This article is dedicated to my mother, Leonor Campoverde Pulgarin de Taiano.
After 117 years of its independence from Spain, Puerto Rico is still a country characterized by political and territorial contradictions, in which the message of liberty has been distorted and the Puerto Rican identity has been minimized. This paper proposes an analysis of No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico, essay in which Luis Rafael Sanchez highlights the ways in which political forces, through an apparently puerility, have tergiversated the Puerto Rican self, placing it in a subaltern relationship within American society. In order to carry out our my research I have paid special attention to the concepts of self-definition and self-mystification, judged by Luis Rafael Sánchez as crucial elements for the island’s emancipation.
The quote above refers to the English translation from the Greek γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated as gnóthi seautón. This aphorism, engraved in the pronaos of the Oracle of Delphi, has been defined by Massimo Cacciari as a dissos logos or rational discourse marked by an enigmatic ambiguity that induces to overcome the human limits. According to this Italian philosopher, “know yourself” is a maxim that, under the appearance of an affirmation, expresses the perplexity and impossibility of reaching self-knowledge (Cacciari, 2004: 27). Therefore, Cacciari establishes an analogy between the relationship “individual-mind” and “peras (limit)- apeiron (unlimited)”. The Italian concludes that inquiring into the own nature is a serious form of transgression, since self-discovery leads to a disastrous destiny (37-45). This happens, for example, with the heroes of Greek tragedies, which, influenced by a kind of pernicious hybris, end by killing themselves.
According to Anthony Smith, the discovery of the self uncovers also a social self, a category and a role, even when it proves to be erroneous. The scholar analyses the question of identity, collective as well as individual, in Sophocles’ plays and concludes that the hero’s quest always finishes with a tragic certitude (Smith, 13). This is the case of Oedipus, which only after the shattering revelation of his identity began to glimpse the meaning of his destiny. He is not a successful ruler, a normal husband and father, or saviour of his city. In turn, he becomes a defiling presence, a murderer, a low-born slave, a foreigner, a child of Fortune. Only at the end does he see what, though sighted, he was unable to “see” and what only Teiresias, the blind seer, could see. He will become another Teiresias, another blind seer, with the power to heal and save through his suffering and his unique fate (Smith, 13).
The tale of Oedipus throws into sharp relief the problem of identity. It reveals the way in which the self is composed of multiple identities and roles: familiar, territorial, class, religious, ethnic and gender. It also reveals how each of these identities is based on social classifications that may be modified or even abolished. The revelation of Oedipus’ birth teaches us that another unseen world touches our material world, turns its social categories upside down and destroys all familiar identities (Smith, 14)
A similar philosophical rationalism, based in a dialectical contrast, is applied by Luis Rafael Sanchez to analyse the hierarchical determinism that exists in Puerto Rico (Gelpi, 1993: 109). In fact, through the observation of the discursive and para-discursive signs that takes place every July 4th on the streets of San Juan, the author judges that Puerto Rican idiosyncrasy is characterized by a double sense or dialectical resentment that questions islanders’ self-knowledge. Sánchez sees, in the relationship between the American macrocosms and the Puerto Rican microcosm, an idiosyncratic enigma that legitimise a sort of neo-colonialist indoctrination.
«Pero de adoctrinamiento se trata, de la proclamación de una arrolladora superioridad norteamericana y la proclamación de una insuperable precariedad puertorriqueña, del descrédito de la nación puertorriqueña diz porque responde a un pensamiento reaccionario y el crédito de la nación norteamericana diz porque hace de los puertorriqueños ciudadanos primermundistas (Sánchez, 1998: 204)».
The problem of identity is one of the central issues of Puerto Rican literature and it is certainly one of the main concerns of No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico. In this book, Luis Rafael Sánchez conceptualizes Puerto Rican lack of identity under the Spanish colonialism and under USA’s protection. Sánchez proposes a collective cultural identification based on ethnic and mythological principles that allow the development of a national ideology and a patriotic symbolism.
