Navigating Ideas of “Progress” in Puerto Rico’s Prensa Literaria

By Joyce Rivera González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Although Puerto Rico’s current two-party system might seem familiar to those interested in the American political landscape, Puerto Rican political parties are not necessarily defined by fiscal and/or social liberalism or conservatism, but instead by their views on the future political status of the archipelago. The two main political parties are the New Progressive Party (PNP), which seeks Puerto Rico’s full annexation into the Union as its 51st state, and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), a party which designed and implemented the current political system of the Estado Libre Asociado (loosely translated as “Commonwealth,” but literally translated as “Free Associated State”). 

Rare Books and Special Collections’ Puerto Rican holdings include 27 issues of the periodical Prensa Literaria: Revista de Cultura. Dating from 1963 to 1966, this magazine highlights key debates and tensions in the development of Puerto Rican politics and identity following the new Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, ratified in 1952.

WHO ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE GOING? 

Prensa Literaria was edited by major literary and political figures in Puerto Rico, many of whom were affiliated with the PPD. 

The PPD was a pivotal player in the postwar transformation of Puerto Rico. The party’s leader, Luis Muñoz Marín, was dubbed the architect of a new Puerto Rico and became the first democratically-elected governor of the archipelago in 1948, a role he held for 16 years. His political magnum opus was Operación Manos a la Obra (Operation Bootstrap), a massive industrialization political programme that began in 1947 and would transform the Puerto Rican economy, society, and political landscape in the years to come. For the average working-class poor, weekly wages more than doubled, life expectancy rose from 46 to 69 years, and basic living standards and infrastructure would vastly improve for all Puerto Ricans between 1953 and 1963 (see Ayala & Bernabe, 2007). Yet many of the PPD’s projects also depended on manufacturing incentives for US-based corporations, which dramatically reshaped the economy of the territory and broader Caribbean, detrimentally limiting economic and political self-sufficiency to the region. 

The whirlwind of change and industrialization that characterized the 1950s on the archipelago created what many scholars have identified as a collective existential crisis of sorts. This is reflected in an editorial by Ernesto Juan Fonfrías that appears in the September 1965 issue of Prensa Literaria, entitled, Who/what are we? Where are we headed? Fonfrías, a scholar, writer, and one of the founding members of the PPD, muses,

Many aspects of Puerto Rican life have not yet acclimated to the momentum of progress that has come to provide its benefits, almost all of a sudden but in times of crisis, because it met an unprepared average citizen, orphaned from moral, educational, and religious values, which are necessary to any civilized man’s wellbeing […] The result of economic progress has impaired the individual’s moral capacity to be and feel. 

Muchos renglones de la vida puertorriqueña no se han atemperado al impulso de progreso que vino a regar sus parabienes, casi súbitamente pero en momentos de apuros, porque encontró al ciudadano promedio impreparado [sic], huérfano de muchos de los valores morales, educativos, y religiosos que son necesarios en el haber de todo hombre civilizado […] El producto del progreso económico ha dañado la capacidad moral del individuo para ese alto estar y sentir. 

THE JÍBARO IS GONE, AND THE LAND IS UP FOR SALE 

In his front-page editorial “El jíbaro se acaba y la tierra se vende” (“The jíbaro [rural peasant] is gone and the land is up for sale”) in the May 1966 issue of Prensa Literaria, Fonfrías further examines Puerto Rican identity during an era of change. 

Perhaps the jíbaro is disappearing from the countryside, but his mark on history will remain, his criollo lifestyle, his cultural heritage and his milestone in civilization, which shall never be forgotten […] Who knows? Maybe the more civilized we become, the more jíbaro we become in our love for the land! […] Progress is good and so is the jíbaro

Tal vez el jíbaro desaparezca de la ruralía, pero quedará su quehacer histórico, su criollo vivir, su acervo de cultura y su hito de civilización que no se olvidarán […] Quién sabe si mientras más civilizados, seguimos siendo más jībaros en el amor a la tierra!  […] El progreso es bueno y el jíbaro lo es también. 

Fonfrías takes on the very ideal of cultural nationalism—the jíbaro—in this passage. Through his seemingly benign, yet arguably patronizing discussion, he approaches the quandary (paradox, for some) that stood at the very core of the PPD ideology: ¿y no podrá haber progreso y jíbaro también? (“could there not be both progress and jíbaros, as well?”)

