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DEFINICIONES, IDENTIDADES Y CULTURES
REGIONALES Y/O NACIONALES
REGIONAL AND/OR NATIONAL DEFINITIONS,
IDENTITIES AND CULTURES
DEFINICIONES, IDENTIDADES Y CULTURES REGIONALES Y/O NACIONALES
REGIONAL AND/OR NATIONAL DEFINITIONS, IDENTITIES AND CULTURES
Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships in the Humanities
College of Humanities University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus
President Universidad de Puerto Rico
Rector Recinto de Rio Piedras
Decano Facultad de Humanidades
Director Caribe 2000 / Caribbean 2000
Editores: Lowell Fiet, Janette Becerra
Colaboradores de edici6n: Sheila Bermfidez, Anamari Irizarry, Natalia
GonzAlez, Salinda Lewis
Portada: Fotos de Javier Cardona y Teresa Hernandez, por Miguel Villafafie.
Montaje por Marcos R. Pastrana.
Diseflo y diagramaci6n: Marcos R. Pastrana
Caribe 2000 no se responsabiliza por las expresiones vertidas por los autores
en esta publicaci6n.
Caribbean 2000 disclaims responsibility for statements either of fact or opinion
expressed by contributing authors.
Publicado por Caribe 2000 Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto Rico,
Recinto de Rio Piedras, P.O.Box 23356 UPR Station, San Juan, PR 00931-3356.
Tel. (787) 764-0000 ext. 7569, Fax: (787) 763-5899
01998 Caribe 2000 Universidad de Puerto Rico. Todos los derechos reservados.
Introducci6n: Hablar, nombrar
pertenecer: eljuego entire el idioma y la
identidad en la(s) cultura(s) caribefia(s) ........ 5
Mervyn C. Alleyne
Maria Elena Alonso
Brenda F. Berrian
Catherine Den Tandt
You Don't Look Like... .............................. ... 13
Isabella diserta........................... ......... 18
Anglophone and Hispanophone
Languages in Contact" Language and
Identity in English-Derived Creole-Speaking
Communities in CentralAmerica ...................... 23
Language and Identity in the Caribbean:
Symbols and Prerrogatives............................. 37
El juego entire el hablary
el escribir: unas notas.................................. 49
Eugene Mona: The Martinican
Performer of Angag6 Songs .......................... 59
Puerto Rico y Quebec: dos soledades ........... 74
History Through Words: Aspects of
Afro-Seminole Lexicography ...................... 87
Vivian Martinez Tabares
Iris Yolanda Reyes
Peter A. Roberts
Ellen M. Schnepel
La escena puertorriquefia
vista desde fuera/dentro .............................. 105
Posmodernismo y nacionalismo:
idebatir la naci6n? ..................................... 128
El espafiol de Puerto Rico:
political lingiifstica de 1898 a 1997............. 143
The Concept of "Ladino"
and the Melting Pot Process ......................... 154
Gendered Nationalism and the
Language Question in the
French Antilles: The Underrepresented
Voice of Women ................................ .... 170
Hablar, nombrar, pertenecer:
eljuego entire el idioma y la identidad
en la(s) cultura(s) caribenfa(s)
Caribbean 2000, Second Symposium
Y, ou don't look like..." "What...? I don't look... Puerto Rican, I
don't look... black, I don't look like this, I don't look like that.
What the f... am I supposed to look like?" The lines are
adapted from Afro-Puerto Rican actor/dancer Javier Cardona's
dance-monologue "You don't look like...," and in Puerto Rico, per-
haps no issue of cultural debate raises the stakes as steeply or hones
the level of personal involvement as sharply as national cultural iden-
tity. Thus the hard-wired relationship between the Spanish language
and Puerto Ricanness and between English and Puerto Rico's colo-
nial status creates an already charged political arena in which to stage
a symposium that revolves around who speaks, who names, and who
belongs (and the languages) in which those processes are negoti-
ated). That central concern assumes regional dimensions through
related themes that treat the legitimacy of creole versus standard
languages, explore how language mediates notions of gender, race,
and ethnic origin, question the writing and reception of history, or
assault the theoretical apparatus of national versus global, modern
versus postmodern paradigms. The papers and artistic texts included
here from Speaking, Naming, Belonging: the Interplay of Language
andIdentity in Caribbean Culture(s), 11-13 February 1997, the second
*Director, Caribbean 2000, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.
annual symposium of the Rockefeller Foundation-supported Carib-
bean 2000 residency site for Caribbean scholars at the University
of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, address these and similar is-
sues as they analyze the roles language plays in determining, main-
taining, and/or undermining Caribbean identity(ies).
It was apparent at the opening ceremony that the second sympo-
sium would be different from the 1996 "re-Definitions"--global/na-
tional/cultural/personal-of Caribbean spacess. The larger and more
varied crowd of spectators that gathered in the Julia de Burgos The-
ater for the launching of Speaking, Naming, Belonging was less paro-
chial than the audience of (mainly) Caribbean specialists who at-
tended the first symposium. Initially, no doubt, some were drawn
by famous keynote speakers and well-known performance artists.
But word had spread in a year's time, and the heightened interest
on the part of students, faculty, and general public extended well
beyond the opening speeches and performances and carried
throughout the two days of panels and presentations that followed.
The participants now came from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Bar-
bados, Canada, and various points in the United States, the languages
spoken and/or under discussion included Spanish, English, French
patois, Afro-Seminole, Quebecois, and the English creoles of the
Caribbean and Central America, and the topics ranged from a popu-
lar musician in Martinique, a revised etymology of ladino, the his-
tory of Loiza Aldea, language politics and policies in Puerto Rico,
the postmodern critique of Puerto Rican Nationalism, cultural sepa-
ratism in Qu6bec and Puerto Rico, and to gendered-nationalism and
the under-represented voice of women, among other papers, work-
shops, readings, and performances.
B.I. "Identities in Question"
The opening ceremony of Speaking, Naming, Belonging. the Inter-
play of Language and Identity in Caribbean Culture(s) deserves sepa-
rate comment. Titled "Identities in Question," this special evening
session and reception set the tone for the entire symposium. To
have the Barbadian novelist George Lamming, the advocate of Car-
ibbean regionalism, and the archeologist and historian Ricardo
Alegria, the defender of Puerto Rican cultural nationalism, together
on the same stage seemed the most appropriate point of departure
HABLAR, NOMBRAR, PERTENECER 7
for the symposium. At the same time, the issue of identity also re-
quired a physical presence and expression in the language of per-
formance. Thus, a program was devised to include the work of two
outstanding performance artists as well: Teresa Hernandez and
George Lamming was enthusiastically introduced by Puerto Rican
short-story writer and novelist Ana Lydia Vega. She emphasized
the quality of "voice" in Lamming's novels and in his role over the
past two decades as an at-large teacher who "voices" the shared
concerns of endangered Caribbean cultures. Lamming's remarks
began with the intent "to locate ... the Caribbean in the imagina-
tion." He called on "voices from across the region" -Rex Nettleford
(Jamaica), Edouard Glissant (Martinique), Lloyd Best (Trinidad),
Bernardo Vega (Dominican Republic), and Derek Walcott (St. Lucia)-
to evoke a sense of family, of federation "by marriage, if not law," of
a "plurality of forms, whatever the unanimity of feeling," and the
artistic recognition of a common predicament, need, and destiny.
Yet race continues to be the negative marker and divider: "race
is a political construct... intended to subvert the normal relations
of men and women in the process of work." Lamming followed that
assertion by what is possibly his most unique contribution to the
notion of Caribbean identity:
... it is in the process of work, in all its variety, with defiance, what
you call identity. This work, whatever its vocational character, is
an integral part of the whole. We make this whole, and we are made
by it at one and the same time. This reciprocity is constant, but it
is not static, for a man who is organically related to his work is
continually re-creating himself. What is my identity? I live it and, at
the same time, I create it. What is the Caribbean identity? It is that
process in which Caribbean peoples are and continue to be in-
volved as they choose their tasks and re-create their situations.
There is no fixity of location in this defining process. Identity is the
accumulation of many-layered identities: it is always plural.
The writer and artist are workers as well, and their task is re-
turning "society to those areas of experience which remain largely
8 LOWELL FIET
invisible between citizen and citizen in the normal course of living
together" and exploring "areas of human experience whose meaning
and significance might otherwise have remained obscure, hidden
beyond . immediate conscious reach." Thus, for Lamming, the
vital work function of the writer is the creation of a literature that
"preserves the collective memory of the people and assures a con-
tinuing dialogue between the ancestors and all who come after ..."
After brief explorations of the island as an imaginary landscape
and the enrichment and transformation of Caribbean literature by
women writers, Lamming closed his remarks by commenting on the
current design of externally controlled, government-supported tour-
ism: "the uncritical embrace of privatization as the mode... of de-
velopment now threatens to convert every single Caribbean soci-
ety into a service station." According to Lamming, such practices
"will repeat the lesson of our first plantation experience when sugar
was the material base of our survival and also the source of our
deepest humiliation." Adapting a phrase from North American so-
cial thinker Wright Mills, to close, Lamming asked, "Will these pro-
ceedings make an investment in encouraging responsible engage-
ment in the defense and nurturing of 'genuinely living things'?" Lam-
ming returned to that theme in comments that closed the sympo-
sium three days later. In that final session, he took the linguists, in
particular, to task for what he saw as the lack of correspondence
between their studies of creole languages and the lives and living
conditions of the speakers of those languages. (All quoted materi-
als come from the audio tape of the "Identities in Question" opening
session, 11 February 1997.)
B.3. Ricardo Alegria
Dr. Ricardo Alegria, archeologist, folklorist, historian, founding
director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, founder and chan-
cellor of the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe,
cultural activist, and much more, is simply Don Ricardo for most
Puerto Ricans. From the late 1940s forward he has been the princi-
pal architect of institutional support to preserve Puerto Rico's co-
lonial heritage and to promote local cultural production. In the past
decade, he has become a major spokesman in the often heated "lan-
guage debates" in which Puerto Rico's Hispanic cultural identity
HABLAR, NOMBRAR, PERTENECER
confronts and opposes assimilation to North American cultural
forms. His views were perhaps best recorded in an address he
made during the famous La Naci6n en march rally in Fajardo in
1996 that, in spite of heavy rains, drew over one-hundred thou-
sand participants in support of a Puerto Rican national identity
based on a shared Hispanic language and cultural heritage.
Don Ricardo was appreciatively introduced by Puerto Rican lit-
erary scholar and critic Ram6n Luis Acevedo. Acevedo charac-
terized Alegria as probably the best known Puerto Rican both in-
side and outside of the island and cautioned that his great influ-
ence and productivity over the past half century not be taken for
granted. Don Ricardo remains "un peligro", a threat, and there is a
radicality in his articulation of a Puerto Rican national and cul-
tural identity that raises it above either blind chauvinism or po-
litical maneuvering. The richness of cultural experience that in-
forms his positions educates and expands the horizons even of
those who, in principal, object to his notions of how language func-
tions or its relation to race, empire, nation, and culture.
Alegria clarified at the outset that he was directing his com-
ments to the younger members of the audience. His task was to
relate events that he had lived but they had not, to create a basis
in historical and personal fact of how colonizers use language to
dominate and control colonized populations. After briefly recount-
ing how Spain, following the Roman model, enforced Spanish for
four centuries in its American possessions, the discussion turned
to the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898. Imposing English as
the language of instruction in the newly implemented system of
public education became a tool in the "Americanization" of the
Puerto Rican population. Alegria's retelling of the history of resis-
tance to English adds a particular dimension as he plays the double
role of historian and informant. The details include quotes from
official letters from U.S. education supervisors in Puerto Rico Vic-
tor Clark and Martin Brumbaugh, the attitudes of major political
figures such as Harold Ickes and Eleanor Roosevelt toward the
"Americanization" of Puerto Rico, and personal childhood anec-
dotes such as recalling his own dressing as Patrick Henry to march
with the printed insignia "Give me Liberty or Give me Death."
The story needs to be retold. Cultural imperialism (no longer a
popular term) and resistance to it remain critical aspects of Puerto
Rican identity. Spanish became the official language of instruction
in Puerto Rican public schools in 1947. Whether Spanish was ever
really threatened will continue to be debated, as will the nature of
the minority role English plays in Puerto Rican education and soci-
ety. What distinguishes Don Ricardo Alegria from other advocates
of one or another position on Spanish, English, cultural autonomy,
or assimilation is the absolute clarity of his argument, the wealth of
documentation he brings to support it, and the sense of humor and
graciousness of the individual himself.
B.4. "You don't look like..." and "Isabella diserta"
The performances by Javier Cardona and Teresa HernAndez were
originally scheduled to follow the remarks of George Lamming and
Ricardo Alegria. However, the artists intervened and asked why
they always go last, as if they were dessert after the more nutritious
dinner. The program was changed, and the performances followed
George Lamming's comments. Javier Cardona and Teresa HernAndez
are among the most exciting artists working in Puerto Rico today.
They are actor-dancer-writers who script, shape, choreograph, and
perform their own unique theater texts. They address issues of
Puerto Rican identity, language, race, and nationality as well as the
broader themes of gender and local versus global culture that are
critical to the Caribbean 2000 project. Because of the importance
of these performances, the full written text of "You don't look like..."
(translated to English) and "Isabella diserta" are included as the
opening texts of this volume.
I will not be able to thank everyone who played a role in Carib-
bean 2000's second symposium or in this publication. I do want to
take time to thank all the participants. The four Rockefeller schol-
ars for 1996-97 -Mervyn Alleyne (University of the West Indies,
Mona, Jamaica), Vivian Martinez (Casa de las Am6ricas, Cuba),
Catherine Den Tandt (University of Alberta), and Brenda Berrian
(University of Pittsburgh)- turned in impressive performances and
papers. The names of all others who read papers appear in the
HABLAR, NOMBRAR, PERTENECER
table of contents, and I will not thank them individually here. I
should also mention, however, the exquisite performance in sound
and movement by Ivette Roman, the innovative performance pieces
of Anamin Santiago and Kisha Kitina, the energized reading that fea-
tured the poets Mayra Santos and Rafael Acevedo, and the theater
image workshop led by Rosa Luisa MArquez. These activities are
more difficult to capture on the page. They made a strong contribu-
tion to the overall sense and impact of the symposium.
The Caribbean 2000 staff of graduate assistants -Janette
Becerra, Annette GuevArez, Vanessa Arce, Javier "Quique" Avila, and
Reginald Pierce- worked tirelessly during the symposium. Salinda
Lewis, Natalia GonzAlez, Sheila Bermidez, and Anamari Irizarry have
assisted Janette Becerra in the preparation of this volume. Marcos
Pastrana deserves praise for his formatting of these materials. The
staff of the English Department and its director, Prof. Alfonso
Rubiano, provided strong support, as did Prof. Idalia P6rez Garay of
the Drama Department. Thanks as well to Chancellor Efrain Gonzalez
Tejera and to Dean of Humanities Dr. Francis Schwartz for their par-
ticipation in the symposium. Finally, a note of particular gratitude
to the Rockefeller Foundation for their sponsorship and especially
to Tomas Ybarra Frausto and Lynn Szwaja for their patience, under-
standing, and cooperation.
