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date: 15 December 2018

Puerto Rican Nationhood, Ethnicity, and Literature

Summary and Keywords

Given Puerto Rico’s long colonial history, Puerto Ricans both on the island and in the diaspora have had to grapple with contested notions of nationhood. Having been described as a “divided nation” and a “commuter nation” due to the geographical divides between the island population and those who have migrated to cities in the United States, Puerto Ricans have deployed literature to forge and re-imagine a space for belonging and community informed by the experiences of living in between the island and New York, in between Spanish and English, and in between racial notions of skin color, social class, and gender and sexualities. Challenging and unsettling the foundational discourses of national identity on the island, “Diasporican” literature proposes alternative imaginaries that resist power inequalities. This essay argues that Diasporican literature has come into its own, contributing new understandings of the fissures of Puerto Rican national, ethnic, and cultural identities.

Puerto Rican writers in the United States have textualized their experiences of migration and transnationalism through their poetry as well as fiction, memoirs, and autobiographical narratives. They have contested traditional notions of home and have explored the failures and limitations of a sense of belonging. Rejecting both the island of Puerto Rico as the geographical site for Puerto Rican authenticity and the dominant urban imaginaries of New York City that have long excluded their working-poor communities, Puerto Rican writers in the United States have represented el barrio as an urban space that offers them a sense of community despite the mainstream notions of hyper-masculinity, violence, and illegal practices. Afro-Boricua and Diasporican writers have also reflected on the fissures of racial belonging, as their dark skin color is not always integrated into dominant notions of the Puerto Rican and U.S. national imaginaries. Their deployment, in poetry, of English, Spanish, and “Spanglish” speaks mostly to the centrality of orality and sounds in the formation of nationhood, while challenging the homology of Puerto Rican nationality to Spanish. Exploration of the ways in which female, feminist, and queer Diasporican writers grapple with issues of belonging, gender, and sexuality foregrounds how these categories of identity continue to go against the grain of traditional masculine narratives of nationhood. It is essential to acknowledge the geographic dispersion of Diasporican voices away from New York and the transcultural alliances and global identities that are being produced in Morocco, Hawaii, and other far regions of the world. A short discussion of Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” focuses on an example of staging a return home to New York, in a performance that celebrates community, family, and the neighborhood for second- and third-generation Puerto Ricans among other Latino and Latina groups. The multiple and complicated ways in which Diasporican literary voices, from poetry to theater to fiction, textualize notions of home, belonging, and community are examined within the larger frameworks of nationhood and ethnicity.

Keywords: Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans in the United States, Puerto Rican literature, ethnicity, nationhood, Nuyorican, Diasporican, transcultural identities

Both on the island of Puerto Rico and on the U.S. Mainland, Puerto Ricans stand out as a rich and complicated example of a contested nation. Given its long colonial history under the imperial policies of Spain and the United States, Puerto Rican nationhood as a sovereign state has been deferred politically; yet strong enactments of cultural nationalism have been deployed as gestures of resistance and reaffirmation of a dispossessed cultural identity. Puerto Ricans have struggled against colonialism by reaffirming a national identity through language (Spanish), food, music, folklore, and the arts, and by insisting on the primacy of the island as the territory of the national. Thus, Puerto Ricans on the island and the mainland have struggled to find coherence in national imaginaries fraught with struggles over belonging. If literature serves to forge a national imaginary, as Benedict Anderson proposed in Imagined Communities, the formation of a literary canon that textualizes the power struggles in the construction of Puerto Rican culture and identity cannot be underestimated within this colonial framework.1 At a moment in history when Puerto Ricans in the United States outnumber the island population, an analysis of Puerto Rican nationhood, ethnicity, and literature calls into question traditional notions of nationhood and foregrounds the increasing visibility and agency of diasporic literary voices in producing alternative national imaginaries.

This article critically examines the ways in which Puerto Rican literature in the United States has radically destabilized traditional imaginaries of puertorriqueñidad by textualizing the lived experiences of diasporic subjectivities through the lenses of race, gender, sexuality, class, and hybridity. If, for decades, ideologies of cultural nationalism on the island fueled the disavowal of the literary texts produced by Puerto Ricans outside the national territory for not being deemed authentically or fully Puerto Rican, by 2016 the Nuyorican and Diasporican literary corpus had its own history and traditions.2 As Lisa Sánchez González has argued in Boricua Literature, U.S. Puerto Rican literature cannot be fully absorbed as part of the U.S. literary imagination or as an appendix to the Puerto Rican literature on the island. Puerto Rican literature in the United States grapples with issues of colonialism, identity, race, gender, sexuality, social class, and language. Written mostly in English and “Spanglish,” these literary texts—whether poetry, fiction, memoirs, or theater—constitute a verbal performance of the life experiences of Puerto Ricans in the United States and elsewhere. Authors from Chicago and California, and as far away as Hawaii and Morocco are challenging what we traditionally have considered Nuyorican literature by extending its geographical boundaries beyond New York. If the pioneering voices of early writers such as Bernardo Vega and Jesús Colón documented the struggles of Puerto Rican workers in New York since the 1920s, by the new millennium Puerto Rican authors, poets, novelists, and playwrights are creating rich, heterogeneous works and genres that textualize inter- and transcultural exchanges, thus inserting themselves into larger, global discourses.3

The Island Nation

A foundational icon of the Puerto Rican Island national imaginary is the historical triad of ethnicities—the European/Spanish; the Taíno Indigenous; and the Black/African—a racial triad that has informed official discourses about Puerto Rican culture and identity for decades and that has become the official emblem of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. The dominant narratives that ensued from this paradigm framed Puerto Rican society as a racial harmonic democracy through racial mixture. Like many other countries in Latin America that extolled the notion of mestizaje to elide their racial and class hierarchies, the island of Puerto Rico was juxtaposed to the United States in its racializing practices, thus being characterized as a society whose racial mixture led to a lack of racism or, at least, to a “benevolent” form of slavery. The central image of Puerto Rican society as la gran familia puertorriqueña, once described as harmonious and benevolent, while anchored in the economy of the hacienda, cemented the ways in which class and racial differentiation and labor exploitation were erased and undermined; and whiteness, Hispanophilia (or hispanismo), and patriarchy were naturalized and justified as the social status quo. These national imaginaries, constructed by the elites and the creoles, privileged the Spanish and European legacies, genealogies, and whiteness over the black and indigenous identities. Although contested by thinkers such as José Luis González and others, they remain anchored in the power dynamics among social sectors in Puerto Rico.4

Despite these national myths of racial democracy, cultural critics have identified the impact of the ideologies of “Hispanophilia” on the Island and on cultural nationalism. The privileging of the Spanish and European heritage not only celebrates the constructed purity of the Spanish language as a homogenizing icon of Puerto Ricanness, thus erasing other languages such as English in the diaspora, but also privileges whiteness and a supposed European superiority over the black and mixed heritage and populations. Multiple examples of Hispanophilia abound in the images of Puerto Rican nationality: from the foundational figure of the jíbaro as a white male, along with his folklore, music, and instruments, which deny the existence of a jíbaro negro even as a possibility; the primacy of a pure, unadulterated Spanish as an icon of Puerto Ricanness; white and U.S.-based beauty standards for women; and the love for Spain in its multiple manifestations and in its exclusion of the non-European presence. As Marisel Moreno argues, “the ideal of hispanismo paradoxically served to undermine the image of unity that the myth sought to create,” and it “can be seen as an instrument of ‘symbolic’ and ‘hard’ violence against various marginalized sectors of society throughout Puerto Rico’s history.” In fact, discourses of hispanophilia and blanqueamiento have censored the expressions of resistance and denouncements against racism among Afro-Puerto Ricans, and have erased those forms of violence enacted against subordinated groups.5

Thus, the privileging of hispanismo and blanqueamiento have displaced the centrality of blackness in the official paradigms of Puerto Rican culture and nationality. Blackness on the island has been structured through its invisibility or erasure; situated in specific regions or locations on the island (San Antón, Loíza Aldea, or Guayama); and bracketed as an “Other” racial identity. As Petra Rivera-Rideau and Isar Godreau argue, Puerto Rican blackness has been rendered palatable as “folkloric,” that is, separated by time and distance as an “archaic relic of the island’s plantation era” and embodied in musical traditions such as the bomba and the plena, as these are performed for tourists in hotels. As heritage, black folklore can be safely celebrated without including the current black and mulatto sectors that populate the island—that is, the threatening “urban blackness” that is associated with particular spaces, such as the caseríos and the slums in the city—or the music—such as reggaeton and its rhythms and lyrics associated with “violence and hypersexuality.”6

The anxiety over the increasing influence of African origin popular music and dance forms is one among numerous instances of the segregationist discourses in Puerto Rican culture and merits some attention. In the much-canonized El Gíbaro by Manuel Alonso, in 1849, the author easily dismisses the African dances of the bomba because they “do not merit inclusion” and are “not generalized.” In brief, African peoples and slaves were not worthy of recognition in the larger Puerto Rican society and thus did not count. Their music was not worthy of being documented either. In 1885, Salvador Brau’s essay, “La Danza Puertorriqueña,” corrects Alonso’s romanticized evocation of the European country dance in Puerto Rico by tracing its racial transculturation or creolization in the Caribbean. By 1850, the upa or merengue had totally replaced the Spanish country dance, allowing the dancers much more intimacy and closeness of their bodies. The later addition of the Indian güiro and of the timbal, a percussion instrument, “announces the overt Africanization of the orchestra” and marks the point at which, according to Salvador Brau, the danza degenerates into obscenity, primitivism, and mere physicality. The writings of Brau, among others, articulate the power struggles over the ownership of cultural and artistic forms emerging in Puerto Rico. By privileging the purity of the European contradanza, and by rejecting its local transculturation and its hybridity, Brau exemplifies the hegemonic forces that resisted the true racial mixture or mestizaje that la gran familia puertorriqueña announced, yet paradoxically denied. Clearly, the African cultural presence in Puerto Rico triggered numerous anxieties in the elite and landowning sectors, ones that led to literary and cultural texts that disavow blackness.7