As in the previous issue, we see Fonfrías struggling to reconcile economic changes (“progress”) and industrialization with social and cultural realities and ideals. These debates intersected with conversations regarding the archipelago’s political status. In its early days, even under Muñoz Marín, the PPD supported independence, but this stance slowly and quietly eroded. Prensa Literaria  best captures the centrist positioning of the political status quo that emerged as a result of the PPD’s political evolution, still in effect to this day.

REFERENCIAS 

Agrait Betancourt, Luis. “La idea independentista de Luis Muñoz Marín (1913-1931).” In Luis Muñoz Marín: ensayos del centenario. Edited by Fernando Picó, 1-15. San Juan: Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, 1999. 

Ayala, Cesar y Rafael Bernabe. Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History since 1898. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 

Cortés Zavala, María Teresa y María Magdalena Flores Padilla. “La Revista Puertorriqueña: el periodismo cultural y sus redes hispanoamericanas.” Revista de Indias 75, no. 263 (2015): 149-76. 

Díaz Quiñones, Arcadio. El arte de bregar: ensayos. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2000. 

Duprey Salgado, Néstor R. Independentista popular: las causas de Vicente Géigel Polanco. San Juan: Crónicas Publicaciones, 2005. 

Grosfoguel, Ramón, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, and Chloé S. Georas. “Beyond Nationalist and Colonialist Discourses: The Jaiba Politics of the Puerto Rican Ethno-Nation.” In Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism, pp. 1-38. Edited by Frances Negrón-Muntaner & Ramón Grosfoguel. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. 

Pantojas-García, Emilio. “Puerto Rican Populism Revisited: the PPD during the 1940s.” Journal of Latin American Studies 21, no. 3 (1989): 521-557. 

Serra Collazo, Soraya. “Explorando la Operación Serenidad.” In Explorando la Operación Serenidad, pp. 7-10. Edited by Soraya Serra Collazo. San Juan: Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, 2011. 

Representing Gender and Crisis in Contemporary, Independent Puerto Rican Art

By Joyce Rivera González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

It reeks to always walk with tense shoulders, shoved upwards
A knife hidden under my tongue
Rear wheel mirrors

— Karla Cristina
Sobre el hombre y otros sistemas de colapso
(La Impresora, 2020)

In this blog post, we showcase a collection of zines, chapbooks, and posters published by the independent, women-led Puerto Rican press La Impresora (“the printer,” in Spanish).  This collection is one of the most recent acquisitions to augment Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings of Hispanic Caribbean literature.

La Impresora is an experimental workshop headquartered in northwestern Puerto Rico. It is a small-scale risograph press, which combines the aesthetic and uniqueness of stencil and screen-printing with the expediency and convenience of digital copiers. Since the inception of risograph technology in 1940s Japan, this technology has allowed artists around the world to conveniently and inexpensively reproduce and disseminate their creations. In addition, La Impresora seeks to be more than just a printing press: as part of its vision, creators and artists are actively involved in the reproduction of their art in what the press’ founders call a book-making school, “a space to learn and share knowledge that is not formally taught in Puerto Rico, which is usually mediated or limited by the supply and demand of the publishing market.” 

The selection currently held by Rare Books and Special Collections is composed of 62 items, a polyphonic kaleidoscope of form and lived experience. Much of this work captures—textually and visually—the lingering stasis that haunts a generation of Puerto Ricans. To differing degrees, the archipelago’s youth have experienced systems of limbo, collapse, and crisis. These predicaments arise from socio-natural disasters (and postponed recoveries), neocolonialism, corrupt and impotent local government, and crippling (largely illegal) public debt. The pieces created by this collective comment on and represent both the everyday and large-scale manifestations of the Puerto Rican crisis. 

Selected chapbooks and zines from the La Impresora collection.

Authors include (from left to right) the La Práctica collective, Agnes Sastre-Rivera, Kelly Díaz, Karla Cristina, and Nicole Cecilia Delgado.

In addition to the pamphlet-sized zines and chapbooks, the collection includes a limited run of eight posters (11 x 17″) published by the collective, the majority of which were the result of a collaboration between the press and female Puerto Rican artists between 2019 and 2021. 

