Book Fridays: Puerto Rican Literature

Las Más Bellas Poesias de Puerto Rico, an anthology compiled by Edwin Miner Solá and divided into eighteen topics was given to me as a gift by my mom and has resulted in the equivalent of a crash course in Puerto Rican literature which I now want to share with you. It includes works from the following literary movements: Pasnassianism, Modernism and Romanticism.  The book was printed in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2011. I don’t know why but this makes me really happy to have a book of poems by Puerto Rican authors compiled and printed on the island.

The book’s introduction provides some great information that felt new to me. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in my Spanish Literature class or maybe it was just not presented as it is in this introduction. The cultural literary movement in Puerto Rico developed much later than it did in most of the colonies and Latin-American republics. This was partly due to the following: lack of university, isolation, illiteracy, literary censorship, and the restricted freedom of thought imposed by the regime.

Even though printing began in 1806 there was still no book commerce in 1840 and as a result obtaining books relied on young students that returned from universities in Spain. Despite all these obstacles the first publication, titled Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño was published in 1843. This first publication was a sort of anthology and inspired future publications. Aguinaldo  Puertorriqueño, by its title can lend one to assume it’s a collection of Christmas themed poems and the like but in reality it has nothing to do with Christmas. The publication itself was meant as a gift, hence the title, and is a collection of essays in prose and verse. The following year Album Puertorriqueño was published.

These publications gave way to the first important book of our literature:  El Gíbaro by Manuel A. Alonso. This was published in 1849 and is a collection of photographs documenting (and critiquing) the customs and traditions of Puerto Rico. At the time of publication the majority of people on the island were illiterate. The Antilles were not known for literature, they were simply places to exploit for riches, this book began a movement to build a literate citizenry as well as the preservation of Puerto Rican culture.

It’s funny how a collection of poems has awoken my interest in Puerto Rican literature. I have fallen down a rabbit-hole of literature and I’m enjoying the journey. I read through most of the poems in this book last night and there is so much in here to think about and digest. Some poems stuck out to me, like Nostalgia by Virgilio Dávila. I grew up listening to Andrés Jiménez sing the words of the first stanza without knowing their origin and inspiration. Now I know.

Gracias Mami por este regalo tan perfecto.

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References:

Literatura de Puerto Rico. In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 16, 2015  http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literatura_de_Puerto_Rico

Lengua de Puerto Rico: historia y presente Retrieved January 16, 2015