You Don't Look Like...
a monologue by Javier Cardona
irror, mirror on the wall, I need to know if I'm also a... That's
how it all began. Yes; they called me to do a TV commer
cial to advertise a brand of toothpaste. It took me by sur-
prise, because you know who always gets chosen to do this kind of
commercial. So I told myself: well, they have finally noticed that we
brush our teeth too. So I went. They were going to pay well, more
or less, and besides, they called me, and at least that's something.
When I got there, I noticed that all of us, the "talent" -that's what
we're called in this business- were ... well ... you know ... 1 mean ...
with the exception, of course, of the girl who was directing the cast-
ing. Then I saw that the people, when facing the camera, spoke in a
strange way. Immediately, I confess, I thought they must be
nuyorricans, or that they had a problem with ... with ... pronuncia-
tion, diction... I don't know! But slowly, I began to understand: that
was exactly what the girl was looking for!
"Look at the camera, please."
(I now address myself to individual audience members and interview
them by holding up a hand mirror of the "Snow White" variety as if I
were recording everything with a video camera. I wait for an answer
to each question..)
"Tell me your full name."
"Have you done anything before for another brand?"
"Okay, now you're going to look straight into the camera and say
a few easy lines: "Bunga, bunga, agua."
"Remember the character ... put more spice in it ... more feeling ...
this is the Caribbean, more ... rhythm."
"Now give me your left profile, your right profile."
14 A MONOLOGUE BY JAVIER CARDONA
"Okay, look to the front, give me a big smile.., you are happy ...that's
it, very good. Thank you. You're very photogenic. I'm sure we'll be
calling you. Next ...!
(The interview is repeated with some variations, depending on the
reactions of the randomly chosen audience members.)
And when my turn came, and I faced the camera and began to do
what the girl told me .... My God!, such a mess formed in my mind
that I ran out of the studio without even finishing the audition.
(With my back to the audience, I watch them carefully in a big, round
mirror decorated with sugar packets. I then become a waiter.)
"Sorry, good evening, welcome, excuse me, how are you, hi ... !
We have regular and diet ... I'm sorry, we don't have brown sugar
... no ... the company doesn't market it anymore.
(In a polite, nice, and submissive way, I offer the audience the packets
of granulated sugar and artificial sweetener that decorate the big mir-
ror that now serves as a serving tray.)
You'll have to excuse me for insisting on telling the story, but it's
just that ... it doesn't end there. To my amazement, they called me
the next day. Do you know what for? TO TRY ON THE WIG! A
braided synthetic afro-wig with weird curls!
Hey, hey, hey! My face turned red with anger. My tongue spit out
a thousand words in as many directions. I didn't know if I should
insult her or thank her.
(The lines are recited to the rhythm of Bomba music and in the tone
and style of Juan Boria. [Bomba is traditional African-drum dance
music, and Juan Boria was a famed Afro-Puerto Rican reciter of folk-
loric Afro-Caribbean-inspired verse -poesia negroide].) The thing
is, I bet she's still waiting for me with the wig in her hand ... because
I decided not to go.
(Now speaking as an expert lecturer.)
"At least in the artistic and cultural environment, of course, be-
yond Chianita, Pirulo el Colorao, Ruperta la Caimana, Cuco Pasurin,
Willy el Merenguero, [black-face performers on Puerto Rican televi-
sion] etc., etc., etc., they have their own space."
You DON'T LOOK LIKE... 15
Yes, and now, after all that, thanks to a local culture-backer, I have
a part in a play. It's a small part, as always. But as he told me
himself: "You have to shine. Give your best. Go for it because there
are no small parts, only small actors. And besides, man, you never
know when there'll be a famous director in the audience ... and what
if he discovers you?"
(The young actor's voice turns cynical as he looks at his image as a
black savage, a rumba dancer, a rapper, a cane-cutter, the black wise
man at Christmas, a santero madama, a uniformed maid, a stoned
rastafarian, and a basketball player being projected on a large screen
at the rear of the stage.)
Don't get too excited; this is not a costume party.
(I put on my make-up while I hum to the music of the song "Mami que
serd lo que quiere el negro" ["Mama what does the black man want?,"
a popular song recorded in the early 1980s by Dominican singer
Wilfrido Vargas]. Then I put on an afro-wig.)
The thing is that this culture-backer told me once: "But you don't
look so ..." Now, I look like they want me to look, aha, aha, aha ...
And all I have to do is speak as if I had marbles in my mouth. Be-
cause since the subject here is the Caribbean, the hot weather, the
mosquitoes, the rumba, you know ... all those things.
Well, if I'm dancing or performing something on stilts, there's al-
ways someone who asks me if I am from Loiza Aldea [the town in
Puerto Rico that is the center of the island's Afro-Caribbean heritage].
If I enter a store in Old San Juan, they think I come from St. Tho-
mas or from "the Islands." If I'm boarding a plane, they ask me all
kinds of stupid questions, looking for a "strange" accent. And if I'm
in the United States, they ask me the classic question: What am I? I
tell them in a straightforward, almost defensive way: Puerto Rican.
Immediately, they frown in amazement and, as if they were
complimenting me, say: "You don't look like a ..." Then I squint my
eyes, my fangs start to grow, my head and neck turn discreetly to
the left, my chest sticks out, and deep inside I ask myself: what the
f ... am I supposed to look like? I don't look ... Puerto Rican, I don't
look ... black, I don't look like this, I don't look like that. What am I
supposed to look like?
A MONOLOGUE BY JAVIER CARDONA
Mirror, mirror on the wall, you've been cracked from the very
beginning. But, since people always presume things ... look, if I shake
because I'm hot or because something itches or because I'm angry,
they already think I'm possessed.
(Dance. The movement sequence lasts about five minutes. Then, in
make-up, with the wig on and my backpack on my shoulder, I ask the
And now, do I look black enough for you?
Concept, text and performance: JAVIER CARDONA
Slides: MIGUEL VILLAFANE
Music: EL NEGRO, (LOS ANOS DORADOS) WILFRIDO VARGAS,
ANGUSTIA MATERNAL, (EL BAQUINE DE ANGELITOS NEGROS)
Translation to English: ANNETTE GUEVAREZ and LOWELL FIET
You DON'T LOOK LIKE... 17
% mMT^.,f, fi' "
Javier Cardona en You don't look like ... Foto por Miguel Villafaiie.
un mon6logo de Teresa HernAndez
Parte de este texto es torado de la pieza danza-teatro "Fernando e
Isabella", presentada en el concerto de danza "Kan 't translate-tradice-
lo", de Viveca Vdzquez en 1992. El mismo fue escrito por Eduardo Ale-
gria, Teresa Hern6ndez y Viveca V6zquez.
alou?, ,Qui6n? Yo soy ... Who's speaking? Carrribe,
Carrribe, Andale, Andale (silbido de coqui) ... ijole, ooh-la-
Sla. O1 Carrribe. O1 Carrribe. I want to live in A ... (referen-
cia de West Side Story ).
ImAgenes Hollywoodenses estrangulan nuestro suelo patrio. Res-
catemos nuestros iconos nacionales (silbido de coqui. The coqui
is a little tiny tree frog, one inch long. Its name comes from the
sound of its melodious song, which lullabies our people in the Puer-
to Rican countryside. At sundown, it surprises us, peekaboo, coqui,
peekaboo, coqui, to give us its war song. The coqui -our national
symbol! This is a traditional native poem for you, our special guests.
Welcome to Puerto Rico, a beautiful, tiny, little, fatty island in the
Caribbean. 99% independence free ... you know what I mean. And
now ladies and gentlemen, messieurs et mademoiselles, we are going
to start with propiedad.
Saludos a las mas altas esferas acad6micas, doctors, doctors,
s6quito presidential, algunos privilegiados, facultad ausente,
autodidactas europeos, artists clandestinos, series humans todos.
Le damos la mas cordial bienvenida a esta su sala de teatro Julia de
Burgos, una de las salas abiertas que comprende este edificio Luis A.
Ferr6 of the Performing Arts in the U.P.R., que muchas arrr, arrr-ar-
quitectura piden a gritos los departamentos de arte en esta facultad.
UN MON6LOGO DE TERESA HERNANDEZ 19
Hoy mi esqueleto se conmueve al presenciar tanto derroche de
ideas. Nuestro gran yuquiyfi danza el areyto combative celebrando
tanto contenido. Esta noche estaremos presenciando desde un pen-
sador barbaro del Caribe que nos visit, un alegre historiador re-
presentante de nuestro indigenismo, hasta un personaje negroide
native que nos danzard y parlara prejuicios pasados mas, no obs-
tante, a6n vigentes, en todos los series vivos. Estamos hablando de
presenciar una experiencia de multiples lenguajes -verbal, corpo-
ral, ideal, metaf6rico imaginal-, afirmando siempre nuestra estan-
cia en la marginal. Me parece, sefiores, que estamos frente a una
experiencia postmoderna, o sea, ya pas6 aquello -lo griego, lo clA-
sico, lo moderno-, ahora estamos (...hmmmm...) en el Internet.
Esta corriente postmodernista tan mencionada en la "Plaza de
las Americas Intelectual" no s61o se ha manifestado en el mundo de
las ideas, sino tambi6n en lo corp6reo, en la misica, en la literature
y en la arquitectura, donde tuvo sus inicios allA para el afo ... Dis-
culpen ... Verdaderamente la persona id6nea para hablarnos del
postmodernismo es mi colega Fernando, quien lamentablemente no
pudo estar con nosotros debido a su nuevo puesto diplomAtico en
la Embajada norteamericana en el Cairo. Fernando es un especia-
lista de las artes integradas, en lo microvisual, y un expert en el
postmodernismo. Claro, en todos los ismos menos el insularismo
- Get the point!
Postmodernidad. ZC6mo explicarlo en t6rminos simples? Como
el cambia cambia del televisor. ZPor que? ZQu6 tiene que ver la
telenovela, Sarajevo, Haiti, o mi iltimo viaje a India? Estamos ha-
blando de la interculturalidad, intertextualidad, interglobalizaci6n,
o sea, un gran uno para todos y todos sin ninguno. Algunos lo ven
como la desaparici6n de todas las utopias ... iAy bendito! Pido un
minute de silencio por las utopias (pausa).
Verdaderamente Puerto Rico es una carretera sin Arbol con esto
de la experimentaci6n en la bisqueda de su identidad. Es como un
televisor dafiado, viene la imagen y luego la interferencia. Estamos
interferidos todo el tiempo y esa interferencia cada vez es mayor, y
si no colocamos una antena a este televisor, la interferencia nos
Ilevara a una imagen que no vamos a poder reconocer. Afortunada-
mente, habemos personas que si bregamos con la interferencia.
Durante mis studios de multiculturalism, identidad y acto sexual
en Latinoamerica y los Paises Bajos, he podido profundizar sobre la
b6squeda de una identidad propia sumada a la rupturas cotidianas
de la hiper-humanidad. Esta semi6tica en la experimentaci6n del
ser brilla por su ausencia en las plataformas esc6nicas-politicas de
nuestro pais. En palabra del vulgo, sefiores, los puertorriquefios
tenemos que destaparnos, o sea, salir del closet. No podemos man-
tenernos en imagenes nostAlgicas del quinqu6, ni en imAgenes
preciosistas tipo Miami Vice y menos ain en la negaci6n de la me-
moria. No podemos olvidar que somos miembros del Tercer Mun-
do, ni renegar una trascendencia hist6rica-africana que nos viene
desde lo mas profundo y nos lleva hasta el frente en el leitmotif
pelvico de nuestros dias ... iAy Caramba! (pausa)
Sefiores, pero yo me reitero, o sea, re-vuelvo, itero-te lo digo, te-
nemos que trascender las imAgenes impuestas. jTrascender! Esa
es la palabra de esta noche! Tenemos que trascender, no importa
las consecuencias. Por ejemplo, nuestra cultural ha trascendido lu-
gares ins6litos con ese premio Principe de Asturias 1992, que muy
bien merecidos lo tenemos, lo teniamos, lo tuvimos .... En aquel
moment Ilevamos el espafol comin- el que se come todos los
dias al espafol magno. Es una emoci6n que no se puede traducir..
. (se queda buscando palabras). It's a feeling that I can't translate-
Kan't translate- Kant... tremendo fil6sofo. Emmanuel Kant nace
a mediados del siglo XVIII. Es conocido como el padre del idealismo
aleman. Un dato muy curioso, su madre era puertorriquefia... iArri-
En esta era de lo fashionable, politically correct, multiculturalism,
post-communism, hyper-imperialism, colonialism, and salsaism too,
and, if you hear (knock-knock) the door (Isabella comienza a impro-
visar en ingles sin sentido y retoma su discurso diciendo) ... But,
the Caribbean issue becomes ... (se queda sin palabras. Apag6n.).
Teresa Hernandez en Isabella diserta. Foto por Miguel Villafafie.
Anglophone and Hispanophone Languages in
Contact:Language and Identity In English-Derived
CreoleSpeaking Communities in Central America
his paper examines one aspect of language contact and iden-
tity in an Anglophone creole-speaking community in Central
America. It may be considered axiomatic to assume that
linguistic and cultural contact has always been a part of the history
of human beings, and always will be. Language contact is a general
diachronic dynamic which is commonly present within societies and
nations everywhere in the world. At any given period of time, the
history of the Americas reveals cultures and languages affecting one
another, influencing and changing each other, until something new,
something locally-born and -identified, has emerged. Europeans colo-
nizing the Western Hemisphere first came into contact with local
Amerindiangroups, later interacting with significant numbers of Af-
rican slaves brought to the Americas, and not one of these three
groups would remain unchanged in the future. I begin this paper
with some general remarks about language contact in the Ameri-
cas, and then proceed to focus on Central America, specifically the
country of Panama, in which I have spent many months over two
years conducting fieldwork and collecting data on an English-de-
rived Creole which has been spoken by tens of thousands of Afro-
Caribbeans within its borders for more than 150 years.
*Department of English Linguistics, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.
24 MICHAEL ACETO
Language Contact In The Americas
The often contentious politics of language in Puerto Rico has a ten-
dency to create an impression that language contact between variet-
ies of Spanish and English is somehow unique to the larger area of
the Western Hemisphere. (For details of the history of English in Puerto
Rico, see Pousada 1996.) It is not. In actual fact, in many countries of
the world, having to negotiate more than one language in a society is
more often the norm than the exception. In Puerto Rico, the specific
tugs and pulls of the dynamic, with its own political and educational
complexities, are essentially between two languages, varieties of
American English and Puerto Rican Spanish, though Puerto Rico con-
tains small minority speech communities which are often overlooked
(e.g. French creole-speaking Haitians, English-derived creole speak-
ers from the West Indies, Chinese, and Arabic speakers). In the United
States (U.S.), there are, according to the 1990 U.S. census data, at
least 24 languages with more than 100,000 speakers, with six of these
languages each spoken by more than a million people. Several vari-
eties of Spanish are also spoken by nearly 20 million speakers in the
U.S., and this number will inevitably grow larger in the future. Thus
one could accurately claim that more Spanish (i.e. in sheer num-
bers of speakers) is spoken in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico. The point
is simply this: multilingualism as well as linguistic and cultural con-
tact exists around the world, and contact, whether it be specifically
linguistic or generally cultural, produces changes which cannot be
predicted before they reveal themselves. For instance, language
change is as natural a phenomenon as the principle of evolution,
keeping in mind that evolution is the random selection of features
from a list of possible candidates which can only be explained after
the individual selection is revealed. And as such, language change
cannot be successfully fought against but in the most extraordinary
and artificially-contrived circumstances. For example, it is possible
to resuscitate an essentially dead language (e.g. see Cooper 1989
which discusses the revival of Hebrew as the national language of
Israel). This is not a political statement, but simply a recognition of
the natural principles of how languages function in the world at large
and in any specific society. Furthermore, there is nothing unusual
about language contact and change, and, in and of itself, it is nothing
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT
which should cause alarm since all languages everywhere -with-
out exception- change through time.
