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NUYORICAN POETRY: IDENTITY AND REPRESENTATION

A THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE DIVISION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES OF EUROPE AND THE AMERICAS (SPANISH)

AUGUST 2009

By Andr H. Alt

Thesis Committee:

Joy Logan, Co-Chairperson Luca Aranda, Co-Chairperson Benito Quintana

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We certify that we have read this thesis and that, in our opinion, it is satisfactory in scope and quality as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts in Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas (Spanish).

THESIS COMMITTEE

_______________________________ Chairperson _______________________________ _______________________________

iii ABSTRACT Written Nuyorican poetry reveals a strategy of communication founded on orality and performance. Its overall sense of revision and rebellion situates Nuyorican poetry contiguously to writings from the post civil rights movement era, and especially adjacent to a Caribbean intellectual movement of decolonization. First, I review the theme of race versus culture within a framework of multiculturalism in the United States, and then I revisit Puerto Rican immigration to New York City through the lens of Fernando Ortizs concept of transculturation. Next, I compare foundational Nuyorican texts with essays from the Caribbean. After considering the poetrys development of the theme of identity, I allude to a strategy of communication that denotes a Nuyorican poetic praxis or set of reflective postures on the making of poetry which invites other voices on the theme of identity to be expressed within the community.

iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract .............................................................................................................................. iii Table of Contents............................................................................................................... iv The Concept of Race in Academia, in Popular Culture, and in the Context of Multiculturalism.................................................................................................................. 1 Multiculturalism and its Critique ........................................................................................ 5 Racism, Multiculturalism, and Nuyorican Poetry............................................................. 10 Race as a Category............................................................................................................ 13 Race in the United States .................................................................................................. 18 Race in Latin America ...................................................................................................... 20 Race and Culture............................................................................................................... 23 Race, Culture, and Identity ............................................................................................... 25 Poetry and Identity............................................................................................................ 27 Nuyorican Poetics ............................................................................................................. 31 The Spanish Era ................................................................................................................ 36 The American Era ............................................................................................................. 38 The Great Depression and Inverted Migration Flow ........................................................ 42 World War II and Economic Boom .................................................................................. 44 Air Travel and the Great Migration .................................................................................. 45 Organized Resistance and the Nuyorican Movement....................................................... 48 Nuyorican Poetry and its Protesting Character................................................................. 49 Nuyorican Founding Poems and Caribbean Discourse................................................. 53 Intertextual Dialogs........................................................................................................... 60 AmeRcan and Our America...................................................................................... 77 Nigger-Reecan Blues and Poetic Performance ............................................................. 96 Performance, Mimesis, Diegesis, and Nuyorican Poetry ............................................... 103 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 110 Works Cited .................................................................................................................... 113

1 The Concept of Race in Academia, in Popular Culture, and in the Context of Multiculturalism After a twentieth century marked by the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s and a similar movement for Caribbean decolonization culminating in the same decade, at the beginning of the twenty-first century it is unsettling to realize that race, instead of culture, remains a commonly used notion in the organization of a wide range of public and private issues both in the United States and in Latin America. The history of the concept of race in the United States, in the last fifteen years has been the focus of many scholarly publications that, from both diachronic and synchronic perspectives participate in the study and revisionism of the concept in view of both its history and its current state in the tradition of Western thought. For instance, Richard A. Jones develops a thorough investigation of the transformations that the ontology and the politics of race have suffered in the last two decades in the United States (629). Jones examines the concept of race in the history of human sciences and in some aspects, mainly through lexicology, delves into the state of the public discussion on the subject of race in the United States. His study spans from W.E.B. Du Bois conceptualization of the existence of a color line separating and defining white and black America to the present criticism over the practicalities of multicultural politics instituted in the 1970s after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. An important argument raised by Jones in his metacritical study of the social and political ontology of race in the United States and Latin America is the potential impact of changing scientific (i.e., DNA and Human Genome Project) and political (i.e.,

2 changing definitions for purposes of the 2000 census) paradigms to alter present conceptions of race (612). In ultimately concluding that race is a fiction of definition (630), Jones situates the potential for change within the domain of culture, which is what, in his opinion, allows human beings to keep reproducing this complex and influential idea. Jones sociolinguistic take on the investigation of the perpetuation of the concept of race in United States society is a very descriptive approach to the study of the question in the country. In fact, a revisionism of race has been present in a number of previous scholarly journal articles illustrating a large interest in many social and scientific disciplines, such as cultural studies (Wade 1993), genetics (Templeton 1998), anthropology (Apter 1999), sociology (Martin and Yeung 2003), and geography (Greene et al. 2006), in setting the bases for understanding race in the United States and Latin America. Indeed, the trend of reviewing race today illustrates more than a decade of cross disciplinary study, even extrapolating the field of the humanities into the life sciences, with the importance of genetics, a discipline of biology which allows deconstructing the culturally reproduced concept of race based on the notion that there is no subspecies which is what corresponds to race in biology for our species as argued by Alan R. Templeton in 1998. Even if academia has been able to successfully foment revisionism through diachronic and synchronic studies of the concept of race, still, in light of the state of twenty-first century United States society it remains within the domain of popular culture to eventually reformulate the concept.

3 Faye Harrison reminds us that besides its diachronic aspect, to which Jones comprehensively alludes and investigates, there is also a very important synchronic aspect of race that should be accounted for in the dialectics of revisionism that all other previously mentioned articles, besides Jones, incorporate in their conceptualization of race in the United States. The synchronic aspect of race to which Harrison alludes finds its best expression in popular culture. Keeping Harrisons ideas about the source of fresher and potentially more politically charged discourse on race in mind, it becomes easy to locate examples or comments on the matter within the realm of current popular culture. Some of these discourses, for their very public nature and the personal credibility of those voicing them, might even sometimes cause a noticeable level of public uproar, particularly when disseminated by the national media. Such is the case of the inaugural speech of Eric Holder as the first Attorney General appointed by President Barak Obama, in February of 2009. The following is a transcript of the story as reported by the Associated Press and reproduced on the Fox News website: In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. (Holder Calls U.S. Nation of Cowards)

4 Even though the reprimands of Attorney General Holder on the unwillingness of Americans to transfer the good workplace relations among races to daily life were rather harsh, the media response amplified the scope of the discussion generating some significant, yet transitory, media uproar. The public reaction given to this story characterizes the vitality of the theme of race in United States popular culture. Moreover, it is remarkable how pervasive the concept of race proves to be in the United States culture in general. For instance, from university demographics to presidential elections, from the political correctness of serious news casting to the irreverence of televised stand-up comedy, race is indeed a prevalent issue in polite speech or even in parody. These few examples serve to illustrate the vitality of the theme of race in popular culture. They also remind us, such as in Holders remarks about the dichotomy between office and civil life, that the present state of the public discussion of race might denote, in some aspects, the presence of a certain criticism of the incapacity of state-fomented antidiscriminatory policies to affect racial politics in popular culture. Holders message really becomes clear if contrasted to a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. from his 1963 WMU speech: At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. It is clear that by comparing the public sphere of the workplace to the private character of weekend reunions there are differences in attitudes towards race that call for a sincere revisionism of the concept. The Attorney Generals criticism refers to voluntary segregation still in practice to some extent in private instances of American culture, in spite of the advancements brought by multiculturalism to the legal system. In

5 this aspect, his calling Americans cowards equals to acknowledging that the legal egalitarian framework that is the culmination of the efforts of the civil rights movement can only do so much to promote equality. It seems Holder is reprimanding Americans for their reluctance to embrace in their daily life the values that lay at the base of multiculturalism as a progressive institutional framework of policies in their country.

Multiculturalism and its Critique Tariq Modood asserts that the term can be defined in a two-fold manner according to the region where it is currently articulated. In Europe, and particularly in Great Britain, multiculturalism has a restricted meaning (2) delimited to the population pressure exercised by immigration and the relatively new sets of European legislation created to accommodate the minorities formed by immigration to Western countries from outside the prosperous West (5). In contrast, in the Americas, particularly in the United States, Modood situates multiculturalism within the historical process of the recuperation of African American pride expressed in the civil rights movement its related ideas of humanism, human rights and equal citizenship (1) that eventually made possible the political polarization and promotion of certain concepts, such as ethnicity, femaleness and gay rights (2). Setting aside the particularities of its European version(s), multiculturalism in the United States legal system, refers to a set of rules dealing with local, state or federal government affirmative action policies of anti-discrimination in many instances of public life, such as in the educational system and in the case of employment. Some examples of

6 government intervention to ensure equality of opportunity are mentioned in the text entitled Federal Antidiscrimination Laws: The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e and following), that prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race or color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) found at 29 U.S.C. 621-634, that prohibits discrimination based on age against employees who are at least 40 years old; The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that can be found at 42 U.S.C. 12101-12213 and prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in any aspect of employment, including applications, interviews, testing, hiring, job assignments, evaluations, compensation, leave, benefits, discipline, training, promotions, medical exams, layoffs, and firing. The Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. 206(d)) requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) can be found at 8 U.S.C. 1324. IRCA prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of their citizenship or national origin. As can be deduced from a rapid examination of this comprehensive list, antidiscrimination laws provide an important asset to the protected minorities in the United States. This set of protective legislation is a major political achievement towards the implementation of an egalitarian and multiculturalist legal framework, especially if

7 we take into consideration the tradition of reduced government intervention in regulating private or individual matters in the country. In spite of the steady progress of a multiculturalist legal framework in the United States from the 1970s on to the present, the predisposition of the State in protecting underrepresented individuals rights has sometimes faced resistance in the United States, especially from the political right. For instance, the ideas of Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Max Stirner and others on race and racism lay the foundation for an individualist as opposed to government-initiated critique of racism and multiculturalism. John F. Welsh in After Multiculturalism: the Politics of Race and the Dialectics of Liberty dedicates a chapter to Ayn Rands philosophy of objectivism, whose individualist-liberal character opposed what was perceived as governmental interventionism in the form of legal acts such as those implemented by the Voting Act of 1964 and all the other antidiscrimination laws I previously mentioned. Rand, who in 1979 published the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, developed a critique centered in the belief that it lays uniquely within the responsibility of the individual, not the government or any other collectivity, to fight exclusion and grant his/her own way to equality in all instances of social life. Early responses to the implementation of multiculturalism were not exclusively uttered by liberal theoreticians. In the realm of popular culture, there was not such a theoretically structured and specialized critique of the theme of the individual versus government, which is a central characteristic of Rands objectivism. For instance, in the Nuyorican literature of the 1970s and 1980s, the implementation of multiculturalism is

8 seen, contrarily to Rands negative assumptions, with a certain dose of positive criticism towards the civil rights movements implementation of the promises of egalitarianism. Concerning the Nuyorican reaction on the matter of multiculturalism, Frances R. Aparicio exemplifies its effects on the self-portrayed identity of the community: [Tato] Lavieras last collection of poetry, a thin volume entitled Mainstream Ethics (1988), continues to develop an ontology of America, and the ensuing transformations that are beginning to take place as a result of its newly recognized multiculturalism. We are the mainstream, shouts Laviera in his characteristic joyful tone, and this we is articulated through a polyphony of voices that is rarely seen in mainstream American poetry. (46) Aparicio exemplification of Tato Lavieras poetic voice who, in contrast to Rand, is confident of the potential of the individual to achieve inclusion in mainstream United States society through multicultural policies, serves to illustrate how within two very different political spheres, conservative and liberal, opinion makers were considering the effects of the implementation of multiculturalism in the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, such polarizations illustrate the amplitude of the debate on multiculturalism, whose popularization, as illustrated in Aparicios remarks on Laviera, was expanding during these two decades. All this interest very possibly occurred because during the 1970s, when multiculturalism was being gradually implemented through laws such the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both ends of the political spectrum were aggressive in voicing their

9 contradictory opinions which diverged about the effects of legislation on an individuals capacity to act in his/her own behalf to dismantle racism1. Bearing in mind the essentially discordant principles of Rands individualism and the satisfaction of Nuyoricans with what was perceived as a manner to provide an inclusive and active defense of the individual, it is remarkable to see that for a moment both right and left expressed concern about the effectiveness of multicultural-inspired legislation to provide individuals with the perspective of equality, especially in view of the promise of a multiculturalist legal framework to reduce the effects of exclusion due to racism. This convergence of criticism towards multiculturalism is also seen in Canada where multiculturalism is well founded in legislation since the early 1970s. There, like in the United States, both right and left clashed, as Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Daiva Stasiulis point out: Since the mid-1980s, diverse criticisms of the federal multiculturalism policy have emerged from various sources. While ethnic minorities have faulted the policy for its inefficacy in redressing issues of racism, and for its ghettoizing of minority concerns, the Reform Party, the Conservative Party and the Citizens Forum have all treated multiculturalism as a source of division in the national unity debate. (365) Abu-Laban and Stasiulis identify a central point of the criticism of multiculturalism in the inefficiency of the legislation in mitigating racism and exclusion. In Canada, where in 1992 there was a plebiscite addressing the autonomy of the province

A right-wing attack on the Civil Rights Act said that it mystifies or obfuscates individuality and personal bonds (Welsh 190).

10 of Quebec, multiculturalism was being deemed a factor in the weakening of national unity since the 1980s by sectors representing all political denominations in the country. Both in Canada and in the United States multiculturalism has been criticized by a similar concert of political opinion-makers who point their finger at the inefficiency of egalitarian legislation in solving the problem of racism and exclusion. The similarities of opinions towards multiculturalism among these groups only converge in the criticism of its slow pace to implement changes in racism and exclusion. While the centrist and the leftist critique of multiculturalist legislation focus on specific changes and adaptations to the legislation, the right, such as for Ayn Rand, would rather see multiculturalism altogether banished, leaving to the individual the burden of fighting inequality in a growingly complex world.

Racism, Multiculturalism, and Nuyorican Poetry Nuyorican poems thematically expand and allude to racism as a process of cultural resistance from mainstream American culture towards new immigrant groups with roots stretching into the American Colonial era. By cultural resistance I mean that racism is interpreted in Nuyorican poetry as a form of resistance voiced by mainstream United States cultures polarized in white and black which serves the purpose of resisting the assimilation of other cultures such as the Asian or the Latino ethos into their stable and supposedly homogenous society. In the representation of Nuyorican poetical voices which culturally resist racism, there are hints about how the mental framework of this old colonial idea may impair the

11 individual in feeling part of the communities that s/he should belong to. The denunciation of genetic or racial bias in the traditional black and white America, when done by racial minority groups, clearly insists on the necessity of reviewing identity politics in order to establish culturally inclusive and not exclusive terms, as race has been traditionally perceived. When it comes to literary theory, E. San Juan Jr. tackles the effect of multiculturalism in literary representation in the twenty first century. His comments on the keynote address at the Presidential Forum of the 1992 MLA Convention explain that: Despite claims to the contrary, the national imperative to include courses on cultural diversity (non-Western material) into the general education core curriculum in many colleges and universities springs from a conjunctural crisis. Multiculturalism may be conceived as the latest reincarnation of the assimilationist drive to pacify unruly subaltern groups. It can be interpreted as a strategic response to the deterioration of the social fabric of the country in the decade after the early seventies when progressive policies and institutional reforms gained by the Civil Rights struggles of the sixties were severely eroded or wiped out. (60) As San Juan reminds us, the societal crisis from the 1960s germinated a debate that was prematurely ceased and, after the 1970s was too quickly turned into a series of acts of law characterizing multiculturalism. In a sense, for San Juan it means that only twenty years after the civil rights movement the country systematized into law a discussion on race and racism that was supposed to extrapolate the legal aspect into more

12 engaged and society-driven initiatives of change. San Juans critique of the legalization of multiculturalism is based on the assumption that this State-driven initiative only served to postpone a more serious discussion about race, which in his opinion never took place in spite of the civil rights movement. In a way, this critique is understandable if one does not take for granted the fact that race, racism, and political correctness a set of complex but popular rules that demarcate race in polite speech are to the present days thriving in popular culture. For instance, examples of the vitality of those themes survive all around our present lives, such as in the 2009 presidential candidates reluctance to comment on race, or even in televised stand up comedy when George Lopez or Margaret Cho satirize political correctness. Bearing that in mind it is possible to say that the critique of multiculturalism that grew in the 1970s and 1980s continues to this day, proving that even if the laws implemented were not sufficient to cease racism, the will for a change still persists in popular culture. When the critics of multiculturalism try to prove its inefficiency through the demonstration of the persistence of race as a structural concept in United States culture they take for granted that such conceptual changes cannot be institutionalized overnight. In the case of Ayn Rands objectivism, it is unrealistic to expect that individuals can promote any change in a world that is highly stratified in legal, social and other hierarchies. In such a complex reality, individuals per se lack objective power to engage in change. As for San Juans take on the issue, it is counterproductive to voice an opinion against the advancements of egalitarian legislation in the United States for their inefficiency in generating a public debate on race. Since racial conceptualizations persist

13 as an operational category in United States culture, equal opportunity laws should be regarded an achievement of the civil rights movement that serves as a repository of principles that ought to guide a debate on race in this country as well.