Some of the posters are the result of historical processes in the history of gender rights and relations in Puerto Rico. In “HISTÉRICA,” illustrator Adriana García centers the gendered attribute of “hysterical” in a minimally-illustrated piece. Written in red letters across a drawing grid, she embraces the gendered epithet and proclaims, in smaller, black font, to hysterically await a moment in which women “can live peacefully.” In slightly larger uppercase letters, she echoes contemporary demands for gender-perspective school curricula, an ongoing debate since at least 2008, split along partisan lines in the archipelago. 

Part of the 2019 art exhibition “Oda a nuestra sangre” (trans. “ode to our blood”) held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lorraine Rodríguez’s print hopes to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstruation. In her piece, Rodríguez centers a minimally drawn menstrual cup, surrounded by blooming dandelions, a moon, and stars. In this landscape, menstruation is as natural as the blooms and celestial bodies that surround it. Moreover, the print seeks to desexualize and normalize female anatomy.  

Print of Lorraine Rodríguez’s unnamed piece, from the “Oda a nuestra sangre” exhibition held from March 7-April 2, 2019 in Pública, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With the exception of Rodríguez’s piece (printed in 2019), the collection posters highlighted in this post were produced and distributed by La Impresora in 2021. This is far from a coincidence, as the year 2021 saw a record-breaking number of femicides and incidents of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico, averaging one a week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that Puerto Rico has the highest per capita rate of femicides against women over 14 years of age. These statistics include high-profile cases such as the murder of Keishla Rodríguez by rising boxer Felix Verdejo. In a way, many of the artworks in this collection emerge from the 2021 protests that demanded the enactment of a state of emergency by Governor Pedro Pierluisi in response to gender-based violence. Initially set to expire in June 2022, this state of emergency was recently extended: to this date, 24 women have been murdered in Puerto Rico, three times the number of 2021.  

Echoing these demands, photographer Nina Méndez Martí highlights the black-and-white photograph of a woman’s torso. Hands in the air, the words “ESTADO DE EMERGENCIA” (trans. “State of emergency”) are emblazoned across her chest and abdomen in bold, black, uppercase letters. 

Lastly, Yvonne Santiago’s “Seguimos luchando,” depicts a woman drawn in purple lines, her right fist raised in the air. The color purple has a long and important history in feminist activism, from its association to women’s suffrage to Alice Walker’s famous analogy, “womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender.” The woman depicted by Santiago has two tattoos: a pot (cacerola) with a cooking spoon on her tricep and a machete on her forearm. Both the cacerola and the machete are important symbols of resistance, especially in Puerto Rico. 

The pot refers to the cacerolazo, a protest tradition which consists of banging pots cacophonously as a way of amplifying anger and dissatisfaction amid protests. In Puerto Rico, cacerolazos became a popular protest form during the Verano del 2019 protests, which called for the resignation of former governor Ricardo Rosselló. 

The machete symbolizes pro-independence struggle and political nationalism on the island, most commonly associated with 20th-century armed pro-independence militancy, primarily with the Boricua Popular Army, known as Los Macheteros (trans. “Machete wielders”), and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). However, the machete, as a political symbol, dates to the original Revolutionary Anthem of Puerto Rico, written in 1868 by Lola Rodríguez de Tió. The hymn’s lyrics were deemed too controversial and revolutionary and were subsequently changed for a less political version in 1902. 

Nosotros queremos la libertad
Y nuestros machetes nos la dará

We want Freedom
And freedom, our machetes will grant us

Yvonne Santiago’s piece chants its own hymn of subversion and defiance, lest we forget. 

For the women in my life
For the ones I have lost
For the ones to come
We will keep fighting


Additional Resources

Spanish

Adriana Díaz Tirado & Alejandra Lara Infante, “Ni una más: las familias de las víctimas de feminicidios reclaman reparación y justicia,” Todas, November 22, 2021. URL: https://www.todaspr.com/ni-una-mas-las-familias-de-las-victimas-de-feminicidios-reclaman-reparacion-y-justicia/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “Sin fiscalización los programas de desvío para agresores por Ley 54,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jul 15, 2021. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2021/07/fiscalizacion-programas-desvio-agresores-ley-54/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Elithet Silva-Martinez & Jenice Vazquez Pagán, “El abuso económico y la violencia de género en las relaciones de pareja en el contexto puertorriqueño,” Prospectiva, 28 (2019): https://doi.org/10.25100/prts.v0i28.7264 

