Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence

Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence

Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence

Dream Nation: Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence


Over the past fifty years, Puerto Rican voters have roundly rejected any calls for national independence. Yet the rhetoric and iconography of independence have been defining features of Puerto Rican literature and culture. In the provocative new book Dream Nation, Maréa Acosta Cruz investigates the roots and effects of this profound disconnect between cultural fantasy and political reality.

Bringing together texts from Puerto Rican literature, history, and popular culture, Dream Nation shows how imaginings of national independence have served many competing purposes. They have given authority to the island's literary and artistic establishment but have also been a badge of countercultural cool. These ideas have been fueled both by nostalgia for an imagined past and by yearning for a better future. They have fostered local communities on the island, and still helped define Puerto Rican identity within U.S. Latino culture.

In clear, accessible prose, Acosta Cruz takes us on a journey from the 1898 annexation of Puerto Rico to the elections of 2012, stopping at many cultural touchstones along the way, from the canonical literature of the Generación del 30 to the rap music of Tego Calderón. Dream Nation thus serves both as a testament to how stories, symbols, and heroes of independence have inspired the Puerto Rican imagination and as an urgent warning about how this culture has become detached from the everyday concerns of the island's people.

A volume in the American Literature Initiatives series


On a cool night in April 2010, Crime against Humanity—a play about “Puerto Rican political prisoners”—was staged at my home institution, Clark University. Written, performed, and produced by the National Boricua Human Rights Network (Chicago Chapter), it offered a heroworshipping view of Puerto Rico’s “lucha por la independencia” (struggle for independence). The play’s emphasis on heroic patriots was backed up by the presence, in the Q&A that followed, of self-proclaimed political prisoners who were identified as having “struggled for independence and fought colonialism.”

Three of these freedom fighters—a term they embraced within hours of being apprehended, if one of the websites that champions them is to be believed—were there: Ricardo Jiménez, Alicia Rodríguez, and Adolfo Matos, members of the radical pro-independence group Los Macheteros who had served time after being convicted, in 1983, of robbing a Wells Fargo office. They explicitly and earnestly cast the Puerto Rican people as unwavering in the struggle for liberty. This fictional representation, to put it kindly, flies in the face of political reality since both the majority of islanders as well as Puerto Ricans in the United States reject independence for the island.

That night a mix of students, professors (including this specialist in Puerto Rican literature), and members of the Worcester, Massachusetts, community acquiesced mutely, timidly, to that illusory (if not delusional) picture of Puerto Rico as a land that wants, yearns for, fights for freedom.

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