Race as a Category The governmental minoritization of some groups, as also reflected and denounced in poetry of the Nuyoricans, serves more the purpose of perpetuating pre-civil rights movement assumptions on race and identity than allowing for multiple cultures to merge symbolically as legitimate contributors to the socio-cultural fabric of the United States. All in all, it appears that as a collective experience, in the last four decades multiculturalism has provoked a popular debate on the historical role race has played in American culture by promoting merely the external rules of socially-acceptable behavior towards it. Again, if in reality political correctness euphemistically distracts the attention of the public from discussing race outside of the workplace and other formal settings, as Attorney General Eric Holder suggested in his statement, there are enough satires of it in current popular culture to agree on the existence of a certain level of criticism towards the artificiality of political correctness in private settings. For instance, in televised stand up comedy there are many examples of satires of political correctness on the subject of race. This seems to reflect the existence of a public urge for opening a forum to address race in private settings in spite of the advancements of multiculturalism in matters of racial equality in public settings as it was proposed by the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

14 Apart from conjectures on future developments of the cultural perception and construction of race within the framework of multiculturalism, research in genetics has recently invalidated the assumption of the existence of human subspecies that would underlie a genetic path to the confirmation of race. After comparing genetic variation through geographic distribution, Alan Templeton concludes that as far as science is concerned there is no justification for the existence of human subspecies or races: The genetic data are consistently and strongly informative about human races. Humans show only modest levels of differentiation among populations when compared to other large-bodied mammals, and this level of differentiation is well below the usual threshold used to identify subspecies (races) in nonhuman species. Hence, human races do not exist under the traditional concept of a subspecies as being a geographically circumscribed population showing sharp genetic differentiation. A more modern definition of race is that of a distinct evolutionary lineage within a species. The genetic evidence strongly rejects the existence of distinct evolutionary lineages within humans. The widespread representation of human races as branches on an intraspecific population tree is genetically indefensible and biologically misleading, even when the ancestral node is presented as being at 100,000 years ago. (646) In view of the inexistence of a genetic justification for subspecies or races among humans, it becomes curious to observe how by simplifying difference and promoting tag generalizations such as Hispanic or Latino, government administrators and other

15 opinion makers have projected less than descriptive and more racially-polarized categorizations for some human groups. Even if this trend persists in some segments of opinion-making instances, such as in politics, (i.e. the projections for the Latino vote in elections, the annual demographic minority report, etc.) and in popular culture, (i.e. the treatment of ethnicity in stand up comedy), other sectors, like sociology and anthropology are currently reviewing their use of race, as John Levi Martin and King-To Yeung point out. Their collected data indicate that over a sixty-two year period, the use of race as a category in sociological scholarly articles was broader but shallower. This leads to the conclusion that the recent periods show a dramatic increase in the proportion of cases in which race was not really central to the question at hand but was taken into account anyway, perhaps simply because it was there (538). This situation represents a thematic shift between disciplines, from ethnic studies, which considers the category of ethnic minority, to cultural studies, which examines matters of ideology, nationality, ethnicity, social class, and/or gender. The change is better than the previous model at facilitating the consideration of the multiple influences among collectivities that relate in cultural terms from the margin to the center. Even if it is known for a fact that race is untenable in genetic and evolutionary terms, like Alan Templeton contends in his 1998 study Human Races: A Genetic and Evolutionary Perspective, it continues to thrive as a force in the real world. In regards to the existence of racism at the time, Harrison implies that it was unsettling to observe that the concept of race still persists in spite of the advancements of the present era in

16 technologies and communication. Race and racism remain a long lasting bad cultural habit in a tightly integrated world: [I]n this age of globalization in which sophisticated telecommunications, an accelerated mobility of capital and labor, and rapid flows of commodities and culture compress both time and space across fractured technoeconomic, geopolitical, and sociocultural landscapes differences in cultural and racial identities are being produced and/or reproduced with heightened intensity. (Harrison 609) Harrison goes on to say that the resurgence of race-focused scholarship in anthropology marks the interest of the discipline in reinitiating the debate left over from the 1960s before multiculturalism started to gain ground. It is fair to say that one of the first and most important steps towards causing a significant change in the present attitude toward race is to understand its very nature. Peter Wade in Race, Nature and Culture, explains what lies behind the concept that for so many years allowed for segregation and, even after the end of the Jim Crow system, still prevails in the mind of many Americans as an active instrument of marginalization. For Wade, race does not relate to the domain of nature, but to that of culture. In reality, as Wade puts it, what we perceive as race would simply be the aggregation of attributes, a cultural operation, to a set of phenotypical variations that occur in the natural world: The potency of race lays not so much in the fact that it involves physical features as in the particular history of European colonial encounters that

17 have focused on certain features and given them such powerful and deeply rooted meanings. It is not a question of belittling the oppression of, say, blacks in the United States or South Africa, but of stressing that such an oppression stems from particular colonial histories rather than from the fact that phenotypical variation itself is involved. (26) From the explanation of how human groups invest symbolic value upon phenotypical elements, even sometimes creating intermediate racial categories based on ancestry, appearance, dress, behavior or class status (Bonilla-Silva 226) Wade proceeds to recall the efforts of French, U.S., and Brazilian scholars in the 1950s to understand Brazilian racial democracy. The research fell short of supplying a real model for the post-World War II world since it found that contrary to the initial assumptions the myth of cordial coexisting of races was indeed just a myth and there was also racism in Brazil. What was really accomplished was the understanding of how the concept of race is organized differently in Latin America as compared to the United States and Europe: Yet overall an important divide was retained between the USA and Brazil. Some analysts saw race as an idea on the decline in Brazil. Others saw race as frankly peripheral. Due to mixture, racial categories were not clearly identifiable and this made US-style segregation impossible: it was not clear who was to be segregated. It was noted that in Brazil, a persons racial identity was defined by ancestry, appearance, dress, behavior, class status in a word, as much by culture as by biology. In contrast, in the USA, racial identity was defined primarily by biological ancestry. Brazil

18 came out as a society where class was more important than race in defining peoples lives. (Wade 190) The differences of the concept of race in the United States and Latin America, as Wade contends, can be better understood in context of the mixing of races. For him, this is the factor that differentiates not only the local characterization of race but also the very stability of the concept within the aforementioned regions. In view of the recent data2 which identifies people of mixed blood as the fastest growing sector of the United States population, it is fair to consider the Latin American concept of race as one of the possible future scenarios for the issue of race in the United States.

Race in the United States The deeper causes of the survival of race as an important ontological category in United States culture have to do with the fact that segregation has been a historically reiterated idea in the country in spite of the advancements of multiculturalism since the 1970s. Indeed, race is still traditionally viewed in the United States, after thirty years of multiculturalism and political correctness, predominantly in genetic terms. In fact, the infamous notion of the the drop of blood contains a clear judgment of value in its own enunciation, allowing for elaborations of purity and impurity that are derogatory to the formation of an individuals sense of self or collective identity, to say the least.

In Multiracial Americans Fastest Growing Demographic Group the Fox News website reports on the 2008 United States Census estimates which indicate a raise of 3.4 percent in the sector of the population described as Americans of multiethnic background as compared to previous Census numbers. Americans who describe themselves as being from mixed races account for 5.2 million, according to the 2008 Census.

19 Sociologist Audrey Smedley explains that in the United States, race became the main form of human identity, and it has had a tragic effect on low-status racial minorities and on those people who perceive themselves as of mixed race (691). Paradoxically, after Claude Lvi-Strauss book The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949) it became accepted in human sciences that the dawn of human culture and the very step that separated the first human groups from their close primate relatives is the ban on intermarriage. For Lvi-Strauss, exogamy or the choice of marrying outside of an original human group allowed for the free circulation of techniques and principles that ultimately sealed our collective destiny as a species bound for the creation of civilization. Considering Lvi-Strauss remarks on the central role of exogamy in the transition of Homo sapiens from the state of nature to that of culture in which civilization was possible the idea of a race-segregated marriage in view of the notion of impurity conveyed by the notion of the the drop of blood in the present seems very retrograde and counterproductive. Nonetheless, to a certain extent, intermarriage between nonBlack men and Black women remains relatively rare (Crowder and Tolnay 806). Had a ban on intermarriage existed from early times it is likely humans would not have flourished into civilization. Perhaps as proposed by Joo Ubaldo Ribeiro in Viva El Pueblo Brasileo, until individuals feel unobstructed by social taboo to genetically merge the debate on the significance of race will remain unfinished. Turning the page on multiculturalism is felt by many as the final act on overruling color-blind ideology (Bonilla-Silva 227). It entails the understanding that racism and discrimination have not disappeared with the institutionalization of equal opportunity and

20 that upward mobility of a number of individuals on the social scale does not necessarily mean that they did not encounter, within themselves or from the outside, cultural resistance in the form of racism. Curiously, the latest developments of American society under multiculturalism appear to be engendering an intermediate category in the original bi-racial system. Black/white America is slowly but surely becoming tri-racial, just like Latin America and South Africa (Bonilla-Silva 230). Bonilla-Silva predicts the paradigm change will occur due to demographic projections which foresee a jump from minorities in the United States from a current 30 percent to more than 50 percent in 2050. The effect, in the opinion of Bonilla-Silva, allows for the possibility of a shift from a biracial system to one that situates a middle-ground category between black and white of honorary white to some groups such as Asians and Latinos that to this day are still regarded as minorities.

Race in Latin America Like the Nuyorican poems analyzed here, my own experience with the concept of race is informed by Latin American as well as by North American input. Recent years have seen an increase on scholarly articles in the field of anthropology elevating to analytical consideration the very inscription of the researchers experience in fieldwork, side by side with the matter studied. This idea reflects two historical aspects of the word praxis. First, in the Aristotelic sense, it establishes ethos, credibility or rhetorical trust for revealing the mindset of the researcher; second, in the meaning given by Antonio Gramsci to the Aristotelic dimension of the concept, praxis properly becomes a

21 meditation on the assumptions, facts and presumed consequences of ones practice. Deborah Reed-Danahay explains the consequences of praxis for the ethnographer in relation to the subject of study: We learn not just with our minds, but also with our bodies and through our actions. Therefore, the participant role of the ethnographer is equally vital to the acquisition of ethnographic knowledge as is that of observer (221222). Since further learning can be achieved by the afterthought given to the fieldwork, the process is beneficial for both the ethnographer and the reader. Keeping in mind the autoethnographic3 stance Mary-Louise Pratt postulates in Fieldwork in Common Places I want to concentrate now on my own praxis around and about the concept of race. Traveling outside my country to pursue a graduate degree caused me to be uprooted from a comfort zone I had in Brazil as a white person to suddenly becoming the other in the United States. Here I learned that even the palest of my ancestors, Italian and Portuguese, are very problematically considered Caucasian for they are the fruit of thousands of years of Mediterranean cross pollination with their olive skin and dark curly hair strongly contrasting with the people who arrived from more northern latitudes. Coming to the United States and being confronted with a new cultural paradigm towards race, one that categorizes me as non-white, over time made me aware of the big role that social nurturing plays towards the notion of being branco or white, in Brazil. Here in the United States I was told that whether I liked it or not I was a Latino, a tag that meant little more to me than Hispanic, both being umbrella terms that fail to describe my specific Latin American origins either through race or culture. When recently applying A personal or autobiographic narrative that especially addresses matters of cultural difference.
3

22 for doctoral programs in five different universities in three states, I was asked to fill in a special form that had the following fields for me to choose from: Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, other. To be sincere, I marked Hispanic, although I feel that tag really tells little about who I am, where I am from and the diversity of the Brazilian cultural matrixes. I would be much more content if I could express my difference without feeling imprecise to mark Hispanic or totally being left out with choosing other. As a matter of fact, it would be altogether better if I did not have to see this kind of questionnaire. For me, what it creates is an incongruous sentiment of not belonging anywhere. In short, it allows for exclusion and the clear notion that one is objectifying me as a racial other. This simple example of a routinely seen procedure might remind a Caucasian that they are on the top of the scale, while for any of the minorities this is an unnecessary reminder that the policies implemented after the institutionalization of multiculturalism in the United States, race is still considered a very important factor in the making of who anyone is regardless of the nations political spheres. In contrast, as a Brazilian, like Peter Wade observed regarding Latin America, I used to imagine my racial affiliation more through socioeconomic class than by genetic association with whiteness (Wade 30-31). That is to say, even if I never saw myself as a Caucasian I still saw myself as branco because I was part of middle-class Brazil. The experience of a different definition of race based on genetic lineage rather than by class association made me aware of how much I was told in both instances, in Latin America and Brazil, of what race should be. Because of the gregarious nature of humans we all ideally covet an affiliation with a group. This is a crucial move in the quest for collective

23 and personal identity. After my own experience in the United States I would go a further step to say that in modern times the negotiation of Latin American identity in the United States juxtaposes much more than just a set of cultural practices towards race that originated in each regions peculiar colonial era to arrive in our time after being reformulated in the period of national ideology formation of the nineteenth century. Mestizaje as a colonial Latin American by-product, beyond any national ideology or romanticized ideal, characterizes how peculiar a Latin American take on identity can appear to the untrained eye. Latin American culture fits no simple or classical category of classification. Geographically and racially it is neither African nor European, yet it is deeply rooted in both. Neither is it Native American, although Latin American cultures thrive in territories that were exclusively occupied by autochthonous populations before colonization. Latin American cultures are a product of the phenomenon of colonization and therefore the very aspect of its ethos towards questions of individual or collective identity has to be reviewed through the optics of colonization. The mixing of bloods is a process that left its mark not only in the fashioning of the physical appearance of Latin Americans, but also in the way that they conceive their collective and individual identities in regard to race.

Race and Culture If race is a set of cultural assumptions that is inculcated into the individual by social practice, for those who are not at the top of the pyramid there is only one recourse: to search for their own identity themselves. This is exactly what a group of poets of

24 Puerto Rican origin did starting in the 1960s. They became known as Nuyoricans, a word that very precisely situates their cultural standpoint, in the cross between their place of residence, New York City, and the place of their origin, Puerto Rico. It is remarkable that even in places which experienced a lot of miscegenation like Latin American countries and, to a much lesser degree, the United States, race, or the idea of grouping people by genotype is still deeply rooted in cultural practice. In the United States race is very idealistically defined in much stricter genetic terms than in Latin America, but in reality, just like in Brazil, race serves the specific purpose of creating hierarchy and ultimately discerning who belongs to an epitomized cream of the crop from those who are said to be inferior. In spite of my personal experience and the conclusion that the concept of race is a social construct that draws separation lines between imagined communities, it was very clear to me that both in Brazil and in the United States race is ineffective in describing the population and more important to what group a single individual belongs. One of the most infamous malfunctions of race as a common denominator in the United States can be gauged when it is superimposed on certain populations that are strongly multiracial and rather culturally unified, such as, for instance, individual immigrant groups of Latin American origin living in the United States. Even though abandoning race altogether for culture as a global discerning criterion constitutes an abrupt change of paradigm, it is very necessary to breach the gap that divides rather than unites the people of a country along a more realistic description of who they are. The promotion of culture instead of race does exactly that. It gives

25 autonomy to groups and individuals, which can ultimately lead to a society that describes itself as a horizontal set of different cultural groups united among them by other sets of cultural similarities, rather than as a pyramid whose apex is occupied by an imagined group with a uniform phenotype and the assumption of a genotype perpetuated by family lore and other cultural practices.

Race, Culture, and Identity When used for equating the contribution of different human groups for the formation of Western societies, the prevalence of race in lieu of culture appears largely denounced in texts from certain cultural groups of Latin America. Such is the case among Chicanos and Nuyoricans, whose poetry shares similarities in the representation of individual or collective identity quests involving a necessary critique of the use of race in mainstream American culture. Chicano and Nuyorican identity representation in poetical texts relates to the impasse of being legally American without being perceived as contributors to the American culture. In this country in which they are citizens and whose political history they also share, they are met with racism and estrangement, in other words, with cultural resistance (Duncombe 374). In order to deconstruct the arguments encountered in this hostile environment and fight back, Chicanos and Nuyoricans have produced cultural documents of resistance. This resilient aspect can be fully contemplated in the careful examination of poetical texts from both cultural groups. There, as the reader can easily infer, Chicanos and Nuyorican authors reserve a special rhetorical locus for disputing

26 exclusion by mainstream American culture, embedding in their texts a clear urge for cultural resistance against racism, sexism and other factors of marginality. In the poetical meeting point of culture, identity, and resistance, Nuyorican poetic voices bring about not only the dissection of racism from the American cultural matrix but also tackle racism in the other part of the Nuyorican cultural matrix, Latin America. The result is a protest of the harshness of migrating to America and encountering an unwelcoming cultural paradigm, and it also is the groups only review of their Latin American-bred racism. The resulting provocative discourse is enhanced by a sense of performative essentialism brought about by the use of popular/vernacular language. So, in the matter of the theme of identity, Nuyorican poetical voices insist on the same idea that Latin American decolonization writers tackled in the 1960s and that was also found in the civil rights movement in the United States: culture should assume the place of race in the definition of self and collective identity. In 2008, the election of the first non-white for the extremely symbolic role of United States president poses a question for the twenty-first century: to what extent is White America now willing to negotiate national identity? Will the integrality of African and Latin American cultures finally be acknowledged to American culture? Will the years of enslavement, colonial enterprise or even legal migration finally serve to gain for the symbolically excluded an imaginary right as well as a real place in American society? The process is not simple. It promises to reopen deep wounds, but the debate should focus on the present and not take for granted the promise of a stronger bond among all who call themselves American. Provided that the coming generations apprehend the

27 mode of union leaving behind the sectarianism that the deterministic promotion of race as a tenet of American culture generates, the prospects are indeed positive. The dialectic of culture versus race initially calls for the United States to fully take notice of the presence of a wide variety of human groups in American society. In the case of the Nuyoricans, who are the descendants as well as the new arrivees from the United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the discussion of identity involving the dialectic of culture versus race, accounts for indelible stigmas that become part of the migrants psyche. This is also known as marginalization. These stigmas, over three generations and particularly in view of a culture of resistance to the last tenets of colonization developed both in the United States and the Caribbean, influenced the development of Nuyorican poetry in the 1960s as a counterpoint to marginalization. Since then, the fight not to be locked or defined by marginalization has not only created a corpus of poetry on the theme of culture versus race in defining identity, but also has given voice to other themes concerning identity construction, especially masculine, feminine and queer identities.