María de los Milagros Colón Cruz, “Más agresores asesinan a sus parejas con un arma de fuego que mediante otras formas letales,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jun 9, 2022. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2022/06/mas-agresores-asesinan-a-sus-parejas-con-un-arma-de-fuego-que-mediante-otras-formas-letales/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Observatorio de Equidad de Género en Puerto Rico, “Feminicidios,” OEGPR website, May 12, 2022. URL: https://observatoriopr.org/feminicidios (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Patricia Velez & Alvin Báez, “El dolor de los que se quedan: El calvario silencioso de los feminicidios en Puerto Rico,” Univisión Noticias, Jun 16, 2021. URL: https://www.univision.com/especiales/noticias/2021/feminicidios-violencia-genero-puerto-rico-calvario-silencioso/index.html (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Redacción BBC, “Feminicidio en Puerto Rico: 4 claves para entender qué llevó a la isla a declarar un estado de emergencia por violencia de género,” BBC News Mundo, Jan 27, 2021. URL: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-55820829 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

English

ACLU, “Failure to Police Crimes of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Puerto Rico,” ACLU website, n.d. URL: https://www.aclu.org/other/failure-police-crimes-domestic-violence-and-sexual-assault-puerto-rico (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Aileen Brown, “Dozens of murdered women are missing from Puerto Rican police records, new report finds,” The Intercept, Nov 16, 2019. URL: https://theintercept.com/2019/11/16/puerto-rico-murders-femicide-police/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022).

Brittany Valentine, “Puerto Rico courts face down the greater issue of gender violence on the island,” Al Día, Aug 16, 2021. URL: https://aldianews.com/politics/policy/femicides-puerto-rico-0 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Carli Pierson, “She just wanted to be safe. Her femicide started a movement in Puerto Rico,” USA Today, Mar 13, 2021. URL: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/2022/03/13/angie-noemi-gonzalez-santos-puerto-rico-usa-today-women-of-the-year/6795005001/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina Corujo & Penélope López, “Puerto Rican families devastated by gender-based killings remain concerned about government’s approach to crisis,” ABC News, May 26, 2021. URL: https://abcnews.go.com/US/puerto-rican-families-devastated-gender-based-killings-remain/story?id=77739523 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “The children whose mothers were taken away by machismo,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Dec 16, 2021. URL: https://bit.ly/3xNHd0Y (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Denise Oliver Velez, “The ‘other epidemic’ in Puerto Rico: Femicide and gendered violence,” Daily Kos, Jan 28, 2021. URL: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/28/2012301/-The-other-epidemic-in-Puerto-Rico-is-femicide-and-gendered-violence (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Jhoni Jackson, “Hundreds Take to the Streets of Puerto Rico to Protest Two Femicides,” Remezcla, May 3, 2021. URL: https://remezcla.com/culture/hundreds-take-streets-puerto-rico-protest-two-femicides/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Lillian Perlmutter, “Deadly Violence Against Women in Puerto Rico is Surging During Lockdown,” VICE, Dec 8, 2020. URL: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjpj5d/deadly-violence-against-women-in-puerto-rico-is-surging-during-lockdown (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Nicole Acevedo. “Puerto Rico’s new tipping point: Horrific femicides reignite fight against gender violence,” NBC News, May 16, 2021. URL: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/puerto-rico-s-new-tipping-point-horrific-femicides-reignite-fight-n1267354 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Raquel Reichard, “Feminicide in Puerto Rico: A History of Violence and Resistance,” Hip Latina, Nov 30, 2020. URL: https://hiplatina.com/femicide-puerto-rico-protest-violence/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Migratory History from a Child’s Point of View

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we share this Migratory History of La Raza coloring book, printed in 1974 by El Renacimiento, a branch of the Lansing, Michigan publisher Renaissance Publications. Emerging from the city’s vibrant and active Chicano community, the coloring book narrates the history of the U.S. Chicano population in pictures and bilingual text, for Michigan’s Chicano youth. Michigan-based Chicano artist, David Torrez, produced both the history and the drawings included in the title, which is as much textbook and activist statement as coloring book. 