The nueva narrativa that emerged during and after the 1970s in Puerto Rico marks a transformation in the role of literature on the island. Authors such as Rosario Ferré, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Ana Lydia Vega, and others deploy their fictional writings to contest the hegemonic discourses of la gran familia puertorriqueña. Together, their works deconstruct and dismantle the notion of racial and class harmony; they denounce racism, classism, and sexism, and acknowledge the critical role that popular culture and popular music have played in producing alternative social imaginaries for the island. Ferré’s incisive social critiques in Papeles de Pandora (1976), the centrality of popular culture in Luis Rafael Sánchez’s La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976), sexuality and gender in Ana Lydia Vega and Carmen Lugo Filippi’s Vírgenes y mártires (1981), and the emergence of the autobiographical in Magali García Ramis’s Felices días, tio Sergio (1986), all exemplify the ways in which literary figures deployed the family as metaphor for the nation and highlighted the “intrafamilial borders,” fraught with conflict, racism, and inequality. The emerging writers in New York also grappled with race, class, gender, and language from the vantage point of their own diasporic experiences.8

From the Divided Nation to the Diasporican

From the 1960s until the 1990s, Puerto Rican writers on the island and on the mainland faced rigid boundaries that kept them at a distance, divided by strong ideologies about language and national identity, about race, and about social class, informed by the traditional national imaginaries cemented on the island. If New York Puerto Rican writers were considered too assimilated because they wrote mostly in English, they were also seen as transgressors of the purity of Spanish when they mixed English and Spanish. If the foundational figures of Nuyorican writing were self-taught, had not had formal education, and had grown up in working-poor families, their literary creations were deemed inferior based on the elite standards of the Island intelligentsia who did not find colloquial English or Spanglish acceptable as literary languages. These divides, encapsulated in the notion of Puerto Rico as a “divided nation,” were clearly informed by the lack of knowledge on the Island about the struggles of Puerto Ricans on the mainland, by dominant notions of insular national identity that dismissed hybridity and the “in-betweenness” of border lives in the diaspora, by class and racial prejudices, and, ironically, by discourses of cultural nationalism that circulated as ways of resisting U. S. colonialism on the Island.9

The territorial privileging of the Island as the exclusive site for Puerto Rican authenticity was central to this disavowal. Puerto Ricans who left their home country were deemed traitors within narratives that dismissed the role of the state in structuring these migrations. Projects of modernization led by Governor Luis Muñoz Marín since the 1940s, coupled with population control, industrialization, and Operation Bootstrap, fueled the migration of thousands of families into New York and the East Coast.10 As Tato Laviera writes in his poem “Nuyorican”:

  • me mandaste a nacer nativo en otras
  • tierras, Por qué, porque éramos pobres,
  • verdad?
  • Porque tú querías vaciarte de tu
  • gente pobre
  • [you made me be born a
  • native in other lands, Why, because we
  • were poor, right?
  • Because you wanted to get rid of
  • your poor people]11

As a response to the island discourses and narratives that informed the disavowal of Puerto Ricans in New York, Laviera’s “Nuyorican” situates these migration flows as a result of state strategies for population control and for modernization.

The strong boundaries erected by these exclusionary national imaginaries were unrelenting for decades. They produced resentment, anger, and virulent conflicts among writers on both sides. In contrast to the acceptance of visual arts and salsa music on the island, Marisel C. Moreno has argued that the rejection of Nuyorican literature on the island “can be explained in part on linguistic grounds.”12 Since Salsa music has been sung mostly in Spanish, and visual arts do not rely on verbal language for communication, these two other art forms have been much more easily accepted on the Island than their literary works.

The long-standing conundrum regarding language and its symbolic value for representing national identity is clearly illustrated in the 1980s controversy between Bronx-based writer, Nicholasa Mohr, author of Nilda, and the Island-based fiction writer, Ana Lydia Vega. Highly critical of Ana Lydia Vega’s characterization of the Nuyorican protagonist, Suzie Bermúdez, in her short story “Pollito Chicken,” Nicholasa Mohr explained in her article, “Puerto Rican Writers in the U.S., Puerto Rican Writers in Puerto Rico: A Separation Beyond Language,” her own location as a New York writer of Puerto Rican descent and the differences between both communities in “language, thematic concerns, and the working class diaspora experience” that create “irreconcilable differences that mark a rupture between insular and diaspora literary productions.”13 Mohr’s piece distinguished how colonialism had translated into different social identities for each: if the Island writers tended to belong to the elite and upper-middle class, in the diaspora most writers were working-class or working-poor. If the Island writers articulated an “obsession with race, class, Spain, and the use of baroque Spanish,” Nuyorican writers addressed the racial prejudices against them for their dark skin color.14 If the Island writers privileged Spanish as the language of the Puerto Rican nation, in New York writing in English and experimenting with Spanglish became a political form of resistance that reclaimed their hybrid identities against the Island literary canon that insisted on defending the purity of Spanish. In brief, as Efraín Barradas and Rafael Rodríguez proposed as early as 1980, U.S. Puerto Rican poets are fueled by a radical insatisfaction [“insatisfacción radical”] that informs a critical positioning vis-á-vis mainstream society and its values. Thus, these diasporic voices, which should be considered part of “our collective reality,” can be considered herejes y mitificadores [heretics and mythmakers] because they are conscious of their cultural legacy and they adopt or reject the diverse myths that inform their national culture.15

Nicholasa Mohr’s arguments, however, dismissed the central role that Island-based writers such as José Luis González and Luis Rafael Sánchez had had in acknowledging the validity and importance of Puerto Rican writers outside the island. If in his 1976 essay, “El escritor y el exilio” [The Writer and the Exile], González called for an early acknowledgement of Puerto Rican literature in the United States as one more artistic sector that produced a national identity outside of the Island, Luis Rafael Sánchez textualized the migratory routes and circulation of Puerto Ricans between the Island and New York in his groundbreaking essay, “La Guagua Aérea.”16 In this humorous narrative that described the experiences of Puerto Rican migrants as passengers on the flight from San Juan to New York since the 1950s, the author remaps New York as a Puerto Rican city, cementing Puerto Rican identity as “una nación flotante entre dos puertos de contrabandear esperanzas” [a nation floating in between two ports that counterfeit hopes].17 He clearly proposes, as early as 1983, what Maritza Stanchich later would coin as “un Puerto Rico extendido” [a Great Puerto Rico].18 Along with other phrases, such as brincando el charco [jumping the puddle], el vaivén [nation on the move], the title “La Guagua Aérea” [the air bus], would go on to become a central signifier that referred to the back and forth flows of Puerto Ricans between the Island and the mainland.19 According to William Burgos, who examines the shifts from Puerto Rican to Nuyorican to Diasporican, “La Guagua Aérea” is one of the first texts that “foreground the dynamism of the diaspora itself and its impact on Puerto Ricans’ sense of themselves.” In addition, the shift from Nuyorican to Diasporican reflects the expansion of Puerto Rican communities outside of New York, the foundational urban site for historicizing Puerto Rican lives. According to William Burgos, “the diasporan perspective is to take into account the full range of geographies and the rich complex of racial and cultural mixtures that define puertorriqueñidad.”20 If these two major writers situated with the insular literary tradition exhorted the acknowledgement and recognition of the diaspora writers, the U.S. Puerto Rican literary voices reflect compellingly on the stories of migration and transnational flows between the two islands—Puerto Rico and Manhattan—ultimately destabilizing traditional notions of home, belonging, and nation. As Lisa Sánchez González, in Boricua Literature (2001), has argued, we need to conceptualize the Diasporican literary corpus as a “Boricua” artistic space that resists fixed notions of national and cultural identity.21 Ramón Soto Crespo also proposes that, by the new millennium, Diasporican literature needs to be examined within its own tradition as a literature of resistance and opposition, as a decolonizing tool, in brief, as “an experience of contestation.”22 Marisel Moreno, in addition, proposes framing the study of Puerto Rican literatures as a “transinsular literary tradition,” rather than even transnational. She argues that the use of the prefix “trans” “signals the importance of recognizing works produced ‘beyond the island,’ or outside its borders.” The term “transinsular” also “signals the existence of a broad, complex, and heterogeneous body of literature that is unified, albeit precariously, by the author’s self-identification as Puerto Rican, understanding the term not as a static category, but as one that assumes multiple manifestations.23 Indeed, Puerto Rican writers in the diaspora, in the “Puerto Rico extendido,” situate themselves as crucial voices in the literary production that grapples with global migratory displacements, the crossing of national borders, the instability and uncertainty of home(s), linguistic hybridity and code-switching, racially-subordinated identities, mixed-race and ethnic families, and non-heteronormative sexualities.