Poetry and Identity In the present work, I will delve into the poetry of an American minority, the New York City Puerto Rican migrants that over time culturally morphed into Nuyorican. My main concern is to bring up and examine Nuyorican poetic texts that criticize the central role given to race instead of culture in the definition of self or collective identity. My goal is to revisit Nuyorican poetic voices whose take on identity involves a desire to be

28 incorporated into United States society through their culture, instead of through their race. This is, in my opinion, a legitimate way to promote connections with American culture avoiding the century-old sectarianism that framing cultures by race may promote within and outside of the Nuyorican community. The ideology behind Nuyorican poetic voices pushes them to denounce, from both within and outside their community, the manifest inconsistencies of a discourse that carries pernicious misconceptions on the subject of race. This criticized insistence on race closely exposes to criticism a nineteenth century nation-state consolidation ideology which portrayed racial uniformity as beneficial for an independent Puerto Rico or for the United States. Harrison reviews a series of studies that dealt with national ideology and race and pointed out that: [I]n the context of U.S. race relations research the category of ethnicity was formulated to elucidate and accept as normative the experiences of European immigrants. Even more recently than Mullings, in an extensive review essay Williams (1989) examined ethnicity and race as different yet interrelated dimensions of identity formation in projects of nation building. Indeed, she argued that race making is, and has been, integral to nationalisms. (613) On the same page of the theme of racial unity for the benefit of state, there was another corollary, or nineteenth-century industrial Western nation modus operandi, which concerns the United States, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean nation states: imperial expansion. Although inarguably Puerto Rico remains to this day a state associated to the

29 United States or a colony, as Rubn Berros Martnez (100-14) dubs it, colonization does not specifically figure as a recurrent theme in Nuyorican poetry. I take the absence of the direct criticism of colonization in Nuyorican poetry as a distancing from current island affairs and as indication of the political bond the Nuyoricans have with the United States, one that is manifest in texts such as Tato Lavieras AmeRcan and Emmanuel Xaviers Americano. On the other hand, the bond with the island remains alive from the cultural matrix that carries into Nuyorican texts the faint reminiscence of a colonial caste system based on race that is being revived by the very discussion of race and social exclusion in the United States. In the effort to contextualize the Nuyorican postulation of culture instead of race as the lens through which one should look at self and collective identity, I will also search for a contrastive look into a geographically close but nationally broader group of texts that specifically portrays political resistance against colonization. These texts which I refer to as Caribbean texts, are a series of important socio-cultural essays produced in the Caribbean region circa 1960, about which douard Glissant has coined the term Caribbean Discourse (4) in the homonymous text. Their central theme is decolonization, which refers to the achievement of independence by various Western colonies and protectorates in Asia and Africa following World War II. This associates these texts to the intellectual movement known as post-colonialism. For Nuyoricans colonization is not a central concern, unlike for other populations in the Caribbean, even for island Puerto Ricans. Since Nuyoricans see themselves as a migrant community with cultural bonds to Puerto Rico, but even stronger political bonds

30 to the continental US, the similarities between decolonization and Nuyorican texts exist specifically through the development of the theme of the recuperation of self and collective identity via a review of attitudes towards race and culture. Decolonization texts speak to the posture one should assume towards self or collective identity, and race requires a constant monitoring of attitudes to implement initial change. Ultimately, for the Caribbean decolonization writers, modification is equated to the liberation of their own minds from the colonially-instituted imaginary of racism. As for the Nuyoricans, both at a deep cultural level, the process of colonization by Spain and the patent social and economical marginalization that met the diaspora to the United States left marks similar to those that motivated many of the Caribbean texts of decolonization. The history of displacement, plus the double paradigm of racism from the two cultures that merge into the Nuyorican, produced a series of texts that in general contextualize rebellion against exclusion. I believe the similar treatment given to the theme of culture versus race as being a better manner to convey individual or collective identity might indicate continuity between Caribbean discourse and some Nuyorican texts. Although retracing the exact routes of this possible relationship is not my primary concern, it is still important to establish a common ground that is to some extent historical and, most certainly, stylistic.

31 Nuyorican Poetics My selection of the Nuyorican poetic texts is based on the availability of a significant corpus of published work, such as the 1994 anthology, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Caf and Boricua, respectively edited by Miguel Algarn and Roberto Santiago. Also, the continuation since the 1970s of slam poetry in the Nuyorican Poets Caf situated in the Lower East Side of Manhattan marks the vitality of two characteristics that directly concern my work. First, in Nuyorican poetics race and culture figure as hallmark themes associated with the questioning, affirmation or negation of identity. Second, the focus on the performative aspect of Nuyorican texts from the past, as well as those from the present, allows me to address stylistic resources and go far beyond the pure analysis of cultural cohesion in face of migration and adaptability in this study. Ultimately, certain stylistic traits in Nuyorican poetry, such as the intermingled use of Spanish and English and the treatment of the themes of biculturalism and assimilation in United States society allow some of these texts to be appreciated through the lens of transculturation. Fernando Ortiz, a Cuban anthropologist, first coined this term in 1940 in his important revision of Cuban culture contained in the book, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. Ortiz explains the use of his neologism as follows: I am of the opinion that the word transculturation better expresses the different phases of the process of transition from one culture to another because this does not consist merely in acquiring another culture, which is what the English word acculturation really implies, but the process also necessarily involves the loss or uprooting of a previous culture, which

32 could be defined as a deculturation. In addition it carries the idea of the consequent creation of new cultural phenomena, which could be called neoculturation. (102) The phases of deculturation and neoculturation that Ortiz posits as part of the process of transculturation function as a good descriptive instrument to access the phases of transformative interaction among cultures. Instead of insisting on the loss of a culture, as acculturation does, transculturation underscores their interaction and subsequent mutual transformation. In this manner, it serves as a valuable investigative tool to understand the experience of migrants and other sorts of population shifts. At this point it would be beneficial to examine some facts of what was dubbed by Lisa Snchez Gonzlez a subaltern colonial diaspora (167) in her research about the literary history of the Puerto Rican migration. The history of Puerto Rican migration can be pinpointed and better understood in view of the phases Ortiz highlighted in the production of transculturation in order to contextualize the analysis of the themes of race and culture in Nuyorican poetry. With respect to the question of race versus culture, by observing the composition of the Nuyorican population, one can see a particular human group that originally is racially mixed but culturally homogenous. Bonilla-Silva remarks that those particular characteristics are shared with other populations of Latin American or Caribbean origin that are gradually becoming more prevalent in the composition of the social fabric of the United States of America (224). For that reason, it is likely that the reflections by

33 Caribbean and Latin Americans about identity in the United States will produce similar thematic choices in the conception of cultural representations. In literary expression Nuyorican poetry has found a way to overcome inner disparity related to skin pigmentation by exerting a dialogic practice that celebrates the cultural bond across the community. In identity-construction in Nuyorican poetry and/or performance, cultural similarities developed through survival in a new inhospitable environment are accounted for as much more important than shades of skin tone or race. The Nuyorican poetic practice, for that reason, has brought forth a consistent manner of addressing identity which is nowadays virtually open to endorsing the expression of other excluded groups, sometimes even within the Nuyorican community itself, as is the case of the emergence in recent years of a significant queer Nuyorican or QueeRican body of literature. But before any further discussion about the stylistic openness of Nuyorican poetical practice itself, I would like to briefly allude to how prevalent the ideas of race are attached to the discussion of identity for Nuyoricans in general. Part of this tradition is to be found in the place of origin, the island of Puerto Rico. As a Nuyorican himself, Victor Hernndez Cruz related in an interview in Puerto Rican Voices in English: Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking Caribbean country, and its literature is in the language brought by the Spanish that was transformed here into something that tastes like guava and has the rhythm of African drums. Spanish is a language that accepts words from many quarters and mixes them in []. It is a mulatto. (Hernndez 65)

34 The analogy between language, literature and music drawn by Victor Hernndez Cruz is anchored in his voluntary experience of reversing the migratory flux in order to look for his own cultural roots in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The notion of miscegenation and multiple interferences of cross pollinating races in identity construction actually contain in its subtext two intertwined layers. The first, historic, relates to the colonial enterprise and its systems of castes based on race. The second layer of meaning relates to the twentieth-century idealized valorization of mestizaje which was especially brought about in a systematic manner by Jos Vasconcelos in Raza csmica: misin de la raza iberoamericana (110). The resulting idea, which Victor Hernndez Cruz synthesizes in the portrayal of Spanish as a malleable and mixed language, appeals metonymically to the fact that a Nuyorican poetic grasp on the treatment of identity should also be so. Indeed, Nuyorican poetic practice has shown to be quite embracing of diverse Latino voices. A poetical correspondence exists between the Nuyorican and other Latino poets in the United States since the 1970s.This can be traced back to linguistic and cultural backgrounds that motivate Nuyorican and Puerto Rican and Chicano joint collaborations in scholarly journals such as the Revista Chicano-Riquea. An example of the Chicano/Nuyorican poetic connection can be appreciated in Miguel Algarns introduction to the book Aloud. There, reminiscing about the death of the dramatist poet and co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Caf, Miguel Piero, Algarn remembers that in 1984 Piero insisted that he participate in a poetry symposium in the University of New Mexico in spite of Pieros declining health. For Piero, as Algarn recounts, enlarging

35 the scope of visibility for Nuyorican poetry in the symposium was a reason important enough for sending Algarn to participate instead of retaining him in New York (4). In fact, openness, as metonymically portrayed by Victor Hernndez Cruz through the symbol of Spanish, beyond a cultural patrimony uniting different Latin American communities in the United States, becomes as much a vehicle for affirmation of a cultural identity as a criticism towards the estrangement and unwelcoming face of mainstream American culture. This is not to say that multiple interferences did not occur, on the contrary, as transculturation posits a tug-of war effect and both sides end up exerting some change on the other. And of course, the pressures on the migrating community were certainly stronger than those that the mainstream culture received from the Nuyoricans. In this way, I think that the engaged tone of Nuyorican poetry is a stylistic device that pretends to level the gap between the communities of speech. In this aspect Nuyorican poetry itself can be an instrument of transculturation. All in all, while the generation born from the migrants that came from 1917 to 1930 founded the barrios or neighborhoods, their descendents would elaborate the uprising of voices that in the form of poetry would protest and denounce the racial and economical marginalizations faced by themselves, their parents and the rest of the migrant community. In the United States, the migrants, that over time became the Nuyoricans, found a totally diverse set of customs and practices towards language, race and culture. As different as Puerto Rico and urban America were, those two places and their sets of cultural practices towards race and culture had to come in contact through the

36 contingencies of the displacement of a significant population. The adaptation to the new cultural paradigm, in many ways, shaped what would become a totally new identity, forged through a process of transculturation: Nuyorican. In the Nuyorican case, transculturation occurred rapidly. The period from the time Puerto Ricans were granted United States citizenship (1917) to the period of great influx of migrants due to air travel (1950s) was very short if compared to 400 years of the formation of Latin American cultures. Yet, the relevance of the Puerto Rican migration and its ties with United States history and economy entitled it to a comparison with several other diasporas. In this case, considering its location, Puerto Rican migration was an urban diaspora that bears in its cultural components a special relation to Latin America and through it, with the African diaspora. This cultural legacy which can be analyzed in terms of their significance to revealing a common aesthetic sense and a treatment of a series of themes can clarify the literary relevance of issues related to code switching, the election of primary and secondary languages of expression, and last but not least, reflections on race versus culture in the Nuyorican texts that I will later analyze.

The Spanish Era As an important harbor since the English colonization, New York was a busy hub in the triangular commerce with Africa, South America and the Caribbean from colonial times up to the present. Since the island of Puerto Rico lies at the edge of this favored commercial route linking the Caribbean islands with many United States Atlantic harbor cities, the presence of Puerto Ricans in New York City during the maritime trade era,

37 consequently was not uncommon. However, it was transitory as they came as crew members or travelers on the way to Europe. In spite of the arrival of occasional travelers and crews from the islands it was not until 30 years before the end of Spanish rule in 1898 that a small Puerto Rican colony was founded on American soil. This first small, but significant presence of a Puerto Rican population appeared around 1850 in Manhattan. It was composed of upper middle class families who objected to Spanish rule. The major importance of this exiled enclave accounts for the political history of Puerto Rico. Among them were Ramn Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis founders of the Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico that, from its headquarters in New York planned El Grito de Lares, a revolt against Spain which they commanded and failed in Puerto Rico on September 23, 1868. Later, in 1892, also present in New York was Francisco Gonzalo Marn or Pachn Marn, the designer of the Puerto Rican flag. Although the presence of these important historical personalities in New York characterizes the special place the city occupies in the historical dynamics of CaribbeanAmerican history, this segment of migrants was composed of a handful of families from the upper middle class whose status of political asylum somewhat differs from the subsequent waves of Puerto Rican migration that occurred during the United States governance of Puerto Rican territory (1898 to the present). Therefore, at this first period of Puerto Rican presence, it would be problematic to attempt to characterize it as the foundation of transculturation between Puerto Ricans and the American mainstream. The transitory character of these migrants and their limited numbers did not posit pressure for

38 significant adaptations. Their accomplishments have great historical, but no socio-literary relevance, to the dialectics of culture and race as a definer of identity in modern Nuyorican poetry.

The American Era In the 1898 Spanish American War, Puerto Rico came into the sphere of influence of the United States. One year after this political overturn, on August 8, 1899, a catastrophic hurricane named San Ciriaco destroyed most of the islands crops. Stuart B. Schwartz points out that urban properties were destroyed, planters lost their crops, the coffee-producing areas were totally compromised and the rural poor were left without housing or food for an extended period (304). The total damage was estimated in 3000 lives and 20 million dollars4. The political annexation of 1898 and the destruction of the islands infrastructure, two events separated by less than two years, were definitive in starting a migratory flow from the recently annexed island to the new industrial metropolis. The population displacement was thoroughly reinforced by the 1917 approval by Congress of the JonesShafroth Act which extended to Puerto Ricans the rights and duties of citizenship. The elimination of any migration restriction by the citizenship granted by JonesShafroth Act facilitated the massive Puerto Rican migration which lasted from 1917 to 1930 that was directed especially to the East Coast of the United States. The major part of Puerto Ricans leaving the island settled in New York City. Also, dating from this period It was this hurricane that served as one of the catalysts for the 5000 Puerto Ricans who migrated to Hawaii in 1900-1901.
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39 is the concentration of migrants in certain neighborhoods created barrios or areas densely populated by Puerto Ricans. The existence of such largely, initially, monocultural areas sets the cornerstone for the negotiation of the transition from a rural to a urban world, from a monocultural island to a multicultural island, and from a Spanish-speaking background, to an English-speaking final destination for the Puerto Ricans migrants from 1919 to 1930. Through the investiture on the new cityscape, and particularly on the barrios, of the marks of their presence, Puerto Rican migrants embarked on the early steps of transculturation. And as the model of Fernando Ortiz predicts, the gradual signs of Puerto Rican presence generated an adaptative response on the part of adjacent different populations as well. The location of Puerto Ricans in small barrios within the larger areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn and East Harlem created a commune that started communication with other enclaves of immigrants or the general population primarily by means of commerce, innocuously as in a classical emporium or market situation (Davila 54). In the 1920s, the Spanish language became visible on merchandise labels. Also, through commerce a series of products could have their use reinterpreted by any appropriating adjacent culture. As Joanne R. Reitano points out in her book The Restless City: Puerto Ricans developed a community called El Barrio that would soon extend from 96th to 112th Streets between Fifth and Third Avenues. Distinguished by the use of Spanish and their retention of close ties to Puerto Rico, the new settlers seemed very different from the established Jews and Italians who then dominated East Harlem and its economy.

40 Some vendors learned enough Spanish to sell the items Puerto Ricans wanted. Others saw the newcomers as a threat, especially when they opened businesses to serve their own community. (140) In fact, it is easy to imagine the very presence of such signs of a different cultural identity serving to establish the first imaginary frontlines between adjacent but differing cultures. Indeed, in such a close knit and well determined territory such as the barrios that are set on a grid of numbered streets and avenues5 in Manhattan, such as the Spanish Harlem, it is likely that transculturation worked swiftly to produce a first generation of bilingual poets born from the families that came between 1917 and 1930. At this point in the 1920s the newly arrived Puerto Ricans must have walked those lines of change and changed themselves in response to the incursions of foreign stimuli. Transculturation might also have occurred abruptly, as was the case in the years of the great Depression when conflicting interests opposed the Puerto Ricans to other cultural groups. In 1926 East Harlem experienced riots between guilds of Puerto Rican and Jewish workers (Monti 42). The form of labor organization, the guild, and the form of clash, the riot, were experienced by these populations in the context of the competition for scarce manual labor positions. This situation shows how permeable cultures are even to macroeconomic events. The stagnancy leading to the crash of the stock market in 1929 stimulated the creation of labor associations which was in essence a transculturallyacquired new practice with profound impact on Puerto Ricans. Bringing together large

Danny Lee contends that the present day configuration of East Harlem in much more complex than in the 1930s. Gentrification has fomented the election of different areas for New York Puerto Ricans to reside.

41 numbers around the cause of labor became a model of organization to fight the burden of racism, poverty and lack of government assistance in the years to come. Benjamn Mrquez and James Jennings situate this in terms of the acquisition and transformation of worker culture political strategy into other forms of fighting oppression, like writing: For Puerto Ricans, who were active as leaders and nonelite participants in community and labor movements in New York City [. . .] during the decades before and after the Second World War [. . .] [an example of] political participation in social movements during this period is available in the classic work, Memorias de Bernardo Vega, an autobiographical account of a Puerto Rican labor activist in New York City. (544) The importance of new worker associations for the migrants who would be coming in large numbers from rural areas in Puerto Rico and having to adapt to American culture was such an important model that its outset even inspired a book of poems.6 This experience of adaptation would be further developed in East Harlem where the Puerto Rican migrants virtually established a colony that was a fulcrum from where the ensuing generations would negotiate a new identity and its expression in the literary form, one that strongly insisted on the dialectics of culture versus race. The assortment of specific new products to cater to the taste of a newly arrived community were the initial step in marking the cultural dialogue that would gradually develop between the established Jews, Italians, whites, blacks and the newly arriving Puerto Ricans. In terms of transculturation, since changes take place on both sides of the In La Carreta Made a U-turn, Tato Laviera writes poems on the vicissitudes of migrant life and the issues of ethnicity, cultural identity, and the assimilation process.
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42 groups in contact, as Mary-Louise Pratt describes in her 1992 essay Arts of the Contact Zone, one can posit that transculturation, although in its early steps, was already slowly starting to show its signs in the 1930s foundations of the barrios. The 1930s are also the time frame in which the first Nuyorican writers were born. Piri Thomas was born in El Barrio in 1928; Jack Ageros was also born there in 1934; and Nicholasa Mohr in 1935. In the work of these writers there is a frequent reference to the early days of El Barrio, registering in poetry the personal accounts from the life in the newly founded enclave in which these poets grew up.

