suggests that the edge of this transgression speaks to the reality of poverty and marginalization:
Here the excess of emotion in Santos's interpretation of the bolero not only cuts through the marginalization of feeling, it also provides an outlet of expression for those who are socially marginalized, namely the poor majority. Thus, the poor are not simply represented through Santos's rough and contestatory style, they are also consoled by it.
After "Sánchez" departs from Puerto Rico and travels throughout the major metropoli of the Spanish speaking Caribbean, Central America and South America, he then begins to construct a connection to the Spanish speaking diaspora in New York. There Sánchez collects the following description of Santos's concerts from a puertorriqueño named Guango Orta. As the two travel through the subway toward Uptown, Guango Orta explains:
Guanga's account confirms much of what "Sánchez" has already revealed but with the difference of providing a new context. Here Daniel Santos's passionate performance provides a catharsis for his audience of United States Latinos united in their "fatigue" of the day-to-day survival. Immigrants and exiles from all parts of the Caribbean, many living in the same conditions of diaspora that the singer experienced in his youth, they bond in their appreciation and absorption of his talent and heartfelt expression. Here Daniel Santos brings them together and his music offers pleasure and relief from the pains of prejudice and everyday survival in the 'belly of the beast.' He galvanizes his "Latino" audience, taking the powerlessness of their nostalgia and trading it for the power of hope, eventual return, and acceptance at home.
It is through Guanga Orta's testimony that "Sánchez" begins to complicate his geographical narrative. By including the immigrant and diasporic Spanish speaking populations in America, "Sánchez" moves beyond plotting Puerto Rico onto a strictly Latin American imaginary. He incorporates the diaspora living in New York and thus begins to make connections between America and América. Furthermore, Sánchez complicates the Nuyorican identity. He suggests that New York is not only home to Puerto Ricans who have left the island, but to many other immigrants from the Caribbean basin, Central America, and Mexico. Nonetheless, in Sánchez's narrative, the Puerto Rican living in New York, in this case Santos, serves as a model to the larger Latino population of how to survive in diaspora:
Daniel Santos and his music are shaped by his experiences of marginalization and displacement. It is from his experience of the "mean streets," from the space of deterritorialization vis à vis Puerto Rico, and from living in the belly of the beast that Santos derives the character and strength which creates his rough, mythic image and his raw interpretation of the bolero: "lo que se venera es su cumplimiento en el exceso.. su estampa de cimarrón liberto, sus canciones que van al ajo de la cosa..." ("what one respects is his realization of excess...his image as a free maroon, his songs which go to the garlic of the thing"; 59). Through this fictional exploration of Daniel Santos as a diasporic figure, Luis Rafael Sánchez transgresses insular and homogenizing geo-cultural configurations of the Puerto Rican nation.
Santos, not politicians or ideologues, connects Puerto Rican islanders with their diaspora, and all of Puerto Rico with the Caribbean and América. His music, suggests Sánchez, has constructed real, not imaginary, modes of sharing which grow beyond traditional social and national boundaries. And yet, place still anchors Santos and the protagonist "Sánchez." For, despite his travel, "Sánchez" like Santos remains firmly rooted in Puerto Rico, "Salgo de Puerto Rico, pero Puerto Rico no sale de mi. ¿Será otro síndrome del colonizado el incesable problemar su condición?" ("I leave Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico doesn't leave me. Is it just one other symptom of the colonized to continually problematize his condition?"; 167). From this location, Sánchez reconfigures Puerto Rico as an essential component in the formation of a Latin American hemispheric community akin to the one promoted by Bolívar, Martí, and in the mid-part of this century by authors such as Alejo Carpentier, Uslar Pietri, and Gabriel García Marquéz. This view of Puerto Rico, nascent only thirty years ago, is now widely accepted, perhaps uncritically. Most prominently, Sánchez limits his configuration of a trans-Américan identity to Spanish speaking inhabitants, consequently simplifying the multilingual character of the Caribbean basin and the Latin American diaspora in New York. In another vein, Latinamericanist discussions of Puerto Rico dilute the geo-historical and ethno-cultural specificity of "Nuestro Caribe" as Cordero has aptly suggested (175). Perhaps through the image of Santos as a free maroon, Sánchez implies that a Caribbean specificity can exist within his construction of a Latinamerican transnational space for Puerto Rico. Yet Sánchez does not follow up on his allusion to Daniel Santos as a "free maroon." In fact the reference seems gratuitous given that in no other section of the text does he call upon the history of the plantation and black survival in the Caribbean.