Brincando El Charco: Textualizing Migration, Transnationalism, and Home

Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera’s first poetry collection, La Carreta Made a U-Turn, published in 1984, rejected the derogatory discourses about migration that were prevalent on the island, informed by traditional paradigms of the nation on the island, and mythologized in René Marqués’s play, La Carreta, since 1953.24 This play enacted in a dramatic tragedy the dislocations of one Puerto Rican family from the countryside to San Juan and eventually to New York as a gradual descent into physical death, stagnating poverty, and family dissolution, concluding with their redeeming return to the island rural region. This dystopic vision of migration became “sociologic commonplaces and media stereotypes that at times fed islanders’ already tarnished image of their “acculturated” countrymen who were living stateside.”25 Indeed, if Marqués’ narrative about migrating to New York was articulated as “total disaster and defeat, as exile from sacred land, as loss of family identity and integrity,” Laviera’s poetic textualization of life in el barrio celebrated and affirmed “the existence of a culturally and psychologically whole people that is strong enough to bring together two languages, two experiences, two worlds,” while simultaneously denouncing the institutional racism, exclusions, violence, and abandonment by dominant institutions of working-poor Puerto Ricans in New York.26 In Marqués’ play the Puerto Rican family returns to the rural areas of the Island. Laviera however invites his readers to do a “U-turn,” returning to a New York urban community whose people are resilient, joyful in their oral traditions and popular music, and full of hope despite the dire conditions in which they live. The collection’s first section, “Metropolitan Dreams,” denounces the social and economic stasis of Puerto Ricans in New York—as in “papote sat on the stoop/of an abandoned building/he decided to go nowhere”—(4); the other sections, “Loisaida Streets: Latinas Sing” and “El arrabal: El nuevo rumbón,” articulate the expressive and healing creativity of the community through memory, oral traditions, popular music, and urban arts. In particular, the cultural politics highlighted by sounds—from the drumming of congas on the street to the voices of chisme, from dancing to salsa music to the circulation of Spanglish—become a central site for celebrating Puerto Rican New York. The closing pages of the book pay homage to Ismael Rivera and Jorge Brandon, thus reaffirming the dignity and integrity of Puerto Rican men who, despite their difficult lives with the justice system, became local heroes for the community given their artistic and musical contributions. Again, this poetry collection by Laviera, while informed by the previous Nuyorican performance poetry of denouncement, anger, and interlingual textures, inaugurated a celebratory, life-affirming poetic tradition that uplifted those at the very bottom of U.S. society and returned to them, at least symbolically, the dignity and humanity they had been robbed of by a country and government that colonized and exploited their bodies and their lives in the name of imperial, economic profit.27

Nuyorican and Diasporican literary fiction, autobiographical narratives, and memoirs have also been centrally deployed to narrate the challenges of migration from the Island to New York. Informed by the compelling potential of testimonios among U.S. Latinos and Latinas as a form of speaking back, and the critical politics of memory as a rhetorical strategy for reclaiming our historical agency, stories about arriving in New York and settling down in an urban center so foreign to families coming from rural communities in Puerto Rico not only documented the histories of Puerto Rican migrants in the United States, inserting their experiences into the public discourse, but also contextualized the political economy behind these migratory flows. From the early writings of the tabaqueros, Bernardo Vega and Jesús Colón—Vega, who arrived by boat to the urban metropolis in 1916 with castillitos en el aire [castles in the air], with hopes and dreams of a better life and opportunities—to the more current narratives like Marisel Vera’s If I Bring You Roses, which narrates the love story between Felicidad and Aníbal and their migration to Chicago, these stories of displacement and hope continue to serve as critical discourses that highlight the social injustices and systematic inequalities that led to migration to the North as well as the resilience of Puerto Ricans in making a new home away from home.28

While continuing the canonical importance of la familia in Puerto Rican insular literature, the family stories of migration critique the colonial and imperial frameworks that inform the displacements of Puerto Ricans from the island to New York and elsewhere, framing them both intimately and historically. Esmeralda Santiago’s memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), highlights the dire poverty of her childhood and the colonial presence of the United States in the rural communities of the Island as systematic factors that led to her mother’s decision to move to New York. In textualizing her own process of constructing a hybrid identity as both a Puerto Rican Islander and in New York, Esmeralda Santiago documents these migratory displacements in her own family and highlights the personal and emotional consequences of these family moves. When I Was Puerto Rican begins with a move to a small house in the rural community of Macún, then on to Santurce and back, then to El Mangle, and eventually to New York City. Not only are these displacements the result of the systemic poverty in which she and her family lived, but also of the gendered inequalities between her father and her mother. During her father’s prolonged absences, the mother was responsible for all of the children.29

While the title of this book was initially polemical among island readers who denounced Santiago’s denial of her Puerto Rican identity as a preterit fact—the “was” became the target of criticism and excluded her from the insular national imaginary—it is fascinating that, in the chapter entitled “The American Invasion of Macún,” Santiago captures the everyday ways in which U.S. imperialism colonized the diets and the schooling of rural Puerto Ricans on the Island.30 In her compelling description of the workshops offered to rural mothers like hers, the author clearly illustrates the ways in which Empire produces new markets, “educating” the mothers to buy powdered eggs and milk instead of consuming the fresh, local tropical fruits freely available in their natural surroundings. Brilliantly documenting and tracing the relationship between the U.S. presence and the colonized daily practices of Puerto Rican Islanders, this chapter is ironically produced by a writer from the diaspora who was displaced from her birthplace, the Island. In addition, Santiago’s three memoirs or autobiographies—When I was Puerto Rican, Almost a Woman, and The Turkish Lover—narrate not only the ambiguities and contradictions of a hybrid cultural identity for the author, but also the gendered inequities and ideologies that sexualized her as a woman of color in the United States.31 Santiago’s voice, in this context, needs to be interpreted within the longer tradition of female and feminist Puerto Rican and Latina writers in the United States, which include Julia de Burgos, Sandra María Esteves, Luz María Umpierre, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Aurora and Rosario Levins Morales, and Carmen de Monteflores, among many others.

The intersections between genre, gender, and ethnicity are powerfully articulated in the literary writings of the late Judith Ortiz Cofer. Born on the Island but having grown up in between Paterson, New Jersey and Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, Cofer’s canonical autobiographical narrative, Silent Dancing (1990), has been understood not only as a postmodern reflection on the fissures of memory, but likewise as a feminist critique of Puerto Rican society and of U.S. racism against families of color. Here I want to highlight Cofer’s documentation of the circular migration—the vaivén—that structured her family history during her childhood and youth. When her father was stationed in the Navy in the East Coast, her mother would live with her own mother in the “Casa” in Hormigueros. When her father was off duty, he would rent an apartment in El Building in Paterson, New Jersey, where they had to adjust to the racial, social, cultural and linguistic dominance of norteamericanos yet simultaneously a refuge where so many other Latino and Latina families lived.32 While the book embodies the hybridity of genre (a combination of poems, stories, and essays), it textualizes stories about family, the role of women, religion, race, language, and the power of folklore and cautionary tales, all elements that constitute a feminist stance. While the circular migration of Cofer’s childhood is not equal to the transnational flows so profoundly established today in our analysis of U.S. Latina and Latino communities, it is essential to highlight the historical importance of Cofer’s narratives since the 1990s in documenting this vaivén, the back and forth of the guagua aérea that was informed by the father’s participation in the U.S. Navy but also by the mother’s youth and affective resistance to being displaced away from home. Not only have Nuyorican and Diasporican writers articulated the displacement and migration to New York and other urban regions in the United States in the framework of family stories, highlighting the consequences of these moves on the formation of hybrid cultural, racial and gender identities; but by 2016, it is clear that the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States has had significant impact on political issues on the Island, from the demilitarization of Vieques in the late 1990s, to their solidarity and advocacy for the Island population during the U.S. Congress deliberations on the government debt.

El Barrio: Urban Space, Community, and Masculinity

In contrast to many migrant writers like Bernardo Vega and Jesús Colón, Nuyorican poets and writers such as Pedro Pietri, Miguel Algarín, and Miguel Piñero, either were born in New York or migrated to the city as young children. As second-generation Puerto Ricans, their socialization, schooling, cultural, and racial identities were clearly marked by their experience in el barrio. Thus, authors like the Nuyorican poets and fiction writers like Piri Thomas, Nicholasa Mohr, and Abraham Rodríguez, all deployed metaphors, images, and an urban aesthetic that reaffirmed the central role of New York as an urban space in their literary imaginings of home. References to tar, trash, cold buildings, and bleak surroundings, common in the works of the foundational Nuyorican poets, also populate fictional writings. In the postcolonial framework of global migrations, home is plural, fractured, and socially constructed. Given the global circulations of bodies and families who are displaced from their home countries due to wars, hunger, authoritarian regimes, systemic violence, and social death, the reality of home today is no longer consonant to the traditional notion of home as safe, stable, and permanent protection. Puerto Ricans in New York and other U.S. urban centers, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and most recently, Orlando and cities in Texas (destinations for the more recent massive exodus of Puerto Ricans due to the economic and financial crisis on the Island), have all grappled with how to create a home away from home, with both the limitations of displacement and the hopes and promises of a new life. If “all fiction is homesickness,” as Rosemary Marangoly George has written, authors like Piri Thomas and Abraham Rodríguez continue to grapple with issues of (non)belonging in these narratives of brown masculinity in urban spaces.33 From the canonical literature of Piri Thomas, whose autobiographical narrative, Down These Mean Streets (1967), narrated his troubled youth in Harlem as a black and Puerto Rican young man, to the novel, Spidertown, by Abraham Rodríguez, who writes about Puerto Rican and brown youth, masculinity, drug use, violence, and survival in the Bronx, male writers use fiction to claim the spaces of el barrio as their own, to insert themselves in history, as well as to ponder on the lack of opportunities for young men of color.34