The Great Depression and Inverted Migration Flow From 1917, year of the Jones-Shafroth Act, and through the twentieth century, the Puerto Rican community in New York grew and consolidated in spite of the Great Depression and World War II. Problems in the United States economy were felt well before the crash of the stock market in 1929. For the Puerto Rican population in New York City, 1926 was a sad year. The scarcity of jobs and competition between Jewish and Puerto Rican laborers in East Harlem or El Barrio turned into riots between parties of unemployed men. The early 1930s, especially for those migrants that had come after 1917 and had already set roots in New York, was a hard time that even motivated some to give up the life in the continental United States and return home to Puerto Rico. But it would not be long until the Great Depression spread from the United States to the rest of the world. And in the years following 1930, the domino effect affected Puerto Rico. Since the islands economy was and still is dependent on that of the United

43 States, it suffered the effects of the disintegration of the American economy. For many island Puerto Ricans once more, a large increase in unemployment and the facility to legally enter the United States again motivated them to migrate from Puerto Rico to New York, even in spite of those returning from the United States in 1930. After this continuous come and go movement of people between Puerto Rico and the United States the very process is to the present day known as el vaivn (coming and going). The migration from the 1930s to the 1950s would put onto this pendulum a large contingent of Puerto Ricans especially from the rural interior of the island. The hardship of the consolidation of the Barrio life days can be found in the song Puerto Rican Lament (known throughout Latin America as El jibarito) by Puerto Ricos most celebrated popular pre-salsa7 composer, Rafael Hernndez. Angel G. Quintero-Rivera and Roberto Mrquez point to the socio-historical accuracy of Hernandezs music: Hernandez wrote the piece while living as a mulatto (im)migrant worker in New York in 1929, at the height of the Depression. While the chorus repeats, in a tone of uncertain longing, Oh, when will we see justice come?, the soloist reaffirms the certainty of the desired utopias coming, My man, youll see, / Imma [sic] make you dance guaracha/when that day finally comes, / everythingll be just fly. / Justice will come to us all! (212)

As commonly asserted, salsa developed in the 1970s.

44 Indeed it would take years of adversity for these incoming rural migrants, spanning the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who took office on March 4, 1933, to recover the trust necessary to rebuild the American economy. The set of policies instituted by Roosevelt to move the country out of the Great Depression became known as the New Deal. Putting into perspective the consequences of the New Deal for Puerto Rico, S. L. Descartes states in his 1943 article Land Reform in Puerto Rico that the island saw its own set of recuperation programs headed by a newly-instituted Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration from 1935 to 1937. Also, land reform took place and there was some help in setting up farm cooperatives and organizing the local industry. Nonetheless, the economically-motivated migration from Puerto Rico to the United States during the length of the Great Depression and its recuperation was never halted. In reality the migrating trend would continue well into World War II (1939-1945) when demand for manufacturing jobs was high again. That is to say that the pendulum effect or the vaivn would stay as a firm trend all throughout World War II and after it. As the period around and after World War II develops, in Puerto Rico the exodus does not halt. The migrants continue to travel from San Juan to New York, from rural to urban and multinational, in ever larger numbers.

World War II and Economic Boom Since a large portion of the male population of the United States was sent to war, there was a sudden need of working positions to support the war effort. Puerto Ricans, both male and female, found themselves employed in factories and ship docks, producing

45 both domestic and warfare goods. The years of the War were beneficial to the migrants who had decided to brave the Great Depression in the United States. One of the achievements was that many of the new migrants coming from rural areas were initially unprepared for immediate factory work, but were immediately trained in the working skills necessary to promptly supply the War (Aranda 620). The newly acquired skills would also certainly help them find a job after the conflict ended. This laborer generation from the 1940s was the one from which many poets, who would later be called Nuyoricans, emerged. Miguel Algarn was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1941 and moved to New York in 1950. Pedro Pietri was born in Ponce in 1943 and moved to New York in 1947. Louis Reyes Rivera was born in New York City in 1945. In their work, just like in the generation of 1930, there is an outcry for acceptance in terms of culture, a symptom that the problems that they denounced had not been properly solved yet. Also there is a clear critical portrayal of the poverty and racism that for many continued to define life in El Barrio.

Air Travel and the Great Migration The third great wave of migration from Puerto Rico came after World War II. It is estimated that from 1946 to 1950 there were 31,000 Puerto Rican migrants in New York and 58,500 in 1952-53 (Vega 225; Snchez-Korroll 212). The advent of air travel provided Puerto Ricans with an affordable and faster way of travel to New York. The one thing that all of the migrants had in common was that they wanted a better way of life than was available in Puerto Rico. Although each held personal reasons for

46 migrating, their decision generally was rooted in the islands impoverished conditions, as well as in the failed public policies that sanctioned migration. The most notorious of the failed state-planned intervention to enhance local infrastructure on the Commonwealth was the 1960 Operation Bootstrap. It was an ambitious project that aimed at attracting American capital and industry, but it failed in creating sufficient jobs (Ricketts 376). At the same time an acute population growth and an increasing concentration of urban areas created a surplus labor force whose frustrated quest for jobs led them to migrate to the United States. The sheer numbers of these economically-motivated migrants from the 1950s were met with ever-growing discrimination in New York. In the imaginary of the general population, Puerto Ricans were characterized by stereotypes related to drug use and gang activity. The perception of Puerto Ricans by the general American population in the 1950s was tainted even more by a failed attempt by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to assassinate United States President Harry S. Truman and pursue an attack on the House of Representatives. As Rubn Berros Martnez states: Albizu Campos, released from federal prison after seven years, led a Nationalist uprising that was accompanied by armed attacks on Blair House in Washington, where President Truman was then living, in 1950 and on the U.S. Congress in 1954. [] The police (with the active collaboration of U.S. intelligence agencies) compiled a huge blacklist of independence supporters, who were then discriminated against and harassed. The practice continued until 1988, when the Puerto Rican

47 Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional and ordered the release of more than 100,000 files in 1992. The Puerto Rican electorate had been driven away from independence by terror. (106) By then, in the general publics conception, besides criminals, Americans viewed Puerto Ricans as anti-American and discrimination against them became even more widespread. This view was prevalent in the 1950s and, as the 1960s advanced, very few efforts were made to safeguard the rights of Puerto Ricans living in the United States from sheer misconception. In view of the process of cultural assimilation that is expected from immigrants into mainstream American culture, Jorge Duany situates the particular case of the Nuyoricans in the context of cultural hybridization: The process of transculturation or better still, hybridization has advanced swiftly, especially in the second and third generations of the socalled Nuyoricans. Still, diasporic communities in New York and other places in the United States construct their identities at least partly as Puerto Rican and imagine themselves as part of the Puerto Rican nation []. Nuyoricans have redefined Puerto Rican identity away from an exclusive reliance on the Spanish language in order to incorporate monolingual English speakers with family ties to the Island. (22-23) Even though the Nuyoricans have to a good degree embraced English, in their writing, Spanish is frequently used as a manner of conveying cultural concepts. The occurrence of code-switching, according to Miguel Algarn, summarizes the conflict Nuyoricans see themselves into in regard to their use of Spanish and English: Languages

48 are struggling to possess us; English wants to own us completely; Spanish wants to own us completely. We, in fact, have mixed them both (Nuyorican 90). In this manner, as Algarns testimony implies, the intermingled use of the two languages allows for a discursive strategy of affirmation of a distinctive cultural identity. Although language is a prominent aspect of Nuyoricans effort to display cultural uniqueness there are also other instances where it can be exalted.

Organized Resistance and the Nuyorican Movement As a manner to publicly display cultural identity starting in 1958 Puerto Ricans organized a parade in El Barrio in Manhattan. The parade was organized as a show of Puerto Rican pride. The very concept of a parade has a long transcultural history, having migrated from classical Rome to the Americas. For instance, Lauren H. Derby demonstrates when discussing Trujillos regime how well parades showcase much more than the glory of a government, also purporting models of behavior for women and men. With that in mind it is possible to see that in general a staple in the conception of the parade is the display and celebration of cultural symbols. In this manner it is possible to foresee how Puerto Ricans living on Manhattan adapted the concept of popular V Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas parades to create their own event, conserving the idea of a public display of pride in a very American way. Indeed, the large concentration of Puerto Ricans in New York City, 600,000 by 1960 (Hernndez-Alvarez 44) sets a precedent for collective cultural concern. Also, the advances of the civil rights movement in the 1960s inspired the quest for cultural

49 awareness and pride as a way to fight against racial prejudice and other forms of social marginalization. In the 1960s in the Caribbean the voices of decolonization also rose against the damages of social ostracism and in New York City Puerto Rican writer Jess Coln founded an intellectual movement involving poets, writers, musicians and artists who were Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent. This group became known as the Nuyoricans. Its main concern was to establish an artistic forum to address the adversities, such as racial discrimination and life in the ghetto, that were considered the main hindrances to the full development of their community. In 1980, Puerto Rican poets Miguel Algarn, Miguel Piero and Pedro Pietri established the Nuyorican Poets Caf on Manhattans Lower East Side (236 E 3rd Street, between Avenues B and C) from where still to this day a Nuyorican poetic practice is alive in a rich weekly program that includes poetry slam competitions (Somers-Willett 59).

Nuyorican Poetry and its Protesting Character In The Nuyorican Experience, Eugene V. Mohr reminds us that Hispanics are still very much at home with the concept of poetry as a popular art (91). Mohr goes on to link the sentimental and impromptu recitals common to Latin American popular cultures to the materialization of a new Latin American diasporic or migrant ars poetica that still manifest those characteristics in a very peculiar use of language in New York City. Mohr also alludes to the fact that Miguel Algarn was the Nuyorican poet who identified his own New York Puerto Rican cultural experience with the formation of a Nuyorican dialect and its contribution for poetry. For Algarn, the forging of a Nuyorican

50 identity walks hand in hand with the development of a particular mode of expression that nonchalantly borrows from and subverts both Spanish and English. The term new day coined by Algarn in the 1975 book Nuyorican Poetry, corresponds to the formation of a new language that contains in its core the resilience and irreverence of the Nuyorican identity put into representation in poetry. In an essay entitled Other Latino Poetic Method, David Coln retraces certain epistemological traits common to the poetic tradition of several Latin American diasporic communities in the United States. On the subject of the Nuyoricans, Coln reveals that for many Nuyorican poets the utterance of a new language is in itself an affirmation of a new identity. In view of this remark, I think that Algarns notion of new day comes across as the utterance of an identity at the moment that it first starts to show signs of autonomy. This commitment to the manifestation of an identity in the making reinforces the notion of language as a performative act that in my opinion is crucial in understanding the standpoint of the Nuyorican poetical voice. In fact, as Coln puts it: As a language, Nuyorican is a reformulation of standardized codes of language, of Spanish and English, but in the context of migration. It is politically charged. And it fosters a voice of agitation, as evidenced in the poetry. Nuyorican poetry is a movement revolutionary to both poetic convention and cultural identity. [] the communicative premises of Puerto Rican language are ones of insinuation and logical disjunction. (272-4)

51 What Miguel Algarn characterizes as a new day is rightfully represented by the continuous acts of subversive speech that, for him, not only are the core of a real Nuyorican dialect, but also ought to be considered as manifestations of a Nuyorican voice. This voice comes forth as a critically charged address of important themes perceived from the community as well as outside of it, such as migration, racism, institutional disregard, self and collective identity, etc. In my opinion, Miguel Algarns new day stands for a posture of cultural awareness that can be easily translated into the representational character of the poetic voice and its stylistic bent of soliciting the political right to protest. That is to say, if Nuyoricans are to act in a state of selfaffirmation of their identity through acts of speech in any communicational situation, the same poignancy ought to be evidenced by the very voices that characterize Nuyorican ars poetica. My principal intention in analyzing Nuyorican poetic voices comes specifically from the observation of a series of stylistic markers that together allow for the enactment of an authoritative standpoint from which to exert a protest in the form of poetry. The construction of this particular type of voice and its mise-en-acte seems to project the existence of a tacit agreement between the voice and the rest of us on the reception side. As I will demonstrate in the next sections, both Algarns concept of a Nuyorican identity constructed through language, and the very use of language as a stylistic instrument are important characteristics of Nuyorican poetry. Also, it is significant to notice that the utterance of a contestatory poetic voice that is authorized by its very existence is not a self contained or exclusivist strategy. On the contrary, the most essential epistemological

52 remark when considering cultural texts related to the Latin diaspora, as David Coln correctly remarked, is that Latino poetics are conducted in otherhood (284). I believe that the enactment of an authoritative voice, particularly when founded on the matter of social exclusion, made it possible that this stylistic resource came to be the arm of choice in Nuyorican poetry. Authoritative speech, for the sake of its own textual validity and maintenance as a key element of Nuyorican poetry almost automatically could not ever take the whole arena for itself and therefore allows other contestatory voices, namely the feminine, the queer and the new immigrant to be uttered. This is particularly the case in competitive poetry slams, where the authenticity of the performance becomes as important as the text itself. This blurs the separation not of what is but rather of what is perceived as reality versus representation, as I discuss in the last section of this text. As a phenomenon of recent years, popular culture poetry slams and self and collective characterization, in Nuyorican poetry, relate immediately to themes that pop out of the urban landscape: The new poetry, or rather the poetry of the nineties, seeks to promote a tolerance and understanding between peoples. The aim is to dissolve the social, cultural, and political boundaries that generalize the human experience and make it meaningless. The poets at the Caf have gone a long way towards changing the so-called black/white dialogue that has been the breeding ground for social, cultural, and political conflict in the United States. It is clear that we now are entering a new era where the dialogue is multi-ethnic and necessitates a larger field of verbal action to

53 explain the cultural and political reality of North America Poets have opened the dialogue and entered into new conversations. Their poems now create new metaphors that yield new patters of trust, creating intercultural links along the many ethnic groups that are not characterized by the simplistic terms black/white dialogue. (Algarn, Aloud 9) One of the most important characteristics of Nuyorican poetry of the present, as Miguel Algarn declared in this excerpt from his introduction to Aloud, is its valorization of inclusion and diversity. This open posture concerns the themes of identity, race and culture as it promotes inclusiveness and diversity. In the reference Algarn makes to the expansion of the poetical dialogue beyond the limits of the black/white dichotomy it is possible to visualize the historical trajectory of Nuyorican poetry from the civil rights era to the present era of globalization.

Nuyorican Founding Poems and Caribbean Discourse Papiros de Babel: antologa de la poesia puertorriquea en Nueva York (1991) edited by Pedro Lpez-Adorno, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Caf (1994), edited by Miguel Algarn and Henry Holt, and Boricuas: influential Puerto Rican writings (1995) edited by Roberto Santiago, are good examples of the way Nuyorican poetry was diffused in the 1990s. The sequence of publishing dates: 1991, 1994, and 1995, as well as places of publication, Ro Piedras, PR and New York City, NY, indicate a synchronic rise in interest for Nuyorican poetry both in Puerto Rico and the United States in the 1990s. In the diachronic appreciation of Nuyorican poetry, collectively, the

54 poems in these anthologies cover a time span from the 1920s to the 1990s. However, there seems to be an agreement among the different editors about the importance of the work of some poets who were publishing in the 1970s and 1980s. In all four anthologies selections from the poetry of the period are considered exemplary and are set apart. Pedro Lpez-Adorno creates a separate section Versiones originales de poemas escritos en ingls (Original version of poems written in English) where he places texts by Sandra Maria Esteves, Miguel Algarn, Pedro Pietri, Tato Laviera and Martn Espada8. The publication of their texts in the original Spanish and English version allows for the full expression of the hybrid character of Nuyorican poetry, which Lpez Adorno defines in the introduction as the empresa polfona (polyphonic enterprise: 2) of Nuyorican poetry. In Aloud, editors Miguel Algarn and Henry Holt conspicuously gather under the title founding poems (xiii, xiv, xv) texts by mostly the same authors that Pedro LpezAdorno included in his special section of original English/Spanish and English poetry. In Boricuas, dealing with the same group of poets, Roberto Santiago mixes poetry, theater and narrative under thematic approximations that constitute chapters entitled identity and self-esteem, anxiety and assimilation and urban reality (ix, x, xi). What we can see from both diachronic and thematic views of the editorial choices concerning Nuyorican poetry in the early 1990s is the existence of a group of texts from the 1970s and 1980s that are reputed to have set the general tone and thematic scope for Nuyorican poetics in the late twentieth century. Among these founding texts, as Algarn and Holt have called them, a categorization also implied by the editorial choices

8 All translations are mine.

55 of Lpez-Adorno and Santiago, there is a guiding theme that emerges. In the context of the poetic quest for self and collective identity a very specific historical and communal background is represented. The contextualization of self and collective identity, in many of the founding Nuyorican texts is closely related to an experience of migration and subsequent adaptation to a new urban setting far away, in more ways than one, from the place of origin. This evocation of identity articulates the theme on which my study is based. I refer to the fact that Nuyorican texts often discuss a clash of two historically different views towards race. One, Latin American, is more class-oriented than fixed in a discourse of purity of blood. The other, the United States take on race is more based on phenotype and was even legally enforced until the mid 1960s, but continued de facto much longer (Wade 30-31). These differences in world views came face to face in the process of the Puerto Rican migration to New York City, a complex movement that even includes periods of reverted migratory flux to Puerto Rico. In general, the vaivn or pendulum movement that characterized some periods within the time frame of the migration can be metonymically associated with the cultural hybridity of these poetic texts that grapple with race and culture in the search for self or collective identity. Therefore, a recurrent theme in the poetry from the 1970s up to the 1990s, the transformation of personal and collective identity often denotes a debate between the notions of race and culture, with the latter traditionally seen as more appropriate than the former to convey self or the collective identity of their community by Nuyorican poets. Miguel Algarn, Sandra Mara Esteves, Victor Hernndez Cruz, Tato Laviera, Pedro Pietri, Miguel Piero, among others, are authors from a generation closely interconnected

56 with the processes of migration and directly implicated with the negotiation of personal and communal identity in the New York Citys barrios. That is why these authors, whose poetic voices dialogue with many of the texts that Algarn, Holt and Santiago selected in their anthologies, all deserve Algarns founding texts attribute. Identity, assimilation, and urban life, aspects Santiago detected in his editorial choice of poems, apply to a number of selected texts each editor included in their anthologies. In the promotion of the idea that identity is better understood at the personal and collective level through culture rather than by race, Nuyorican texts from the 1970s up to the 1990s virtually opened a poetic forum for the discussion of other self and collective identity themes, such as the feminine, the masculine, and the queer. Nowadays, Nuyorican poetic texts on identity from the 1970s and 1980s still inspire an art form that shows its vitality through competitive poetry slams that take place weekly in the Nuyorican Poets Caf in the Lower East Side of Manhattan every Friday at 10pm. If continuity alone keeps a poetic practice alive, Nuyorican poetic art has a well documented ongoing tradition of more than thirty years. The contiguity of the issue of race in the United States and the tortuous process of post migration minority adaptations converge to characterize the representation of individual or collective identity in Nuyorican poetic texts from the 1970s up to the 1990s. This well known body of literature relating to the Puerto Rican experience of migration in reality reflects an intellectual resurgence and revision of the theme of identity that took place in the 1950s and 1960s during the decolonization of the Caribbean.