The coloring book’s activist stance and message are evident even from its cover. Printed on glossy cardstock, it features a Chicano boy, dressed in Southwestern clothing, smiling and waving to a young girl who stands on the other side of a river – most certainly the Rio Grande. The young girl is dressed in the traditional clothing and head covering of the Tehuana, a female cultural type associated with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of far southern Mexico. Through this image, Torrez links the U.S. Chicano population with residents of Mexico and extends Mexican cultural identity from the country’s border with Guatemala up into the United States – well beyond the country’s political boundaries. Two open and pleasant-looking bridges span the Rio Grand, connecting Mexican Americans and residents of Mexico and advocating friendship and camaraderie between them. 

The Montcalm County Intermediate School District, located in Stanton, Michigan, an agricultural area located north of Lansing and home to significant populations of migrant workers in the 1970s, contributed to the development of the coloring book as part of a migrant education project. The border and two small birds on the title page might appear entirely decorative, but they are an appropriation of symbols of Mexican – even indigenous Mexican – identity. They are Aztec eagles and they frame publication details, including a statement that the book was “Printed in AZTLAN” – the birthplace of the Aztecs. Like many Chicano initiatives of this era, Michigan’s activists found resonance in these Native references that seemed devoid of European influence or content. Through the eagles and references to Aztlan, they harkened back to an idealized indigenous past.   

Page 2 provides the children for whom this coloring book was created a brief, unbiased definition of “migrant child” in English and Spanish. It links the definition specifically to movement between school districts and to agricultural and food-processing industries, but not to race or ethnicity. The statement is a resource, or tool, to help migrant children consider and articulate identity as related to their mobile status.  

The inside of the coloring book recounts Chicano history by dedicating pages to each of the major indigenous groups of Mexico, depicting the events of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs as well as highlights of modern Mexican history, and pointing to important issues of the day. 

A page entitled “Contribution of the Migrant Workers” argues that, since 1900, migrant farm workers and their labor served as the basis of the U.S. economic structure. “Vida del Migratorio” observes that, despite this contribution, migrant housing is often substandard. This issue received attention from the federal government at the time that the coloring book was issued, though improvements for laborers were often slow and uneven.   

Along with this source geared toward children, El Renacimiento produced a newspaper of the same name that focused on the Chicano Rights movement and was published in Lansing from the 1970s through 1990s. David Torrez and Edmundo Georgi, both contributors to this coloring book also work on the newspaper, El Renacimento, which can be consulted on microfilm here in the Hesburgh Libraries.

Related Previous Blog Posts:

Poetry, Art, and Plastic: The Imprints of Ediciones Arroyo

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Over the past two years, Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired a series of unique chapbooks produced by Ediciones Arroyo, a small and specialized press located in the town of Arroyo Leyes, Argentina. An exciting addition to our collections, each “book” is small and lightweight, bound in black recycled plastic, and features the work of a contemporary poet from Argentina or elsewhere in South America. 

Ediciones Arroyo is the brainchild of Alejandra Bosch, founder and owner of the press and a writer in her own right. A proponent of a thriving literary community and an advocate for recycling, Alejandra pursues these dual interests in the creation of her books. Each one includes between two and ten poems by a single poet. A short biography and whimsical illustrations, often by Julián Bosch, Alejandra’s son and collaborator, accompany the text. 

The book covers are aesthetically bold, each bearing the name of its poet in bright, colorful letters. The black plastic that once packaged milk – something that might otherwise be considered garbage – is cleaned, cut and sewn by Bosch, to create artistic editions of a roughly uniform size.  

Inside, readers find new, previously unpublished pieces, often by young, up-and-coming poets of diverse backgrounds. These imprints, coupled with literary festivals that Alejandra sponsors and organizes, offer support and a creative space for writers. 

RBSC’s collection of Ediciones Arroyo imprints currently includes more than 100 editions and is growing. We are proud to be the first North American institution to collect Ediciones Arroyo and to serve as a repository for the poetry of a dynamic group of South American writers. 