Furthermore, the tensions that have prevented many Nuyoricans from truly "returning home" remain invisible in Sánchez's rendition of a trans-Puerto Rican identity. As Aurora Levins Morales reveals in her "Puerto Rico Journal," the return trip to the island often reminds Nuyoricans that they cannot really be at home in the homeland:
Miguel Piñero in his poem, "This Is Not the Place Where I Was Born," suggests that Nuyoricans cannot feel a sense of belonging on the island because they are met with hostility: "nuyoricans come in search of spiritual identity / are greeted with profanity" (114). In his poem there is no Puerto Rico to return to because the island has been conquered by the United States military and corporate interests: "this pan am eastern first national chase manhattan / puerto rico" (114). Consequently, the protagonist feels more Puerto Rican in New York where his political activism, not merely his connection to Puerto Rican culture, gives him a sense of identity:
As Miguel Piñero also suggests here, the music of Rafael Hernández (alias Daniel Santos) has created a bond. But both Miguel Piñero and Aurora Morales demonstrate how the sociocultural and political complexities that define identity and a sense of community continually compete with the bonds created by music. At the crossroads of the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America, formulations of Puerto Rican culture will most likely continue to change. By the same token, Puerto Rico will continue to be a juncture for questions regarding the character of diasporic identities and the relationship of America and América.
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1. See Flores and Obler.
2. The transnational character of Puerto Rican identity was first introduced in Romero Otero's Concierto de metal para un recuerdo y otras orgías de soledad published in 1971. At this time, the concept of a transnational identity was displaced by a more local articulation of Nuyorikan identity. Representations of a transnational Puerto Rican identity emerge again in the late 1980s and include Rosario Morales, "Puerto Rico Journal" and "Memory," published in 1986, followed later by Rosario Ferre's "On Destiny, Language, and Translation" (1991), Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), and Luis Rafael Sánchez's "La guagua area" (1994).
3. To most, temporary rule by the United States seemed advantageous and in fact an annexation movement preceded the occupation. Those who profited from their economic and political ties to the United States, applauded the occupation. In addition, the lower classes also came out in strong support for the occupation by the United States, as Mariano Negrón-Portillo has shown in his research of the period.
4. The independentistas wanted to create a nation-state. The autonomistas, although divided in their vision of a new Puerto Rican society, accepted U.S. rule but demanded a high level of autonomy vis á vis the affairs of the island. Both parties were nationalist in their conception of forging Puerto Rican unity and envisioned rule in Puerto Rico by the elite.
5. The independentistas wanted to create a nation-state. The autonomistas, although divided in their vision of a new Puerto Rican society, accepted U.S. rule but demanded a high level of autonomy vis á vis the affairs of the island. Both parties were nationalist in their conception of forging Puerto Rican unity and envisioned rule in Puerto Rico by the elite.
6. By contrast, the United States passed a law in Puerto Rico permitting abused women to sue for divorce. See Guerra, 39.
7. For a full description of this process see Guerra, 39-42.
8. See Duany.
9. Translations throughout this chapter are mine, unless otherwise indicated.
10. Juan Giusti Cordero discusses this in further detail, 178.
11. Taken from interview with Jorge Font Saldaña.
12. José Luis González (1928), Pedro Juan Soto (1928), José Luis Vivas Maldonado (1926), and Emilio Díaz Valcárcel (1929) all treated new subjects and places in literature. They also contributed to a transformation of literary forms by incorporating the latest narrative techniques (for example, multiple points of view) and a more complex perspective (existentialist) of human psychology and experience.
13. I am drawing on Eric Selbin's term in order to emphasize revolution both as an effort to transform society and its citizens and as a process which is still ongoing albeit in different forms.
14. For example, see Octavio Paz's theory of el pachuco en El laberinto de la soledad (1950) and Benedetti's discussion on the tensions for the returning exile in his "Desexilio" (1983).
15. Most recently the relationship between the Puerto Ricans living in New York and those living on the island has begun to improve as those "back home" adopt new attitudes about their diaspora. Certainly Luis Rafael Sánchez's literary works, in particular "The Airbus," have gone a long way to provide new paradigms of national belonging for Puerto Ricans living in both places.
16. All of the following biographical information has been taken from the interview between Hector Mujica and Daniel Santos.
17. While I am using the term "diaspora" rather loosely here, Daniel Santos's experience in the United States fits into a classic model of diaspora. Drawing from William Safran, James Clifford identifies the following characteristics as constitutive of an 'ideal model' of recent diaspora: "a history of dispersal, myths/memories of the homeland, alienation in the host country, desire for eventual return, ongoing support of the homeland, and a collective identity importantly defined by this relationship" (247).