57 The appearance of a series of texts in many different islands of the Caribbean promoting revisionism of cultural attitudes adopted during colonial times towards history, language, nation, and identity, set new parameters for a subversive and ambitious refounding process. These texts, essays, for the most part, suggest revisionism, or a process of discourse on discourse specifically aimed at the relationship of individual to community in issues that include cross-cultural imagination in the wake of colonialism (Glissant 12). douard Glissant, a poet, novelist, and philosopher from Martinique, today a department of France observes the similitude among the themes of decolonization across the Caribbean, first in the French speaking ex-colonies and then in the rest of the region. This is a situation quite similar to the present status of Puerto Rico with the United States. In Poetics of Relation, Glissant recounts the details of post-colonialist Caribbean reality within the context of a complex vision of a world in transformation. In his analysis, the Caribbean is an enduring showcase of historical anguish, but also a place where unique interactions can inspire the rest of the world to review themes inherent in the expansion of Western civilization beyond Europe and its less than obvious consequences for the colonized. The acknowledgment that the West is not in the West. It is [both an aesthetic and a political] project, not a place (Glissant 32). Glissant defines poetics of relation as a transformative mode of history, capable of enunciating and making concrete a FrenchCaribbean reality with a self-defined past and future. In Glissants view, we come to see that relation in all its senses is the key to transforming mentalities and reshaping societies

58 through revisionist history that is telling, listening, connecting, and the parallel consciousness of self and surroundings. As a counterpart to French Caribbean decolonization explained by douard Glissant in Poetics of Relation, a similar historical revision was going on in other parts of the Caribbean. Antonio S. Pedreira and Toms Blanco in Puerto Rico, Jorge Mafiach, Fernando Ortiz, Jos Lezama Lima and Antonio Bentez Rojo in Cuba, and in the Anglophone Caribbean, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott, among many others (Heller 391), tackled problems that characterize the negotiation of collective and individual identity. The work of all those authors resonate with what Glissant suggests as a true Caribbean discourse in his 1989 homonymous book, composed of many essays that addressed in the same way as many of the above mentioned authors articles, the problems of self and collective identity left to be solved by the newly independent Caribbean peoples after decolonization. Many of these texts share thematic similarities with the Nuyorican texts. This approximation suggests a very possible intertextual connection and certainly a similar response to sociopolitical forces that inform both the postcolonial Caribbean and the problems found by Nuyoricans when confronting the remnants of colonialism in the United States of America. The split cultural influences, the Latin American, the European through colonization, and the American, as a destination of Puerto Rican migration, chart the territory of Nuyorican poetics largely into the search for individual and collective identity within a framework of cultural hybridity. Similar to Glissants concept of creolization or the unknown awareness of the creolized (136), the quest of self and collective identity

59 as portrayed by Nuyorican poetic voices, particularly those from the 1970s to the 1990s, allowed for a search for historical consciousness that ultimately extrapolated the Nuyorican locus of enunciation from the thematic sphere to the formal one. According to Somers-Willet, the theme of the search for identity denotes a growingly personal style that characterizes the clearly performative character of Nuyorican poetry in the 1990s (54-5). Eventually, this shift would allow the welcoming into the arena of a Nuyorican poetical creation of performative texts that include especially the queer, as I allude to in the last part of my text. For now, I would like to use the Nuyorican poetry of the founding period of the 1970s along with some essays that illustrate what Glissant characterized as Caribbean discourse, in order to better understand and demonstrate how the Nuyorican texts focused on the quest for their split cultural identity. In the following section I juxtapose Roberto Fernndez Retamars Caliban (1971) and Eli Morales Rebirth of New Rican (1994). I contrast the theme of the quest for individual identity, from Eli Morales to the very ingenuous strategy of Fernndez Retamar who avoids the nineteenth century notion of race as the monstrous racial criterion that accompanies the United States since its beginnings until the genocide in Vietnam (Fernndez Retamar 124) and brings the discussion of identity to the arena of culture. In comparing Tato Lavieras AmeRcan (1981) to Jos Marts Our America (1891), I point out the similitude among the poetics of the construction of an inclusive Nuyorican identity in Laviera and Marts postulation of a polyvalent matrix of identity deeply formed in Latin American cultural history.

60 Last, in Willie Perdomos Nigger-Reecan Blues (1994), I examine the difficulty of the character of Willie has in acknowledging the opinion of the poetic voice about his cultural identity. I also discuss the dialogical form in which the poem is written with regards to the issues of orality and performance.

Intertextual Dialogs In his seminal essay Caliban (1971) Roberto Fernndez Retamar seeks to put an end to the Eurocentric doubt of whether there is a Latin American culture. For this, Fernndez Retamar denounces the European and American myths of racial superiority as founded in a politically-motivated strategy of colonial control through the establishment of a hierarchy. In 1971, Fernndez Retamar, a renowned Cuban intellectual, decided to review Rods assignment of roles taken from Shakespearian characters. Fernndez Retamar agrees with Rods thesis regarding the danger of American imperialism, nonetheless he decided to recast the role picked by Rod for the United States from The Tempest. He did this in order to address the question posed to him by a European reporter who was uncertain whether or not Existe una cultura latinoamericana? (Is there a Latin American culture: 124). In Caliban Fernndez Retamar relates the etymology of Shakespeares characters name choice with the words caribe/canbal (Caribbean/cannibal: 126). He also reviews a series of other texts that have taken characters from Shakespeares The Tempest to project archetypes of Latin America and the United States. Fernndez

61 Retamar is especially concerned with the famous 1900 essay Ariel by the Uruguayan Modernist writer Jos Enrique Rod, that incites Latin American youth to win liberty and life through its increasing intellectual activity (Rod 231). In Ariel, Rod warns Latin America of the danger represented by nordomana or the emulation of North American culture, a force he exposes as pernicious. Rods remarks on geopolitics, disguised in the warning to Latin American youth to educate itself, reflect a preoccupation that the utilitarianism and materialism characteristic of United States culture could have a hegemonic influence over the Western Hemisphere. For Rod the situation was historically alarming, especially in view of the times in which Ariel was written. The United States had just defeated Spain in Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Spanish American War of 1898. Therefore, in his intertextual allusion to Shakespeares The Tempest, Rod metonymically associates the rowdy and overtly sensual Shakespearian character of Caliban with the menacing force of American colonialism lurking over the rest of Latin America. In Fernndez Retamars quest to review and update the pernicious influences that the United States has had in Latin America, he switches Rods association between Shakespeares Caliban and the United States to Prospero and the United States. The change is justified by Fernndez Retamar by the different temper of Shakespeares characters in The Tempest. Rod had chosen Shakespeares Caliban to represent the United States due to the characters hot temperament, an allusion to war, and his utilitarian sense of reality, a reference to American neo-imperialistic coveting of Latin America after the Spanish-American War of 1898. In Fernndez Retamars 1971

62 reworking of Rods association with the United States, the allusion to the imperialist expansion of this country is made through Prospero who in The Tempest is a slave master full of grandiose aspirations. Unlike Rod, Fernndez Retamar does not see an image of the Unites States in the role of Caliban, the supposedly brutal and actually rebellious servant. Instead, Fernndez Retamar identifies the opposition of Caliban against Prospero as a symbol of Latin American resistance to colonization. Caliban learns the language of the colonizer and uses it to curse him (Fernndez Retamar 126). Thus the slave, Caliban, utters a double-fold insult to his owner, first by defying his authority, then by using his masters own language against him. In this act the slave questions his supposed subhuman treatment by using language as an instrument of insurgence. In short, symbolically through the use of language Caliban destabilizes the dichotomy of civilization and barbarianism. This metaphorical fight, for Fernndez Retamar, mirrors a necessary move towards the substitution of the idea that the colonizer unifies us or makes who we are (127). Indeed, for Fernndez Retamar, the recognition of Latin American cultural autonomy is conditioned by its own existence that is anchored in multiplicity. Latin American cultures, for Fernndez Retamar, are a legitimate synthesis of three different cultural matrixes in spite of imperial colonialism. Also, in Fernndez Retamars reinterpretation of Rods Shakespearian intertextuality, Ariel, or the character that represents the utmost moral standards but remains subdued to the master Prospero in spite of his enlightened spirit as Rod sees it cannot symbolize Latin America. Instead, for Fernndez Retamar, the rebellious Caliban should represent the Latin

63 American that refuses to take the position of an apprentice or poor copy of Europeans, including among them the caste of native Latin American whites that Mart called the American Europe (Fernndez Retamar 129). It is important to note that the scholarship on Shakespeare nowadays recognizes the importance The Tempest assumed in the discussion of the representation of Latin American civilization in modern times and across disciplines. Nonetheless, so far, the specialists on Shakespeares oeuvre consider that there is no conclusive evidence linking any aspect of The Tempest to a deliberate and particular representation of anything American. Alden T. Vaughan in the 1988 article Shakespeares Indian: The Americanization of Caliban discusses the various appropriations of the character of Caliban from The Tempest: Shakespeares contemporaries and their descendants for nearly three centuries did not associate The Tempests savage with American Indians. If an intentionalist reading is insisted upon, and if early interpretations of Caliban are taken into account, his principal prototype was probably the European wild man of Renaissance literature and iconography. (153) In light of the explanations that Vaughan offers on the current exegesis of the Shakespearean text, one might be moved to disavow the Uruguayan Modernist Jos Enrique Rods or even the Cuban organic intellectual Roberto Fernndez Retamars intertextual appropriation of Shakespeares drama. Nonetheless, it is irrefutable that Shakespeare, in representing alterity, be it a European wild man or a ferocious Caribbean native, establishes it negatively as a ground for interpreting who the master is. And in this

64 case, both in the original version and in the metaphoric readings of The Tempest, European identity is never put into question in the text until Caliban addresses Prospero using the masters language as an instrument of revolt. Much to the benefit of a postcolonial reading of The Tempest and its reinterpretations, Vaughan concludes that an interdisciplinary and multi-generic Caliban is a possibility for future interpretations of Shakespeares seminal theatrical text. While other considerations of intertextual connections between The Tempest and Latin American matter are tied to the future, common thematic lines can already be drawn between Fernndez Retamars Caliban (1971) and other texts dealing with Latin American and United States political and cultural issues. Especially with respect to the theme of race, in his essay Caliban, Fernndez Retamar deliberately condemns the myth of racial superiority embedded in European and American programs of colonization. It is interesting to observe that Fernndez Retamar highlights the racism of Spanish colonizers in Cuba during the War of Independence and clarifies his association of Caliban to Latin Americans: Al proponer Calibn como nuestro smbolo, me doy cuenta de que tampoco es enteramente nuestro, tambin es una elaboracin extraa, aunque esta vez lo sea a partir de nuestras concretas realidades. [. . .] La palabra ms venerada en Cuba mamb nos fue impuesta peyorativamente por nuestros enemigos cuando la guerra de independencia, y todava no hemos descifrado de todo su sentido. Parece que tiene una evidente raz africana. (133)

65 In proposing Caliban as our symbol, I realize that it is not completely ours. It is also a foreign creation even though it is based upon our concrete realities. [. . .] The most venerated word in Cuba mamb was imposed upon us by our enemies in the War of Independence and we have not yet deciphered all its meaning. It seems to have an African root, and implied for the Spanish colonialists the idea that all pro independence fighters were black slaves. In view of the subaltern status that the Spanish colonialists intended to fix on the Cuban pro-independence fighters with the use of the derogatory word mamb, Fernndez Retamar draws an association with the subversive use of language in The Tempest. Because the independentistas, both black and white made theirs with honor what colonialism wanted as an injurious adjective (133) the reworking of the colonizer insult as an instrument of pride and identity in the fight denotes an operation similar to the verbal upheaval of Caliban against Prospero in The Tempest. As Fernndez Retamar remarks: They call us mamb, they call us negro to offend us: but we reclaim as a mark of honor to consider ourselves as descendents of mamb, descendents of free black men, cimarrones, independentistas, never descendents of slave drivers (133). This is a historical example of how colonial discourse that uses race as an instrument of implementing socio-political exclusive agendas was once deconstructed during Cubas Independence War against Spain. The refashioning of the meaning of the colonizers derogatory epithets for the independentistas by the forefathers of nascent Cuban national identity in fact constitutes an operation similar to the one Caliban exerts upon Prospero

66 through the use of the dominators language to subvert the polarity between Caliban and Prospero in The Tempest. It is so, since the Cubans maintain intact the sequence of sounds or signifier mamb while assigning to it a new signified or meaning. In Saussurean Linguistic terms, through this operation, mamb comes out as a new linguistic sign. Even though the Cuban case presented by Fernndez Retamar singles out the irony of discussing the equality of Cuban culture as opposed to Spanish culture using the ex-colonizers own language, this is not the only implication that can be assumed between the use of a colonial language in the demand for recognition in an environment perceived as hostile to its own cultural presence. In the case of the migrated community that eventually became the Nuyorican, unlike the case of monolinguism in which Cubans intellectually defied their detractors by switching the tone in their same language, the same operation resistance through discourse actually took place within a different paradigm: bilingualism. The same mechanism used by Caliban in The Tempest, also the one which allowed for the cultural recasting of the word mamb by Cuban independentistas, has found its way into Nuyorican poetry. In light of the importance of the role of language in the negotiation of a subaltern cultures claim to authenticity, integrity and deconstruction of its place in a hierarchy, some remarks can be made about the use of language in Nuyorican texts. Particularly in the case of bilingualism, the articulation between English and Spanish is actively explored in Nuyorican poetry to promote a sense of political

67 rebellion at the same time as it underscores the uniqueness of Nuyorican familiarity with cultural hybridity. Examples abound in Nuyorican poetry from the 1970s to the 1990s. Ed Morales Rebirth of New Rican (1994)9 is a text that embodies a conversation between a poetic voice, represented simply as I, and Eddie Figueroa, a poet very active in the organization of events in the Nuyorican Poets Caf up to this day. The initial scene is set in the poor sector of East Harlem, geographically identified as the projects on 114th and Madison (98, 1-2)10. Upon the recognition that Eddie is in that location gasping for breath (98, 1) there occurs an anagnorisis, or a clarifying insight. In this revealing moment, the poetic voice grasps that Eddie, possibly a mentor, through his teachings was passing a living tradition (98, 3) a notion developed metaphorically by the poetic voice in the association between the essential or vital act of breathing and the very historically symbolic street and avenue coordinates where this vision takes place, Spanish Harlem or El Barrio: As soon as I found you, gasping for breath in the projects on 114th and Madison I knew you were passing a living tradition on to me We are a deep, dark story, you groaned. Our people are a secret unto themselves (98, 1-5). All in-text citations from Rebirth of New Rican are listed by verse number, not page number. Although the original version makes no allusion to verse numbers, since I reproduced the text line by line in accordance with the original, I will refer to a line through the word verse. For this poem, all references will follow the format of page number and line number.
10 9

I have assigned a consecutive numbering for the verses in Rebirth of New

Rican.