If “imagining a home is as political an act as is imagining a nation,” the constant movement on the streets, their parties, the drug dealings and use, become, for young Puerto Rican men like Miguel in Spidertown and Piri in Down These Mean Streets, their own search for belonging to a community.35 Piri struggled to find himself in the interstices of U.S. blackness and a Puerto Rican national and family identity associated with whiteness; leaving his home in suburban Long Island and returning to the streets of Harlem was his way of creating a sense of family for himself. For Piri, the streets become a home away from home until he ends up participating in an armed robbery, gets arrested, and ends up in prison for six years. Miguel’s final decision to walk away from Spider allows him the power both to reimagine himself in the future and to accept a sense of loss for that alternative family structure of Spider and the drug network. Ecuadorean/Puerto Rican author Ernesto Quiñones, in Bodega Dreams, also frames his story as an urban narrative, where the buildings, streets, and locations in el barrio become central characters to the novel.36

Those second-generation Puerto Ricans who only knew the home country, or the island, through the nostalgic narratives of their parents, end up reproducing the experience of displacement and constant flux of their own parents given the instability of, and the impossibility of, belonging to the U.S. as a nation. Yet the streets, roads, and buildings simultaneously become part of their journey, as Solimar Otero has argued. The sense of “belongability” displayed in Nuyorican writing “contains all the complexities of verbal contradiction through itinerancy as language,” and the ways in which these writers inscribe the “significance of movement in making home” are informed by ancestral Yoruba values.37

Acknowledging his own social marginality, Nuyorican poet Miguel Piñero proclaims the Lower East Side as his home, as the only place of belonging in “A Lower East Side Poem”: “there’s no other place for me to be”/”this concrete tomb is my home”/to belong to survive you gotta be strong.” He asks his ideal reader to “scatter my ashes thru/the Lower East Side.”38 This construction of an urban identity rooted in a specific neighborhood can be contrasted to the multiple sites and locations that are associated with belonging in Aurora Levins Morales’s Getting Home Alive, a mother-daughter authored text that expands the definition of the Puerto Rican diaspora to California, where Aurora lives and works, and to multiple locations. For Rosario, the mother, and Aurora, the Puerto Rican Jewish daughter, home is multiply inflected. It is not only California, Puerto Rico, Chicago, and rural Indiera on the island of Puerto Rico, but also as close as the kitchen and as far away as Africa, Jerusalem, and the Palestinian liberation movement. The title of this hybrid, autobiographical text, Getting Home Alive, redefines home not only as a process, but also as destination and survival, albeit a differently gendered one than the urban masculinity of Piri or Miguel.39 If immigrant fiction is usually associated with the loss of home, with homelessness and dislocation, and with the possibility of becoming whole again through the construction of a new sense of belonging in the new country, for second-generation Nuyorican male writers home is the urban turf where masculinity is produced and where violence and social marginality become central to their everyday lives. Yet el barrio is also where diasporic subjects can reconstruct community.

Racial Belongings

In his canonical, decolonizing poem, “Puerto Rican Obituary,” Pedro Pietri concluded his scathing critique of Puerto Ricans in New York as colonized subjects by proposing a utopian space, marked by an aquí, a “here” that is characterized by self love, communal solidarity, and racial equity: “here to be called negrito is to be called LOVE.”40 This line suggests Nuyorican poets and writers’ critical stance against the racial myths from the Island, which privileged hispanismo and blanqueamiento as the social norm and ideal. Thus, mestizaje is also associated with the ways in which the deployment of a Puerto Rican national identity trumps dark skin color, an experience clearly described by Piri Thomas in Down These Mean Streets. His struggle with non-belonging, even among his siblings and parents, had to do with his blackness among siblings who were lighter than him. He disavowed his Afro-Puerto Rican father, since the son perceived him as a dark-skinned man who denied his own racial identity. If Piri Thomas’s family is seen as a microcosm of Puerto Rican society, both on the Island and on the mainland, then the reaffirmation of the Afro-Boricua subject becomes even more imperative within the decolonial politics and poetics of Nuyorican literature. If Down these Mean Streets narrates the struggles that Piri experienced to find himself and a community like him, perhaps in the interstices between African American culture and Puerto Rican culture, it is imperative that race and skin color be understood as one of the identity factors that continue to be undermined in the social construction or dominant imaginaries of the Puerto Rican nation. In addition to Pedro Pietri, Nuyorican poets such as Sandra María Esteves, in “My Name Is Maria Cristina,” another classical text that verbally performs the presence of an Afro-Boricua/Latina female voice at a time when a Latina/Latino literary canon was not visible or publicly acknowledged, and Willie Perdomo’s “nigger-reecan blues,” address the interstitial spaces of non-belonging that limit Afro-Puerto Rican subjects from acknowledging their blackness. Tato Laviera, whose poetry collections celebrate the Afro-Puerto Rican identity, musical traditions, and popular culture, including Ismael Rivera, bomba, and plena, clearly critiques the systematic erasures of blackness in traditional paradigms of cultural identity on the Island. In The Saints also Dance the Mambo, Marta Moreno Vega, like Laviera, frames her family’s blackness within the rich repertoire of mambo dancing in the Palladium Club in New York during the 1950s, as well as in the spiritual traditions and rituals of Santeria exercised by her grandmother. More recently, Afro-Puerto Rican writer Amina Gautier in Now We Will Be Happy, reconstructs family and race through daily rituals such as music and cooking, while slam poet Mayda del Valle, an Afro-boricua who grew up in the South side of Chicago, reminds readers and listeners that: “the world thinks brown girls are nada.”41

Language, Nation, and Hybridity

Given the multiple forms of resistance to the U.S. imperial presence on the island of Puerto Rico since 1898, Spanish has historically become a focus for reaffirming Puerto Rican national identity. English, politically deemed the language of the Yankees, the colonizers, and a foreign imposition on Islanders, has, for most writers, not been included in the Puerto Rican national imaginary. Just the opposite: it has been constructed as the language of the Other. In contrast, for second-generation writers who grew up in New York and received their schooling in the United States, English is the language of their intellectual formation, despite their different individual experiences with Spanish at home and within domestic spaces. Despite speaking Spanish informally with family members and friends, most Diasporican writers have been trained intellectually in English, the only language whose extensive lexical repertoire allows them to produce metaphors, similes, and imagery.42

Like other Latino and Latina subjects, Diasporicans who grew up and were educated in the United States interact socially with both English and Spanish, mixing them as Spanglish, and experimenting poetically with both languages as part of their Latino aesthetics. Spanglish, more than code switching, becomes not only a site for resisting and contesting the traditional homology of Spanish with Puerto Rican-ness, but also constitutes a site for reaffirming the cultural hybridity of the Diasporican identity.43

Pedro Pietri’s brief but powerful poem, “Tata,” which romanticizes the lack of English of his abuela in New York, clearly suggests that speaking Spanish in the United States is a gesture of opposition to the assimilating pressures embodied in English. Yet, for the grandson and those second-generation U.S. Puerto Ricans, the exclusive use of Spanish is not tenable in order to survive and grow socially, humanly, and intellectually. That English is the language for writing not only separates these writers from those on the Island, but it also situates them within the larger United States Latino literary landscape.

Spanglish, then, becomes a linguistic mode that resists its insertion into both the Puerto Rican national imaginary and its Anglo counterpart. Spanglish allows Diasporican writers to forge their own space of “in-betweenness,” of non-belonging, of self-reaffirmation. When Tato Laviera ironically deploys Spanish and English in “my graduation speech,” he masterfully performs the ways in which Spanglish implies a profound knowledge of both languages, rather than an alingual condition that equates speaking both languages with a lack of knowledge of both.44 The difference as deficiency paradigm, commonly articulated for decades against young Puerto Rican and Latino youth and children who speak both Spanish and English, is powerfully deflated in Laviera’s poem. Seemingly fashioned as a celebration of public education, the poem pokes fun at the dominant discourses that take away the bicultural knowledge of young Puerto Rican students in New York while critiquing schooling policies that domesticate the rich repertoire of language mixing. If the poem concludes with a statement that acknowledges the lack of speaking abilities in both languages, the poem itself, as artifice, is clearly produced by a poetic voice that easily moves in between both Spanish and English. All of Laviera’s poetry collections celebrate the in-betweenness of Spanglish, reveling in the new rhythms created by the juxtaposition of Spanish and English as well as in the original and unique metaphors, language play, and sonic patterns created by both.

Mayda del Valle’s slam poem, “Tongue Tactics,” expands on the ways in which her predecessors creatively deployed Spanish and English as gestures of resistance. Denouncing the subordination of Puerto Rican and Dominican Spanish as “lazy” and grammatically incorrect, the Chicago Rican slam poet enacts dynamic and fast-rhythm verses that reaffirm the articulation between her Diasporican identity and her spoken language. She takes ownership of her grammatical mistakes, emphasizing the “illegitimate union between past and present.” At the end of the poem, she declares “a state of language revolution” that prides itself in the marginality of her speech. The thread between Laviera’s poetry and del Valle’s is clearly perceived in the common defense for the autonomy of the hybrid languages that Puerto Rican Diasporic poets inherit and inhabit.