In this sense, Sánchez is searching for a solution to a problem that exists since the Spanish Colonial times, in which minorities with different mythological, religious and ethnic identities strove to be included within the hegemonic society. Puerto Rican episodes of persecution to those who professed a dissimilar faith or had a different ethnic identity are documented since the XVI century, when Inquisition persecuted slaves, Jewish, Protestants or every person accused of practicing heterodox rituals in relation to the Catholic Church or the Spanish Empire.
«No se da sepultura Eclesiástica a los difuntos que en vida no entraron por la puerta del Bautismo o si entraron fueron echados por sus culpas, y acabaron fuera de su gremio, no queriendo comunicar muertos a los que no comunica vivo, y porque sería gran delito hacer lo contrario, dando sepultura sagrada a quien la Iglesia niega […] en que conforme al derecho se le debe denegar, y la pena del que lo contrario hiciere, se hallará en lo último de la Bula de la Cena del Señor (Sinodo de San Juan de Puerto Rico de 1645 Escrito por Damián López de Haro, 119)».
Proposing a collective ethnic and mythological identification is undoubtedly a chimera in an island whose history has always been marked by the rejection to those who, as we have seen, have a different religious and ethnic identity. However, Sánchez suggests, as Salman Rushdie did in relation to ethnic British people, that Puerto Rican people must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race or religion through a new Puerto Rican identity, in which all the islanders share the same myths and construct a common cultural country.
It is possible that Sánchez’s ideas present echoes of Friederich Meinecke’s concept of Kultur-nation. In fact, the German considered that a national religion and church could be a powerful cohesive force in former political nations that have lost their statehood. In the case of Puerto Rico, the island has never been a real independent state, but Sánchez’s considers that first it has to become a cultural nation to build a real political nation.
Through the creation of a new Puerto Rican mythology, the island must become a “cultural homeland” for the islanders. Myths have to be considered motifs of veneration and exaltation whose inner meanings can be understood by the self-aware members of the cultural-nation. Puerto Rican’s myths as well as its economic resources have to be exclusive to Puerto Ricans; they are not for “alien” use and exploitation as happened during the Spanish dominion and its happening under the American Protectorate.
«Empeño es este en que pone a sus naturales su pundonor y fidelidad, sin otro motivo, cuando es cierto que la riqueza que le dio nombre, por los veneros de oro que en ella se hallan, hoy por falta de sus originarios habitadores que los trabajen, y por la vehemencia con que los huracanes procelosos rozaron los árboles de cacao, que a falta de oro provisionaban de lo necesario a los que lo traficaban y, por el consiguiente, al resto de los isleños, se transformó en pobreza».
It is possible that behind Sánchez’s dream of a Puerto Rican cultural-nation, there is an aspiration of an intellectual autarchy in which Puerto Rico is ideologically self-governing and acknowledges no claim of another county to interferences or control. In fact, Sánchez’s essay transmits the impression that continual subjugation is part of the islanders’ nature, which lacks of a positive hybris of power.
Looking inside a sad love story…
According to the writer, as soon as Puerto Rico became independent from Spain, the island started a sad love story with the North American country, falling into an unequal and degrading alliance. Puerto Rico is the poor lover of a Hollywoodian love, based on an amatory code that belongs to a capitalist moral that behind the happy-end conceals a tragic history of subjugation and exclusion. Within the last aspect, Sánchez examines the questions connected with migration, emphasizing that, according to the American conception, Puerto Ricans, even when they have the American citizenship, are categorized in the same group than the rest of the Latin American migrants, including the illegals (Sánchez, 1998: 197-198).
«La personalidad cultural puertorriqueña se afianza cuando muere el siglo diecinueve, cuando el imperio español se fue a la porra. […] Nunca se fue tan puertorriqueño como cuando los norteamericanos entraron por el poblado marino de Guánica y se corrió la voz de que llegaban otros a mandar. Desde entonces, sin que la ciudadanía norteamericana, impuesta en el mil novecientos diecisiete, tuviese un efecto modificador, para los puertorriqueños, los norteamericanos han sido siempre los otros, como lo fueran, en sus días de mando, los españoles […] los puertorriqueños han conseguido sobrevivir a cien años de forzada relación con los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica (Sánchez, 1998: 210)».