I recently asked Alejandra what it means to her to see her work, and the work of so many contemporary Argentine poets, here at Notre Dame. She expressed pride and also enthusiasm for the idea that young people here in the U.S., linguistically and culturally distant from Argentina, are now able to read these poems as they learn Spanish. “For me as a writer, it is fabulous, also, that these poets are in the university, when we trained by reading and translating the great North American poets. It is beautiful,” she said. Julián, a tattoo artist and poet as well as illustrator for Ediciones Arroyo, is also motivated by the idea that others are reading the poetry that he and others have worked so hard to create and disseminate. This contact with Notre Dame, “makes me want to forge ahead, beyond this pandemic year and all of the negative,” he states.   

Ediciones Arroyo began in 2016, with 9 poets. Today, the press’s catalog includes more than 80 poets, “and they’ve all traveled to Indiana!,” Alejandra notes. Alejandra and Julián have recently begun working on bilingual editions with a number of Brazilian authors. They both aspire to bring their work, and the contemporary poetry of South America, to other university libraries in the near future. 

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2020

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Woodcuts of Consuelo Gotay

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we feature the work of Puerto Rican printmaker, Consuelo Gotay. Educated in Puerto Rico and at Columbia University in New York, Gotay’s woodcuts are striking and reflect her early association with the workshop of iconic Puerto Rican printmaker, Lorenzo Homar. Rare Books and Special Collections holds five artist books that pair Gotay’s images with the poetry and prose of major Caribbean writers. 

Today, we share three of these collaborations, Selección de textos del cuaderno de un retorno al pais natal (1993), Salmos del cuerpo ardiente (2006), and Las brujas (2014). 

The first and earliest of these is a selection of texts (presented in Spanish and French) from Afro-Caribbean poet, Aime Cesaire’s, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Journal of a Return to My Native Land), originally published in 1939. If Cesaire’s poem is known for its exploration of Caribbean identities, particularly negritude, Gotay’s woodcuts illustrating the work are a sort of homage to the region’s natural beauty. Pleasing prints of ocean, swaying palm trees, and picturesque villages are interleaved with text. 

 

The second, Salmos del cuerpo ardiente, features text by Puerto Rican writer, Lourdes Vázquez, and ten original woodcuts by Gotay. Vázquez’s “psalms” point to harsh realities of life in Puerto Rico in the first decade of the twenty-first century, particularly violence and addiction among young people. A fitting and somber complement, one of Gotay’s woodcuts here is an elegy to those tortured and killed when violence reaches its pinnacle.

In Vázquez’s words,

LA TORTURA
Es como un BOXEADOR COMATOSO,
Un mero asunto familiar,
Un maleficio inexplicable.

 
 

The third and most recent of these works, Las brujas, is both a children’s story and a metaphoric lament for the youth of Puerto Rico who become involved in drug violence, by Puerto Rican writer, Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá. Gotay’s prints here combine the visual elements and the themes that appear in the earlier works. Palm trees frame the small house of the story’s good bruja (“witch”), Nina, in a manner reminiscent of her Cesaire portfolio. Los muchachos, on the other hand, are a reminder of the struggling youth portrayed in Salmos del cuerpo ardiente. 

Each of these titles is a limited edition. Together they reflect the engaging and thought-provoking artistic output of a talented Puerto Rican printmaker.

Related Previous Blog Posts:

Inquisition Edicts and Book Censorship

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic limits our ability to handle physical collections, Rare Books and Special Collections strives to provide patrons with the next best thing — access to digital surrogates. Last week, we responded to a request for a high quality image of an Inquisition censorship edict, from Mexico, dating to 1809.

Inquisicion de México, Public edict regarding banned works, August 5, 1809. (Inquisition 401, recto)

This item is part of our Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, which contains manuals, edicts, trials, certificates, accounts of autos de fe, and other materials produced by and about the Inquisition in Spain and the Americas. Revisiting this document at the request of a patron provides an opportunity this week to highlight Inquisition edicts, a major component of our Inquisition manuscript holdings.

This edict is a large format document that would have been posted on a wall or door for public consumption. Edicts such as this one supplemented and updated the more voluminous indices of banned books published and maintained by the Inquisition beginning in 1551. This particular example is quite lengthy and also attests to the Inquisition’s perseverance into the nineteenth century and to its presence in Spain’s American colonies. It bans some 55 works and is signed at the bottom by Inquisition officials.