In the general area of the Caribbean, contact among several lan-
guages and cultures has always been a part of the local history. For
instance, Jamaica was originally controlled by the Spanish in the 16th
century, and these Europeans, much like those who arrived in Puerto
Rico, originally came in contact with local Amerindian populations
(in this case, Arawak Indians) who died relatively rapidly due to a
range of factors from violence to disease brought by colonists to the
area. Of course, Jamaica's more recent linguistic, cultural, and politi-
cal history derives from its colonial relationship largely with English
speakers from Great Britain. In another case, Suriname in South
America was originally controlled by the British in the 17th century.
This relationship resulted in the emergence of at least three mutu-
ally-unintelligible English-derived creole languages which are spoken
to this day, even though the now independent country had been con-
trolled by the Dutch for more than 300 years until its independence
in the 1970s. It is an often forgotten fact that French-derived creole-
speaking Haitians, after their independence in 1804, took control of
and administered Spanish-speaking Santo Domingo for more than 20
years in the first half of the 19th century. Today on the islands of the
Lesser Antilles, multilingualism is also common. For example, in St.
Martin, Dutch is the official language of the island, though much edu-
cation and government business is conducted in English, while the lo-
cal population uses English-, French-, and Iberian-derived (i.e.
Papiamentu) creoles to conduct their daily lives. These are not excep-
tional cases. The Caribbean is filled with many other similar histories
both past and present.
In Central America, it is a kind of unofficial secret, often unknown
even to residents of the individual countries, that there are hundreds
of thousands of first language English-derived creole speakers all along
the eastern Caribbean shore. Local varieties of Spanish are the offi-
cial languages of all the Central American countries except Belize,
but English-derived creole varieties as well as a host of Amerindian
languages (e.g. Sumu, Rama, Guaymi, Kuna) can be heard up and down
the Caribbean coast of Central America. On the Miskito Coast of Nica-
ragua, there are approximately 100,000 Creole speakers, with about
26 MICHAEL ACETO
25,000 speaking Creole English as a first language. More than 10,000
speak a creolized English along the Caribbean coast of Honduras
and on that country's Bay Islands. In Panama, there are more than
100,000 Creole speakers in three general locations: the Caribbean
province of Bocas del Toro near the Costa Rican border, Panama
City, and Colon. In Costa Rica, English-derived creole is also spoken
by nearly 50,000 Afro-Caribbeans mostly around the port-city of
Limon on the eastern coast. Even Guatemala has English-derived
creole speakers on its Caribbean shores, which towns with names
such as Livingston suggest. It must be pointed out that there is rela-
tively little research documenting these communities (for two ex-
ceptions, see Holm 1983; Aceto 1995, 1996). Some of these English-
derived creole-speaking Central Americans descend from contact
between Europeans, Africans, and Amerindians in the 17th and 18th
centuries. Most of these creole-speaking Central Americans might
be labeled as Afro-Caribbeans of West Indian descent who moved to
the area from Anglophone islands in the Antilles more than a cen-
tury ago. Others have immigrated more recently.
Belize has approximately 75,000 first language Creole speakers
with tens of thousands more second language speakers (Spanish,
Garifuna, Mayan, German are just some of the other languages spo-
ken natively within the country). For the purposes of this paper, the
case of Belize will be ignored here. Belize is the only country in Cen-
tral America where the official language is English (though Creole is
the real common language within the country), and thus that social
dynamic is somewhat different from those in other countries of Cen-
tral America in which the official language is a variety of Spanish
that must be negotiated in some manner by speech communities
whose first language is an English-derived creole variety.
The History of English-Derived Creoles in Central America
The history of these English-derived creole-speaking communities
in Central America may be divided generally into two categories:
those stemming directly from colonial expansion and slavery in the
Americas-which brought speakers of regional varieties of English,
African languages, and Amerindian languages into contact with each
other -and the related but more recent (i.e. in the last 150 years or
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 27
so) cases of West Indians who, already speaking wholly-formed cre-
ole languages, immigrated to the area in search of work from points
in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The history of English-derived
creole speakers in some Central American speech communities, e.g.
in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama, is a mixture of the two.
What follows is a short history of Creole English in Central America,
and it must be stressed again that relatively little research has been
carried out on these creole varieties. Thus the following is simply a
summary of what little we know so far. The Creole English spoken
along the Miskito Coast on the northeast of Honduras and Nicaragua
is the result of 17th century politics and competition for Central
America between English and Spanish colonial powers. The contact
between escaped African slaves, Amerindians (the Miskito), and
speakers of regional varieties of British English gave rise to a creolized
English, which was later influenced by the British traders, loggers
and planters who arrived to the area with African slaves in the 18th
century. The British maintained their influence of this Caribbean area
from their territories in Belize and Jamaica until the 19th century when
the Spanish regained control of the entire Nicaraguan area of the
Miskito Coast. To this day, Bluefields maintains a role as the center
of English-derived Creole language and culture in that area.
The Bay Islands of Honduras were settled by English speakers
and their slaves from Belize, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands in
the 17th and 18th centuries. This variety has fewer creole features
than other varieties of English spoken in the area, which may be
attributable to the influence of Cayman Islands English. There are
communities of English creole speakers on the mainland of Hondu-
ras as well, but no research has determined if these communities
derive from an older historical relationship between Europeans,
Africans, and Amerindians or the result of relatively recent immi-
gration (i.e. in the last century) by speakers of other forms of creole
English in search of work on nearby plantations. The undocumented
cases of creole English spoken on the Caribbean coast of Guate-
mala between Belize and Honduras appear to be related to cases of
Immigration in the last 150 years is mainly responsible for bringing
Creole English to Costa Rica and Panama. That is, in the 19th century
West Indians of African descent, in the post-emancipation period, im-
migrated to the Caribbean coast of Central America in search of work
on railroad construction projects and banana plantations. It is an of-
ten forgotten fact that the construction of the Panama Canal was largely
carried out, not by Central Americans, but by imported Anglophone-
speaking West Indian labor. Many of these West Indians remained
behind on either end of the Canal, i.e. in Panama City on the Pacific
and Colon on the Caribbean, and they represent one significant
source of creole-speaking communities in this region of Panama.
In the Caribbean corner of Bocas del Toro, near the Costa Rican
border, where my fieldwork was conducted, the situation is some-
what different. This pattern of creole-speaking immigrant laborers
arriving in the area looking for work on nearby fruit plantations is
grafted on top of older slave-holding and creole-speaking communi-
ties which derive historically from Providencia and San Andr6s is-
lands. Creole English emerged on San Andr6s and Providencia in
the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of British colonial efforts in
the Western Caribbean, and, though the islands are currently con-
trolled politically by Colombia, Anglophone creole varieties are still
spoken there today.
Map 1. The CARIBBEAN SEA & SURROUNDING AREA
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT
From within Central America, there has been almost no research
on these English-derived creole-speaking communities by local schol-
ars or the governments of the individual nations themselves. The
one exception to the previous generalization appears to be Cohen
1976, which provided a necessary but brief introduction to Pana-
manian Creole English (PCE). However, this publication of confer-
ence papers was presented almost exclusively within the context of
trying to answer pedagogical questions related to the difficulties in
teaching Spanish as a second language to native English-derived
creole speakers. Unfortunately, English-derived creole-speaking
communities are often seen as problems to be solved or eradicated
ratherthan as a part of the rich history of Central America. In the
last twenty years, there has been no further work, to my knowl-
edge, issued from Panama on its creole-speaking communities,
though it is possible that local M.A. theses (e.g. from the University
of Panama) exist. Even within the growing discipline of creole stud-
ies in the United States and Europe, there has been relatively little
work on these Central American speech communities.
The remainder of this paper focuses on fieldwork which docu-
ments one aspect of the linguistic and cultural contact between na-
tive English-derived creole speakers living in the province of Bocas
del Toro in Panama and Panamanian Spanish, the official language
of the country.
English-Derived Creole-Speaking Communities
in the Bocas del Toro Province
The history of the Bocas del Toro region has always been somewhat
isolated from the rest of Panama (see Map 2). Even today, the province
can be reached from the capital only by plane or boat, and Bastimentos,
the specific island on which I conducted my work, is only accessible
by boat. The first Afro-Antilleans in Bocas del Toro were the slaves of
English-speaking colonists who arrived from San Andres and
Providencia in the early nineteenth century (Westerman 1980: 21;
Herzfeld 1983a: 36, fn 12). The largest number of subsequent West
Indian immigrants came to the area from Jamaica near the end of the
last century and early this century to work on banana plantations
on the mainland (Herzfeld 1983a: 34-5, fn. 8; Bourgois 1985: 110).
Demographics regarding the specific settlement of Bastimentos are un-
fortunately unavailable. However, Herzfeld (1983a: 34-5, fn. 8) provides
the following census figures from 1950 and 1960 regarding the Antillean-
born population registered in the entire province of Bocas del Toro:
TABLE 1: THE ORIGIN OF WEST INDIAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE
PROVINCE OF BOCAS DEL TORO
Barbados 24 13
Martinique and Guadeloupe 29 13
Trinidad and Tobago 7 4
Other French Antilles 0 1
The Bastimentos Speech Community
Afro-Panamanians in Bastimentos speak a variety of PCE as their
first language, and they often call this variety "Guari-Guari" /gwari
gwari/ as well as "raw," "flat" or "di bad English." The population of
Bastimentos proper, i.e. the town center, is approximately 600 per-
sons, mostly (approximately 97 percent) Afro-Panamanians of West
Indian descent, with an admixture of Guaymi ancestry as well. A
few Guaymi families also live in the town. Scattered throughout the
island are more Guaymi families living in the bush, and they are
thought to comprise another 300-400 persons more or less. Thus
the entire population of the island is about 1000 people.
In Bastimentos, all Afro-Panamanians speak Creole English as a
first language. Yet even the youngest residents of the island are
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT
able to hear Panamanian Spanish spoken between residents and out-
siders, in the media, and, less frequently, among residents themselves.
The public educational system does not recognize Creole as the first
language of the island's residents, and thus Spanish is the only me-
dium of instruction. This unwillingness or inability to recognize Creole
as the native language of the island contributes greatly to the difficulties
many students experience at school. Even when Spanish language les-
sons are presented within the educational system, they are taught from
a native language perspective and not as second language acquisition.
Nearly all media, education, and public services are conducted in
Spanish. There is electricity in the island's town center, and many though
not all people have television which receive programs broadcasted
MAP 2. THE PROVINCE OF BOCAS DEL TORO
in Spanish. There are no satellite dishes and thus, to my knowl-
edge, residents are unable to receive television broadcasts in any
English language variety either from North America, the West Indies,
or Panama City.
32 MICHAEL ACETO
Nearly all residents living in the town center (except for a minor-
ity of the oldest residents of the island) are bilingual in Creole and,
to varying degrees, in Spanish. However, Bastimentos Creole is
purely an oral language. There is a limited familiarity with metro-
politan English on the part of a few residents who have been edu-
cated outside of the Bocas del Toro region.
Dual names in Bastimentos
In Bastimentos, nearly all Afro-Panamanians of West Indian descent
receive two given or "first" names. One name is an official Spanish-
derived first name given at birth. The etymology of these official first
names is hardly surprising given that the official national language of
Panama is Spanish. This official Spanish first name is found on all
government documents, and it identifies the individual as a citizen of
The Republic of Panama. The other more common given name, what
is called here "the dual name," is most often English-derived (i.e. ety-
mologically and phonologically), though a few may actually be Afri-
can- or even Spanish-derived in a few cases. These dual names are
usually given when the person is a child or an adolescent. More im-
portantly, it is this name which an individual recognizes and is identi-
fied by in the community even as an adult on the island even though
the name is rarely if ever written down. The dual name identifies a
resident of Bastimentos as an Afro-Panamanian of West Indian de-
scent-that is, as an Anglophone Creole speaker whose ancestors
derive from the West Indies. (For a full discussion of dual names
within Afro-American communities, see Aceto, to appear.) In
Bastimentos, dual names are most often assigned by parents and fam-
ily members, but also, in some cases, by anyone in the community.
Since the Afro-Panamanian population of the island is approximately
600 persons, nearly everyone is familiar to everyone else by their
dual name, while there is often little knowledge, except among imme-
diate family members, of an individual's official Spanish-derived name.
While working in Bastimentos, I encountered no instances in which
the use of a dual name caused shame or discomfort -that is, in con-
trast to the practice of nicknames in many cultures of the world. The
dual name is the name which an individual willingly recognizes within
the community. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in
Bastimentos individuals prefer their dual name to the official name
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 33
found on their birth certificates. In actual fact, there is a narrowly
prescribed arena of usage in which residents of Bastimentos will use
and recognize their official Spanish-derived name, e.g. when dealing
with the police, matters of education, voting, or, less often, when in-
troducing themselves to tourists (mainly North Americans and Ger-
mans). Table 2 is a representative sample which illustrates this pat-
tern of dual names (the spelling of these names represents ortho-
graphic conventions in both Spanish and English rather than linguis-
tic transcriptions based on the International Phonetic Alphabet):
TABLE 2: SAMPLE OF DUAL NAMES IN BASTIMENTOS
Official Spanish Given Name Dual Name
2. Lucrezia Gadi
4. Herminia Charley
6. Arquimede Jetbo
8. Harvey Hochi
10. Graciella Yogo
12. Enrique Gang
14. Roberto Betty
16. Demetro Skip
34 MICHAEL ACETO
18. Rafael Boss
.... . ":.: ". .... ....
20. Roberto Betbet
21. Veronica : ..; i ..:'h ich, ,
22. Oscar Dune
23. Elizabeth t".. is r-#.
24. Dario Soap
A dual name (e.g. Chubb) identifies the individual in all local com-
munity-based or "in-group" contexts, not the person's official name
(e.g. Alberto). This contrast between two given names offers some
insight into the dichotomy of linguistic, cultural, and historical asso-
ciations that the Bastimentos community negotiates on a daily basis,
(i.e. between Spanish-speaking Panama and the English-derived cre-
ole-speaking area of the Anglophone Caribbean). I have been told
that other creole-speaking communities in Panama exhibit this same
cultural and linguistic pattern, but I have not yet confirmed it empiri-
cally. Even the name of the island exhibits this dichotomous pattern-
ing: Bastimentos is its official Spanish name, but residents always
refer to their island among themselves as 01' Bank.
The vitality of dual names in Bastimentos and other Anglophone
creole-speaking areas of the Hispanophone Caribbean is not surpris-
ing. It may be viewed as a form of cultural maintenance or as resis-
tance of a dominant culture at large. That is, for more than a 150
years, Afro-Panamanians in Bastimentos have sought to keep alive
their Anglophone Creole culture by maintaining basically English-de-
rived names while recognizing the practical need for Spanish names
on official government documents. However, this dichotomy between
Creole and Spanish naming practices may be expected given the per-
sistent and frequent nature of Anglophone and Hispanophone linguis-
tic and cultural contacts in the Western Hemisphere. Other such ar-
eas of research-with their own social, historical, and linguistic im-
ANGLOPHONE AND HISPANOPHONE LANGUAGES IN CONTACT 35
The following is a list of the major works on creole languages of
Central America as well as a list of references in this paper. As al-
ready suggested, the list ignores Belize, for which there is a signifi-
cant body of work. Holm 1983 and 1989 contain many more indi-
vidual listings for the creoles spoken in Central America.
