Out of Bounds: Islands and the Demarcation of Identity in the Hispanic Caribbean

By Cruz-Malavé, Arnaldo | Hispanic Review, April 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Out of Bounds: Islands and the Demarcation of Identity in the Hispanic Caribbean


Cruz-Malavé, Arnaldo, Hispanic Review


Goldman, darà. Out of Bounds: Islands and the Demarcation of Identity in the Hispanic Caribbean. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2008. 249 pp.

Hispanic Caribbean writers have often resorted to the trope of the nation as an island in order to proclaim a sense of national belonging and identity that would seem to emerge naturally from the geographical accident of living on an island. Darà Goldman's recent, wide-ranging, well- researched, and well-crafted book, Out of Bounds, teases out some of the tensions, complexities, and paradoxes that this apparently natural national trope would seek to elide. And she helps us to understand, in the process, why, despite the increased diasporization of the population of the islands of the Hispanic Caribbean (more than half of all Puerto Ricans reside now in the continental United States), and the increasing decline of master narratives of national identity in the Caribbean and around the world, this insular trope of national identity is nowhere near reaching exhaustion. Quite the contrary, as her book shows, ranging widely from nineteenth- century foundational fiction to Internet Web sites, the insular trope remains not only a pervasive presence in Hispanic Caribbean cultural production in the islands but also, and especially, in the diaspora as well.

A close examination of the insular metaphor from its beginnings in the nineteenth- century Caribbean foundational fiction of the Puerto Ricans Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Salvador Brau, the Cuban Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda and the Dominican Manuel de Jesús Galván to its contemporary incarnations in US Latino fiction, American music industry's Latin Explosion, and Puerto Rican Internet sites, reveals a genealogy in which the island trope is increasingly displaced or moved out of its center, "out of bounds," to that which seemed previously, from the perspective of its nineteenth-century foundational tales, to exceed it, or even negate it. Throughout the course of the twentieth century, Goldman argues, the island trope has been extended and displaced onto the previously abjected spaces of the sex(ile), the migrant, and diasporic subject, and most recently the Internet. The insular metaphor has not only not been left behind, superseded, or transcended in Hispanic Caribbean literature and culture, whether in the islands or abroad; it has been globalized, as the cover picture for Out of Bounds by the contemporary Cuban artist Antonio Eligio Fernández, or Tonel, shows: an installation representing a map in which the entire world is made up of smaller discrete units that are wooden carvings of the island of Cuba and in which all the other islands of the Caribbean have been subsumed into Cuba or absorbed by Tonel's consuming island trope. Titled El mundo soñado, this installation could just as easily read as a nightmare. Those who worry about the darker possibilities of the island metaphor, such as the Cuban poet Reina María Rodriguez, have much to ponder here.

But why hasn't this metaphor been superseded or transcended as a kind of antiquated and ineffectual ideological remnant of an earlier era? Much of Goldman's argument here would seem to evolve from a careful reading of some of the most thorough meditations on the insular trope produced in the Hispanic Caribbean: José Lezama Lima's "Coloquio con Juan Ramón Jiménez," Virgilio Piñera's "La isla en peso," Antonio S. …

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