Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers

Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers

Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers

Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers


Puerto Rican writers living in the United States and writing in English find themselves astride two cultures, two languages, and two ways of looking at life. They also find two sets of prejudice: racial, cultural, and linguistic bias in the United States; and rejection from Puerto Rican society. In this vibrant collection of interviews, Hernandez presents portraits of 14 of the most prominent Puerto Rican writers living in the United States and offers the first chance for them to speak directly about their lives and their literary tradition. Taken as a whole, the diverse experiences of these writers provide an insight into the effects of early displacement from a national culture, and how perceived prejudice and hostility can breed, in turn, either violence and hate, or a wish to excel and to communicate.


Miguel Algarín's voice is strong and resonant; it's a voice often used to charm roomfuls of people. His laugh is contagious. But his eyes-shrewd, sharp, always observant-speak of an analytic mind. Miguel knows who he is and where he came from. Because of that, he is not afraid of words or of the barriers they erect between people. For a long time now he has worked at tearing down those barriers. in his Nuyorican Poets Café, the theater cure nightclub he has established in the Lower East Side, he comes close to having achieved it.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1941, Algarín moved to New York with his family when he was 9. They settled in the city's Lower East Side, where a growing community of Puerto Ricans gave that neighborhood a decidedly Latin flavor. Attracted since childhood to literature, he obtained a B.A. in Romance Languages from the University of Wisconsin. He has an M.A. in English Literature from Pennsylvania State University and did his doctoral studies in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, where he teaches courses on Shakespeare, ethnic literature, and creative writing.

Together with other Puerto Rican poets and playwrights likeMiguel Piñero and Lucky Cienfuegos, Algarín was active in a poetic movement that flourished in the Lower East Side during the late sixties and the seventies. This movement sought to reach the common people by means of the poetic word recited and performed-often on the streets. They wrote poetry in a language that often combined English and Spanish and their themes revolved around their daily lives. It was a poetry born of the new frontier established between immigrant Puerto Ricans and the society that both received them as citizens and rejected them as aliens because of their color, their language, and their different culture.

In 1975 Algarin established the Nuyorican Poets Café in order to provide a space for that poetry. It has undergone various changes of locale and admini-

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