Titles banned include, of course, works pertaining to Lutheranism. Also on the list are historical works, especially those that are anti-monarchical such as Histoire des révolutions de France, by an anonymous author, and Recherches politiques sur l’état ancien, et moderne de la Pologne. Each of these titles treats the French Revolution. Inquisitorial concern over them speaks to the political situation in Spain, where Napoleon Bonaparte had recently placed his brother on the throne. Mere months after the issuance of this 1809 edict, armed uprisings in support of independence from Spain would begin in Mexico.

The edict also prohibits theatrical plays deemed to include seditious content, due in part to the fears regarding rebellion against Spain in the American colonies. This last category includes a piece entitled, “El Negro, y la Blanca,” (“The Black Man and the White Woman”) by playwright Vicente Rodriguez de Arellano, said to be revolutionary in spirit, with ability to engender civil, political, and moral ruin. It also includes “El Negro Sensible”  (“The Sensible Black Man”), a manuscript play said to encourage enslaved people to rebel against their owners. This play, by Spaniard Luciano Francisco Comella, indeed highlights the evils of slavery. The main character, an enslaved man named Catúl, asserts his humanity and tells his owner that the souls of black men and white men are the same. This work was the inspiration for the later and eponymous play by one of Mexico’s best known authors, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.

The Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection has both a finding aid and a dedicated website which includes thematic essays that explore the different types of documents generated by the Inquisition, with references given for further reading. The collection contains over 150 edicts dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here are two additional examples of censorship edicts:

Antonio de Sotomayor, Banned books edict, June 30, 1634. (Inquisition 227, recto and verso)

Inquisicion de Mexico, Public edict regarding banned works, June 1655. (Inquisition 239, recto)

A Halloween trip to Mexico

While Halloween has its origins in the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints), it has since spread to various other cultures. So too, the Special Collections holdings that relate to celebrations on or around Halloween are to be found in a variety of subject areas. This year, we bring you materials from our Latin American collections.

José Guadalupe Posada and the skull iconography of Mexico’s Dia de Muertos

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

As many Americans prepare to celebrate Halloween on October 31, Mexico and Latino residents of the U.S. ready themselves for Dia de muertos (Day of the Dead). Celebrated between October 31 and November 2, this holiday corresponds to the Catholic All Saints’ Day (known as Todos Santos in Mexico during the colonial era and nineteenth century) and All Souls’ Day, but is uniquely Mexican in its iconographic emphasis on calaveras, or “skulls.” Candy and papier-maché skulls adorn altars prepared with offerings to the deceased (ofrendas). Toy skulls and skeletons are sold in stores. And, party-goers decorate their faces with elaborate skull makeup.

Today’s Dia de muertos skull iconography is closely associated with the work of José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), a Mexican lithographer, woodcut artist, engraver and etcher renowned for his satirical broadsides and flyers. During the latter half of his career, Posada worked with the printing house of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo to produce loose sheets commemorating political events, natural disasters, crimes, and festivals. Often, his original work featuring calaveras meditates on death, even if it doesn’t directly refer to Dia de muertos, as is the case with the two broadsides here, “¡Calavera Zumbona!” and “La Calavera Taurina.”

Special Collections Broadsides, BS-1900-03-F1

Special Collections Broadsides, BS-1900-03-F1

“¡Calavera Zumbona!” (“The Mocking Skull”) is a satirical piece that pokes fun at various artisan groups in Mexico City, including carpenters, tailors, candy sellers, painters, barbers, pulque sellers and more while also pointing to the universality of mortality and death. Carpenters are described as drunkards while tinsmiths are overly-loquacious. Practitioners of all crafts wind up, in the image created by Posada, as skulls in a cemetery in the end. The offerings of food and the small, round “pan de muertos” bread roll in the lower left-hand corner of the image are both traditional of Dia de muertos.

Special Collections Broadsides, BS-1900-02-F1

“La Calavera Taurina” is an homage to deceased bullfighters, who had been eaten or consumed by the “taurine skull” of death.

Both of these prints are on very thin paper. “¡Calavera Zumbona!” is an imperfect print with lines striking out parts of the text and main image. These elements attest to affordability of the materials used by the Vanegas shop and to the rapidity with which broadsides were printed.