68 The location could not be more paradigmatically significant, as the site of the major collective settling of Puerto Rican migrants in New York City after East Harlem was the Lower East Side (Snchez-Korroll 136). Hence, the place and the people associated with the narrated experience acquire an organicity reflected in the affective involvement of the poetic voice with the cause for the rebirth of New Rican. These establishing initial verses underscore the importance attributed to Nuyoricans and to El Barrio for situating the intended discussion on the communitys identity. Arlene Dvila explains that East Harlem keeps its historical significance to this day in spite of gentrification and commercialization that has changed the neighborhood in recent years. In spite of all the pressures represented by rising prices of real state and the new population of young professionals in search of lower rents, much like in Piri Thomas 1964 book Down These Means Streets, East Harlem or El Barrio still stands for much more than simply a crossroads in the map of Manhattan. Besides the Lower East Side or Loisada, it is still considered the hinterland of Nuyorican identity, the very place where the migrants from the 1930s up to the 1960s fashioned a new urban and multicultural community: The nostalgically celebrated home of Puerto Rican fiction writers and the site of transnationally important Puerto Rican festivals and landmarks [. . .] This place is an important site of images of urban Latino culture, often appropriated by the media as background to Jennifer Lopez music videos or Sports Illustrated modeling shoots. (Dvila 51)

69 So, it is the vision of his/her mentor, while casually standing in such a paradigmatic place for Nuyorican experience, that triggers in the poetic voice the right setting to conceive what exactly would be included in the intended process of rebirth. In spite of the difference in the plot and the circumstances through which Caliban resists Prospero and the poetic voice in the poem come to terms with a liberating process, in Rebirth of New Rican, just like in Calibn, there is a process of anagnorisis or perception of ones personal role in promoting change in the status quo. Both in Fernndez Retamars interpretation of Shakespeares The Tempest and in Rebirth of New Rican, the characters that occupy the role of pupil, respectively Caliban and the poetic voice that quotes Eddie Figueroa, realize the power that their own actions might have through the use of language in response to stimuli from the external environment. The similitude lies upon the fact that both can now achieve some level of liberation which in their previous state of ignorance would have been impossible. In verse four the poetic voice quotes Eddie Figueroa revealing what the voice sees as a mystery in the core of the rebirth process; Our people are a secret unto themselves. (98, 4-5). The poetic voice seems to rely on the retrieval of Nuyoricans secret [] dark story in order to make out the nuances of future times because the mystery needs a code to be solved. In the following verses the poetic voice names the collective experiences over which socio-historical revisionism, perhaps the key the voice searches for, might affect the future of the Nuyorican community:

70 Eddie they might think youre crazy but you taught me What the New Rican destiny will be Five centuries of miscegenation finally set free The blood of time-traveling espiritistas and Yoruban existencialistas Los moros que no se han matado and the Borinquen aesthetic comiendo Bacalao. (98, 6-11) Here, the poetic voice clearly relates the solution to the riddle it poses in verse four, through the use of a metaphoric placing of the two elements at either end of an imaginary weight scale, people and secret. By equating those two elements and considering some very specific characteristics of the Nuyorican community, cited in the following verses eight to ten, it is possible to perceive that the poetic voice relies indeed on some level of applied historical revisionism to avail a process of cultural rebirth. A process of revisionism as it is set, calls to the frontline of public discussion the burden of past colonialism through the allusion in verse eight to the five centuries of the colonial process in the Americas. Also very important is the direct implication of colonialism in Latin America that is evoked in the same verse eight by the word miscegenation. In Nuyorican poetry, miscegenation is a theme treated sometimes in poems dealing with the search for self or collective identity. It is so because in the United States, Puerto Ricans migrants were met with a different cultural paradigm concerning phenotype and genotype that is vaguer, ambiguous and changing in Puerto Rico, as opposed to clear, definite and fixed in the United States (Wade 30). These different concepts of race in the United States and in

71 Latin America many times caused confusion to Puerto Ricans in New York, especially when some of them were not accepted as part of the American black community and whites automatically labeled Puerto Ricans as nonwhite. The Nuyorican poet Louis Reyes Rivera, in an interview with Carmen Dolores Hernndez in the book Puerto Rican Voices in English, summarizes the confusion this causes when one is inquiring about his/her own identity and perception of communal identity: Ive always wanted to search for understanding what I was and what it meant, and while I couldnt understand the differences people put on me, there are several moments in my life when the contradiction was confronted or confronted me (126). In general, the way out of the racial paradox in the United States, for Puerto Rican migrants, has simply been to say that they are Puerto Rican. But then, another very disturbing fact is that when they are confronted with Puerto Ricans who still live on the island, the offspring of the Puerto Rican migrants to the United States are not recognized as legitimate Puerto Rican. Rosana Rivero-Marn, in the 2004 book Janus identities and Forked Tongues, points to a significant difference in the reception of Nuyoricans by Puerto Rican critics in Puerto Rico. She mentions that in Puerto Rican letters more interest is dedicated for authors who represent a revival of the black sector like Miguel Henrquez, and Jos Campeche than to the literary production of the Nuyorican diaspora. In fact, Rivero-Marn attests to the existence of a real animosity [from island Puerto Ricans] towards Puerto Ricans in New York (72). This resistance in Puerto Rico to the reception of Nuyoricans is especially marked by the monolinguism/bilingualism manifest in the use of Spanish and English and a

72 chauvinistic reaction to it which is very traumatic to Nuyoricans (Hernndez 114). Other sources of cultural estrangement are perhaps much stronger at home in New York City. This becomes patent through the cultural significance of bilingualism that arms an individual with a tool of cultural belonging. It is from the standpoint of cultural hybridity which is patent in the use of two languages at once that Nuyoricans observe with awe the relativity of race. Since they share both a Latin American and an American concept of race they are capable of perceiving not only their relativity but also their nature as a cultural construct. The capacity of operating in the mode of awareness of cultural hybridity is precisely what the poetic voice in Rebirth of New Rican characterizes as the initial attitude necessary for availing the process of historical revisionism that can reinstitute confidence in the community. This revitalizing process would take place and also be inspired in the Barrio. The location of the initial scene in the Puerto Rican neighborhood is symbolic and inspires the poetic voices cultural awareness of the importance of Latin American culture as a source in the quest for a Nuyorican identity in the United States. The significance of Latin American culture to Nuyoricans via the African diaspora caused by the colonial slave trade and the weight of the African cultural matrix is represented in verse nine, where the voice evokes blood of time traveling espiritistas. The setting of religion into the discussion following the allusion to bloodline suggests that the poetic voice is situating the historical revisionism in the arena of culture and not purely on genetics. The epithet Yoruba existentialists can confirm the prevalence of culture in the process capable of causing the rebirth projected by the voice. It appears to

73 not designate anyone in particular, but implies an attitude of reviewing ones life. This is expressed by the word existencialistas referring to those who ponder the condition of individual existence. The idea that the projected rebirth depends on cultural process is finally clarified at the end of verse ten, where the scope of the suggested consciousnessraising process incorporates popular culture in the reference to Puerto Rican aesthetic and even cuisine. The series of epithets given by the poetic voice to Eddie Figueroa, who the voice sees as a mentor, can further extend the assumption that Barrio culture is at the heart of the projected renaissance, for Young Lord agitator, Central Park acid dealer (12) anchor the Rebirth of New Rican to the counter culture of the 1970s, what is underscored by the allusion to LSD and to the Young Lords, a neighborhood group that, in its beginnings, advocated for self-determination for Puerto Rico, as well as for neighborhood empowerment (Gonzlez 118). A process of collective consciousness based on culture can indeed be noticed as the real focus of the poetic voice in the attribution from verses sixteen to nineteen, that our culture is the future / that we are no longer colonial subjects. It is indeed a confirmation that the projected Rebirth of New Rican is fully articulated around the valorization not of a race but of a culture. The lan that denotes the poetic voice as a manner to emphasize the importance of its cultural revival project can be fully felt in verses twenty-two and twenty three: The revolution is right here, man / The groove that is in our hearts. The placement of the epicenter for change emanating from the sound of the heart leads the way for the last argument the voice utters in favor of change:

74 Con esta situacin, culturally unique Tu [sic] sabes la cuestin de usar las dos lenguas New and revolutionary communication Comes into being Porque only a multiculture pueblo can understand El adentro y the outside of the dynamic. (99, 24-29) In the verses above, the poetic voice lays out metalinguistically, through the use of code-switching, the dynamic that can orient the desired cultural revival for Nuyoricans. It is a very unique process, to which bilingualism in the poem appears not only to refer to a particular Nuyorican linguistic situation but also to a relativistic, dialogic mindset, which the poetic voice explicitly indicates in the last two verses as capable of having consequences either adentro, in the community, as well as outside of it. There is a thematic similarity between Morales Rebirth of New Rican and the essay Caliban by Fernndez Retamar. On a broad scope, both texts encompass the theme of valorization of cultures in culturally hostile environments. For Fernndez Retamar alterity is fixed by Western culture which makes self-identification for Caribbean cultures a process of resistance and discovery. In a similar process Ed Morales contextualizes the valorization and insertion of Nuyorican culture in a multicultural dialogue with its African, Puerto Rican, and American roots. The similitude of both processes lies in a necessary move that is declared possible, provided one manages to put forth a rebellious revisionism in their attitude towards race and culture.

75 The relativism of social roles attained by Caliban in response to the provocations of his master Prospero in the masters own language relates to the situation Latin Americans faced during the 400 years of Spanish colonization. In Shakespeares The Tempest, the revolt of Caliban is seen by Fernndez Retamar as the moment of empowering the colonized. Because language and patterns of cultural transformation are related, the verbal irreverence of Spanish and English code-switching in Nuyorican poetry promotes an awareness of cultural relativity, in contrast to a hierarchy. This is seen in the use of elements of both Spanish and English, as the poetic voice represents in the poem by generating significance through the device of code-switching. Even if, for Fernndez Retamar, the use of Spanish by Caliban marks the irony that presents itself to the colonized, that is to say, to be only able to decolonize him/herself in the language of the colonizer, this does not lower the importance of Spanish for the formation of Cuban cultural identity. Likewise, Morales poetic voice in Rebirth of New Rican identifies a positive aspect in the instant relativistic power potentially contained in the use of both Spanish and English for the understanding of Nuyorican culture. In Morales text, the use of language itself brings the discussion of identity closer to the inclusivity of culture and away from the excluding notions of race. After all, Nuyorican code-switching opens a perspective on the possibility of a linguistic freedom that puts emphasis on the definition of identities, not on a race. This opposes the polarization of American culture between black and white, to focus instead on culture, as language is a marker that walks hand in hand with it.

76 The poetic voice concludes with a combative rationale, announcing in Spanish and English that this cultural empowerment process is the move that can free us from being aqu o all, here, there, everywhere (99, 34). In the last six verses, the poetic voice makes a very important warning about the process evoking the concept of racism: Mixed Race is the place It feels good to be neither Its a relief to deny racial purity Were amused as America slowly comes to see The beauty of negritude and the Native American attitude Weve been living it day-to-day since 1492. (99, 35-40) The poetic voices remark has to do with race and the use of it in the United States. The words suggest that the United States has had a glimpse into the process of empowerment that occurred in post-colonial times in the Caribbean, in particular inscribed in the text by the mentioning of the movement of Ngritude, pioneered by the Senegalese Lopold Senghor and the Martnique French Aim Csaire (Camara 86). The Ngritude movement, continued by Franz Fanon in the Caribbean French territory of Martnique, called for a cultural revival that included the use of cultural revisionism as an ontological tool (Csaire 13). The ethos of Ngritude is to address the evils of colonialism for the individual and for the masses, proposing a cultural revival through the facilitation of a necessary review of the resilient Afro-Caribbean identity due to and in spite of the logics of colonialism. Ngritude is a form of cultural resistance that is dialectically opposed to another form of cultural resistance, racism (Drimmer 129).

77 Furthermore the evocation of Ngritude completed by the poetic voice in verse five of Rebirth of New Rcan, juxtaposed to a reference to the year of the arrival in America of Christopher Columbus, also the last word in the poem, encompasses a criticism of the colonial system that does not discount its consequences in the form of racism in the United States. Indeed, a symbolic reference not only to the personal but also to the collective burden linked to colonialism in general is consistent with the poetic voice declaring in verse forty that Weve been living it day-to-day since 1492. All in all, in a final gesture of cultural affirmation of an identity having the same weight in terms of Ngritude and [to] the Native American attitude (99, 39) the poetic voice utters a rallying cry against the remainders of racism. It is a [. . .] last call to gather against the policy of racial purity that has informed Nuyoricans both from their Latin American cultural matrix as well as from their urban American one. The message is indeed clear. The rebirth of New Rican predicates revisionism for the cultural use of race as a form to convey identity for individuals and a community portrayed as in need of recuperation.

AmeRcan and Our America The noticeable uncertainty expressed in clearly evoking race, only to refer instead to a series of matters linked to culture found its way into texts from the sixteenth century to the present. The term race has been persistently present in the relativization of European perceptions of culture and barbarianism in the Americas. It appears posited along with extreme skepticism towards a Eurocentric exclusivist concept of civilization

78 by Michel de Montaigne in the essay On Cannibals (1580), a text that further questions the relativity of the assumption of the newly contacted peoples barbarianism. The discussion of the Americas in terms of civilization and barbarianism reappeared three hundred years later in the nineteenth century, and particularly informed a series of essays addressing ideological and practical matters related to the period of nation building in Latin America. Such is the case of Jos Marts much celebrated essay Our America (1891). Indeed, Mart in Our America, is indebted to a long tradition of enlightened thought on cultural matters, which started with Montaigne and continued through the egalitarian spirit of the writings of the eighteenth century in England and France. The following passage from Our America shows intertextual connections with the ideas of the Enlightenment. Here Mart is adapting European ideas to Latin America reality: In America the natural man has triumphed over the imported book. Natural men have triumphed over an artificial intelligentsia. The native mestizo has triumphed over the alien, pure blooded criollo. The battle is not between civilization and barbarity, but between false erudition and nature. [. . .] The tyrants of America have come to power by acquiescing to these scorned natural elements and have fallen as soon as they betrayed them. The republics have purged the former tyrannies of their inability to know the true elements of the country, derive the form of government from them, and govern along with them. Governor, in a new country, means Creator. (290)

79 In this passage Mart alludes to the phases of constitutional theory posited by Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws (1748). Montesquieu posits three kinds of political arrangements to govern a state: republican, monarchical and despotic. Guiding each classification of a political system, according to Montesquieu, must be what he calls a principle. This standard acts as a spring or motor to motivate behavior on the part of the citizens in ways that will tend to support that regime and make it function well (Montesquieu 472). For democracies, and such is the case for the system of government projected by Mart for Latin America, the motivating principle should be the love of virtue, also defined by Montesquieu as the inspiration to put the interests of the community ahead of private interests of its commanders. Tyranny is predicted by the French Enlightenment philosopher as the result of the default of one of these commanding principles. In the passage of Our America quoted above, Mart balances the signification of civilization and barbarianism in an analogous manner to what Montaigne did in comparing the damages Europeans caused through colonialism as opposed to the supposed docility of the American natives. Nonetheless, on this matter, Mart is not commenting on colonialism in the manner of Montaigne, rather he is weaving considerations about the nature of the governments that he sees as pernicious. In reality, Mart condemns the corruption of Latin American governments that the pure blooded criollo elite created in subservience to Europe. Instead, a democratic and autonomous Latin American government, in Marts view, can only emanate from the natural men which the Cuban writer promptly identifies with the native mestizo.

80 The fatalism attributed by Mart to the decaying of Latin American postindependence governments due to the inobservance to the natural characteristics of Latin America, including the mestizo, falls hand in hand with the initial assumption that, by evoking race, in reality, Mart is referring to complex cultural processes. Keeping in mind that mestizaje can only be understood in its fullest as a cultural process, the attribute of naturality Mart attaches to it does not, even remotely, refer to the same category scientists from the nineteenth century, such as Cesare Lombroso and the raciallydeterministic theories of criminality, do. Contrarily to Mart, Shaller and other nineteenth-century scientists considered the mixing of races as contrary to the laws of nature (Livingstone 170). Instead, for Mart, the naturality of Latin American man has to do with the recognition of a historical process in which they were generated and to the natural attachment mestizos have to their land in opposition to the artificial intelligentsia of criollos who are portrayed as capable of betraying their Latin American origin and identifying with foreign interests. This idea corresponds to what Mart skillfully illustrates in the carefully placed epithet pure blooded criollos as a scornful and condemning reminder of criollo elitist racism that, after Mart, lies at the root of the white Latin American many times turning their back on Latin America towards Europe, a situation reputed by Mart as the cause for post-independence governments to decay into tyranny. Certainly, one can see reactions to racism adjoining the recognition of cultural relativity when it is circumscribed to a strategy of defining self and collective identity, cross culturally and through very diverse historic times. Such is the case for Fernndez

81 Retamars reinterpretation of an Elizabethan plays significance with respect to the role of Caliban, and its concordance with a strategy for cultural revival to counteract racism, as I have described in Morales poem Rebirth of New Rcan. A very important moment for understanding the dynamic between race and culture in regards to the formation of self or collective identity is the time the ideology of nation was in the making. The concatenation of nation-building discourses in nineteenthcentury Latin America has been historically marked by some attempts on addressing race as one of its most important elements. Latin American critics, such as Mart, evoked the issue of race in the nineteenth century only to expand on it in every manner possible to identify it in cultural terms, which nowadays would be seen as the postulation of race as a cultural construct. For instance, Mart in My Race condemns the concept of race as morally irrelevant even though, it is only recently that it became clear, with the advent of research in genetics, that it is also scientifically inexistent, since Homo sapiens has no known subspecies (Templeton 640). Lourdes Martnez-Echazbal revisits the Cuban intellectual and independence heros writings on race and stresses their importance in informing Latin American interwar discourses on nationalism and modernity. After reviewing two important essays dealing with the subject of race, My Race and Our America, Martnez-Echazbal refers to the fact that what Mart labels as race in these two texts, actually conveys notions better understood nowadays as pertaining to culture. This accounts for the preference of Mart in characterizing race historically and sociologically and his rebuke of racist theories such as those of the Cuban historian Jos Antonio Saco (1797-1879)

82 who called for miscegenation as a form to neutralize [. . .] the terrible influence of the three million Negroes surrounding us (qtd. in Corbitt 455). According to Martnez-Echazbal, Ortiz, in the article Mart y las razas, (1993) examines Marts Our America (1891) and comes to the conclusion that the social problem regarding the blacks [for Mart] is more a problem of monies than of colors; it has to do not with an incompatibility of bloods, but with economic conflict (MartnezEchazbal 122). It appears clear that Marts reference to race in My Race and Our America has indeed more to do with a socio-economical approach to race than a purely genetic one. Martnez-Echazbal further specifies her perceptions of Marts use of the word race in: I am referring to the displacement from the notion of biological race, to that of a historical and social race, as well as the alleged disassociation of race from culture best illustrated in American anthropology by the work of Franz Boas and his disciples at Columbia University, and in Latin America by the writings of Gilberto Freyre and Arthur Ramos in Brazil, and by the work of Fernando Ortiz himself in Cuba, among others. (121-2) In Martnez-Echazbals opinion, Marts peculiar enunciation of race has to do with the authors support of an enlightened and egalitarian agenda for an independent Cuba. As part of a projected nation Mart saw in the term Cuban a form to equate all persons living in the country. After this proposed egalitarian ideology of the nation, Mart supported that above any differences that there might be among them, all persons are to be considered first Cuban. To corroborate Marts egalitarian notion of race, Martnez-

83 Echazbal cites Ortiz in Mart y las razas (1993). There, Ortiz concludes categorically that in Marts language race means culture simply because that meaning of the word was not yet current when Mart was writing 60 years ago (121). When referring to Latin Americans, Mart avoids references to the term race. Indeed, in describing the forces that historically and culturally shaped the peculiarity of the nascent Latin American republic, Mart exempts himself of conceiving mestizaje as a racial construct. He is even far from celebrating it as others such as Jos Vasconcelos would later do in The Cosmic Race (1925), or even further from attempts of constructing a category to respond to a specific transcultural operational category such as Gloria Anzaldas mestiza consciousness posited in Borderlands /La Frontera (1987). What Mart does is simply to offer in a very enlightened and open minded way, a category formulated in opposition to the pure blooded criollo (290) in the context of the prerepublican or colonial phase of Latin American history: What a vision we were: the chest of an athlete, the hands of a dandy, and the forehead of a child. We were a whole fancy dress ball, in English trousers, a Parisian waistcoat, a North American overcoat, and a Spanish bullfighters hat. The Indian circled about us, mute, and went to the mountaintop to christen his children. The black, pursued from afar, alone and unknown, sang his hearts music in the night, between waves and wild beasts. The campesinos, the men of the land, the creators, rose up in blind indignation against the disdainful city, their own creation. We wore epaulets and judges robes, in countries that came into the world wearing