Aceto, Michael (1996). Syntactic innovation in a Caribbean creole: The
Bastimentos variety of Panamanian Creole English. English World-
Wide 17: 43-61.
--(1995). Variation in a secret creole language of Panama. Language
in Society 24: 537-60.
Bourgois, Philippe 1. (1985). Ethnic diversity on a corporate plantation:
The United Fruit Company in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Talamanca,
Costa Rica. Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University.
Cohen, Pedro I., ed. (1976). Primeras Jornadas Lingiiisticas: El Ingles
Criollo de Panama. Panama: Editorial Universitaria.
Cooper, Robert L. (1989). Language planning and social change. Cam-
Herzfeld, Anita (1983a). Limon Creole and Panamanian Creole: Compari-
son and contrast. In Lawrence Carrington (ed.), Studies in Carib-
bean Language, 23-37. St. Augustine, Trinidad: Society for Carib-
- (1983b). The Creoles of Costa Rica and Panama. In John Holm
(ed.), Central American English, 131-156. Heidelberg: Julius Groos
- (1978). Tense and aspect in Limon Creole: A sociolinguistic view
towards a creole continuum. Ph.D. dissertation, the University of
Holm, John (1988-89). Pidgins and creoles, Vols. I& II. Cambridge: CUP.
- (ed.) (1983). Central American English (Varieties of English around
the world, T2), Heidelberg: Julius Groos Verlag.
-- (1978). The English creole of Nicaragua's Miskito Coast: Its
sociolinguistic history and a comparative study of its lexicon and
syntax. Ph.D. dissertation, University of London.
Pousada, Alicia. 1996. Puerto Rico: On the horns of a language planning
dilemma. TESOL Quarterly 30, 499-510.
36 MICHAEL ACETO
Thomas-Brereton, Leticia C. (1992). An exploration of Panamanian Cre-
ole English: Some syntactic, lexical and sociolinguistic features. Ph.D.
dissertation, New York University.
Washabaugh, William (1977). Constraining variation in decreolization.
- (1974). Variability in decreolization on Providence Island, Colom-
bia. Ph. D. dissertation, Wayne State University.
Westerman, George W. (1980). Los immigrants Antillanos en Panama.
Panama: Impresora de la Naci6n.
Language and Identity in the Caribbean:
Symbols and Prerogatives
Mervyn C. Alleyne*
his paper concerns chiefly the "English-speaking" Caribbean
and particularly Jamaica. It is often tempting, and even heu
ristic, to take a global view of the Caribbean. It is thought
that a global approach is justified by the commonalities of histori-
cal experience and of contemporary existential conditions. How-
ever it is also the case that there is diversity to be found in the
precise configurations of this historical experience. This diversity
is not simply on the basis of the different colonial powers that left
their different marks on the region. Barbados is in an important way
closer to Puerto Rico in historical experience than it is to Jamaica.
So please remember that when I make general statements about the
Caribbean, they may not apply to any one particular area.
Language has always been at the centre of the construction of iden-
tities, from individual to national. And I do not have to repeat and
belabour the point here. There is no more frequently used instru-
ment of self projection than language. It is an instrument of control,
of inclusion, of exclusion. Language was the foundation of the na-
tional unification of France, Italy, and a host of other nations; and
countries seeking to create national integration and promote national
consciousness almost always make language a fundamental issue.
And among humbler people, it plays the same role. The humble Tiwa
people of Assam, North East India, are reported as saying that they
* 1996 Senior Fellow of Caribbean 2000, Department of Linguistics, University of
the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
38 MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
have found a wonderful way of demonstrating that they wish to pre-
serve their ethnic identity. Quote: "When we have our dictionary, our
language will achieve a certain level of respectability, and our people
In the complex post-Columbian history of the Caribbean, language
has been a complex issue. Identities have forged out of conflict: the
we/they dichotomy invoked at the level of individual, family, clan,
class, ethnic group, nation. Who we are is constructed partly on the
basis of the need to distinguish us from others. The "other" may be
a very benign focus of comparison; or it may be very oppressive,
trying to swallow us or to define us in their own interests. Again this
is so from individuals to nations.
Conflict has characterized these Caribbean societies throughout
their post-Columbian histories. The first encounter between Span-
iards and Arawaks and Caribs established the main characteristics of
the social discourse that was to dominate Caribbean society even up
to the present time. Europeans immediately seized the prerogative of
naming, and thereby of defining, of symbol creation and of setting the
normative semantics of Caribbean experience and indeed that of the
world. Even aspects of the natural environment came under this pre-
rogative of naming. Thus many fruits in the Caribbean are named on
the basis of how they were perceived in relation to some other Euro-
pean fruit (golden apple, otaheite apple, custard apple, avocado pear,
pineapple, grapefruit, naseberry, coolie plum) and these names have
been accepted by the non-European populations as part of the co-
lonial heritage. The most dramatic manifestation of the prerogative
is the naming of the indigenous people as indio or Indian, thereby
enclosing their identity thereafter in a Spanish/European world. An-
other example is the semantic pejoration of one of the names of the
indigenous people of the Caribbean (Caribali) to produce the term
"cannibal". Fortunately, the term underwent phonetic distortion so
that its formal link with Carib may no longer be perceived. As I said
before, this control of names and meaning is not confined to the Car-
ibbean experience. It is world-wide, as can be seen in the semantic
distortion of words like "jungle" and "tribe" which have come to take
on very negative pejorative connotations.
This prerogative of naming and of symbolisation is an important
perspective in understanding the issues of power and identity in
LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY IN THE CARIBBEAN: SYMBOLS AND PREROGATIVES 39
the Caribbean. The significant symbols are generally eurocentric
and this includes the form of language itself. They help to perpetu-
ate the trauma of inferiority, alienation and anomia in Caribbean
people. One startling example of this is the symbolisation of "black"
and "white", which already is recorded for the Graeco-Roman pe-
riod of Antiquity and which has come down to us as a standardised
area of English semantics (as well as of French and Spanish seman-
tics). The use of colour terms to refer to so called races began al-
ready in the period of Antiquity. These colours had already devel-
oped meanings, connotative and metaphorical, which carried clear
social psychological values. Applying them to "races" was a master
strategy of psychological control which so-called white, black/negro,
red and yellow people are still subject to, and from which non-white
people are still trying to escape. "White", with its extremely posi-
tive connotations, was co-opted by Mediterranean Europeans who
are in fact the least white of "white" people; while "black", which as
a colour was afflicted with very negative pejorative connotations,
was assigned generally to the peoples of Africa, many of whom are
not at all black, but rather brown.
Even where some attempts are made to correct the absurdity of
these significant symbols, they often fall short of what is required.
Thus "black" in the Jamaican flag is supposed to be, not an ethnic
symbol recognizing the majority ethnic group, but a symbol of "hard-
ships faced". There is therefore the feeling that there is a need to
create new symbols within a different tradition, but there is no cer-
tainty as to what these might be. There is also the important area of
onomastics, which in the Caribbean was controlled by masters and
resulted in slaves acquiring new, often mocking and ridiculous
eurocentric names. Given the important role that the word and the
name in particular plays in African world view, this control of per-
sonal names again was a masterful strategy for psychological con-
trol, for control of identity, for control beyond the simple control
over life and death. This led as usual to resistance, in the form of a
proliferation of nick names to which only the community was privy,
and more recently to a fashion for non-Western-European, and par-
ticularly for African names.
Aimed CUsaire, confronted with, and reacting to, Shakespeare's
portrayal of Caliban as the monumental representation of the primi-
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
tive in humanity, sought to rescue Caliban, or sought to have Caliban
rescue himself by recasting a conversation between Caliban and
Prospero in which Caliban declares that he will no longer be called
Caliban. The name Caliban, indeed, is either an unwitting or a very
clever corruption on the part of Shakespeare of the word "canni-
bal", itself a distortion of Calina/Carina, one of the variant names of
the indigenous people of the Caribbean region. Shakespeare's
Caliban is in fact nearer the form of the original word, and, as well,
is less of a semantic and humanistic degradation than is implied in
the phonological and semantic distortion "cannibal". I should really
have consulted the Shakespeare experts among my colleagues to
find out the value which Shakespeare attached to the name. But, be
that as it may, Cesaire's Caliban rejects the name; nor will he accept
the other name which Prospero suggests: Hannibal. And I believe
that here C6saire is alluding, whether consciously or unconsciously,
to the tendency of some Africans and Afro-Americans to attempt to
rescue their humanity by evoking and invoking great African heroes
of the past, of whom Hannibal is one. Cesaire rejects this in favour
of a process by which ordinary "primitive" individuals can rescue
their own humanity by re-appropriating the prerogative of naming
and therefore of defining. Caliban renames himself X, by which
C6saire expresses the importance of naming and language in the
process of self-appropriation, the reclaiming of one's self; but he
also expresses the bind in which Caliban, and Caribbean people in
general, find themselves due to the absence of a language in which
this renaming and reclaiming can be communicated. It is the Carib-
bean dilemma. And it is interesting to observe how Malcolm X re-
lives C6saire's Caliban in another time and another place. Language
continues to play a pivotal role in the maintenance of dominance
and the local ruling classes which have replaced the colonial elites
are, at the contemporary period, attempting to maintain the histori-
cal myth of the intrinsic superiority of the European standard lan-
guage and the intrinsic unworthiness of the local vernaculars called
creole or patois. As part of the colonial syndrome, speakers of these
vernaculars have generally accepted this characterization of their
speech and thus are naively aiding and abetting the continuation of
this barrier to their empowerment.
LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY IN THE CARIBBEAN: SYMBOLS AND PREROGATIVES 41
The emerging language of slaves was called "patois". The term
referred then to the rural dialects of France which were falling into
disuse and becoming moribund. These dialects were losing speak-
ers as younger generations abandoned them in favour of more socio-
economically valuable language forms; and they were becoming
degenerate and non-viable as language systems. They had no im-
portant communicative function and did not have a strong ethnic
identification. It was the regional dialects (as distinct from the pa-
tois) which served the purpose of identifying a particular regional
or ethnic division (Picardy, Normandy, etc.). The language of slaves
was drawn into this conceptual framework and the foundation for
the future negative evaluation was set, even though, objectively, the
language of slaves shared few, if any, of the functional or structural
(linguistic) characteristics of the patois.
These languages are in a rather peculiar position, quite analagous
to the position in which the cultures are, vis-a-vis the official elite
cultures. Caribbean cultures, for example, are rather ambiguous in
terms of identity. They are new societies unable to attach themselves
to any old continuous tradition when compared with the evolution
of other societies. The tradition to which they may have been at-
tached is the African, and of course there have always been and still
are ideological movements that are founded on this link. However
this is not entirely a part of the perception and consciousness of
the general population, although objectively the forms of Caribbean
popular and folk culture can be linked with Africa through complex
processes of continuities, discontinuities, syncretisms, reinterpre-
tation, calques, etc. The problem is compounded by the fact that
many Caribbean societies are plural and although there is a ten-
dency even in these plural societies and cultures to consider the
African tradition as the majority tradition or the national tradition
or even the indigenous tradition, this is being seriously challenged
by other ethnic groups in some cases ("East" Indians in Trinidad
and Guyana for example). The Graeco-Roman tradition is very strong
manifesting itself in the democratic traditions and legal systems. It
is as well in the general intellectual, philosophical, artistic and aes-
thetic norms. This belongs however to the area of exogenous norms
which are now coming under some serious questioning in the search
for a distinct identity, even at the level of high culture, to which
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
standard languages belong. Concepts of creolisation and hybridity
are now being experimented within an attempt to find a new under-
standing of identity which avoids the so-called essentialist concepts
of African and European.
As a general rule, Caribbean languages continue to be seen as not
belonging to the African tradition; they are judged by the general
population against the Graeco-Roman norms of language structure,
according to which, for example, inflections are the essential part
of the ideal language structure; they are thought to have "no gram-
mar". These creole languages have remained in the shadow of this
tradition and have attracted to themselves perhaps the highest de-
gree of stigmatisation of all of the world's languages. The pernicious
effect of living in the shadow is well illustrated by the fact that those
creole languages which no longer have existing side by side with
them, and are therefore not existentially overshadowed by, the Eu-
ropean languages to which they are related through their lexicons,
have most successfully escaped the stigma and the negative evalu-
ation, and have progressed or are progressing to the status of offi-
cial and national languages.
However, there are Caribbean groups/communities in which the
role of language is not ambiguous nor ambivalent but where lan-
guage has been called upon to serve the "national" interest of the
groups. In both cases, the groups have no ambivalence about the
tradition to which they belong and both cases provide excellent
examples of a very general marronnage which language has been
called upon to sustain and of which language is a major expression.
The first case is that of Maroon communities of Jamaica and
Suriname. It is possible to reconstruct a Twi-Asante dominance
among the African languages of the slave population of Jamaica in
the early period, giving rise to a preponderance of Twi-Asante traits
in the creole language of Jamaica. Maroons learned the creole lan-
guage of the plantations, but, unlike the plantation population, they
have preserved Twi-Asante up to today. The role of Twi-Asante was
a political and military one. It was tactically important in the wars
against the British as it offered a secret code to which the enemy
was not privy. Its political, military role declined at the end of
the wars, but even up to today there are vestiges of this role as
the language is still used in conversation among Maroons when
LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY IN THE CARIBBEAN: SYMBOLS AND PREROGATIVES 43
non-Maroon strangers visit the communities. The purpose is not
only to shut out those strangers, or, one might even say, not so much
to shut out as to express the African identity of the Maroons and to
preserve the African tradition, of which Maroons are very proud.
The Abeng, a horn made of cow horn or conch shell, and talking
drums also were used in the military struggles to transmit messages.
These two media of communication (Abeng, drums) are both re-
lated to the Twi-Asante (Coromanti) language as they transmit mean-
ings by reproducing the distinctive tones of that language.
The Rastafarians have developed a religion, a world view, an art,
an ethnicity and a language that set them off from the rest of the
Jamaican population. It is well known that philosophical, political
and intellectual movements shape languages. The lexicon of France,
for example, changed greatly at the time of the French revolution.
Special interest groups in a society often "create" a new "language",
chiefly in the lexical field. Languages of such groups are strongly
influenced by the need for secrecy and for an esoteric form of com-
munication. But Rastafari language has no such motivation or in-
tent, for Rastafarianism is universalistic. Rastafari language flows
directly from Rastafari philosophy and expresses a fundamental
relationship of humans to nature and the universe. The Rastafari
goal is not to restrict communication but to widen it by removing
internal inconsistences in the semantic structure of the language,
reducing incompatibilities between language form and function, and
reducing the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign.
These aims are related to a philosophical view of language and of
the word as well as to an aesthethic view of language that leads to
the cultivation of various forms of verbal art. Rastas believe in the
"evocative power of the word", i.e. the power of the word to evoke
and, in a sense, to be the thing meant.