The legacy of the Nuyorican Movement, as poetry embodied in performance, lucidly examined by Urayoán Noel, is clearly exemplified in the younger generation of slam and def poets such as Del Valle. If orality is an example of “an embodied counterpolitics,” this element in Diasporican poetry allows poets and audiences alike to question the superior normativity of print, of written language, and of reading, the concomitant subordination of live performances, and the ephemerality of listening.45 Tato Laviera’s articulation of asimilao in the eponymous poem stands out as a major signifier that performs the articulation between sounds, in this case, pronunciation, and the politics of cultural and racial identity among Puerto Ricans.

The privileging of sound and orality not only challenges the dominant upper-class values about reading and the printed word. As Urayoán Noel suggests, “recasting the traditions of Puerto Rican music and oral poetry” serve to produce “a self-reflexive performance idiom.” He identifies how Laviera creatively delivers and enacts the rich oral traditions that inform his work. From “the comically over-modulated, often savoring syllables and stretching out word endings,” to the numerous alliterations, rhythms, and translingual puns, Laviera’s poems celebrate, albeit in critical ways, the profound meanings of racial crossings, conflicts, and violence that are hidden behind the aspiration of the “d” in the signifier, asimilao. Not only is the blend of orality and popular music a discourse that resuscitates the hidden presence of blackness in Puerto Rican cultural identity, but also it was deployed by Laviera as a political rhetorical device “in order to articulate an AmeRícan project that could break through the historic impasse between the island and the diaspora.”46

Gendering the Diasporican Subject: Feminist and Queer Voices

Sandra Maria Esteves’s poem, “My name is María Cristina,” a foundational text in the rich literary genealogy of Puerto Rican feminist voices in the diaspora, not only reaffirms her life, her body, and her female experience within the larger patriarchy of her local and national community, but clearly reclaims the central role of women in the making of the nation: “I am the mother of a new age of warriors,” referring to a new generation that will be prepared to continue the struggle against racism and social oppression. She also asserts her racially subordinated position as an Afro-Boricua woman: “Our men .|.|. they call me negra because they love me / and in turn I teach them to be strong.” These verses, as Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes summarizes in “Queer Ricans,” triggered a chain of reactions and responses.47 Lesbian Puerto Rican poet, Luz María Umpierre, responded to “A la Mujer Borinqueña” with her own “In Response,” accusing Esteves of “acquiescing to patriarchal exploitation and abuse.” Esteves responded with yet another poem, “So your name isn’t Maria Cristina,” and Umpierre’s “Musée D’Orsay” followed. This chain of poetic responses illustrates well the contested legacies not only of the early Nuyorican writings but also the divergent definitions of feminism among queer and heteronormative Puerto Rican women.

Since Esteves’s early incursions into poetry, a rich and diverse group of feminist and queer literary voices have enriched the Diasporican literary corpus and canon, critiquing and challenging the patriarchal exclusion of women and lesbian and gay writers and subjects from their literary texts, but also reclaiming a counter-memory that highlights the central role of women and queer subjects in the radical project of reimagining Puerto Ricanness. Given the exclusion of women and blacks in the traditional insular national imaginary, social constructions of gender, sexuality and race, in their intersectionality, are integral to our understanding of national and ethnic identities. In the case of Diasporican literature, early writers such as Luisa Capetillo and Julia de Burgos, the prose of Judith Ortiz Cofer and Esmeralda Santiago, the transcultural and radical writings of Aurora Levins Morales and Rosario Morales, the lesbian poetry of Luz María Umpierre, and the family story in Justin Torres’s We, The Animals, all constitute a brilliant group of writers who radically contest the patriarchal and misogynist discourses undergirding the Puerto Rican national imaginary. Yet these unique voices each contribute particular textualizations of gender and sexuality in the un/making of a heteronormative Puerto Ricanness.

The poetry of Julia de Burgos, whose years in New York justify her inclusion in the Diasporican corpus, has made her “an early figure of sexile.” As Vanessa Pérez discusses in Becoming Julia de Burgos, “sexile” has been expanded to refer not only to the exile from the home country motivated by the marginalization and demonization of alternative sexualities, such as LGBTQ, but also for heterosexual women who, like Burgos, left the island to escape the “gossip and prejudice” against her lifestyle and relationships.48 Not only were Burgos’s erotic poems considered a threat to the patriarchal status quo, but her poems also articulated nomadism and gendered migration as experiences of displacement. Indeed, the lesbian subjectivity proposed by Luz María Umpierre in The Margarita Poems (1987) is clearly inspired by Julia de Burgos’s own sexual rebellion and displacement as it is metaphorized in water imagery, As Yolanda Martínez San Miguel has proposed, “sexile” allows us to “think about the configuration of alternative communal identities based on recent narratives that go beyond the heteronormative and homonormative matrixes.”49

In prose, narratives that are structured around the three generations of women in the family story function precisely to propose a counter-memory or alternative his(her)story. These counter-memories not only facilitate the construction of a feminist genealogy that inserts women into the larger history of the nation, but also allow the writers to reflect on the diverse modes of gender resistance and female survival within patriarchal societies.

In Silent Dancing, Ortiz Cofer’s hybrid, postmodern text that narrates the bicultural and interstitial spaces between the island and the mainland, the narrative and poetic voice reflects on the heterogeneous locations and self-constructions that females embody in her own family. In the chapter entitled “Silent Dancing,” Ortiz Cofer reflects on three women in her family—the novia who had recently migrated from the Island, her mother, and the Nuyorican cousin—and the ways in which their bodies performed femininity differently in response to the patriarchal and masculinist tenets dominant at the time.

By unveiling the hidden history of the cousin’s abortion and her return to the Island—as a form of discipline for dating a married and older man, for being sexually active, and for getting pregnant outside of marriage—Ortiz Cofer highlights the gendered inequities that prevail and that perpetuate the sexist ideologies of the female body as the possession of the father and the family, not of the woman herself. Even the author’s reflections about her own mother’s sexuality, expressed in her curvaceous body, her dressing style, and the ways in which she triggered men’s attention on the street, (“The Way My Mother Walked”), constitute critical feminist reflections on the relationship between the female body, autonomy, freedom, and authority for Puerto Rican women.50 Remembering her grandmother’s own practices of what I would call vernacular feminism—that is, her decision not to sleep with her husband anymore so that she could live longer and enjoy her children and grandchildren, a form of abstention—reveals the tactics of survival of previous generations of women within patriarchal societies recovered by the granddaughter’s writing. Most significant in Silent Dancing is the role of storytelling within the family as a way of offering cautionary tales to the children, and the postmodern treatment of counter-memory as a literary feminist strategy. These themes and narrative frameworks allow the Diasporican female subject to belong to a longer feminist genealogy within the nation that excludes her.

Following La Fountain-Stokes’ legacy of queer critical analysis in Queer Ricans, where the author examines the intersections of queer sexualities, migration, and culture, a more recent text such as Justin Torres’s We, The Animals (2011), needs to be recognized. Torres’s writing troubles the traditional narratives about Diasporican subjectivities through the perspectives of the gay narrator/protagonist, who describes in vivid poetic vignettes his experiences as one of three brothers living in upstate New York in a mixed race family with very poor and young parents.51 The emotional violence, laced with moments of true parental love and hope, disturbs the romanticization of the Puerto Rican family in el barrio, as seen, for instance, in Nicholasa Mohr’s Nilda.52 The fact that only one short vignette focuses on the performance of their Puerto Rican heritage through the figure of the black Boricua father dancing mambo in their small living room clearly questions the more canonical and normative discourses around Puerto Rican identity and belonging. This queer narrative critiques the disciplining efforts of society toward alternative sexualities, an alternative gender politics that Torres shares with other Queer Rican writers, such as Luz María Umpierre, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Manuel Ramos Otero, and Elizabeth Marrero, among others (La Fountain-Stokes), and that is closely interwoven with the critique of national imaginaries through the metaphor of the family. Torres’ narrative leads us to these questions: How do we understand Puerto Ricanness as a trace rather than as identity? How do we give meaning to the increasing prevalence of mixed-race and mixed-ethnic subjectivities within the Puerto Rican diaspora in their intersectionality with alternative sexualities? These questions emerge in Torres’s intensely affective and disturbing poetic prose.

Transcultural and Global Flows

Bernardo Vega’s Memorias (1961) conclude with a passing reference to “Chicanos and all Hispanic and Latin American sectors of our population,” anticipating the increasing significance of Latinidad by the new millennium.53 Indeed, the increasing global migratory circuits so prevalent in the literary production of the new millennium were already emerging more systematically since the 1980s. Tato Laviera’s Chicano-Riqueño poem, “vaya, carnal,” carved a new poetic space that built bridges between Puerto Ricans on the East Coast and Chicanos on the West Coast. While its masculine language limited the potential of the poem to include women and queer subjects, it suggests that writers and poets were already grappling with an emerging Latinidad that proposed exploring the analogies and parallel subjectivities produced by the U.S. Empire. Likewise, Getting Home Alive, by Aurora Levins Morales and Rosario Morales, also decentered the dominance of New York for the Diasporican and expanded geographically to include Chicago and California, even establishing global connections.