Puerto Ricans, with their “American citizenship”, are part of the American nation but cannot be included within the “American community”. Their historical memory is heterogeneous from the American ethnic model of nation, which stresses the importance of Anglo Saxon background as a reference to the American vernacular culture. Puerto Rican colonial Spanish past and their use of Spanish as first language have played a central role in their reduction to the category of ethno-linguistic population. Their case illustrates the profound gulf between the fact of “having the American citizenship”, and “being a real American citizen”.
In fact, the relationship between USA and Puerto Rico places the islanders in a prickly sociocultural position. The expressions spik or Nuyorrican circumscribed a linguistic and racial limit that categorize them as immigrants, because their origins are different from the “WASP” ideal. Therefore, they often live on the edge of the society that is “hosting” them, “confined” in Hispanic neighbourhoods characterized by the micro criminality, because they are considered as a social problem for American Society (Martínez, 2014: 45-69).
«Un país cuya historia la complica el debatido amancebamiento con la nación norteamericana, la descomposición social manifiesta en la alta tasa de criminalidad, la narcosis, las mil caras de la violencia. A la complicación histórica de Puerto Rico hay que sumar el éxodo de la mitad de su gente hacia la utopía perforada de la gran ciudad – de spiks tildan en las metrópolis norteamericanas a los puertorriqueños que revientan en español, de nuyorricans tildan a los puertorriqueños que revientan en inglés (Sánchez, 1998: 196-197)».
This relation of subordination with USA has provoked a debate between American and Puerto Rican authorities that fluctuates from politics of assimilation to plans of integration. The first, according to Sánchez, leads to the loss of the Hispanic tradition in the name of American hegemony. The second, based on statehood, aspires a model of equality that pursuits Puerto Ricans total integration to the American society (Sánchez Rondón, 2006: 11-25). Luis Rafael Sánchez criticizes both tendencies, because he thinks that, in view of the fact that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, any policy of assimilation or integration constitutes a form of exclusion from an American hegemonic society that considers islanders a “Caribbean reserve”.
«Inculcar que en la nación norteamericana se asienta la nación de los puertorriqueños, hasta creer que la ciudadanía y la nacionalidad son calidades intercambiables, diseminar el embuste de que Puerto Rico no pasa de ser un bullanguero beach resort where the best piñas coladas can be tasted within the boundaries of the United States of America. Es decir, que Puerto Rico no es más que una divertida localidad norteamericana, la postal de un Caribe al que complace la placidez (Sánchez, 1998: 207)».
With his rigorous observations about this “act of love” between “unequal lovers”, Sánchez transmits an aggressive message that denounces the deplorable conditions of USA-Puerto Rico alliance, taking a concrete vision in front of the neo-colonial subjugation status (Tineo, 2012: 211-226). Therefore, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico could be defined as a committed essay that reflexes on the 1898 independence’s paradox and denounces the stratagems that pretend to deform Puerto Rican identity.
The rhetoric of informal colonialism: puerility and distortion
Fundamental contributions to “Puerto Rican deformation” are the discourses pronounced by the “submitted authorities”. According to the author, Puerto Rico is genetically strange to any patriotic staunch, for the reason that those “Gringophiles” from today, were the “Hispanophiles” from yesterday. Puerto Rican policy lacks of a patriotic ideology and shows a real colonial phenomenology that can be perceived in its eternal assistance to the foreign powers and its disdain to its own reality (Ianneo, 2005: 27).
«No han faltado los políticos y los intelectuales comprometidos, as in a full time job, a menoscabar los símbolos de la nación puertorriqueña, a parodiar su imaginario espiritual, a destacar sus limitaciones y agigantar sus precariedades, a dictaminar la vejez o la obsolescencia de cualquier discurso que la acredite como un llamativo por intenso fragmento de la humanidad, un fragmento diferente y útil. No le han faltado sepultureros a la nación puertorriqueña, los hispanófilos de otrora, los gringófilos de ahora (Sánchez, 1998: 211)».