There is little in the historical record to show a continuous link
between the word philosophy of Africans and of modern
Rastafarianism. But it has been claimed that the word is productive
and imperative in traditional African society. Jahn (1961) explains
that "the central significance of the word in African culture is not a
phenomenon of one particular time... If there were no word, all forces
would be frozen, there would be no procreation, no change, no life...
Naming is an incantation, a creative act... for the word holds the
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
course of things in train and changes and transforms them. And
since the word has this power, every word is an effective word, ev-
ery word is binding". Thus, in traditional African society, all reli-
gion, music, medicine and dance are produced by vocal expression,
inasmuch as creativity is called into existence by man speaking.
This language created by Rastafarians is perhaps the strongest
cultural focus of Jamaica at this time, and its influence has spread
to metropolitan centres of Europe and North America. It is, espe-
cially when coupled with Rastafarian music, the most compelling
symbol and instrument of Rastafarian identity and by extension of
Jamaican identity. This is offering one of the strongest challenges to
the Eurocentric world view and value system which have dominated
Caribbean life and experience throughout the history of the region.
The Maroons separated themselves physically from "mainstream"
society and culture. The Rastafarians remained physically within
the boundaries of this society but created a separate cultural world
and a separate psychological world which was Africa: the place from
which they came and to which they would return. Separation was/
is an essential factor in their creating these worlds of their own.
The population mass of the Caribbean has however not achieved
this kind or degree of separation and has been caught up in the trap
of modernisation (which, incidentally Maroons and Rastafarians
have largely avoided or escaped).
Basically this trap is that modernisation in the global village de-
mands ethnic and cultural capitulation fuelled by the education sys-
tems. On the other hand, there remain strong instincts for ethnic
and cultural maintenance (marronnage); and to the extent that the
mass of the population remains economically dispossessed and
culturally marginalized, there will be a strong tendency for ethnic
and cultural assertion offering an aggressive challenge to "main-
stream" culture. Cultural traits are at one and the same time dys-
functional within the global village and functional in the context of
the sustainment of identity and in the context of the challenge to
the power of the ruling elite.
In this final part of the paper, I propose a schema for understand-
ing the role of language in the construction of identities at different
levels, using Jamaica as an illustrative case. I have already mentioned
that identity consists of different levels, from individual through fam-
LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY IN THE CARIBBEAN: SYMBOLS AND PREROGATIVES
ily, class, ethnic group, to nation. This is part of a socialization pro-
cess whereby an individual progressively widens the scope of his/
her identity. This process may also be for many a progressive shield
against, and an alleviation of, the stress of insecurity that stems
from inequality. Individuals manipulate language in order to express
solidarity, distance, various facets of personality, etc...
At the level of class, we begin to find attitudes of association and
dissociation. The individual comes to realise the social values of
different speech forms and their hierarchical organisation, and his/
her place within the sociolinguistic order. In rigid social systems,
class dialects are relatively stable and fixed as a function of the in-
flexibility of social networks. In systems where there is some de-
gree of socio-economic mobility, speech also becomes variable and
mobile. Attitudes of dissociation and feelings of linguistic insecu-
rity become strengthened; and hypercorrection becomes a major
feature of speech especially among the lower middle class and up-
per working class.
With increasing awareness of an ethnic identity, there is height-
ened security and incipient attitudes of association; and this is ex-
pressed linguistically by greater confidence in the use of still so-
cially stigmatised linguistic forms. There is a great deal of ambiva-
lence as the relations of power may continue the subordination of
one ethnic group to another as well as the subordination of one
form of language to another. However the more language is seen as
an artefact of culture rather than as a pathological manifestation of
social deprivation or intellectual inferiority, the more it becomes an
instrument and a symbol of ethnicity. I mentioned the Rastafarian
language as an example of this. There is also the constant creation
of neologisms as a feature of in- -oup interaction. These neologisms
keep changing in order to en'ince ethnicity.
As the political order changes and people begin to be conscious
of their full membership in a nation, ethnic identity may move to
the level of national identity; and an et!r1ii language/dialect may
become the strongest instrument and symbol of national identity.
This is a process, which may be more fulfilled in migrant communi-
ties abroad than at home. Taken out of its intersection with social
class at home, the ethnic language taken abroad becomes the prin-
cipal weapon in the struggle against alienation, and the principal
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
means of binding members of the migrant population together, re-
gardless of their social/ethnic position at home.
National identity may require a national language which imparts
a sense of pride and affective association. In order to fulfill this func-
tion effectively, there may have to be the creation of a new standard
norm of language. Indeed one of the identity dilemmas of the Carib-
bean is the absence of endogenous, internally generated canons at
the level of high culture. This leaves the popular culture to carry by
itself alone the burden of expressing the national identity. But the
process of the creation of regional canonic norms is underway. And
language may be leading the way. Haitian and Papiamentu are im-
portant examples. And other rumblings are being heard.
The Caribbean is a rather unique region in the world as there are
virtually no "indigenous" peoples and no "indigenous" languages
(there are a few "Caribs" left in Dominica, but the indigenous lan-
guage of these people is now only spoken in a few communities along
the Caribbean coast of Belize and Honduras). This region has pro-
vided the best, and perhaps the only examples, of new languages
emerging in the world, and these new "Creole" languages are still
struggling to gain acceptance as the "native" or "indigenous" lan-
guages of the region.
Africa and the Caribbean (and in some sense Latin America) are
the only regions of the world where colonial languages have retained
their hegemony over the native languages of the decolonized ma-
jority. In Latin America and North America the indigenous languages
are spoken by "minorities" who have not managed to gain political
power and who are therefore still dominated by the descendants of
the former colonial rulers. With the notable exception of Tupi-Gua-
rani in Paraguay, these indigenous languages have not entered into
the equation of power. In Asia, and of course in Europe, linguistic
decolonization is virtually complete (note, however, for example,
the Basque and Catalonian "problems" of Spain).
The retention of colonial languages as official languages in Africa
is to be explained by the fact that African "nations" are not nations
in any deep sense of the term. Paradoxically, the retention of the
LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY IN THE CARIBBEAN: SYMBOLS AND PREROGATIVES 47
colonial language is seen as a major instrument in the achievement
of nationhood as it serves to mediate between different and com-
peting ethnic powers. In the Caribbean, speakers of creole lan-
guages are in the majority; they have ostensibly gained political
power, but there have been no serious open challenges to the state
power of the former colonial languages. In Haiti and Aruba/Curacao,
the creole languages are co-official but in fact quite secondary to
French and Dutch. The situation however is not a static one. I shall
use the case of Jamaica to illustrate the dynamics of the contempo-
rary situation and the nature of the challenge to English. It is cus-
tomary to look at functional dynamics in terms of the way in which
domain configurations change over time. If we begin conveniently
with "diglossia" (flawed though the concept may be since it suggested
a static state free of conflict and dynamic tension), we may observe a
progressive acquisition of new domains by the creole language.
Whereas this is undoubtedly significant, it has not dramatically al-
tered the power/status relations between English and Jamaican.
And in fact within any one domain where the creole language
seems to have gained a foothold, a diglossic structure may still be
observed in the pattern of language distribution among the sub-
domains. Thus, in the mass media domain, there are areas which
remain the reserve of English; in advertising, for example, the pen-
etration of the creole language is restricted to those products which
are consumed by the populace, while prestige products are adver-
tised by using English.
However it is very instructive to look at how the domains them-
selves have developed in status. Creole has moved from being the
vehicle for a folk culture (proverbs, folk tales, folksongs), to being
the vehicle of an aggressive vibrant popular culture which refuses
to remain fixed in its location and refuses to accept the status which
the ruling classes would wish to reserve for it.
Linked with Rastafarianism, this popular culture is spreading
through the Caribbean, into North Atlantic metropolitan centres,
and electronically to many parts of the world. Its international cur-
rency is impacting on its status at home and is helping private/la-
tent, positive/associative attitudes based on ethnic identity,
marronnage, etc. to develop into public/overt expressions of pride
and confidence that are removing ambiguities and ambivalences and
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
are seeking to remove the onus of accommodation from the speakers
of these languages. In other words, these speakers are not submitting
to the social etiquette of language usage demanded by the traditional
social norms. There are fewer and fewer instances of code-switching;
language usage is being determined less and less by the macro-
sociolinguistic organization based on a hierarchical social structure
with asymetrical relations between groups. Rather language is being
used more and more to define social relationships and define social
contexts and to re-order prerogatives. There is an increasing refusal
to accept code choice as a reflex of macro-level statuses and struc-
tures. Instead of passively observing idealised norms of allocation of
language varieties into different domains and functions, speakers are
changing the symbolic value of language within the national and (in-
creasingly) international network (Shabba Ranks speaks Jamaican
(without any code-switching) on the Arsenio Hall show).
An important new dimension has emerged recently in the power
equation, and that is the commercialization of the creole language.
As the vehicle of the popular culture, it has acquired economic value
(in addition to its effective value), and this is increasing the chal-
lenge to English. English consequently is losing its position as the
only language of socio-economic mobility. It is even being suggested
seriously by economists that the entertainment industry will be one
of the prime economic movers of the 21st century. And many are
predicting, wisely or vainly, a good future for Jamaica and the Carib-
bean with its popular culture, mediated by an attractive and expres-
sive language, replacing bananas, sugar and coffee as the major hard
How will this fit into the global village still dominated by English
and high technology? Will creole languages be content with their
status as oral languages? Or will creole speakers, fired by a new
confidence, demand equality with, or even priority over, English/
French. If this means greater pressure for the standardization of these
languages, how will this affect the creative orality of these languages?
Will the gains of standardization be outweighed by the losses in
creative expressiveness? These are questions beyond the scope of
this paper and are probably anyone's guess.
Eljuego entire el hablar
y el escribir: unas notas1
Maria Elena Alonso*
H ablar de juego no equivale a lo mismo -no es lo mismo
jugar que hablar- sino a las posibilidades que ofrece. Asu
mir el lenguaje como juego es tan s6lo una postura provi-
sional que intent examiner para dejar hablar, en este caso, a cier-
tos textos novelados clasificados de antemano como "caribefos".2
Si asumo que todas las practices tienen lugar y se construyen en el
lenguaje como intersecci6n de lo social, lo hist6rico y lo individual,
el otro juego lo dramatizan el hablar y el escribir, juego laberintico,
saturado de trampas, opaco y mediado ademis por el conflict en-
tre la vida y la muerte, entire el inconsciente -real e imaginario- y
lo simb6lico; o como la escritura misma, el acto de escribir, inscrip-
ci6n y huella, deseo que se escapa o que no corresponde a su desti-
no: la pagina, la edici6n, el libro. De la escritura y su relaci6n con el
lenguaje me interest destacar su process como resultado de una
necesidad vital, distinto de otras actividades, como las de comer-
cializar o naturalizar los lugares comunes o pintorescos de lo
caribeflo, por ejemplo. La atenci6n situada sobre el process inclui-
rd una mirada sobre el modo en que ese mismo process como acto
de escribir se inserta o mas bien constitute la construcci6n misma
de una identidad,3 no ya con lo otro ni con lo mismo -las dos caras
de la misma moneda- sino con diversas dimensions de una sub-
jetividad debatida, y tan conflictiva como la escritura y el lenguaje
*Departamento de Humanidades, Facultad de Estudios Generales, Universidad
de Puerto Rico Rio Piedras
MARIA ELENA ALONSO
mismo, que intentan inscribirla en process del sujetotodavia in-
ciertos e indefinidos, no sujetos a ninguna normatividad prefijada,
que en todo caso se problematiza.
Algunas novelas "caribefas" juegan con el hablar y con una cier-
ta oralidad, dial6gica y heter6clita, en el deseo de registrar esa
heterogeneidad que las define o deforma, frente a un idioma official
que es desacralizado en el mismo acto de escribir, por esa misma
inclusion del habla, de la oralidad misma del creole, que comienza
a escribirse, a transformarse tambi6n y porel mismo acto, en hue-
Ila, en recuerdo, en intentos de presencia.4 El registro intense de
expresiones y significados, canciones, proverbios, mitos, sonidos,
y sobre todo ese otro ritmo present en todo, inclusive en esa otra
cadencia que es el hablar, muestra con lentitud y cuidado el modo
en que toda una ret6rica se desplaza y es sustituida por otra, mas
cercana, tal vez, al cuerpo de quien describe. La diversidad de otra
historic sin mayiscula ni final, sino m~s bien en constant espiral,
combinada a la cotidiana recreaci6n de lo que se dice y significa, va
erosionando unas posturas legitimadas impunemente que vienen a
ser sustituidas por todo lo diferente, que desde afuera de las nor-
mas gramaticales oficiales no se codifica, sino que permanece como
literature extra-oficial volcada en su process mismo, y que es reani-
mado nada mas en el acto de la lectura. Todo lo que quedaba fuera
del circulo official comienza a incluirse, acercando de ese modo el
lenguaje possible o lo possible del lenguaje a su contextualidad tem-
poral. Entre esta dimensin del lenguaje y el process de la escritura
que problematizan algunos textos novelados de un Caribe que tam-
bi6n se resignifica, algunas escritoras como Simone Schwarz-Bart,
Maryse CondO, Merle Collins, Marie Chauvet y Jamaica Kincaid, en-
tre otras, escriben un creole tribajado desde adentro5 y revisan al
escribir t&cnicas, lenguaje y construcciones de una subjetividad
dificil y compleja, abierta a los laberintos y trampas del juego entire
el hablar y el escribir, que habria que ver hasta qu6 punto subvierte
o transgrede los parametros culturales, al darles la vuelta. Para ese
prop6sito voy a comentar dos novelas que lei sorprendida; tratare,
para comenzar, de recuperar mis primeras impresiones.
Desde la primera vez que lei Pluie et vent sur Thlumre Miracle de
Schwarz-Bart, me sorprendi6 el modo tan particular en el cual el
francs official -y con esto quiero hacer notar, no s61o toda su car-
EL JUEGO ENTIRE EL HABLAR Y EL ESCRIBIR: UNAS NOTAS 51
ga ideol6gica para los colonizados, sino tambien su estructura gra-
matical, en especial su sintaxis y l1xico-, explosionaba en una be-
lleza6 inusual que correspondia a la creatividad misma de su mane-
jo, adaptaci6n o transformaci6n, en otro litoral y desde otra expe-
riencia cultural o la diferencia cultural.7 Me pareci6 que la escritora
habia hecho maravillas por mostrar la transformaci6n misma del
frances asumido por esa diferencia cultural como tal, occurida a
partir de toda la colonizaci6n. El frances mismo se habia transfor-
mado. Ya no era el de aquellos clasicos y no tan clasicos que lei
fascinada en mi primer encuentro con esa literature. Tampoco se
trataba del francs official que se ensefia en las escuelas de los
"d6partements" en la actualidad. Asumido por esta escritora de
Guadalupe, el frances era otro, desbordaba sus limits y exploraba
todas las posibilidades del lenguaje transformable, Ilevado a decir,
describir y expresar otro modo de ver el mundo, diferente, en
interacci6n constant con otras subjetividades, con otras identida-
des, con otras localidades, dentro de las mismas islas, con otras
connotaciones, metaforas, imagenes. Pero sobre todo me sorpren-
di6 el modo de hilvanar la oralidad de los actantes al cuerpo de los
mismos -a su historic, a sus creencias y tradiciones- por medio
de la inscripci6n ininterrupida de los refranes populares, en los cua-
les se condensan las metaforas de sus vidas, experiencias, relacio-
nes, conocimiento, tradiciones, rupturas, continuidades, diferencias
constatadas, conflicts y paradojas, y la siempre present fauna y
la flora historizada o mitificada del tr6pico caribefio. Fue la primera
vez que aprendi c6mo se nombraba en francs esa fauna y flora que
ya conocia en espafiol. La oralidad asi asumida, trabajada, Ilevada a
la escritura, muestra sus posiblilidades y fisuras. Surgen en el texto
todas las experiencias que fueron asumidas a partir de la relaci6n
con los blancos y los choques entire lo oral, lo familiar, lo maternal y
lo francs en toda su autoridad. Y aunque dentro de la novela se
trate de una comunidad negra, la mas apartada de la Guadalupe,
fundada por cimarrones lejos de todo -de la ciudad y de los blan-
cos, y de la presencia de los franceses que se trata de mantener
alejada- sobre todo, en el conocimiento y el manejo que hacen del
lenguaje, los descendientes de aquellos esclavos siguen resistien-
do, como inica salida possible. La lengua official se utiliza parcamente,
mientras que toda la interioridad e intimidad se desborda en las
MARIA ELENA ALONSO
metdforas e imagenes de un creole que es y no es el frances, que
aparece en la superficie del texto. Esta novela se present como
afirmaci6n de las diferencias culturales, y de una identidad, repleta
de fisuras, pero que se muestra como process que se construye en
el lenguaje aunque de todos modos no pueda evadir la trampa, o las
contradicciones (mas que nada de la escritora) inherentes al uso
mismo del francs, y el nacimiento del creole.