As scholars and critics aim to expand our notion of Diasporican literature, authors like Rodney Morales, a Puerto Rican voice from Hawaii, challenge the New York-based bias that has overshadowed Puerto Rican writings in other geocultural regions. Morales’s opening story, “Ship of Dreams” in The Speed of Darkness (1988), serves as an early introduction to interethnic families, as the narrator tells the story of Japanese Hawaiian Takeshi’s romantic desire for Linda, a Puerto Rican, Borikee.54 The setting of a community dance and musical event, which eventually embraces Takeshi playing the güiro, constitutes a literary performance of the analogies and parallelisms among national and ethnic cultures. The güiro symbolizes the intersection of both local Hawaiian and Puerto Rican ways of life, yet the story does not fully dismiss the social tensions at play between both communities, as the beginning sentence refers to the stealing of the squash by two Puerto Rican young men and the ensuing tensions. As Maritza Stanchich has written, Rodney Morales’s fiction “revisits a transregional imperial history of the diaspora in Hawai’i” and thus “contributes to pan-Latin and new inter-ethnic alliances as well as more complex genealogies, all helping to historicize a phase of literary production that supersedes the category “Nuyorican.”55

Although not a large theme in Diasporican literature, the transcultural relations, solidarities, and new hybrid identities between the Puerto Rican and the Arab worlds constitute a dynamic, timely, and politically compelling theme. In his 1987 short story, “Belisheva the Beautiful: A Tale from a Refugee Camp,” Ed Vega explored the potential solidarity and alliances between a Palestinian woman and the Puerto Rican radicals who were being persecuted as terrorists. Dionisio Rosa, a doorman in an elite apartment building, meets Elisheva Horowitz, whose identity as a would-be terrorist is gradually revealed to the reader. Yet by the end of the story, Vega has reaffirmed the commonalities between both Puerto Ricans and Palestines in terms of the colonized occupation of their territory. “We’re the same people,” comments Dionisio, a statement that reclaims the urgency of the political violence that has been enacted since the 1970s, by nationalist organizations such as Los Macheteros on the Island and the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) in New York and Chicago. If Dionisio realized that Elisheva, who was later identified as Rowaida Said, and later as Aida Sánchez, could be considered a terrorist, he also understood that she was a “freedom fighter” who eventually taught other Puerto Ricans in New York “a lot” about how to resist U.S. imperial practices of subjugation. Yet the ending of the story, contradictorily, seems to emphasize the cultural and linguistic differences between Palestinians and Puerto Ricans after suggesting the shared imperial politics that both communities have had to oppose.56

By the new millennium, however, Arab identity, culture, and language are being integrated within the longer genealogies of Puerto Rican cultural identity proposed by the Diasporican poet, Víctor Hernández Cruz. His 2011 poetry collection, In the Shadow of Al-Andalus, not only proposes Puerto Rican identity as one more configuration of an “imagined history,” a historical agency and participation of Arabs in Andalucia as our ancestors from Southern Spain during the conquest and settlement of the Americas, but also as a cultural element in hybrid and global families such as his. The dedication of the book to his Moroccan wife and his Puerto Rican/Moroccan son, reveal that the migratory circuits of Puerto Ricans such as Hernández Cruz have accorded this community a global dimension in the domestic space of home and family. The poet, thus, reaffirms the “Latino-Arabico-Afro-Taíno” sensibility that constitutes Puerto Rican culture, redefining the jíbaro as Arabic through the sonic signifier, “la le lo lai,” and poeticizing the ways in which cod, bacalao, becomes a site for the global intersections that integrate the Portuguese and the Basque with Orchard Beach in the Bronx.57 The ways in which poetry functions as a site for a shared memory and for reimagining an alternative history occluded by Western and Eurocentric canons are clearly revealed in this poetry collection. As Marisel Moreno asks, “What does it mean that one of the most important and recognized contemporary U.S. Latino poets is drawing inspiration from the Arab world and publishing poems in the United States, where Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiments have intensified since 9/11?58 The poet’s goal of transforming the Arab presence from foreign to domestic, from a Cultural Other to a shared history of kin and family bonds, constitutes an alternative and radical discourse in the post 9/11 world, what Moreno defines as “subversiveness.”

Returning Home: Puerto Rican Latinidad

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights, a celebration of the Puerto Rican and Latino community set in Washington Heights, situates itself within the longer history of theater that has racialized Puerto Ricans in the United States. A compelling alternative response to the foundational racializing discourses of Puerto Ricans in West Side Story, In the Heights tells the story of a Latino/Latina community—Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans—in New York from the inside out, capturing the strong sense of community and collectivity that characterizes the spaces of Latinidad emerging in urban areas.59 It also highlights Latino artistic creativity through its hip-hop soundtrack, music, and script. Orality as home goes back to the early social meanings of Nuyorican poets from the late 1960s and 1970s, whose performances embodied the struggles of reconstructing an identity away from the home Island from scratch and who grappled with reclaiming the barrio as home. Washington Heights, in fact, faces the prospects of gentrification in a musical that exhorts its audience to value generosity and sharing of resources, as Usnavi de la Vega, the protagonist, does after his grandmother’s death, as well as to resist being displaced. The musical celebrates el barrio as a communal home, while still expressing strong affective bonds with the home country of the parents and grandparents. In the new millennium, the Nuyorican Lin Manuel Miranda, as creator of Hamilton, has captured the mainstream popularity and visibility accorded only to a select few; however, one cannot help but read In the Heights as a return home that reaffirms the historical agency and presence of Puerto Ricans in New York and throughout the United States through the collective framework of Latinidad. Puerto Rican literature in the United States constitutes, then, a powerful site from which to understand the experiences of displacement, belonging, and the multiple constructions of home that colonized subjects and racial minorities have had to reimagine in order to survive. In brief, Nuyorican and Diasporican literary texts unsettle traditional notions of national identity based on the Island, on authenticity, race, class, gender and sexuality, and language, exhorting readers to critique and contest them and to re-imagine alternative ways of belonging.

Discussion of the Literature

Since the pioneering publication of Eugene Mohr’s The Nuyorican Experience in 1982, an increasingly diverse and rich corpus of literary criticism has emerged. Collectively, this scholarly critical work has not only established the foundations for approaching Nuyorican and Diasporican literature as a field of its own, but it has also evinced the emerging diverse trends and approaches to this ever changing canon. Mohr’s analysis focused on introducing the literary works of Nuyorican writers whose voices were beginning to transform the New York and Puerto Rican literary landscape. Although a bit too descriptive for many, Mohr carved a space for the scholarly inclusion of Nuyoricans by establishing their literary voices as worthy of academic attention. In addition, the “Introduction” to Miguel Algarín and Miguel Piñero’s Nuyorican Literature: An Anthology of Words and Feelings, serves as a foundational text for understanding the aesthetics of the decolonial turn at the time. This article establishes the foundational role of Nuyorican poets in creating a “language of the newness,” a “new tradition of communication” that could trigger an alternative vision for the working-poor Nuyorican community at the time. The anthology includes major pioneering voices, such as Pedro Pietri, Lucky Cienfuegos, Sandra María Esteves, and other less known poets. Other pioneering scholars who analyzed Nuyorican poets and fiction writers in the early years included Wolfgang Binder, in Germany, and U.S. Puerto Rican academics such as Edna Acosta-Belén and Margarite Fernández-Olmos, among others.

Juan Flores’s article, “Puerto Rican Literature in the United States: Stages and Perspectives,” constituted a major attempt at historicizing the literary production of Diasporican writers.60 Informed by Mohr’s The Nuyorican Experience, Flores proposed three historical stages of Puerto Rican writing in New York, beginning with Bernardo Vega’s Memorias from 1916. His article attempts to situate Nuyorican literature within the larger, Puerto Rican national canon. Yet it is his 1985 piece, “Qué Assimilated, Brother, Yo Soy Asimilao: The Structuring of Puerto Rican Identity in the U.S.,” where Flores categorizes the diverse positioning of Nuyorican identity vis-à-vis the island national imaginaries, mainland Anglo American culture, and other ethnic and racial minorities in the United States.61 While the four moments proposed, based on Tato Laviera’s poetry, may seem too schematic now—the here and now, the state of mythical utopian enchantment with the Island, the perception of New York from the consciousness of Puerto Rican nationality, and, finally, the “branching out” to the rest of North American society, including the trans-ethnic solidarity with African Americans and other Latino and Latina groups—these predicted the ways in which Puerto Ricans have been gradually integrated into the Latino/Latina rubric. In brief, the late Juan Flores’s contributions to Puerto Rican literature were also framed by his analysis of popular culture and music in New York within larger questions of cultural and national identity, imperialism and colonialism, race and social class, and popular culture, as attested by his other essays, The Divided Border and From Bomba to Hip Hop.

Indeed, the vast influence of Juan Flores is clearly evinced in the “Introduction” to Writing Off the Hyphen: New Perspectives on the Literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, edited by José Torres Padilla and Carmen Haydee Rivera. Responding to Flores’s own arguments regarding the ways in which Diasporican writers refuse to engage with the hyphenated identities, common in the U.S., that indicate ethnicity and a harmonious balance between the national/ethnic identity and the “American” halves, both Torres Padilla and Rivera indicate the genesis of the title of their anthology within a detailed, comprehensive, and lucid summary of specific types of writings—the sojourner’s diaries of Jesús Colón and Bernardo Vega, or of José Luis González and Pedro Juan Soto—the strident textures of Nuyorican poets, the salience of autobiography, memoir, and fictional family stories, theater, and the conundrum of language and code switching.62 Some essays in this anthology provide original analyses of classic texts and voices, such as the one by Solimar Otero on the Yoruba myths regarding urban spaces and the meanings of itinerancy in Diasporican urban narratives, or William Burgos’s brilliant tracing of the shift from Nuyorican to Diasporican, or Maritza Stanchich’s reading of the “Puerto Rico Extendido” that includes Hawai’i. Published in 2008, it represents the most current and new approaches to Diasporican literatures.