84 rope sandals and Indian headbands. The wise thing would have been to pair, with charitable hearts and the audacity of our founders, the Indian headband and the judicial robe, to undam the Indian, make a place for the able black, and tailor liberty to the bodies of those who rose up and triumphed in its name. [. . .] No Yankee or European book could furnish the key to the Hispanoamerican enigma. (Our America 293-4) In this long passage Mart initially confirms the multitude of cultural influences in the formation of Latin American countries. The totality of these references, especially in the initial metaphor of the indian who christens his child on a mountaintop, the black who performs a musical ritual into the night and the campesino rising up against the men of the city, which in turn is represented by the image of city dwellers who pass by in a collection of European incongruous clothing, points undeniably to a special character peculiar to Latin America. In the middle of the passage we find that instead of the multitude of superimposed European identities poorly represented in a collage of European garments the narrative voice indicates Latin Americans ought to fashion an identity out of Latin America itself. Mart seems to indicate a change is occurring and instead of searching for an answer to the Hispanoamerican enigma in foreign lands, a young generation is relying on the creation of a new identity. What is curious is that although Mart mentions the concept of mestizaje he refuses to categorize it as an active form of framing ethnocentric forms of resistance. All in all, it appears that Mart considered the term as a form of explaining the cultural peculiarity of postcolonial Latin America in the period of nation building. Instead of operating in terms of civilization and

85 barbarianism Mart chooses the binary natural/artificial to frame Latin American identity. In this way, natural, for Mart, has to do with cultural processes characteristic to Latin America, while artificial refers to the bad habit of considering postcolonial Latin American civilization through European or North American optics. All in all, Our America in terms of the fashioning of a Latin American identity proposes a self-centered process. In spite of the fact that Our America addresses a very specific topic, the political history of Latin America from the overthrow of the colonial system to the lurking menace seen by Mart in the growing power of the United States, a nation that will demand intimate relations with [our America], though it does not know her and disdains her (295), the question of whether or not Latin America will maintain its own character seems, to Mart, to be in direct relation to Latin Americans capability of engendering strong identities as nascent nations. These new identities for Mart would be stable and operative once they set their foundations in the real Latin America. The theme of the quest for collective identity is also present in Nuyorican poetry. Tato Laviera, in a poem entitled AmeRcan, expresses the same motivation as Mart in Our America. Almost a hundred years later than Mart, Laviera also sketches an identity in the process of creation. But unlike Mart who carefully avoids the uttering of a romantic project of nation to characterize continental soul (Mart 296) which is left by the forefather of Cuban independence as open, Laviera, in AmeRcan draws the first evocation for Nuyorican identity directly from a nineteenth-century romantic mythology of the nation.

86 we gave birth to a new generation AmeRican, broader than lost gold never touched, hidden inside the puerto rican mountains. (489) In the poems first stanza11, the poetic voice bounds in an affective unison the poems topic, inscribing itself organically into the generation which it wants to presently describe. This is represented by utterance of the pronoun we to which, from now on I will refer to as the poetic voice. In order to evoke the generation to be described, the poetic voice makes a vague reference to Puerto Ricos natural richness, gathered under the clear symbolic allusion of lost gold, which can suggest a past of mining exploration associated with the quest of the early stages of colonial rule in Puerto Rico. It appeals to the logic of the colonial system, which determined that the gold and other raw materials of the colony primarily benefited Spain and was never touched by most of the population. Through the allusion to a natural splendor of the land that is as great as the inspiration for the new Latin American nations this stanza also evokes the mid nineteenth-century Latin American civilization and state building narratives. The correspondence is metonymically reached through the grandeur attributed to the nascent independent nations and the reference to their natural richness, as seen in stanza one. This is in itself a topos traceable through the history of Puerto Rican literature which can be

For practical reasons I have divided the poem in stanzas. In the original there are no references to lines, stanzas or verses. I have reproduced the graphic aspect of each stanza as close to the original as possible.

11

87 illustrated by works such as the novel La palma del cacique (1852) de Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, that tells a historical legend of the foundation of Puerto Rico. Although Laviera appears to set the initial tone using a romantic key common to nineteenth-century prose referring to the nation, his tone quickly changes to a less bucolic and more urban one. In stanza two, the association of the richness of the land this time corresponds to the vastness that the collective poetic voice we attributes to Nuyorican experience. This concept comes across from the second stanza: we gave birth to a new generation, AmeRican, it includes everything imaginable you-name-it-we-got-it society. (489) This vastness is effectively one that allows for the inclusion of everything/imaginable which stands as an attribute of the society to which the poetic voice belongs and describes. This society is significantly characterized by the complex adjective you-name-it-we-got-it/society. Again, it appears that the reference to the hidden riches of the mountains of Puerto Rico is indeed far away both in time and space. This type of society which the poetic voice describes is definitely an urban, or a cosmopolitan one. Indeed, an all encompassing society corresponds to the stage in which human civilization is confident enough of its means to produce and create, and does not shun celebrating this very realization, which is seen as an achievement in the ideology of progress. So said, the reference to this stage of society evokes New York City as an

88 international symbol of entrepreneurship. But the image created by the poetic voice might also encompass other elements which inform this path of success. we gave birth to a new generation, AmeRican salutes all folklores, european, indian, black, spanish, and anything else compatible. (489) In stanza three, which concludes the first of two parts in the poem, the collective poetic voice, through the friendliness it declares towards all folklores, elevates the receptiveness of the AmeRcan generation to many other cultural narratives expressed in the artistic manifestations of several cultures, namely, european, indian, black, spanish. In Marts Our America, there is an evocation to different peoples that does not come from an association with the concept of race, but rather suggests that Lavieras poetic voice, like Marts narrative voice, establishes the poetic focus from a cultural point of view. The ideal of cultural openness expressed in the welcoming call of Lavieras poetic voice towards other cultures, signals that for the Nuyorican, cultural dialogue is a priori open. The choice for the word folklore by Laviera is significant, since it evokes a particular notion, as Kirshenblatt-Gimblett reminds us, of the dilemma her field of knowledge encounters in the present, not only in the matter of its relocation within the hierarchy of university disciplines, but also because folklore continues to be in the present without being fully of the present, in part because folklore, understood as oral

89 tradition, tends to be defined over and against technology, first writing and print, then recording and broadcast technologies, and finally digital media (283). The concept of folklore used by Laviera in AmeRcan seems to agree with Kirshenblatt-Gimbletts concept of popular culture which underscores the importance folklorists attribute to oral tradition. Accordingly, the folklorist adds in favor of her scientific field of knowledge, the opinion that folklore persists, and is created, in spite of, not because of [new technologies] (283). The answer for Lavieras collective poetic voices definition of folklore will be made clear in the second part of the poem. Although the theme of technology versus folklore is not expanded any further than music recording in the 1930s in New York City, still his definition complements that of KirshenblattGimbletts. At the end of this part of the poem, represented by the first three four-verse indented stanzas, the poetic voice inscribes folklore within the realm of cultural achievements of various social groups, echoing Kirshenblatt-Gimbletts definition of folklore as oral artistry. So far, this enumeration of AmeRcan characteristics has cast symbols that range from a brief and slightly ironic reference to a never received richness, to the cosmopolitanism of the urban world in which Nuyoricans live in. These references are consistent not only with the present of the Nuyorican community in New York City, but also with the history and even the literature of their Puerto Rican forefathers, setting the Nuyorican locus of narration in a general atmosphere of cultural hybridity and cultural openness without fear of acculturation (Ortiz 97-102).

90 The next three stanzas, numbered four to six, have individual different lengths. Together, they can point to explain Lavieras poetic voices own concept of folklore: AmeRican, singing to composer pedro flores palm trees high up in the universal sky! AmeRican, sweet soft spanish danzas gypsies moving lyrics la espaola cascabelling presence always singing at our side! AmeRican, beating jbaro modern troubadours crying guitars romantic continental bolero love songs! (489) Taking into consideration the concept of folklore produced by KirshenblattGimblett and the references inscribed in the stanzas above by the poetic voice, it is possible to notice some difference. The mentioning of Pedro Flores, a Puerto Rican singer who moved to New York in 1926 and, who along with Rafael Hernandez founded the Trio Borinquen, (Morales 130) end up inscribing the word AmeRcan into popular oral culture of the present. That is inconsistent with the state of folklore in academia given by Kirshenblatt-Gimblett because instead of be[ing] defined over and against technology the poems allusion to composer pedro flores [sic] palm trees high up in the universal sky contains a clear reference to dissemination of folkloric music which does not exclude the new technologies of broadcasting available today. Also, after a quick reference to the Trio Borinquen bands hit, Bajo un palmar (Under the Palm Tree), that suggests the universalization of Puerto Rican music, in the next two stanzas,

91 the poetic voice makes reference to the popular and performatic Spanish tradition of flamenco, through the allusion to danzas gypsies. Finally, condensing the two popular cultural currents of AmeRcan, the poetic voice, in stanza six, evokes the jbaro or Puerto Rican rural mountain dweller that can be compared, for illustrative effect, to the American hillbilly (Haas 35). Both iconic images have a weight in respective regional cultures, but the jbaro was taken a step further in comparison to the hillbilly because, as early as the eighteenth century it served the purpose of representing a Puerto Rican native identity (Scarano 1401). The popularization of the jbaro as an iconic form of Puerto Rican identity better corresponds to what Manuel Peter Lamarche recounts as: [The] white or mixed-race peasants who accounted for the vast majority of the population until the 1930s, the jbaros have been regarded as the epitome of traditional Puerto Rican identity. In literature and song, they have long been celebrated, however paternalistically and nostalgically, for their legendary hospitality, individuality, self sufficiency and love of simple pleasures of nature, coffee, fiestas, and homespun music. Accordingly, jbaro music has been regarded as a quintessential symbol of island culture. (68) Even though seen in a positive light as described by Lamarche, the jbaro had previously been caricaturized in the Saint James Festivals carnavallesque celebration of Mojingangas. This fact is studied by Francisco A. Scarano who recounts that the image of the jbaro was repeatedly put in evidence in the Mojingangas from 1745 to 1823. What

92 Scarano noticed was the fact that this native peasant of the Puerto Rican mountains was actually being ridiculed during an essentially urban festival. In fact, in present day Puerto Rico, to be called a jbaro is still an utterance perceived as offensive, especially in urban settings. In light of these considerations, the allusion to the jbaros musical tradition by Laviera, in stanza six, may be understood as an attempt at rescuing the image of the Puerto Rican mountain-dweller from scorn and oblivion. Deliberate attempts to recast essentialized images of national identity are not strange to literature. For instance, this sort of revisionism occurred in other parts of the Latin American world. In nineteenthcentury Argentina, the gaucho offered to authors such as Ricardo Giraldes in Don Segundo Sombra, a mean of portraying in a positive light an essentialized national icon that had previously been regarded as unfitting to the image of nation, order, and progress, noticeably by Domingo F. Sarmiento in Facundo: civilizacin y barbarie (Bowsher 111). Also, in mid-nineteenth century Puerto Rico the use of the jbaro as a form of popularizing a discourse of national identity bears a resemblance to similar attempts in Brazil where the image of the pre-colonial peoples was romanticized as a myth for the nineteenth-century nascent nation. But while in Brazil indigenismo as literary currency was abandoned in the nineteenth century, in Puerto Rico the analogue jbaro myth survived in local culture, mainly through popular music. Jbaro music, in the twentieth century even crossed other limits having adapted into the context of the phonographic market in New York City in the early 1930s as the reference to Pedro Flores by Laviera in 1981 suggests (Flores 347).

93 AmeRcan, as the poetic voice declares in the poem, presents other cultural influences beyond the jbaro. The reference to Spanish continental bolero clarifies to the reader that the identity Laviera attempts to establish is definitely related with popular culture in a transnational way. Given the salutation to all folklores from stanza three, verse two, and its subsequent expansion in stanzas four, five and six, the Nuyorican identity that is inscribed by Laviera under the term AmeRcan definitely lies within the domains of cosmopolitanism, although it remains closely associated with particular Puerto Rican and Spanish influences. In fact, the very confluence of cultural elements that characterizes cosmopolitanism serves to contextualize the importance of the migration to New York City for understanding AmeRcan identity, as expressed in stanza seven: AmeRican, across forth and across back back across and forth back forth across and back and forth our trips are walking bridges! it all dissolved into itself, the attempt was truly made, the attempt was truly absorbed, digested, we spit out the poison, we spit out the malice, we stand, affirmative in action, to reproduce a broader answer to the marginality that gobbled us up abruptly! (490)

94 In the very core of the definition that Laviera gives for AmeRcan lays the movement of the migration, represented in stanza seven verses one to five by an allusion to the episodes of reversed migration which historically occurred in the 1930s, el vaivn. By evoking this expression Laviera links two loose ends or two different identities, American and Puerto Rican. By so doing Laviera implies the existence of an intersection within which the essence of AmeRcan can be established. More than a product of a contact zone (Pratt 145), in stanza seven verses nine to eleven, AmeRcan is not only being defined as an identity but also, by the reference to affirmative action, as a legally protected aspect of diversity (Aparicio and Cruz 47). AmeRcan is a symbol which Lavieras poetic voice suggests as the initial point from which to start rallying against exclusion. From stanzas eight to eleven, Lavieras poetic voice defines itself in terms of location, musical influences and use of Spanish and English. After doing so, in stanza twelve, the poetic voice returns to the theme of inclusion and complements it with the rest of humanity as follows: AmeRcan, abounding inside so many ethnic English people, and out of humanity, we blend and mix all that is good! (490) The theme of inclusion dominates the last three stanzas of AmeRcan expanding the signification of what the poetic voice had established as a symbol for resistance through affirmative action for Nuyoricans against marginalization (stanza seven verse nine). This new definition of AmeRcan includes Anglo-Americans and the

95 rest of the nationalities present in the urban setting of New York City in an attempt by the poetic voice to project the desire for a new inclusive American identity: AmeRcan, yes, for now, for I love this, my second land, and I dream to take the accent from the altercation, and be proud to call myself american, in the u.s. sense of the word, AmeRcan, America! (490) In the last stanza of the poem the poetic voice declares its love and allegiance to the United States. The last verse summarizes the desire of the poetic voice for a new cultural attitude towards difference in the country. This is transparent through the perception of the use of the imperative mode within one understanding of the neologism AmeRcan (ame (Puerto) Rcans) in stanza fifteen verse five. This is a last call to incite Americans in general, regardless of cultural origins to adhere to the inclusive modus operandi that has been established all along the poem through the leitmotiv of AmeRcan: accept diversity. Similar to Mart in Our America, the identity Laviera desires for Nuyoricans in AmeRcan avoids the essentialization of Nuyorican as a race. Instead, like Mart and his postulation of a Latin American identity through culture, Laviera also proposes that identity should primarily be defined by culture. Accordingly, he acknowledges that differences will always exist among human groups. What can and ought to be changed is the attitude Nuyoricans have towards themselves. In recognizing the trajectory of the Puerto Rican migrants and the significance of the change acquired during the adaptation

96 to their new homeland, the poetic voice in AmeRcan sees a great potential for empowerment of Nuyoricans in overcoming the burden of marginalization. Ultimately, as can be appreciated in the full length of the poem, the poetic voice undergoes this process and comes out transformed. As the legacy of a testimony to its allegiance to the country, the Nuyorican poetic voice proposes that all Americans unite in the appreciation of difference. Such a tolerant and open attitude is portrayed by Lavieras poetic voice not only as desired, but essential, for achieving a more perfect union among all cultures present in the United States of America and in the world.