On the basis of the above mentioned considerations, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico affirms that government speeches are infallible elaborated texts that employs argumentative instruments to intercede for the island’s subjugation, this is, in his opinion, the rhetoric of the informal colonialism. In this way, the apparent puerility of July 4th, for example, hides a gnoseological function based on concepts of supremacy and subordination that relegates their patriotic symbols to overvalue the American emblems.
«Como pieza de oratoria resulta ineficaz, desmerece al orador, poco o nada interesa. Aclara, interesa si se lo valora como la ratificación verbal de un acto n que la subordinación lanza un do de pecho (Sánchez, 1998:194)».
In No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico, Luis Rafael Sánchez carries out a work of construction and deconstruction of two important concepts that have marked Puerto Rican society: puerility and distortion. The peak of both is manifested, according to Sánchez, by the deceitful demonstration of July 4th, which, even though it tries to appear as a sort of diplomatic convenience, hides a despicable neo-colonial policy.
«No, tanta puerilidad no debe tildarse de pueril. Tampoco se la debe justificar como el parto de una pupila cansada o el trabajo aburrido de quienes son artistas de tarde en tarde o el incurrimiento con el clisé naif. El cálculo existe, el doble fondo, el intento de ideologizar la apariencia inofensiva de los dibujitos (Sánchez, 1998: 205)».
Speeches, placards, and all the American symbols that prevail over Puerto Rican streets affirm a phenomenon of subjugation. Every July 4th is a semantic micro-universe, based on the apparently insignificant objects that spread a political ideology that, beyond seeking the consensus, tries to impose a foreign power. Therefore, Sánchez’s core interest is the imperial political message, transmitted by means of a distortion erected with the collaboration of Puerto Rican politicians and the multitude’s resignation. Both sectors allow a perfect connection among rhetoric, propaganda and politics (Jaimes, 2013: 41-68).
Par consequence, Luis Rafael Sánchez perceives the conglomerate of foreign pseudo-myths as instruments that legalise the imposition of neo-colonial political projects. With the impersonation of their own national symbols with those of USA, Puerto Rico accepts its lacks of autonomy. The damnatio memoriae of the Hispanic past is provoking that the island falls into a normative “Americanism”.
«Unas imágenes policromas, que aparejan el enigma y la sugerencia, captan los frutos abundantes de la subordinación aludida, una subordinación que hace parpadear la credulidad cuando agranda los símbolos nacionales de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica y aminora los símbolos nacionales de Puerto Rico (Sánchez, 1998: 194)».
The fact that Puerto Rican emblems are being forgotten or reduced to the category of “local stuff” is leading to a trivialization of the Puerto Ricans’ selfless. The island is losing its cultural continuity because is threatening its lieux de memoire, removing its history from the collective memory (Nora, 1984: 23-43). No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico examines those intentional acts that conduce to cultural oblivion and cultural repression until the annihilation of the nation’s memory (Assmann, 2006: 81-100). Behind the puerility and distortion there is an act of manipulation that is reducing all the Puerto Ricans to the category of subordinates and colonised (Portinaro, 2011: 47).
«La nación que se venera en los anuncios que invitan a participar de la parada del cuatro de julio en San Juan es la norteamericana […] la usurpación o la tragantada de Puerto Rico por los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica (Sánchez, 1998: 208)».
Panem et circensis: The dialectic of happiness
By means of a “dialectic of happiness”, the islander authorities denaturalize the Puerto Rican principle of self-determination, impeding that Puerto Ricans can “know themselves” by losing every possibility of real independence. In this sense, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico aspires the Puerto Rican vindication against those authorities who are transgressing their fundamental principles of the nation’s rights to self-determination (Summers, 2014: 34). Sánchez is very explicit in his appraisals and emphasizes the fact that USA, with the collaboration of Puerto Rican authorities, has always operated in an ingenious way to mislead the public opinion regarding the American control over the island.
«La dialéctica de la alegría, de la juerga hasta irse de boca, de la invitación a una borrachera donde naufraga toda lucidez, el aguacero de dibujitos, pretende embellecer dos mentiras inescrupulosas. Una dice que Puerto Rico festeja su independencia cuando los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica. La otra dice que Puerto Rico no tiene que alcanzar su soberanía porque los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica alcanzaron la suya […] Más o menos paráfrasis, más o menos hipótesis, en Puerto Rico todo es tergiversación (Sánchez, 1998: 206)».