Lisa Sánchez González’s original and alternative literary history, Boricua Literature, offers a provocative call to critics to read this literary corpus as its own literary and intellectual tradition.63 She compellingly deconstructs the racialized and sexist contexts from which voices such as Luisa Capetillo, Nicholasa Mohr, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Carmen de Monteflores, and Pura Belpré reimagined the lives of women in the framework of the patriarchal nation. The critic’s goal of highlighting blackness in the Diasporican literary studies is brilliantly achieved through her reading of Schomburg and William Carlos Williams. Her final chapter on salsa music is an attempt to expand the literary discipline that disarticulates verbal texts from popular cultural expressions such as music. Boricua Literature clearly is a landmark in the critical tradition and marks a new moment for critics who can no longer frame mainland PR literature as derivative.

Following Lisa Sánchez-González’s feminist stance in Boricua Literature, other feminist and queer scholars have followed suit. Vanessa Pérez, Becoming Julia de Burgos, reclaims the island-born Puerto Rican feminist poet and resituates her as well as a Nuyorican and as a Latina voice. Carmen Rivera’s Kissing the Mango Tree examines women writers through close textual readings, focusing on those literary texts that have challenged Eurocentric mainstream notions of U.S. literature. Contesting the invisibility of Puerto Rican women writers in the United States literary canon, Rivera argues for the importance of writers such as Cofer, Morales, Esmeralda Santiago, Luz Maria Umpierre, Sandra Maria Esteves, and Nicholasa Mohr. Marisel Moreno’s Family Matters stands out as an original and lucid intervention in gender studies. Her goals of comparing Island women writers with their counterparts in the Diaspora are productive and fruitful in ways that pave the path for other types of comparative studies. Her detailed attention to themes such as the literary canon formation, the metaphor of the family as the nation, and the role of memory in countering the narratives of the past, along with her deconstructions of patriarchy and normative sexuality, all constitute one of the most clear scholarly readings of women writers on both island and mainland while avoiding derivative paradigms that subordinate the diasporic literature. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes’s Queer Ricans contributes, as well, with an alternative literary history and canonical formation to the patriarchal and heteronormative tradition on the island.64 Offering close readings of lesbian desire in poetry, of autobiographical writings, of visual graphic novels, as well as of dance and performance, Stokes revises canonical boundaries and analyzes the radical ways in which gay and lesbian Puerto Rican writers in the diaspora rewrite not only genres but also patriarchal notions of sexuality.

Ramón Soto Crespo, In Mainland Passage, proposes the concept of “cultural anomaly” as a condition that results from the “mainland passage” and the Diasporican cultural and literary production. Crespo argues that Nuyorican poetry, in particular, has created “a sense of culture as experimentation and of hybridity as innovation,” which, in turn, has facilitated “a de-essentialized entity,” away from the insular nationalism of the past. His deployment of the Chicano paradigm of the “borderlands” to frame Puerto Rican hybridity is most fascinating as well.65

More recent approaches to Diasporican literature focus on the inter-ethnic and transcultural, global subjectivities that are being unveiled through literary production. For instance, Marisel Moreno’s article, “Swimming in Olive Oil,” examines the ways in which the poetry of Victor Hernández Cruz proposes a “shared history” between the Caribbean, Southern Spain, and Morocco, thus unveiling the hidden global flows underlying national identities and cultures. Maritza Stanchich’s essay about Puerto Rican/Hawaii writer, Rodney Morales, continues to expand our notions of Diasporican literature well beyond the New York-centrist model. Producing a new historical analysis that establishes continuities between the 1960s Nuyorican poets and the current generation of slam and def poets, Urayoán Noel’s book, In Visible Movements offers us an innovative and systematic reading of the power of Diasporican poetry as a decolonizing, performative language. To conclude, it will be fascinating to see future scholarly works that examine emerging literary voices in the new geographies of Puertorriqueñidad, such as Florida, Texas, and California, to name a few. In addition, mixed race and intralatino subjectivities will also emerge, continuing to trouble and disrupt essential and mythical notions of Puerto Rican national identity.

Further Reading

Acosta-Belén, Edna. “Beyond Island Boundaries: Ethnicity, Gender, and Cultural Revitalization in Nuyorican Literature.” Callaloo 15.4 (1992).Find this resource:

Algarín, Miguel, and Miguel Piñero, eds. Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings. New York: William Morrow, 1975.Find this resource:

Aparicio, Frances. “The Poet as Earwitness: Reading Sound, Voice and Music in Tato Laviera’s Poetry.” In The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera. Edited by Stephanie Alvarez and William Luis, 4–19. New York: Center for Puerto Rican Studies, 2014.Find this resource:

Babín, María Teresa, ed. Borinquen: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Literature. New York: Vintage, 1974.Find this resource:

Bost, Suzanne, and Frances R. Aparicio, eds. The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature. Oxford: Routledge, 2015.Find this resource:

Brown, Monica. “Neither Here nor There: Nuyorican Literature, Home, and the ‘American’ National Symbolic.” Julián Samora Research Institute, Working Paper #42. East Lansing, Michigan State University, 1998.

Dalleo, Raphael, and Elena Machado Sáez. The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007.Find this resource:

Duany, Jorge. Puerto Rican Florida. Edited with Patricia Silver. Centro Journal 22.1 (2010).Find this resource:

Duany, Jorge. “Nuyorican and Diasporican.” Oxford Encyclopedia on Latino/a Literature. 2017.Find this resource:

Duany, Jorge, and Félix Matos-Rodríguez. Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Central Florida. Policy Report 1, no. 1. New York: Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY, 2006.Find this resource:

Flores, Juan. Divided Borders: Essays on Puerto Rican National Identity. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Flores, Juan. From Bomba to Hip Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

González, José Luis. El País de Cuatro Pisos y Otros Ensayos. Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Huracán, 1981.Find this resource:

González, José Luis. Puerto Rico: The Four-Storeyed Country and Other Essays. Translated by Gerald Guinness. New York: Markus Wiener, 1993.Find this resource:

Halperin, Laura. “Rape’s Shadow: Seized Freedoms in Irene Vilar’s the Ladies’ Gallery and Impossible Motherhood.” In Intersections of Harm: Narratives of Latina Deviance and Defiance. By Laura Halperin, 25–56. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Kanellos, Nicolás, ed. Herencia: The Anthology of Hispanic Literature of the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence. Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in The Diaspora. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Márquez, Roberto. Puerto Rican Poetry: An Anthology from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Mohr, Eugene. The Nuyorican Experience: Literature of the Puerto Rican Minority. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Moreno, Marisel C. Family Matters: Puerto Rican Women Authors on the Island and the Mainland. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. Brincando el charco. New York: Hispanic Productions, 1994.Find this resource:

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization Of American Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Noel, Urayoán. In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties To Slam. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Rebollo-Gil, Guillermo. “The New Boogaloo: Nuyorican Poetry and the Coming Puerto Rican Identities.” MA diss., University of Florida, 2004.Find this resource:

Rivera, Carmen S. Kissing the Mango Tree: Puerto Rican Women Rewriting American Literature. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Santiago, Esmeralda. The Turkish Lover. Boston: Da Capo Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Santiago, Roberto, ed. Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings. New York: Ballantine, 1995.Find this resource:

Soto-Crespo, Ramón E. Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Torres-Padilla, José, and Carmen Haydée Rivera, eds. Writing Off the Hyphen: New Perspectives on the Literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Trigo, Benigno. Remembering Maternal Bodies: Melancholy in Latina And Latin American Women’s Writing. New York: Palgrave, 2006.Find this resource:

Umpierre, Luz María. Y otras desgracias/And Other Misfortunes … Bloomington, IN: Third Woman Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Umpierre, Luz María. The Margarita Poems. Bloomington, IN: Third Woman Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Umpierre, Luz María. For Christine: Poems and One Letter. Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Vega, Bernardo. Memorias de Bernardo Vega: Contribución a la historia de la comunidad puertorriqueña en Nueva York. Edited by César Andreu Iglesias. San Juan: Ediciones Huracán. 1977. Colección Norte, 1984.Find this resource:

Zentella, Ana Celia, and Ricardo Otheguy. Spanglish Debate. (22nd Conference on Spanish in the United States, 2009; posted, 2012).Find this resource:

Zimmerman, Marc. Defending Their Own in the Cold: The Cultural Turns of U.S. Puerto Ricans. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.Find this resource:


(1.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).

(2.) Nuyorican refers to the Puerto Rican community that resides in New York and to authors who write from that spatial, urban location. Diasporican, by extension, refers to authors and Puerto Ricans who do not live in New York City and who embody social experiences in other cities and regions of the United States and also globally. For the distinctions between Nuyorican and Diasporican as terms of identity and as literary categories, please see Jorge Duany, “Nuyorican and Diasporican” in this collection.

(3.) Lisa Sánchez González, Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2010); Marc Zimmerman, Defending Their Own in the Cold: The Cultural Turn of U.S. Puerto Ricans (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 55. Zimmerman has noted that current writers are informed by a “concern with forging a literature that is cosmopolitan and transnational even as it continues to focus on social concerns of colonialism, racism, stereotyping and so forth as found in the literature of the Nuyorican.”

(4.) Tomás Blanco, El Prejuicio Racial en Puerto Rico (Río Piedras: Huracán, 1985), 70; Isar P. Godreau, Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 71–73; González, José Luis, El País de Cuatro Pisos y Otros Ensayos (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Huracán, 1981); González, José Luis, Puerto Rico: The Four-Storeyed Country and Other Essays, trans. by Gerald Guinness (New York: Markus Wiener, 1993).

