Academic journal article Centro Journal

Between Dissidence and Good Neighbor Diplomacy: Reading Julia De Burgos with the FBI

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Between Dissidence and Good Neighbor Diplomacy: Reading Julia De Burgos with the FBI

Article excerpt

Biographical portraits of Julia de Burgos often record two details of her spotty employment history in quick, seemingly innocuous succession (Rodríguez Pagán 1985: 166). First, from summer 1943 to September 1944, she worked as a contributor and later as the editor of the Cultural Page for Pueblos Hispanos, a Spanish-language weekly edited by Puerto Rican writers Juan Antonio Corretjer and Consuelo Lee Tapia in New York City. Second, she relocated to Washington D.C. along with her new husband, the musician Armando Marín, where she worked from September 14, 1944 until May 18, 1945 as a clerk in the Audit Section of the Budget and Finance Division of Nelson Rockefeller's federal agency, the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA). The first of these interludes has been studied in some detail, while the second has not (Pérez-Rosario 2013). This essay fills in several missing particulars, and in so doing seeks to answer a simple question: under what circumstances could Burgos have worked successively for Pueblos Hispanos and CIAA, given that the two organizations were devoted to largely incompatible ideologies, with oppositional views on the status of Puerto Rico in hemispheric political thought?

The incompatibility and outright antagonism between Pueblos Hispanos and CIAA requires some emphasis. At CIAA, policy toward Puerto Rico was an aggravating admixture of colonial administration and general neglect, a policy it occasionally sought to ameliorate with the cultural diplomacy initiatives it sponsored-most notably, the contentious 1941 First Inter-American Writer's Conference, headlined by Archibald MacLeish and William Carlos Williams (Putnam 1941b: 7). By contrast, Pueblos Hispanos, edited by Corretjer, the Secretary General of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, openly agitated against the rhetorical gestures of hemispheric solidarity and mutual understanding that comprised CIAA protocol. The newspaper's mission statement promoted solidarity among the colonias of minority Hispanics in the U.S., immediate independence for Puerto Rico and the liberation of the Philippines, the end of racial and religious discrimination, organized labor throughout the hemisphere, and the antifascist legacy of Spanish Republicanism (Corretjer and Lee Tapia 1943-1944). Allied with Earl Browder, Secretary General of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), who Corretjer and Pedro Albizu Campos befriended while cellmates in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Pueblos Hispanos was the CPUSA's most significant venue in the Latino community. Accordingly, at its founding, Pueblos Hispanos was greeted with approbation almost nowhere besides Samuel Putnam's regular "Good Neighbor" column in The Daily Worker (1943b: 7). There, Putnam advertised it in contrast to what he often derisively called "The Rockefeller Committee" (1941e: 3-5). In all, Pueblos Hispanos militated, deeply and continually, on behalf of a laborite, interethnic, Nationalist counter-imaginary to what Browder called CIAA's "diplomatic fiction" of hemispheric solidarity (Browder 1942: 219). Although the June 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union turned coalitional antifascism into a proxy for anticolonialism in many quarters of international Communism and Good Neighbor diplomacy alike, Puerto Rican Nationalists associated with Pueblos Hispanos often chose not to defer their independence claims to CIAA's liberal antifascism.

That Burgos worked for both Pueblos Hispanos and CIAA thus raises unresolved biographical questions, which remain open due to the sparse record of Burgos's time in Washington, the city she famously described in a forlorn letter to her sister Consuelo as "la capital del silencio" (Burgos 1945). Possibly, her application to CIAA owed only to the modest necessity of finding work. Her low-level position as one of approximately 825 CIAA employees in Washington (among a total of 1,285 full-time employees across the hemisphere) lends credence to this thesis, but it should not disallow us from inquiring into her ideological agency within the government bureaucracy. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.