Angel de Merle Collins, de Granada, result distinta en muchos
sentidos. Lo narrado y descrito dentro del texto aparece en el in-
gles official, pero todos los didlogos y refranes aparecen en creole,
-de hecho hay un breve glosario al final del libro, que no result
suficiente para una lectora como yo-. La novela es un tejido denso
de muchas e interminables conversaciones, que constituyen y con-
tienen casi todo el grueso de los events de la historic de la familiar
de Angel, protagonista ligada por complete a la historic de Grana-
da, hasta un poco despues de la invasion en el 1984. La narraci6n y
la descripci6n aparecen entre- cortadas por breves escenas teatra-
les, en las cuales se fijan ciertos events claves o elements, tanto
hist6ricos como culturales (algunos de los cuales coinciden por
razones hist6ricas tambi6n con los incluidos en Pluie et Vent sur
Telumre Miracle), pero sin respiro, es decir, siguiendo un cierto rit-
mo comparable tal vez al dramatismo o la primacia de todos los
instruments en el jazz." Por su parte, cada escena y capitulo co-
mienza con un refran, ya proverbial, que se destaca en una tipogra-
fia de letras mas oscuras y grandes, que sintetizan y condensan cada
subdivision del texto. Lo narrado dramatiza la tradici6n y con ello
reproduce la fatalidad que encierra el refran, fuente a su vez del
conocimiento general de la comunidad y que en algunos casos ya
contiene un valor sagrado, mitico. En otras, el refran se construye
como paradoja y sirve para ironizar sobre lo que esta pasando. En
general, Angel, la protagonista, resistira ese mismo fatalismo, y en
cierto sentido su parad6jico y aleg6rico process de crecimiento y
maduraci6n, paralelo y simultaneo al de Granada, conllevara la po-
sibilidad misma de la ruptura con los mitos aplastantes que reite-
ran los mas conservadores dentro de la comunidad, que protege y
destruye en su afAn por sobrevivir, y que no deja de ser revisada de
manera radical por la escritora y por la escritura del texto, tanto en
sus bordes como en sus intersticios y su descentrada centralidad.
EL JUEGO ENTIRE EL HABLAR Y EL ESCRIBIR: UNAS NOTAS 53
En estas dos novelas, el juego y las trampas entire el hablar y el
escribir se sintetizan latentes y condensados en el lenguaje mismo,
en la dificultad o en el drama de escribir como se habla, en la oralidad
como construcci6n social y cultural que se produce de manera
heterog6nea, marcada por su especificidad hist6rica, pero que se
mitifica sin treguas en la construcci6n de subjetividades distintas,9
en medio de los conflicts que el asunto del lenguaje -reducido a
un conflict con la identidad- dentro de la situaci6n hist6rica
"caribefa", conlleva.10 Al mismo tiempo que mediados o situados
en su propia temporalidad, entire lo que quiere permanecer y
presentizarse, y el modo en que en ese mismo tiempo y espacio, se
escapa, se les escapa. (Como la anguila, como el viento, como la
arena en el litoral).
Por otra parte, al juego entire el habla y el escribir en su relaci6n
con la identidad no se le puede negar su dimension ideol6gica y
political; sin embargo, lo que luego quiero destacar en el andlisis de
cada texto" es su relaci6n con todo el Ambito cultural y toda su
complejidad, al igual que el modo en que se asume tanto la
historicidad como la miticidad de sus reproducciones, incluyendo
todas aqu6llas que toman en cuenta el inconsciente y sus manifes-
taciones, tanto de lo real como de lo imaginario, como de lo Real.12
Se trata de un process lento, de una lectura close-up, de leer entire
lines, de mantener abiertos sus multiples significados, de explorer
lo contigente e indeterminado de su temporalidad. Textos novelados
o histories ficcionalizadas como Pluie et vent sur T6lumde Miracle,
Angel, y otros como Los pafiamanes de Fanny Buitrago, o Moi Tituba
Sorciere noire de Salem, de Maryse Cond6, trabajan de ese modo.
Son textos en los cuales tanto la oralidad como los mitos se regis-
tran como parte fundamental de la narraci6n, sin pretensiones de
pasar por el modo en que se habla, sino recogiendo aquello que lo
oral tiene de transcribible a la escritura, como lo son los dialogos,
los refranes y las metAforas llevadas al texto escrito, como parte
esencial pero no excluyente de la insistencia en su problematizaci6n.
Sin olvidar que el juego -de muchos filos entire el hablar y el perte-
necer- y el hablar y el escribir, y el hablar y la identidad, se cons-
truyen y destruyen al mismo tiempo (lejos de los clis6s, de los este-
reotipos y prejuicios que en el asunto de la identidad pueden alojar-
se): de ahi su peligrosidad, de ahi el riesgo que se toma la escritura,
54 MARIA ELENA ALONSO
en este caso.13 Una escritura densa, ambigua, polivalente y tragica,
que desea mostrar los desgarres de su process y la imposibilidad
del deseo mismo, y Je la que habra que destacar, ademas, la
especificidad de lo est6tico, su relaci6n con lo &tico y lo cognitive,
su tiempo y lugar en el conjunto de la cultural" 4
EL JUEGO ENTIRE EL HABLAR Y EL ESCRIBIR: UNAS NOTAS
'Al revisar esta ponencia, me doy cuenta que fue el resultado de una
ofuscaci6n, tal vez, necesaria para destacar lo que en estos moments
me parece s6lo una aproximaci6n. Una brevisima conversaci6n telef6ni-
ca con Maria Cristina Rodriguez me llev6 a revisar el trabajo que presen-
t6 en Santa Cruz, y que se me pidi6 y terming escribiendo para luego aqui
revisarlo. En la conversaci6n me enter de que una novela titulada Breath,
Eyes and Memory, de Edwidge Danticat, habia sido encargada (luego todo
esto se aclar6). La habia leido con much interns, pero no me sentia pre-
parada para examinarla; s6lo recordaba que me habia sorprendido mu-
cho el que se tratara de una escritora tan joven, nacida en Haiti, y que
escribia en ingles. Por el moment, se trata de una novela capaz de resis-
tir diversas lectures. En ese moment record haber comenzado a leer
otras, escritas en condiciones parecidas, que nunca pude terminar. Lo
del encargo me interest, por lo que podria significar el escribir en el idio-
ma del pedido y no en el que se acostumbra o "se piensa," con tal de
abrirse un espacio en el mercado del libro, y que para la critical podria
resultar significativo por tantas razones. En mi caso particular, porque de
la escritura y su relaci6n con el lenguaje me interest destacar su process
como necesidad vital, y distinguirlo de su comercializaci6n y populariza-
ci6n, que suele transparentarlo y naturalizarlo, como respuesta y estimu-
lo del interns que provocan algunas escritoras, como las de las minorias
en los Estados Unidos, o por todo lo latinoamericano en Europa. Suele
tratarse de novelas o cuentos que incident, entire otras cosas, en la
victimizaci6n de los caracteres femeninos, y en la reificaci6n de los este-
reotipos, o en una insistencia patol6gica por historizar o por hacer de la
historic de unas families, la historic nationall," mitificando de ese modo
tanto el pasado como la actualidad. Ademds, algunas de esas novelas que
prActicamente ya son o han sido "best-sellers," empiezan a parecerse cada
vez mas a las telenovelas y novelitas rosas mas sofisticadas. Me refiero a
que muchas de estas "famosas" escritoras, reinas por un dia y algunas
miss universe, esconden detras de mAscaras perfectamente intercambia-
bles la ideologia de lo femenino mas traditional, detras tambi6n de cierto
notable andamiaje t6cnico-narrativo. Sucede algo parecido con novelas
pseudo-er6ticas que han surgido a raiz del estimulo propiciado por edi-
toriales espafiolas y lectoras y lectores insaciables por lo mismo, adapta-
dos ya a la pasividad consumista en lo que tal vez alg6n psicoanalista
descubriria alguna sintomatica relaci6n con su sexualidad. Lo que hasta
aqui he sefialado terminaria tambien transformando la lectura frente al
modo en que se inscribe el juego entire el habla y la identidad. iPuede un
texto hablar o nombrar y de una vez pertenecer de alg6n modo, cuando
MARIA ELENA ALONSO
responded a un pedido? LO s6lo sera possible el juego cuando se present
como parte de un cuestionamiento, de una reflexi6n y de un trabajo con
la escritura? Estas preguntas podran ir respondiendose en la media en
que se logre demostrar c6mo algunas novelas, en este caso caribefas,
si, juegan con el hablar y la oralidad, dial6gica y heter6clita, como pro-
yecci6n de una identidad heterog6nea, vis a vis el idioma official, que se
desacraliza continuamente, por un lado, mientras que por el otro se
intensifica y multiplica en sus expresiones y significados -al registrar
la gama compleja y metaf6rica del habla como dificultad- y que a su
vez se constitute como registro de una diversidad de experiencias his-
t6ricas y cotidianas que la literature traditional dejaba fuera por popu-
lar o inculta, olvidando en ese gesto los comienzos mismos de la litera-
tura y distanciandola de su siempre present contextualidad. Por otra
parte, entiendo que la critical poscolonial abre precisamente la posibili-
dad de que se puedan examiner los best-sellers y otras manifestaciones
culturales junto a textos mas complejos que coincidirian con mi apre-
ciaci6n de la escritura. Sin embargo, la dificultad no radica en exami-
narlos, sino en que todo termine en lo mismo, y que todo lo que escri-
ben las mujeres, -el determinismo biol6gico mas burdo- liquid por
complete otras apreciaciones. Despues de todo, si le hacemos las mis-
mas preguntas a todo lo que se public, Zd6nde radicara la diferencia?
id6nde el juego si el mismo desaparece o se designifica, al
estereotiparse? ZC6mo distinguir y tender diferencias entire las escri-
toras? ZC6mo recuperar a las casi desconocidas y tenerlas en cuenta
tambien? Porque si bien es cierto que hay unos best sellers que muchas
descartamos, tambien es cierto que se venden bien y se traducen rapi-
damente a otros idiomas y mercados. Ademas, ,qu6 sucede cuando se
camuflagean y reciben una atenci6n inusual en ciertos espacios, inclu-
yendo el universitario? Sera necesario comenzar a distinguir entire las
novelas que si presentan la complejidad del juego y todas sus trampas,
para vincularlo a las preguntas que contintTan problematizando toda
significaci6n y que se escriben y reescriben, en un process continue y
dificil, en un batallar con la escritura y lo que en la misma se intent
decir, mostrando entire otras cosas la dificultad de escribir como se habla,
y la relaci6n de ese conflict casi tragico, entire otras cosas, con el de-
seo de la inmortalidad, como paradoja de toda escritura her6ica: anti-
doto invariable contra la muerte. (Decidi incluir estos aspects en una
nota y luego ensayar contestarlos en otro trabajo).
SNo pretend describir y much menos categorizar lo caribeno, pre-
fiero dejarlo entire comillas y en suspense por todo lo que significa, y
sobre todo por el modo en que constantemente se resignifica. Todavia
lo entiendo indefinido, incierto, etc.
EL JUEGO ENTIRE EL HABLAR Y EL ESCRIBIR: UNAS NOTAS 57
: Para el asunto de la identidad ver Homi Bhabha, The Location of
Culture. (London: Routledge, 1994) y Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Acting
Bits/Identity Talk," Critical Inquiry 18, 4 (1992): 770-803.
SLo cual no deja de resultar contradictorio no s6lo con relaci6n a lo
que podria verse a la luz del trabajo de Derrida, De la gramatologia, sino
tambien de forma mas intense en el context del lector, no tanto frente
a la eventual extinci6n del libro, sino a la de una poblaci6n oral, la mis-
ma y la inica que sostiene esa oralidad viva.
5Te asunto seria el tema de otro trabajo indispensable que no privile-
gie a la escritora, sino que examine en que consiste su modo de em-
plear el diAlogo, la palabra, en la novela. Ver M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic
Imagination. (Austin: U of Texas P, 1981).
6 Con esto no me refiero ni a belleza original, ni virginal, ni privilegia-
7Ver Homi Bhabha, 312-315.
8Ver cita que utiliza Eisenstein en El sentido del cine. (M6xico: Siglo
XXI, 1958), 71, y el articulo de James M. Harding, "Adorno, Ellison, and
the Critique of Jazz." Cultural Critique, (1995): 129-158.
"Es decir, de subjetividades opuestas a la noci6n clAsica de una sub-
jetividad dualista, jerarquizada, racional, unitaria, trascendental.
0 Por el moment consider estas dos novelas -que tan brevemente
he tratado de explicar- muy distintas de novelas como Tres tristes ti-
gres, La guaracha del macho Camacho y sus imitadores o seguidores, en
las cuales se pretend crear la ilusi6n (el engafio) de que si se puede
escribir como se habla y de que el escritor es una especie de mago
(autoridad) que tiene el poder de hacerlo; sin embargo, resultan de una
artificiocidad espantosa y ya no se resisted su simulacro; de hecho, pasa-
ron de moda. Fueron tambien espacios sobrecargados de estereotipos
de toda indole. jIr6nicas? No lo creo, pretendian seducir.
"Me refiero al studio detallado que llevo a cabo de estos textos.
2 Ver Slavoj Zizek, The Ideology of the Sublime. (London: Verso 1989).
La siguiente cita me parece pertinente a todo mi trabajo: "It is because
the Real offers no support for a direct symbolization -because every
symbolization is in the last resort contingent- that the only way the
experience of a given historic reality can achieve its unity is through the
agency of a signifier, through reference to a 'pure' signifier. It is not the
real object which guarantees as the point of reference the unity and
identity of a certain ideological experience -on the contrary, it is the
reference to a 'pure' signifier which gives unity and identity to our
experience of historical reality itself. Historical reality is of course always
58 MARIA ELENA ALONSO
symbolized: the way we experience it is always mediated through
different modes of symbolization: all Lacan adds to this
phenomenological common wisdom is the fact that the unity of a given
'experience of meaning,' itself the horizon of an ideological field of
meaning, is supported by some 'pure,' meaningless, signifierr without
the signified.'" 97.