(5.) Godreau, Scripts of Blackness, 85–92; Marisel C. Moreno, Family Matters: Puerto Rican Women Authors on the Island And the Mainland (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 1955), 52, 53, 55, 125–129.

(6.) Petra Rivera-Rideau, Remixing Reggaeton: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 10; Godreau, Scripts of Blackness, 18.

(7.) Manuel Alonso, El Gíbaro (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1974). The original El Gíbaro was published in 1849. For further commentary on Africanization of the music, see Frances Aparicio, Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (London: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 12.

(8.) Rosario Ferré, Papeles de Pandora (Mexico: Joaquin Mortiz, 1976); Luis Rafael Sánchez, La Guaracha del Macho Camacho (Buenos Aires: Edicioines de la Flor, 1976); Ana Lydia Vega, “Pollito Chicken,” in Vírgenes y mártires, ed. Carmen Lugo Filippi and Ana Lydia Vega (Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Antillana, 1981); Magali García Ramis, 1986; Felices Días, Tio Sergio (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Cultural, 1995); Moreno, Family Matters, 53.

(9.) Edna Acosta-Belén, “Beyond Island Boundaries: Ethnicity, Gender, and Cultural Revitalization in Nuyorican Literature,” Callaloo 15.4 (1992), 979–998; Zimmerman, Defending their Own in the Cold, 50; Juan Flores, Divided Borders: Essays on Puerto Rican Identity (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993); Efraín Barradas and Rafael Rodríguez, eds., Herejes y Mitificadores: Muestra de Poesía Puertorriqueña en los Estados Unidos (San Juan, PR: Ediciones Huracán, 1980).

(10.) Operation Bootstrap was a program designed by Governor Luis Muñoz Marín during the 1940s to develop the Puerto Rican economy by boosting manufacturing, integrating technology, and facilitating entrepreneurship. It also entailed attracting foreign capital, which led to establishing tax exemptions for American corporations that resided on the Island. This strategy was successful in many ways, while it also led to the migration of thousands of Puerto Ricans to New York. See Juan Ruiz Toro, “Puerto Rico’s Operation Bootstrap.”

(11.) Tato Laviera, AmeRícan (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985), 53.

(12.) Moreno, Family Matters, 25.

(13.) Nicholasa Mohr, “Puerto Rican Writers in the U.S., Puerto Rican Writers in Puerto Rico: A Separation Beyond Language,” The Américas Review 15.2 (1987): 87–92; Moreno, Family Matters, 28; Jorge Duany, Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

(14.) Mohr, “Puerto Rican Writers in the U.S., Puerto Rican Writers in Puerto Rico,” 92.

(15.) Efraín Barradas and Rafael Rodríguez, eds., Herejes y Mitificadores: Muestra de Poesía Puertorriqueña en los Estados Unidos (San Juan, PR: Ediciones Huracán, 1980), 21, 22, 29.

(16.) Luis Rafael Sánchez, La Guagua Aérea (Río Piedras, PR: Editorial Cultural, 1994).

(17.) Sánchez, La Guagua Aérea, 30.

(18.) Maritza Stanchich, “‘Borinkee’ in Hawai’i: Rodney Morales Rides The Diaspora Wave to Transregional Imperial Struggle,” in Writing Off the Hyphen: New Perspectives on the Literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, eds., José L. Torres-Padilla and Carmen Haydée Rivera (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008), 211.

(19.) Queer Puerto Rican scholar and filmmaker, Frances Negrón Muntaner, titled her autobiographical documentary about diaspora and sexuality among Puerto Ricans “Brincando el Charco,” thus cementing the popular refrain that had circulated for decades in reference to migration; Jorge Duany, Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

(20.) William Burgos, “Puerto Rican Literature in a New Clave: Notes on the Emergence of Diasporican,” in Writing Off the Hyphen, 138.

(21.) Sánchez-González, Boricua Literature.

(22.) Ramón Soto Crespo, Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 137.

(23.) Moreno, Family Matters, 26–27.

(24.) Marqués, René. La Carreta. Río Piedras (Puerto Rico: Editorial Cultural, 1955).

(25.) Nicolás Kanellos, “Introduction,” in Tato Laviera, La Carreta Made a U-Turn (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1979).

(26.) Zimmerman, Defending Their Own, 58; Kanellos, “Introduction,” iii.

(27.) Urayoán Noel, In Visible Movements: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014); Aparicio, “The Poet as Earwitness: Reading Sound, Voice and Music in Tato Laviera’s Poetry.” In The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera, eds. Stephanie Alvarez and William Luis, 4–19 (New York: Center for Puerto Rican Studies, 2014).

(28.) Bernardo Vega, Memorias de Bernardo Vega: Contribución a la historia de la Comunidad Puertorriqueña en Nueva York. ed. César Andreu Iglesias (San Juan: Ediciones Huracán, 1977), 22; Jesús Colón, A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches (New York: International, 1982); Marisel Vera, If I Bring You Roses (New York: Grand Central, 2011).

(29.) Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican (Boston: Da Capo Press, 1993); Carmen S. Rivera, Kissing the Mango Tree: Puerto Rican Women Rewriting American Literature (Houston: Arte Público Press, 2002), 6.

(30.) Esmeralda Santiago’s books were eventually incorporated into the Island’s literary canon and were received with positive critical attention.

(31.) Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican; Esmeralda Santiago, Almost a Woman (Boston: Da Capo Press, 1998); Esmeralda Santiago, The Turkish Lover (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2004).

(32.) Judith Ortiz Cofer, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1990).

(33.) Rosemary Marangoly George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth Century Fiction (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 1.

(34.) Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets (New York: Vintage Books, 1991); Abraham Rodríguez, Spidertown (London: Flamingo, 1994).

(35.) Marangoly George, The Politics of Home, 6.

(36.) Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams (New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2000).

(37.) Solimar Otero, “Getting There and Back: The Road, the Journey, and Home in Nuyorican Diaspora Literature,” in Writing Off the Hyphen, 278, 289.

(38.) Miguel Piñero, “A Lower East Side Poem,” in La Bodega Sold Dreams, Miguel Piñero (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985), 7–8.

(39.) Aurora Levins Morales and Rosario Morales, Getting Home Alive (Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1986).

(40.) Pedro Pietri, “Puerto Rican Obituary” Monthly Review Press 56.2 (2004), 126.

(41.) Sandra María Esteves, Yerba Buena (New York: Greenfield Review Press, 1980); Sandra María Esteves, Bluestown Mockingbird Mambo (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1990); Willie Perdomo, “Nigger-Reecan Blues,” in Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings: An Anthology, ed. Roberto Santiago (New York: Ballantine, 1995), 91–93; Tato Laviera, Enclave (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1981); Tato Laviera, AmeRícan (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985); Marta Moreno Vega, When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004); Amina Gautier, Now We Will Be Happy (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014); Mayda del Valle, “Tongue Tactics.

(42.) I want to acknowledge the late Judith Ortiz Cofer who shared this idea during her reading at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the 1990s.

(43.) I prefer the term “Spanglish” over “code switching” to highlight the community politics of resisting normative language boundaries behind the literary strategy of mixing English and Spanish. For a more thorough understanding of these debates, see Ana Celia Zentella’s and Ricardo Otheguy’s debates on the term Spanglish versus the term “popular Spanish in the United States.”

(44.) See Manuel Maldonado Denis’s attacks on Nuyoricans as “bilingual illiterates” and as “no-linguals” as summarized by Jorge Duany, “Nuyorican and Diasporican” in this volume.

(45.) Noel, In Visible Movement, xxiii.

(46.) Noel, In Visible Movement, 103, 104.

(47.) La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence, Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities In the Diaspora (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 73–75.

(48.) Vanessa Pérez Rosario, Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon (Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 47.

(49.) Yolanda Martínez San-Miguel, “Female Sexiles? Towards and Archaeology of Displacement of Sexual Minorities in the Caribbean.” Signs 36.4 (2011), 814.

(50.) Ortiz Cofer, Silent Dancing, 99.

(51.) Justin Torres, We, The Animals (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt, 2011).

(52.) Nicholasa Mohr, Nilda (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1976).

(53.) Vega, Memorias de Bernardo Vega, 274.

(54.) Rodney Morales, The Speed of Darkness (Honolulu: Bamboo Ridge Press, 1988), 15–24.

(55.) Stanchich, “‘Borinkee’ in Hawai’i,” 203, 204.

(56.) Ed Vega, “Belisheva the Beautiful: A Tale from a Refugee Camp,” in Mendoza’s Dreams (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1987), 188, 190.

(57.) Víctor Hernández Cruz, In the Shadow of Al-Andalus (Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2011), xiii, xiv, 51, 71, 90.

(58.) Marisel C. Moreno, “Swimming in Olive Oil: North Africa and the Hispanic Caribbean in the Poetry of Víctor Hernández Cruz,” Hispanic Review 83.3 (2015), 301.

(59.) Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical (New York: The Applause Libretto Library, 2013).

(60.) Juan Flores, “Puerto Rican Literature in the United States: Stages and Perspectives,” Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage 1 (1993), 53.

(61.) Juan Flores, “|‘Que Assimilated, Brother, Yo Soy Asimilao’: The Structuring of Puerto Rican Identity in the US,” The Journal of Ethnic Studies 13.3 (1985), 1.

(62.) Torres-Padilla and Rivera, Writing Off the Hyphen, 1–28.

(63.) Sánchez-González, Boricua Literature.

(64.) Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities In the Diaspora (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

(65.) Ramón Soto-Crespo, Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 143.