Nigger-Reecan Blues and Poetic Performance In Nigger-Reecan Blues Willie Perdomo simulates a dialogue between his poetic self and an unidentified interlocutor. Throughout the initial part of the text, this anonymous voice constantly challenges the self-identification of Willie as a Puerto Rican: Hey, Willie. What are you, man? I am. Boricua? Moreno? Que? No, silly. You know what I mean: What are you? I am you. You are me. We the same. Cant you feel our veins drinking the same blood? (111, 1-6) In verse two, Willies answer I am, free of any syntactical complement, underscores his preoccupation in ascribing his intransitive condition in the sense of self-

97 contained or simply existing as a human being. Another interpretation to this rather laconic answer might denote a sort of uneasiness or discomfort on the part of Willie on the matter of unexpectedly discussing his personal identity in terms of culture and race. In verse three, the questioning voice purposely uses the culturally charged words Boricua and Moreno to incite a response on the part of Willie. In spite of the provocation, Willie resorts to reticence. Instead of getting trapped in an uncomfortable discussion, in verse five, Willie replies: We the same. This phrase, constructed in the absence of the linking verb to be, returns the question of identity to the inquisitive voice. By doing so, Willie resists elaborating on an issue that apparently makes him uncomfortable, that is to say, the compulsory framing of his self-identity in terms of race or culture. In such a short answer where the very verb that denotes existence is omitted, the stylistic allusion to oral speech also allows for other interpretations. First, the length of the utterance indicates Willie is not prone to elaborating on his identity in private. Second, the very absence of the verb that denotes existence, which makes the rhythm of speech faster and incomprehensible to eavesdroppers, also reiterates Willies unwillingness to discuss such a personal matter in public. This observation appears contradictory in the context of a text meant to be read for an audience. Nonetheless the representation of Willies malaise with the theme of identity is what captivates the spectator. Immediately the audiences attention is seized by the manner Willie decides to engage in a conversation with the poetic interlocutor who mockingly insists in convincing Willie that, in reality, he is black. Since the first verse, the central theme of the poem, the public explanation of a Nuyorican self-identity in regards to race versus culture, is bluntly

98 established by the phrase What are you, man? Also, from the reinstatement of that question, introduced in verse three by the phrase You know what I mean: What are you? imparts a dialogical quality to the text, a characteristic that stylistically approximates it to the domain of spoken performance, to which Nuyorican poetry is fully akin (Somers-Willett 51-2). The exam of Frances Aparicios study of music in the poetry of Victor Hernndez Cruz confirms how performance and cultural politics are linked in the context of Nuyorican poetry: Puerto Ricans are still marginalized and excluded from economic power. However, cultural empowerment for this ethnic group is facilitated, among other ways, through collective and individual acts of perception and performance: for the musicians, composing and performing music; for the poets, writing and reciting poetry; for the audience and the community, listening to music, dancing, and speaking in the vernacular: Spanish, or code-switching in their own English dialect. (561) The resource to informal language and performance in Nuyorican poetry constitutes a strategy of communication that allows for the expression of concern in the matter of racial exclusion. In particular, when addressing the theme of race versus culture in the definition of Nuyorican personal or collective identity, by mimicry, the mise-enscene of conversations, such as the one carried by Willie and the confrontational poetic interlocutor in Nigger-Reecan Blues, recreates a situation which might be either familiar or new to the spectator. In any case, either by curiosity or identification towards

99 the theme or by involvement in the performativity provided by spoken a dialect syntax and a dialogic form, the audiences interest is captured. The markers of oral language mixed with written language, such as the use of the vocative man in verse one, jointly with the literary intransitive use of the verb to be, which denotes the theme of complexity of human existence, involve both Nuyoricans and other possible non-Nuyorican audience members in a present experience. The resulting effect is deeply founded in the motivation to inform and to transform the sensitivity of the listeners to the theme of culture versus race in the characterization of Nuyoricans in the United States. As Aparicio remarks, the use of Spanish and English, through the phenomenon of code-switching, facilitates this process by introducing the elements of diversity of language. This works together with the theme of identity to convey meaning as well as a sense of reality and identification with a political cause in performative Nuyorican poetry. It is right in the intersection of music, performance, and written word where Nuyorican poetry seems to have matured its ethos. The Nuyorican Poets Caf, the iconic stronghold of the revolutionary poets of the 1970s continues to promote the tradition of the open microphone and competitive poetry slams since the early 1990s (SommersWillet 58). The essence of poetry slams is to cause a good impression in the audience. When personal or collective identity is the theme of the text represented, it is expected that the performer be able to convey the intensity of his/her personal experience. When put in practice in a competitive event, the art of representing authenticity to the spoken word counts for a very important part of what is being judged:

100 In the spiel read before every bout at the National Poetry Slam, judges and audience members are advised to give poems scores based on both text and performance (The Rules). However, the subjective process of judging is often guided by a more specific imperative. Vague as it may sound, Maria Damon writes, the criterion for slam success seems to be some kind of realness-authenticity [. . .] that effects a felt change of consciousness on the part of the listener (53) As Sommers-Willet remarks for the judging directives in the National Poetry Slam, the rules to evaluate this kind of performance can be very vague. After these rules it is possible for the artist to obtain an advantage counting on the merit of his/her textual creation. Nonetheless, there are other elements than words read or memorized which may enhance an artists score in poetry slams. Noticeably, the representation of a credible performance is strongly appreciated by the judges and audience. Those variables are crucial to understand Nuyorican poetry from the 1990s, from which Nigger-Reecan Blues is an example: Damn! I aint even Black and here I am sufferin, from the young Black mans plight/the old white mans burden/and I aint even Black, man/a Black man/I am nor/Boricua I am/aint never really was/Black/like me... -Leave that boy alone. He got the Nigger-Reecan Blues Im a Spic! Im a Nigger!

101 Spic! Spic! No different than a Nigger! Neglected, rejected, oppressed and depressed From banana boats to tenements Street gangs to regiments . . . Spic! Spic! I aint nooooo different than a Nigger. (42-53) In these final verses of Nigger-Reecan Blues, after a series of reiterations of the opposing poetic voice, Willie concludes that in fact he is a Nigger. Nonetheless he refuses to agree with the concept of black man that the poetic interlocutor instigates him with. In essence he does judge fair to reclaim the legacy of the African American experience for himself. A close reading from verse forty-seven to verse fifty indicates the nature of his likeness to the black experience in the United States. This is the moment in the performance when the theme of self-identity pits the theme of rebellion against the discourse of exclusion. This is so because, for the poetic subject of Willie is a Nigger as much as he is a Spic. Those two much stigmatized epithets that the poetic Willie assumes while exuding a high dose of pathos have in common the allusion to prejudice and the status of marginalized citizens in which both African Americans and Latinos encounter in the United States. As for the evocation to the musical genre of blues in the text, there are some aspects that serve to reinforce the central thematic and formal features of the poem. As a musical genre, blues is usually defined as a song of lamentation that expresses melancholy. As far as the identification between Willies personal identity and characteristics that might associate his life experience to that of a black man, the allusion

102 to blues, in verse forty-six -Leave that boy alone. He got the Nigger-Reecan Blues, is illustrative. The series of close-knit sentences that form verses forty-two to forty-five closely emulate the cadence and the circular versification of a working song. It is popularly accepted among musicians that blues itself originated in the songs the slaves muttered while at work in the southern United States (Wallenstein 620). By saying that Willie sings the blues, the poetic voice makes a last attempt to associate Willie with African American culture. On a deeper level, the allusion to Willies own interpretation of a traditional African American rhythm also underscores the cosmopolitanism that is a part of Nuyorican community through its history of migration from Puerto Rico and integration in the United States. Although setting a complaint in a dialogical form constitutes a crucial part of what Perdomo does in Nigger-Reecan Blues it is not the only motivational stylization of the poem. In reality, by elaborating the poetic subjects answer to the identity that the poetic interlocutor tries to trope upon him, to the audience, as a character, Perdomo affirms his peculiarity as a Puerto Rican without excluding the influences he receives from the African American heritage in the United States. The intertextual artifice of Perdomos bluesy response to the poetic challengers provocation constitutes a semimusical counterpoint that echoes in style the suffering of the black community in his country as well as it reflects the call and response schemes present in Latin jazz and salsa. Moreover, by employing the technique of the blues in his response, Perdomo sends a twofold message; he is in fact a Nigger as much as a Spic. In that position he speaks for the marginalized, be they African American or Latino. Also, as a Nuyorican

103 voice in action he cannot set apart the contribution Nuyorican culture has gained from African via Puerto Rico and African American cultures in New York City. As for the reproduction of a private dialogue that gradually becomes interspersed by episodic rumbling and bluesy monologues, Nigger-Reecan Blues is the portrait of the uneasiness that is common to human beings when confronted with the arduous chore of delimitating their own identity. From the private dimension expressed by Willies bluesy monologues and dialogues with the poetic interlocutor the text attains public breadth. This is only possible through the element of performance.

Performance, Mimesis, Diegesis, and Nuyorican Poetry Starting in the 1990s there was a continued interest in public poetic performances in the main urban centers of the United States. In New York City, and particularly in the Nuyoricans Poet Caf, the phenomenon of poetry slams produced a corpus of texts that is accessible to the general public and to literary critics alike (Sommers-Willet 52). The poetic anthology Aloud, although not the only source available for Nuyorican poetry from the 1990s, is a key text for surveying the most prominent aesthetic elements of Nuyorican poetry in general: This book dares state the obvious RAP IS POETRY and its spoken essence is central to the popularization of poetry. Rap is taking its place, aloud, as a new poetic form, with ancient griot [sic] roots. Hip hop is a cultural throughline for the Oral Tradition. Word goes public! Poetry has found a way to drill through the wax that had been collecting for

104 decades! Poetry is no longer an exhibit in a Dust Museum. Poetry is alive; poetry is allowed. [. . .] Content, as they told me at MTV, is making a comeback. Meaning is going to be big in the nineties. (2) In this excerpt of the invocation to Aloud,12 Holman clearly manifests his confidence in the potential of oral poetry in the 1990s. Through a reference to the chants of African minstrels, the griots, Holman implies the rebirth or modernization of an ancient tradition in the form of Rap. The reference to MTV is also symbolic and suggests the speed in which the transformations around poetic performance were occurring in the 1990s. Curiously, when he quotes what he heard in MTV, the focus underscored is the content or choice of themes, not the form or means of representation. Nonetheless, the topicalization of meaning, in the last sentence underscores the belief in the rebirth of the essence of words, and in particular spoken words. In reference to Rap and its intersection with Nuyorican poetics, the term meaning, reveals yet another characteristic which refers to performance and in particular to competitive poetry slams, the value attached to authenticity: [It] is important to note that although the proclamation of identity seems a key part of a successful slam poem, the craft and execution of that proclamation is just as important as the statement itself. Which is to say that how slam poets perform their identities is just as important as what they say about their identities. Performance, as one should expect in a genre such as slam, is the instrument that makes the poem ring true or
12

This invocation is entitled Congratulations. You have found the hidden book.

105 false with any given audience. In this respect, slam poetry has much in common with its theatrical cousins, performance art and dramatic/comedic monologue, because it engages the very same politics of identity that can govern and arise from those expressions. (52) The remarks of Sommers-Willet on the balance between representation and content in competitive Nuyorican poetry slams raise the question of the politics of Nuyorican performance. The sense of authenticity of the poets proclamation, as Sommers-Willet reminds, is to a good extent subsidiary to the poets stage presence. Thus, it is valid to compare Nuyorican poetrys trajectory to theater and performance art. In my opinion the remarks on the importance of performance to Nuyorican poetry are also crucial to interpret it in written form. As I have discussed, Perdomos NiggerReecan Blues is a good example of text in which performance complements meaning. It is impossible for me, as a reader, to imagine a more realistic setting to discuss the theme of identity than the dialogical form. In fact, in Holders remarks on the the nation of cowards demanded exactly that the theme of identity be discussed and argued in public, not in private, as a monologue stylistically implies. Other texts, such as Morales Rebirth of New Rican confirm the reliance of Nuyorican poets from the 1990s in dialogical form and its effectiveness to impress an audience in live poetry without losing much of the plasticity when written: You are aware, I suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come? / Certainly, he replied. / And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of the

106 two? / [. . .] / And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he assumes? / Of course. / Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed by way of imitation? / Very true. / Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself, then again the imitation is dropped, and his poetry becomes simple narration. (253) The importance attributed to performance in Nuyorican poetry relates to the classic discussion between the importances of mimesis as opposed to diegesis in representation. The latter, defined by Plato above as when the poet everywhere appears, differs from the former which relates to imitation. In view of the meaning of these classic terms in the discussion of representation in general and in Nuyorican poetry in particular, it is possible to recognize within the domain of diegesis the characterization of what Sommers-Willet mentions as how slam poets perform. It appears that in its competitive form Nuyorican poetry relies a lot on diegetic aspects. As Sommers-Willet remarks on the matter of the physical presence of the performer and the reaction of the audience and judges: If the precedents set by National Poetry Slam (NPS) rankings and the attitudes of slam poets are any indication, the performance of certain identities are more successful than the performance of others. Slammer Eirik Ott (a.k.a. Big Poppa E) comments, I love that ... someone, anyone can get up on a stage and share their experiences of being gay or straight

107 or black or white or Filipino or Latino or Vietnamese or transgendered or wussy boy or whatever, and folks will just leap to their feet in applause [. . .] His comments suggest that what is successful at slams (i.e., what wins an audiences approval) is the expression of identity on stage, but the majority of his examples also suggest that particularly marginalized racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual identities gain applause. His comments also signal that slam poets and their audiences have, consciously or unconsciously, come to rely on marginalized identities as authentic narratives in and of themselves. That is, a poet performing a poem about a marginalized identity may gain the reward of authenticity from a slam audience not only for his or her writing and performance, but also for the well-executed performance of a marginalized identity itself. (57) Nevertheless, as seen in earlier poems, such as in Lavieras AmeRcan, the monologue form, which is maybe less prone to producing such an impact on a live audience, has served to address the question of identity in Nuyorican poetry just as well. It seems to me that, in discussing slam poetrys focus on performance, Sommers-Willet has grasped the move from mimetic to diegetic in the style of Nuyorican poetry of the 1990s. The indicators for such a change are aesthetic, such as the adoption of a tone of protest, as well as a political tone, such as the denunciation of marginalization. In regard to the written text, in spite of the detection of both dialogic (i.e. Morales Rebirth of New Rican and Perdomos Nigger-Reecan Blues) and monologic texts such as Lavieras AmeRcan, it would be artificial to predict perfectly impermeable categories.

108 In reference to written text and the presence of stylistic characteristic that suggest the many possible degrees of variation between a focus on performance and a focus on representation, I propose a metaphor based on orbits and circularity. In the core of this imaginary system stands the compromise of written texts with representation the reproduction of ideal or reality and in its periphery are located the aspects relative to texts enunciation, such as the discursive characteristics that bring about performance. In accordance with this metaphor it is possible to perceive texts as concentric or eccentric. A concentric text, such as Lavieras AmeRcan fluctuates towards the imaginary center, because it has a compromise with the representation of a theme the quest for conveying culture as the vehicle of identity which Laviera accomplishes through the use of a leitmotif and a poetic voice that proclaims but barely identifies itself. In contrast, eccentricity is a characteristic of texts such as Perdomos Nigger-Reecan Blues and Morales Rebirth of New Rican. In these texts, although the proximity to the representational core is still quite short, there are elements, such as the use of dialogue which make them at times gravitate slightly towards dialogism and other effects of enunciation. There other texts that, due to their resource to metalinguistic procedures, such as pastiche and parody, would be situated in the very hypothetical center of the imaginary system: HUSTLER WORK EXPERIENCE Highly competitive retail environment, location scouting for customer satisfaction, blowjobs, training potential hustlers,

109 using men to locate finances, distributing STDs, protecting territory from competition, penetration, mnage--trois REASONS FOR LEAVING Age limitations, adversity with Latino Fan Club. (Xavier 49) In this text Manuel Xavier makes use of a popular and immediately recognizable text format in the composition of the poem Pier Queen for Hire. This structure, the classified advertisement, by itself conveys the meaning of simplicity and direct language. Xavier makes use of these specific preceding structural characteristics to develop the theme of the commodification of queer sexuality through prostitution. His criticism extends to the very vehicle of advertisement and to the inaction of our role as readers to express more than a transitory sense of awe in regard to the gruesome reality contained in the daily news. Following my proposition of concentric versus eccentric in the classification of written Nuyorican poetry, the procedure adopted by Xavier, parody, strongly relies in the adopted format, therefore his text is strongly concentric. In the realm of spoken performance, particularly as Sommers-Willet has posited on the matter of competitive poetry slams, the concentric or eccentric aspects which directly relate to mimesisare of little importance. In those live readings, the focus is not only on the text but also on the performance. Since the credibility of the performer counts as much as the performance itself (Sommers-Willet 53), in my opinion, we are faced with an essential problem: can publicly performed Nuyorican texts because of their focus on diegetic elements of the performance be considered a new form of rhetoric? If so, the scholarly consideration of such texts better fits an interdisciplinary framework among the

110 fields of literature, rhetoric, political science, and if videotaped as Algarn predicts for the future of Nuyorican poetry film studies.

Conclusion From the historical events of migration that also contain episodes of return to Puerto Rico, New York Puerto Ricans have developed a particular culture which stands out when compared either to mainstream United States culture or to Puerto Rican culture. Therefore, when looking for an answer to the question of identity, be it on a personal or on a collective stance, New York Puerto Ricans have confronted both sides of their cultural matrixes especially when the issue of race was brought to the discussion. The emergence of the civil rights movement in the United States, as well as the real social achievements consolidated in the form of a multiculturalist set of legislation throughout the 1970s and 1980s, provided New York Puerto Ricans with a strong notion of community empowerment. The creation of the Nuyorican Poets Caf in 1973 stimulated a surge in artistic verve. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s a large number of poetic texts emerged in the context of the Caf: Nuyorican poetry was born. The quest for identity in Nuyorican poetry has similarities with a series of texts that were produced in the Caribbean. The theme of culture versus race as a definer of identity is discussed both by Nuyorican and by Caribbean authors in very similar terms. The conjugation of Fernndez Retamars Caliban and Morales Rebirth of New Rican demonstrates that language latently possesses the subversive quality of exposing the fragility of a system while it is at work. Both in Fernndez Retamars interpretation of

111 Shakespeares The Tempest and in Rebirth of New Rican, the characters that occupy the role of pupil, respectively Caliban and the poetic voice that quotes Eddie Figueroa, realize the power that their own actions might have through the use of language in response to stimuli from the external environment. In the comparison between Marts Our America and Lavieras AmeRcan it is possible to observe that similarly to Mart in Our America, the identity Laviera desires for Nuyoricans in AmeRcan avoids the essentialization of a Nuyorican race. Instead, as for Mart and his postulation of a Latin American identity through culture, Laviera also proposes a categorization of identity through the lines of culture. And as culture is extremely plastic, he recognizes that differences will always exist among human groups. By admiring and emulating the resilience of the Puerto Rican migrants and the significance of the change acquired during the adaptation to their new homeland, the poetic voice in AmeRcan perceives in the historical revisionism a great potential for empowering Nuyoricans against the burden of marginalization. The analysis of Perdomos Nigger-Reecan Blues and its representation of an encounter between an inquisitive poetic voice and a character, Willie, illustrate how the use of informal language and performance in Nuyorican poetry constitutes a strategy of communication that allows for the expression of concern in the matter of racial exclusion. In particular, when addressing the theme of race versus culture in the definition of Nuyorican personal or collective identity, by mimicry, the mise-en-scene of conversations, such as the one carried by Willie and the confrontational poetic interlocutor in Nigger-Reecan Blues, recreates a situation which might be either

112 familiar or new to the spectator. In any case, either by curiosity or identification towards the theme or by involvement in the performativity provided by the syntax of a spoken a dialect and a dialogic form, the audiences interest is captured. This poem allowed me to briefly discuss the question of performance, which led me to the consideration of the phenomenon of poetry slams and its impact in the production and in the reception of Nuyorican poetry in the 1990s. The consideration of Nuyorican performative texts, noticeably in competitive poetry slams, revives the classic question of mimesis versus diegesis in the field of Arts. In the case of Nuyorican poetry this issue raises serious epistemological questions concerning the critical analysis of an ever-growing corpus. The scholarly consideration of such texts requires the application of an interdisciplinary framework uniting the fields of literature, rhetoric, political science, and in the case of videotaped performances as Algarn predicts for the future of Nuyorican poetry film studies. If I was to further extend my investigation, the question of performativity would lead me to closely consider the themes of gender, sexuality, and corporality in live or recorded Nuyorican poetic performance.

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