13 Hay otros riesgos como el de la imposibilidad de hablar por los
otros, por los demds. Se ha trabajado bastante contra la ilusi6n de po-
der darle voz a otros.
'4 Bajtin, Teoria y estetica de la novela, 16.
Eugene Mona: The Martinican
Performer of Angage Songs
Brenda F. Berrian*
he Creole and French speaking island of Martinique is not
known for its "angag6" (socio-political) songs. Instead its
musical legacy is built upon danceable biguine and zouk love
songs. However, there are always exceptions, and this paper is about
a singer-musician-songwriter who consistently composed songs that
dealt with local socio-political and economic events. This songwriter,
who is now deceased, is still spoken about with a sincere reverence,
and the Martinican population of his adopted town of Sainte-Marie
celebrated his career over a three-day period in September 1997.
Whenever a Martinican talks about Eugene Mona, she or he al-
most never forgets to mention that he sang in his barefeet. Inherit-
ing the French snobbery for proper dress, Martinicans cannot con-
ceive of a singer performing without shoes. A spiritual man of the
land and the hills, Mona did not want to break contact with the land
from whence he came. His performance was a gift from God; there-
fore, he kept a link between himself and his ancestors whose spirits
surrounded him in the air and on the ground. When Martine, the
daughter of Mona's best friend Vava, asked him why he never wore
shoes, Mona's response was: "It is not with my feet that I sing. Even
you, Martine, when you wear high heeled shoes, you must feel good
about yourself. Standing ready to sing is the same for Eugene, his
toes will give him the energy to dance" (Mandibele 1992: 18).
*1997 Fellow of Caribbean 2000, Department of Africana Studies, University of
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
Born Venus Eugene Nilecame in Vauclin along the northern Atlan-
tic Ocean coast of Martinique on 13 July 1943, he changed his name
to Eugene Mona at age twenty. Nobody knows exactly why he chose
this name. The speculation is that the key was provided in the lin-
ear lines on his first album where he stated: "Monanationale
[Eugene=bien n6 (well born)]." The well-born Mona conceived of
himself as an extension of others and the cosmic universe. He was
convinced that he was born to be a messenger. At various times
during his career, his actions and decisions were misunderstood by
the Martinican public. Vulnerable, but determined not to wallow in
self-pity, Mona responded with "Tan pis pour moi" (Too Bad for Me)':
An k6 vini fou fou
An k6 vini fou
Mem s6 pa pou 1I fanm
Kon an deviens for me an
son fou de tout
E moi apre tout je resemble
a un fou
Tan pis pour moi
(I'm going to go crazy.
I'm going to go crazy,
but not for women.
When you go crazy,
You don't care about anything and, after all,
look crazy, but
That's too bad for me.)
The label "fou" (crazy) carried many connotation. The performer
Mona was judged to be "un fou" (a crazy or foolish person) because
he rebelled against the traditional manners of the performer. He
appeared barefoot, shed his shirt on stage, and sang lyrics packed
with abstract (sometimes senseless) symbolism. "Fou" also con-
noted the dependent child status that Martinique still has with its
maternal colonizer France. Mona exhorted his followers to snub
French values that dictated social conduct that were adopted and
practiced by the Martinican elite. A proud Black man from the
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONS
"mornes" (hills), Mona also conducted himself with a "Je m'en fou"
(I don't care) attitude.
In attempting to strike a balance between his private life and public
personality, Mona addressed himself in the third person singular.
Whenever he granted an interview, he called himself "Eugine Mona"
because, on stage, Mona represented the Martinican. However, he
utilized the first person singular with his family and close friends
for they were on equal footing. Speaking in the third person further
supported his critics' contention that he was "crazy." In response
to such negative criticism, two musicians-the Guadeloupean Moune
de Rivel and the Martinican Edmond Mond6sir-defended Mona's
behavior. Rivel (1982) described Mona as an organism within an
organism. She arrived at this conclusion since Mona referred to him-
self as a "living cell for whom music is a serious thing which re-
quires constant and daily work on physical, psychic, and spiritual
levels." Taking it a step further, Mondesir (1992: 42) proclaimed,
"Mona is a symbolic representation of the Martinican people's soul."
Raised in a humble household shared with two siblings (a brother
and sister), Mona was apprenticed to Emile Dispagne from whom
he learned to work in wood and became an accomplished carpen-
ter. The end result was that his work as a carpenter caused him to
carve his chosen musical instrument, the flute, which led him to his
second career. At age twenty, he seriously ventured into music, be-
coming a member of a mini-orchestra in the little night club "Chez
Nana" in Fort-de-France until 1964. But his artistic career, as a pro-
fessional musician, really began four years later in 1968 when he
performed with the M. F. Renard's folklore group in the "concours"
(contest) of popular songs at the patron saint festivals. Also, as soon
as Mona moved his residency to Marigot along the north Atlantic
Coast of Martinique, he became interested in playing the flute. Due
to his love for wood and his first profession as a carpenter, he delib-
erately chose to play a bamboo flute (called "flajole" or "toutoun-
banbou" in Creole).
Max Cilla, a fellow flutist, was approached by Mona about flute
lessons. During their first sessions Cilla noticed immediately that
Mona was a naturally gifted player who only needed to learn formal
techniques for playing the flute. Usually, Cilla noted it was the other
way around for musicians: "There are several stages in the musical
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
progression. You begin by interpretation then there is the stage
where one becomes the creator. Even with some knowledge of the
flute as an instrument, Mona was already a creator" (Mandibele 1992:
26). With delight, Cilla proceeded to teach Mona various methods
on how to improve his technique.
From 1976 to 1986, Mano produced six albums with Jacob "Jacky"
Nayardou for 3A Productions in Fort-de-France. He released his first
album Boi bril (Burned Wood) at age twenty-eight, inspired by the
blues of Louis Armstrong. As the title indicates, Mona drew upon his
almost worshipful communion with the earth, the countryside and
the smell of burning wood. Through the adoption of African Ameri-
can blues in the title track "Bois brill "2 he struggled with sadness
while singing about the pain and wonder of being born a Black man.
This blues song encompasses the psychological state of a Black man
who is exploited, dominated and dispossessed. It also reveals the con-
ditions under which the Black poor farmer lives in rural Martinique,
getting up in the morning to till land he does not own. This daily ritual
is well captured when Mona sings: "L' mwen live limaten/Mwen pran
bout kod la/Mwen ka mare ren mwen" (I get up in the morning/I attach
the rope around my trousers). Wrapping the rope around a peasant
man's waist is representational of the man's determination to face
another day with an erect posture. As the song continues, Mona also
reflects upon the drudgery and misery, asking the divine:
Mwen ka l6v6 zy6 mwen
Pou mwen mand6 kouraj
"a la divinity" 0-0
pou i p6 ba mwen
an mannye pou mwen pa sa
santi lanmize mwen
Bondy6 fe mwen pou sa
i ba mwen an bwa brilI
(I raise my eyes to the sky
to ask for courage from the Divine One
so that he grants me
a way to overcome my misery.
The Lord made me for that.
He made me burned wood.)
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS 63
Translated literally, "Bois brill&" means "burned wood," but it is used
here as a metaphor for Black skin. Interested in the history of Black
people, as well as their music, particularly Negro spirituals and Louis
Armstrong's music, Mona decided: "Man must feel good about him-
self." He pushed forward this position by insisting that the Black
man had a historical place before slavery and French colonization:
6 mwen ka tann, 6 sa listwa kit6 ba nou,
"dans les archives," "dans les archives"
Nou, nou s6 "Bwa Bril6"
Tje nou pa dif&ran
Bondy6 fe nou pou sa
i ka ba nou Inon blanc.
(I hear what history has left us
"in the archives," "in the archives."
We are "burned wood."
Our hearts are all the same.
God made us for that.
He gave us some white names.)
These so-called white names, all assigned to African American men,
are Otis Redding, Louis Armstrong and Martin Luther King-a
singer, a trumpet player and a minister whose talents and mes-
sages influenced people like Mona across cultural lines. Cutting
across divisions and the low status assigned to Blacks in
Martinique, Mona's "Bois brill&" moved the color "black" away from
the category of subordination and victimization to one of asser-
tion and resistance.
On the second album Mona attacked the social posturing of the
Mulatto elite, based in urban centers, who saw themselves as
Frenchmen. Taking a nationalistic stance he emphasized the cul-
tural revival of dignity and identity that remained (almost intact)
in the "mornes" (hills). Here, in the mornes of Marigot and Sainte-
Marie, a communal history was periodically revived through bel
air drum and song gatherings and the warrior "ladja" dances. In-
stead of snubbing poor rural Blacks for speaking Creolized French,
living in small "cases" (huts) and having a "Black" skin, the Mul-
attos should rethink of themselves not as light skinned French
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
people, but as a distinct people and move away from the divi-
siveness of ethnic separatism. Therefore, songs like "Lakay Adan"
(Adam's House) and "Ti bouchon" (The Penis) provided a political
platform for Mona to espouse rural and sexual values that needed
to be transferred to urban dwellers who had strayed too far from
their ethnic origins.
On the third album, where the popular "Doudou Menard" (Dar-
ling Menard)" was introduced, Mona revealed his thoughts about
women, listing the feminine qualities like tenderness, affection and
comfort. The novelist, Patrick Chamoiseau (1992: 60) noted that he
listened to "Doudou Menard" almost every day while he was writ-
ing his second novel, Solibo magnifique in 1988. He was so inspired
by it that he passed on the song's title to his female protagonist
(changing the spelling to "Doudou Menaw"). Chamoiseau duplicated
the oral production of the song within the narrative of the novel,
sprinkling Creole puns, exclamations, expressions, and metaphors.
Without discussing his novel with Mona, the two men paralleled
each other in duplicating orality into their compositions: the under-
lining of humor with pessimism, the supernatural with Christianity,
and confusion with depression. Mona, the porte-parole" (speaker),
is transformed into the storyteller Solibo from Chamoiseau's novel
for the promotion of the Martinican "memoire vraie" (true memory).
A self-taught person who had difficulty reading and writing, Mona
tried to cram too many ideas in one song. Without musical accom-
paniment Mona raises his voice an octave when he utters the sen-
tence to begin "Agoulou c6 lan mo" (Greed Is Death)4. The loud pitch
of his dramatic speaking voice with stress placed upon the one syl-
lable noun "mo" (death) immediately graps his audience's atten-
tion. Like a storyteller Mona says "Cric," and his band responds
"Crac," signaling the moment for Mona to sing along with the music.
This call-and-response opening to "Agoulou c6 lan mo" supports
Peter Roberts' statement in West Indians and Their Language (1988)
that "This kind of language therefore provided a socially integrated
function rather than a directive or informative one" (151)."Agoulou
c6 lan mo" is an example of this tendency.
In a very calm voice, Mona discussed the life cycle: Man is born
to die. Therefore, the structure of "Agoulou c6 lan mo" resembled a
religious testament, opening with: "L'hymne national de la mort/Pa
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS 65
mwen pa say si le m6 ni le souvenir ya ja pas6 pa le chimin de lan
mS" (This is the national hymn of the dead/Because I don't know if
the dead know they're alive/but I know that you and I are following
death's path). Midway through the song, rhetorical questions are
asked about the personification of death:
Poutchi ou kri6-i vole sa iza vole ta ou
Poutchi ou kri6-i vole
Bon di6 pa 16-ou 16 ou m6
Pas6 nou ka pas6, pas6 en 16-a.
(Why do they call him a thief?
What did he steal from you?
Did he take anything from you?
God doesn't want you when you're dead.
We're just in passage on this earth.)
Wondering why so much fear surrounds death, Mona then inserted
the proverbial folk saying, "Here is a little sentence that will make
you meditate/Because bees sting hard, and they haven't got a sea-
son for that/Before the time [death] comes, let's dance the ble).
Just as bees congregate around a cow's tale, Mona reinforces the
reality that death, an inevitable homecoming, cannot be avoided.
This is not to say that whenever one of his friends died that Mona
did not grieve, because it was the militant Emile Laporte's death
that prompted Mona to compose "Agoulou c6 lan mo."
On his fourth album, entitled Eugine Mona, Mona paid homage
to the bele drummer, Emmanuel "Ti Emile" Cas6rus with "Ti Milo."
The composer was adventurous enough to change the tone and key
of the flute several times. For each song Mona searched for another
way to play the flute. In his sensitivity to external phenomena and
local politics, Mona varied his songs to locate an unbiased reflec-
tion of himself, his personality, and his ability as a performer. First,
since he totally identified with nature, he was disturbed that French
construction companies were cutting down trees to pave the way
for concrete buildings. Second, after his band drummer Ernest "Vava"
Dovin's and Ti Emile's deaths, Mona wrote "Tambou s6ry&" (Seri-
ous Drum),s which can be considered a tribute to them by looking
66 BRENDA F. BERRIAN
at what can be produced from the merger of nature and man's natu-
The interplay with nature (tree), coinciding with the carving of
the tree bark into a drum with man's hands, is one of the focuses of
"Tambou s&ry&." Previously, to support the conviction that a tree
represents life and is the repository for self-reflection, Mona sang
the two lines-"En ke rimit6 en bwa la/En bwa la, bwa la/Pa ni pedi
la foi" (I'm going to go back to the woods/In the woods you don't
lose faith) from "Tan pis pour moi," another cut from the album. He
voiced his belief that a drummer and his drum are interwined and
extensions of each other. This fusion of nature, man, and instru-
ment expresses a wide range of moods: sadness, revolt, and hope.
As far as Mona is concerned, music does not exist for itself but as a
companion to natural impulses. It is the emotion that dictates the
rhythm; the voice by its sounds translates the message. Conse-
quently, lyrics function as the companion to music which reflect all
the moments of life.
Heavily influenced by Vava, considered to be one of the best bele
drummers in his band, "Tambou s6ry6" is a testimony to both Mona's
and Vava's love and respect for the drum. The song is structured to
describe the power of the drum. It opens with the chant "Mi mwen
1 le Monayist/Tambou f6k zot tout pren mwen" (I am am the drum
through whom Mona speaks/Everybody believe in me, the drum).
Thus begins a drum soliloquy invoking the force and role in empow-
ering Blacks to survive slavery. Speaking in the voice of the drum in
the guise of an elderly wise man, Mona salutes and pays respect to
the instrument from whom he will obtain the power to play it. Mid-
way through the song, Mona assumes the persona of the drum to
demonstrate its ancestral and traditional powers.
The volume and instrumentation of "Tambou s6ry6" shift from a
slow, Congolese-based rhythm to a faster, Brazilian beat on the drum,
creating a mounting tension and lending an urgency to the narra-
tion. Transitions are distinguished by a full stop. Mixing African
chanting and bele, Congolese, and Brazilian drumming techniques,
the tune is celebratory, an affirmation of an individual act of posses-
sion and active engagement. The drum/speaker states that the mys-
tery is within:
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS
Met6 mwen en kote mwen senti rnwen byen
Kouve mwen, chof6 mwen, respekte mwen
Pa pres6 binyin k6-ou lI nou k6 join pou nou pale
Lave tche-ou, lav6-ou, lav6 lang-ou, lav6 lespri-ou
(Put me somewhere where I feel good.