This “dialectic of happiness” hides a politic strategy of Panem et circenses that influences the Puerto Rican mass. This Roman formula, adapted to Puerto Rican context, has become an efficient instrument in the hands of authorities to keep the population peaceful, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to “integrate” the American tradition by perceiving their “protector” as a generous friend without thinking in the prices of this “joy” and the public investment in pro-American propaganda. Uncle Sam has become a sort of Caesar who must be celebrated as a prominent personage of the island’s “prosperity”.
The relatively swift disappearance of Puerto Rican culture must be seen as an example of cultural genocide. The impersonation of Puerto Rican symbols is destroying the islander identity itself. The dialectic of happiness is eradicating Puerto Rican culture to obtain a total American cultural absorption, which does not mean Puerto Rican total inclusion or assimilation to the metropolis. Puerto Rico is simply becoming a lateral ethnic group that survives by changing its character, that is, by adopting new traditions and/or customs, even a new language, while preserving its name.
Taking into consideration the intentional Puerto Rican denaturalization, the essential point of No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico is the idea that the island has the duty to “know itself”. Puerto Rico has to continue its phase of self-determination and all the Puerto Ricans must self-define their condition of citizens within a specific territorial unity or demos, as well as in their role of members of their own community or ethnos (Portinaro, 2013: 47-65).
Self-determination begins by self-mythification
Puerto Rican self-determination can be reached through the revitalization of their myths, their history and their identity. For that reason, Luis Rafael Sánchez takes up the words of the song No llores por mí Argentina, dedicated to Eva Perón’s memory and adapts them to the Puerto Rican context. Beyond the real personality of Evita, her image generated one of the myths that consolidated Peronism and then became a symbol of the Argentinian identity (Rosano, 2005: 158-173).
«Mis queridos descamisados: Yo no valgo por lo que hice, yo no valgo por lo que soy ni por lo que tengo. Yo tengo solo una cosa que vale, la tengo en mi corazón. Me quema en el alma, me duele en mi carne, y arde en mis nervios. Es el amor de este pueblo. Si este pueblo me pidiese la vida, se la daría cantando, porque la felicidad de un solo descamisado vale más que mi vida. […] Yo sé que Dios está con nosotros […] y por eso la victoria es nuestra […]. Mi gloria es y será siempre el escudo de Perón y la bandera de mi pueblo y aunque deje en el camino jirones de mi vida, yo sé que ustedes recogerán mi nombre y lo llevaran como bandera a la victoria».
No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico takes up precisely the idea of national space monopoly achieved with the image of Eva Perón, conceiving it as an exclusive source for the delegitimation of any foreign political system. Only the idealization of a person converted on a national symbol could call into question the neo-colonial authority. Puerto Rico needs to revive and to create Puerto Rican images that forge a national sentiment. Islander’s history should be carried out by their national heroes, real protagonist of Puerto Rican tradition (Perivolaris, 2000: 178).
In other words, Luis Rafael Sánchez expresses that nationalism based on self-mythification should become a fundamental reference to achieve the real Puerto Rican independence. A country, to constitute an independent state, needs more than self-knowledge, needs self-mythification. Eva Perón, Evita for the Argentinians, is a proof that not only the remote history is sensitive to a process of mythification. Evita’s legend should become an example for Puerto Rico in its millennial hope. The island requires of myths that define different typologies of citizens that could make of Puerto Rico a “real nation”. Antonio Cruz Colón, Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer Montes, Antonio Pedreira, Samuel Quiñones, for example, should assume their role of national heroes, because Puerto Rico requires going beyond the history to create patriotic myths of Independence.
Sánchez’s message is clear; Puerto Rico has to assume its intelligence, ideas, thoughts and myths to protect its territory. Therefore, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico tackles against the idea that Puerto Rico is vigour without intelligence, a brute force manifested through “national heroes” as Piculín Ortiz or Iris Chacón, who distinguish for their physical attributes. The hybris of emancipation must be canalized through titans whose metis puts an end to colonial incertitude. Metis against Dolos, astuteness against machination, this is Sánchez’s independence proposal. Only a heroism based on intelligence can finish with the misrepresentation that affects the island (Scurati, 2003: 43-77).
