Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

An Interview with Afro-Costa Rican Writer Quince Duncan

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

An Interview with Afro-Costa Rican Writer Quince Duncan

Article excerpt

On March 12,1998, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to conduct an interview with Quince Duncan, one of Costa Rica's most prominent Afro-- centered writers. Quince Duncan has written ten books and co-authored and contributed to the production of ten other works. A majority of his works address the African-American presence and situation in Costa Rica. Duncan is the recipient of Costa Rica's Premio Editorial Costa Rica (1978) and the Aquileo Echeverria National Prize for Literature (1979) for his novel Final de Calle published in 1979.

This interview was held during a conference on Afro-Latin Research Culture and Literature sponsored by Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Duncan was the recipient of the University's Distinguished Scholar in Residence award and spent the first half of the year lecturing and teaching at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

TWE: In an interview with Ian Smart in 1985 you mentioned that in Costa Rica there were few critics who had experience with black culture or black literature and therefore could not properly critique your works. Are there any differences today in Costa Rica? QD: Not many. I think that the situation is basically the same. The majority of the critiques are still caught up with the eurocentric theme. Very few students have studied alternative literature... alternative literature is about the best word that comes to my mind at this moment. There have been some brilliant studies that have been advancing a little bit but none that deal with ethnic content. I would say that eurocentricism is still very strong in Latin America. Latin Americans tend to deny it, but it is there and one way in which it reflects itself is that you don't get studies addressing Afro-- Caribbean literature.

TWE: What are the differences in the way that North American critics see your works as compared with Latin American critics?

QD: Interest has been growing in the African-American community and in those places where they study Spanish American literature. It is precisely what is happening in the United States. I think that this happens because "you" have the perspective of what happens here; so when, as an outsider, you look at Latin America you see it as it is. I am not saying that being African-American is enough to be able to see Latin America as it is; it is not that automatic, but you have a wider perspective than what you get from the Latin American community itself. Why? They are caught in this ideal of a nonexistent mystical definition of what we are, ,Verdad? To say that we are Spanish, is baloney. We are not Spanish. We have Spanish roots and we are part of the Spanish culture in general, but we are not Spaniards.

TWE: What work are you currently writing? QD: I am working on a novel, a collection of stories which is related to the African diaspora experience. It starts in Africa and ends in Africa and between the first and last page it gives us an overview of what happened. The first stories are related to the people leaving Africa captured as slaves, being sold, fighting to obtain their liberty and those that kill themselves. Then you have the second part of the book which is related to what happens in the ships. One of the latter stories is the one about Rosa Parks and her experience on the bus in Alabama, and the experiences of brothers and sisters in Europe during the Nazi time. The work is called "A message from Rosa" and she says at the end that she will never again sit at the back of the bus. There are two elements that connect the stories; there is an African couple that appears in the first story waiting; in the last story they are satisfied because the children have come back. The second element that is common is the Yayah people. The Yayah people is my own creation and everything seems very loosely related to the Yayah people. The other interesting thing about it is this idea of virtual reality in which there are multiple outcomes. …

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