Posada was rediscovered by Mexican Revolution-era muralists not long after his death in 1913. Among them, Jean Charlot was among the first to highlight Posada’s calaveras. In 1947, he worked with the still-operating Vanegas Arroyo printhouse to issue 450 copies of a bilingual portfolio entitled 100 Grabados en madera por Posada (100 Woodcuts by Posada). Here, Charlot reproduces the smaller and lesser-know woodcuts produced by Posada. Many feature calaveras accompanied by verse. One (#12) even commemorates Todos Santos (All Saints Day / All Saints’ Eve / All Hallow’s Eve) by name.

Charlot translates the verse as follows:

12. All Hallow’s Eve.
At last the day of all the dead
has arrived.
On which they rejoice, replete
with pleasures without
number.
In place of sad mourning for ourselves,
Let us, with laughs and pulque,
go cry in our cups.

Es una verdad sincera
Lo que nos dice esta frase :
Que sólo el ser que no nace
No puede ser calavera.

– No te fíes de las gentes
Son muy traidoras, deveras.
– Pues, a mí, las calaveras,
Nomás me pelan los dientes…

¡Ay, ay, ay! la muerte ya viene
Y a toditos nos agarra,
Hay que suerte tan chaparra,
Pues creo que ni madre tiene.


Happy Halloween to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

Halloween 2016 RBSC post: Ghosts in the Stacks
Halloween 2017 RBSC post: A spooky story for Halloween: The Goblin Spider
Halloween 2018 RBSC post: A story for Halloween: “Johnson and Emily; or, The Faithful Ghost”

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2019

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Latinx Ephemera Collection

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Rare Books and Special Collections is pleased to highlight our newly acquired Latinx Ephemera Collection. This collection came to us from the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. Many of the materials in the collection were acquired by Gilberto Cardenas, founding director of the institute and Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame.

This collection is comprised of pamphlets, reports, journal issues, flyers, and magazines related to Latinx culture that date primarily between 1966 and 1999. Some materials are political or historical in nature, addressing topics such as migrant labor, the work of iconic Latinx activists such as César Chávez, and grape boycotts. Others examine socio-economic conditions among Latinx populations, access to education, civil rights, employment, and immigration. Held together in one collection, these rare materials provide a diversity of insights into Latinx life and issues in and around the U.S. during the second half of the twentieth century.

A sample of collection highlights follows:

A report on the East Los Angeles Youth Speak-Out held on May 20, 1967. This event was attended by 175 delegates and adult leaders from the East Los Angeles Latinx community. Participants used the event to discuss activities available to local youth and to strengthen communication with local officials.

 

Volume 1, Issue, 1 of Encuentro Femenil, along with the initial letter to subscribers announcing the publication of the magazine and explaining its unique contribution to the field of Chicana literature.

 

A 1969 issue of Fiesta Magazine, dedicated to the spirit of Emiliano Zapata and presenting Latinx poetry and short literary pieces.

 

Number 132 of 1000 copies of Year 1, Number 1 of The Broken Line/La Linea Quebrada, a border arts publication from 1986. This innovative journal combines poetry with visual presentations to address key Latinx issues and present Latinx perspectives.

 

This collection is open for research. A full list of collection contents is available online.

Related Previous Blog Posts:

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2017: Sergio Sánchez Santamaría
National Hispanic Heritage Month 2018: Puerto Rican Artists

Upcoming Events: September and early October

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, September 5 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “‘Gli occhi della fantasia.’ Mental Images and Poetic Imagery in Leopardi” by Sabrina Ferri (Notre Dame).

Thursday, September 19 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Parabola in Boccaccio (I.1; X.10)” by Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja (Harvard).

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Libros de Lectura: Literacy and Education after the Mexican Revolution / Alfabetismo y Educación después de la Revolución Mexicana (June – August 2019) and Art in a 19th-Century Household in Ireland: The Edgeworth Family Album (August – September 2019).

RBSC is closed Monday, September 2nd,
for Labor Day.

Upcoming Events: August and early September

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, September 5 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “‘Gli occhi della fantasia.’ Mental Images and Poetic Imagery in Leopardi” by Sabrina Ferri (Notre Dame).

Sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance will open mid-August and run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Libros de Lectura: Literacy and Education after the Mexican Revolution / Alfabetismo y Educación después de la Revolución Mexicana (June – August 2019) and Art in a 19th-Century Household in Ireland: The Edgeworth Family Album (August – September 2019).

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 2nd,
for Labor Day.