«Los mismos medios informativos que fomentan la tergiversación […] catalogan como MONUMENTOS NACIONALES los puños de Félix Trinidad, urgen la integración permanente del espectacular Piculín Ortíz al SELECCIONADO NACIONAL DE BALONCESTO y miman con el lauro de SUPER VEDETTE NACIONAL a la cantante y bailarina Iris Chacón. Lo que quiere decir que el concepto nación tiene el visto bueno cuando cobija la destreza física y el alarde rítmico, los chorros de sudor y el protuberante mollero. […] El concepto nación tiene el visto bueno para el deterioro semántico (Sánchez, 1998: 208)».
In sum, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico proposes a new political philosophy, in which the hybris deprived of metis is a fallacy. The author invites to create a political, social and cultural movement to promote a “real” independence based on romantic, nationalist and patriotic ideals to establish an insoluble identity with liberating capabilities.
Conclusion: a nationalistic and instigator essay
In this article, I have tried to demonstrate that No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico is an essay that delegitimize the foreign power by emphasising the lack of authority and the ideological inconsistency of the American protectorate over Puerto Rico. From this perspective, Luis Rafael Sánchez maintains the idea that the Caribbean island reclaims to become protagonist of its own history.
Sánchez makes a semiotic analysis of the supremacy of the American patriotic symbols in comparison with those from Puerto Rico, concluding that this is leading to a self-denigratory sentiment from the islanders. The supremacy of the Yankee over the Boricua could be perceived both on the Caribbean island as on American soil, where the Puerto Rican losses his/her gentilic to become a Spik or Nuyorrican, namely an inferior allied who is stereotyped due to his/her linguistic and ethnic characteristics.
In spite of these observations, Sánchez’s perspective does not have to be considered as anti-American, but must be interpreted as an open rejection to any foreign presence that intends, in his opinion, to subdue the island. His frontal observations not only are marked by his strong complaints against informal colonialism, but they manifest an intense sentiment of longing towards a motherland that requires being idealized and reinvented. As a matter of fact, Sánchez’s proposal consists on a paradisiacal self-definition of the island to be able to construct a national and independent identity. In others words, Sánchez supports the idea of Puerto Rico becoming subject and protagonist of its own history.
In this sense, No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico could be studied as an open denunciation to the colonialism disguised on cosmopolitanism. The author considers that the island is in a state of emergency and calls to an idiosyncratic revolution to combat the rhetoric of distortion. He suggests a rehabilitation and creation of national myths. “Puerto Rico does not have to cry for its sons”, they have to create a politic of self-mythification to become a nation. The island has to go over to the category of political subject in order to get a “voice”. The popular hybris and the heroic metis must be fundamental instruments to finish with the relationship of supremacy and subordination.
In sum, after analysing No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico we can define the book as an invitation to Puerto Rican self-knowledge and self-mythification. Sánchez’s message has to be interpreted as a suggestion that can be resumed in a few words: “Puerto Rico know yourself! Puerto Rico recreate your myths! Puerto Rico become yourself!” Unfortunately, Sánchez’s suggestion remains a dissos logos, because is a juxtaposition of contradictory propositions that leads to the “self-knowledge” by means of the “self-mythification”, namely to create an identity through mythology, reality through fantasy. There are no affirmations in No llores por nosotros Puerto Rico, Sánchez’s essays just expresses the author’s perplexity in relation to the Puerto Rican reality.
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 In Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus traverses a series of categories and roles. These roles and categories are at the same time so many collective identities, well known to fifth century Greeks. Even if they had no experience of kingship or murder, ancient Greeks were well acquainted with the symbolic and mythical significance of such subjects. The very strangeness of Oedipus’ ultimate fate made the false roles he consecutively “put on” seem familiar and easily intelligible
 Rafael Sánchez’s perspective is interesting, but he does not take into consideration that also the Yankeephobic from today were the hispanophobic from yesterday.
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