European Perspectives on Hispanic Literature of the United States

By Genvieve Fabre | Go to book overview

La Vida Es un Spanglish Disparatero:
BilinguaHsm in Nuyorican Poetry

Frances R. Aparicio
University of Arizona

Due to the political struggle of Hispanics in the United States as minorities within the milieu of a dominant culture, their respective literatures are characterized by a stance of cultural differentiation and resistance vis-a-vis the other, the Anglo world. If one considers language as both an identity marker and a tool for defining one's identity, the mixture of Spanish and English within an individual text serves to define the writer's cultural and political position within his/her bicultural world. Puerto Rican poets in the United States are diversified in their preference for literary styles, traditions and language use. There are, however, two discernible trends among Puerto Rican poets in New York. Reflecting a variety of individual linguistic experiences, poets like Iván Silóoen, Carmen Valle, Manuel Ramos Otero and Luz Ivonne Ochart write poetry in Spanish. These poets, educated in Puerto Rico, have lived or are living in New York as professionals and share an intellectual, highly-stylized -- and politically committed -- literary production with their counterparts in Puerto Rico. The second group, made up of poets who were born or raised in New York, like Miguel Algarín, Tato Laviera, Pedro Pietri and Sandra Marfa Esteves, write in English or in Spanglish, and strive to create an oral, bilingual context which reflects the popular culture and the social conditions of the puertorriqueños in El Barrio. 1 This second category of poetry, to which we will refer as Nuyorican poetry, is based on popular language, on the everyday speech of la gente. As such, it represents a response to the political oppression and discrimination on the part, among many, of the educational institutions in the United States. These Puerto Ricans in the United States, as Third World writers, voice their protest against the negative attitudes of the educated, literate upper classes in a very creative and original way: by using their "incorrect" or "vulgar" language as poetic discourse and, moreover, within a literary, context, as words in print. Bilingual poetry is an antidote to this common prejudice against popular language. 2

As Tato Laviera's "esquina dude" tell us, street language is effectively convincing speech, devoid of the rhetorical and literary expectations

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