Cover me, heat me, respect me.
Don't be in a hurry to bathe when we meet in order to
Cleanse your heart, yourself, your language, your spirit
So that we will be able to meet and speak.)
The emotional "Tambou s&ry&" is an illustration of the N6gritude
movement, through its affirmation and validation of Black identity.
Given the diverse biological ancestors (Carib Indians, Africans, Eu-
ropeans, and some East Indians) of present-day Martinicans, the
drum has evoked fear and respect among them. Mona rightfully re-
claims the drum from its marginalized place to situate it directly in
the center of Martinican society as the main instrument in his band.
Chronicling the political debates about the drum, Mona declared:
S6 mammay la pare pou tchw6 tambou-a
Tchw6 tambou-a, tchwe tambou-a
Si gran nom lan di mwen tambou-a
Si an moun, fodra nou tchimbey, fodra nou soin6-y,
Mwen ka mand6 la vi ba tambou-a
(People want to kill the drum.
Kill the drum, kill the drum.
Wise men told me the drum is a man.
One has to hold it, take care of it.
I am pleading for the drum to live.)
Switching roles from the storyteller to the drum, itself, Mona cap-
tures its spiritual vitality: "Mwen li6v en nom ki t6 za m6 d& fwa/
Mwen fR lespryi vireo entr6 en koy/Jou6 mwen, lou6 mwen, wi mwen
s6 en met/Wi, met neg ki neg pou bon" (I made a man, who had died
twice, rise up/I made his spirit return into his body/Play me, glorify
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
me, I am a master/Yes, I am the master of a real Black man). Finally,
Mona is the drum: "Mwen s6 an tambou/Mona se an tambou" (I am
a drum/ Mona is truly a drum). From an African-based religious per-
spective, the deceased are not dead. Therefore, the spirit of Vava, a
good man and drummer, rises up in "Tambou s6ry6," and passes
through Mona while he performs.
Called a mystic and a deeply religious man, Mona was subject to
mood swings from extreme joy to depression. Themes of spiritual
discovery (already discussed in "Agoulou c6 lan mo" and "Tambou
sery&") assumed a central place in his repertorie, revealing a preoc-
cupation with faith and enlightenment. The symbolism of the tree
being a repository of life is replaced with the belief that the devil
lurked among its leaves. Retreating to the foyer de la Trinit6 at Brin
d'Amour, Mona composed "Sov6 Jesus Christ" (Save Jesus Christ)
during which he asked the Lord's pardon. Still unable to shake off
his depression, Mona finally succumbed to it and entered a
traversee de desert" (self-imposed retirement) from 1986-90. Im-
mediately, wild rumors circulated that Mona was experimenting with
drugs or had had a nervous breakdown. But Felix Fleury, the band's
manager, explained that the singer underwent a religious experi-
ence akin to the suffering of many devout Christians.
During his four years of self-imposed retirement, Mona passed
his time traveling and singing for church choirs; all attempts to be-
come a whole figure. Portions of his creativity had been repressed
in his struggle to satisfy the music industry that invested money in
him and wanted a profitable return. Mona strove to be a Martinican
singer on his own terms, not a French one, and this struggle led to
his psychic dislocation. He, a Martinican, was a mixed product of
several cultures, with the African culture (for him) being the most
important. Having been in the public spotlight for over twenty years,
Mona's body and spirit were weary and bent from taking on so many
causes. The mixture of three cultures, dominated by the French who
imposed external structures that bore no relevancy to his birth cul-
ture, directly produced Mona's illness of body and mind.
Without a doubt, Mona's psychic suffering was engendered by
the racist ideologies of French departmentalization. Frantz Fanon
documented the efforts of French Caribbeans who adopted French
culture at their own psychological risk in Peau noire, masques blancs
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS 69
(1952), but he did not study the other side where Mona found him-
self: that of the Martinican's struggles to be "roots oriented" against
objections by the French and some fellow Martinicans. Therefore,
the self-imposed traversee de desert" was a necessary one; Mona
had arrived at the crossroads between sanity and madness. To fuse
his fragmented parts of the self, he had to rest and call upon Pere
Elie, family, and friends to touch him with their healthy hands and
to serve him as mediating figures.
Finally, after four years of coaxing, Jean-Michel and Marilene
Mauriello of Hibiscus Studios joined the list of concerned people
who persuaded Mona to come out of hibernation. Not only had the
time come for the singer to pass on the "wise" words, but also Mona's
salvation rested in the creativity of music. Following the Mauriellos'
advice, Mona assembled his former musicians to rehearse old and
new numbers, resulting in Blanc mang6. This seventh and last al-
bum took six months to record because it underwent two periods
of production: (1) a live performance and (2) recordings in the stu-
dio. Sadly, Mona died before Blanc mang6's release.
Although the chosen songs for Blanc mang6 were recorded in
1991, Mona actually wrote them in 1984, '85, and '86. "Face a Face"
(Face to Face),6 located on this posthumous album, is the reflection
of a man who looked hard at society and evaluated it while he was
in hibernation. There are many double meanings; and it is not easy
to sing or play. Initially, Mona wanted to give "Prekoyson avan tou"
(Precaution Above All) as the album's title and the main song in-
stead of "Face to Face." After contemplation, he decided to leave a
mystical image about moving in the direction of a white light to guide
him into an unavoidable peaceful future. Thus, his choice of "Blanc
mang" (a white coconut dessert) left people perplexed. They could
not decide if Mona was discussing a dessert or being intentionally
vague with a religious or social message as was his work in years
past. Without being superstitious, Marilene Mauriello asked: "Was
this song a premonition"?
Regardless, Mona liked to throw out challenges as noted in "Face
a Face," an intense ballad in which he discovered that a person
cannot run away from his destiny. Man or woman has to face life
squarely, feel good about him herselfl, and accept his/her weak-
nesses and strengths. However, each person must know his/her
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
ethnic history-not just the French history taught from the French
perspective in colonial schools. Using the format of a Baptist preacher
who repeats the same phrase to command attention and to reinforce
a specific idea, Mona took the stance of a storyteller. Rather than use
the standard European "Once upon a time" introduction to an oral
tale, Mona chose "0-0 mwen ka di'w sa" (0 0 I am telling you about
it); and he tagged on the Creole proverb "Sa ki sav sav/Sa ki pa sav
pa sav" (Those who know, know/Those who don't know, know) at
the end of almost every line. The recurrence of this phrase enlarged
and placed stress on the seriousness of the song's message.
In retrospect, "Face a Face" was Mona's last will and testament, a
song tinged with some bitterness and a quiet desperation. The self
that emerged from the transforming experience chose to "pass on"
his story to other generations and to face his destiny. Lexical jug-
gling with the altering and inverting of "Sa ki say sav/Sa ki pa sav pa
sav," Mona voiced his disgust with the superficial general attitude
of Martinican society. He had been disappointed when he made an
appeal to the Corps musical (the musicians' union) for funding to
form a large band and was turned down. Rather than dwell on this
disappointment, he sustained an optimistic viewpoint in the song:
F6k koup6 an fout6
aspt6 gwo dif6
gow m6dan ni an tan
pou i ka chants lavi
gow m6dan ni an tan o wi
pou i fini espwate
(Cut off the furnace
to accept the sacrifice of a big fire.
The big pinch at the time
is to sing about life.
There's a time for the big pinch
to put an end to exploitation.)
Endowed with special powers, Mona's songs cast a spell upon
his audience. His overpowering personality, dancing, and movements
on stage during live performances electrified his audiences. In her
effort to understand Mona's stage presence, Maryvonne Charlerly
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS 71
described her attendance at a Mona concert in central Fort-de-France
in the Parc Floral before cement paths were laid down in the 1970s.
A graduate student on leave from a French university for the sum-
mer vacation, Charlerly described Mona's arrival on stage. Simply
dressed in white, he used a rough timbre of voice to sing and danced
the "ladja" (a warrior dance from southern Martinique) in his
barefeet. She found his performance to be unusual and mesmeriz-
ing. Without realizing it, for a brief moment time stopped, for she
was a captive to Mona's voice and its magical spell with the Parc
Floral dust encircling her and flying into her face.7
Obviously, Mona's audiences were not immuned to his charisma
and special aura. For instance, whenever Pere Elie saw a Mona con-
cert, he noticed that the singer carried himself like a sorcerer or a
priest (Elie 1992: 29). This posturing provided the explanation for
the many coded messages in Mona's songs. If he were a sorcerer,
shaman or a priest, he conversed with the supernatural. This is why
the musician, Lucky Longlade, called Mona "une racine" (a root).
Mona's stage personality, voice and music lighted a fire, but the
flames did not burst out far enough. Larger than life, he believed
man had an internal potential that was a manifestation of God. He
was to die from a cerebral stroke on the evening of September 28,
1991, after he had carried a pregnant woman on the verge of giving
birth to the safety of an ambulance. Interestingly enough, the clair-
voyant Mona had already begun preparing for an early death at the
young age of forty-eight. Having complained of pains in his leg (two
days before his death), he slept on the floor and told Fleury he was
going to be part of the earth soon. Fleury did not find Mona's state-
ment to be unusual.8 Sometimes Mona was called "De Gualle," and
he compared himself to the classical composer Mozart, who died in
his thirties in 1791. As predicted, two hundred years later, in 1991,
Mona passed on into the world of the ancestors.
The social hierarchy in the Martinican music industry did not
provide Mona with stability and an interaction with other musical
groups. Ambivalence to the social order and his own ambiguous
position revealed an inner confusion. He wanted to be acknowledged.
Yet he wanted to remain apart with his insistence upon dancing the
"ladja" (usually reserved for the regional rural festivals of the b&le)
on stage. He was well aware of the pretentiousness of the fragmented
72 BRENDA F. BERRIAN
social order. Born poor, Mona was unable to attend school on a regu-
lar basis to which Mulattoes and other kids from middle-class fami-
lies had access. He spoke about the snobbishness and segregated
reality. Consequently, Mona was separated from other bands by his
perception of class and his basic level education. He was
marginalized by his anti-establishment compositions, his dark skin,
elementary education, professional rather than amateur status, resi-
dency in the rural Sainte Marie, barefoot appearance, and his insis-
tence on speaking the "Creole de la champagne" (countryside Cre-
ole) rather than the acrolectal urban-based Creole. Singing about
the Black man's struggles, Mona attempted to alleviate some of his
pain. His expression of pain was a means of bringing an end to it or,
at least, attenuating it. Also, through performance, Mona, the mes-
senger, conceived of a Black consciousness as an "angag6" space
which was always in the making.
Special thanks are extended to Felix Fleury who granted me two interviews
to discuss Eugene Mona's life and songs. Also, I am grateful to Marie-Claude
Pacquit and Maryvonne Charlery who helped me to transcribe and translate
Mona's Creole lyrics into French.
EUGENE MONA: THE MARTINICAN PERFORMER OF ANGAGE SONGS
S"Tan pis pour moi," Eugene Mona (1975-1978) Vol. I (Hibiscus
2"Bois brille" Boi bril6, (HPR 52 Parade, 1970); T6moignage
(Hibiscus HR 88024, 1989).
' "Doudou Menard," Eugene Mona (1975-1978) Vol. I.
"Agoulou c6 lan mo," Eugene Mona (1975-1978) Vol. 1.
"Tambou s&ry6," T6moignage.
" "Face a Face," Blanc mang6 (Hibiscus 88037-2, 1991).
7 Berrian interview with Maryvonne Charlerly, Schoelcher, Martinique,
7 February 1995.
SBerrian interview with Felix Fleury, Marigot, Martinique, 28 April 1995.
Chamoiseau, Patrick. Solibo magnifique. Paris: Gallimard, 1988.
___ "Mona comme Solibo," Karibel Magazine 2 (juillet-aoit
Fanon, Frantz. Peau noire, masques blancs. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1952.
Mandible, "Avec Martine Dovin: de bons amis, il n'en existe plus," Karibel
Magazine 2 (juillet-aout 1992): 17-18.
"Interview Max Cilia," Karibel Magazine 2 (juillet-aoit 1992): 26-28.
Mond6sir, Edmond. "Mona 16gendaire," Karibel Magazine 2 (juillet- aoit
PNre Elie et Antoine Maxme, "Mona," Karibel Magazine 2 (juillet-aout
Rivel, Moune de. "La flfte magique d'Eugene Mona," Bingo (aoit 1982).
Roberts, Peter. WestIndians and TheirLanguage. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988.
Puerto Rico y Quebec: dos soledades
Catherine Den Tandt*
En un trabajo que escribi hace tres aflos, titulado "Tracing a
Comparative Project: the Case of Quebec and Puerto Rico,"
trat6 de imaginar c6mo podriamos abarcar un studio com-
parado de Quebec y Puerto Rico dentro del context de lo que Gus-
tavo P&rez Firmat ha nombrado "inter-American literary studies"
(2). Lo que me interesaba en ese moment era la delineaci6n de un
campo que debia much a los esfuerzos y el rigor critic de la teo-
ria y el pensamiento poscolonial. O sea, se legitimiz6, a trav6s de la
deconstrucci6n de la metanarrativa europea y occidental y el desa-
rrollo de nuevos models de analisis politico y literario, la idea de
mirarnos a nosotros mismos a base de nuevos criterios y proble-
mas, como por ejemplo la entrada y el acceso a la modernidad, la
crisis de la identidad, la sobrevivencia de cultures indigenas, rela-
ciones de dependencia econ6mica neo-coloniales, etc. Entre Quebec
y Puerto Rico existe toda una red de relaciones culturales y politi-
cas, empezando por el factor comfn de un pasado colonizado, la
lucha constant a trav6s del siglo XX para proteger y mantener una
cultural y un idioma al lado de dos poderios como lo son el Canada
ingl6s y Estados Unidos (con todos los conflicts internos que esto
trae consigo), y mas espectacularmente, este estado anacr6nico de
ser colonies que nunca se descolonizaron.
Sin embargo, me preocupaba la cuesti6n de diferencias entire los
various espacios americanos que los critics habian empezado a
* Becada 1997 de Caribe 2000, Departamento de Lenguas Modernas y Estudios
Comparados, Universidad de Alberta, CanadA.
PUERTO Rico Y QUEBEC: DOS SOLEDADES 75
mirar bajo este conjunto de categories analiticas. Insisti en sefialar
que, a pesar de esta red de relaciones que hace possible el analisis
comparado, pueden existir profundas desigualdades dentro de cada
context y entire cada context, y que el analisis comparado tiene
que fijarse en lo hist6rico, en relaciones de poder locales, y no sola-
mente en lo te6rico. En el caso de Quebec y Puerto Rico, es impres-
cindible recorder que Quebec compare una economic nortefia con
el CanadA ingl6s y Estados Unidos y ejerce much flexibilidad en
cuanto a los discursos ideol6gicos e "identitarios" que maneja en
nombre de la naci6n. En los sesenta y setenta, el discurso naciona-
lista qu6b&cois se aliaba a los movimientos de descolonizaci6n
global, a una perspective tercermundista y marxista. En los ochen-
ta, abandonaron esta perspective, en parte porque la energia y la
fuerza del gran period de la descolonizaci6n empezaba a disipar-
se, fracas6 la lucha militant en 1970, gan6 el Parti Qub&ecois (el
partido separatist) las elecciones de 1976, y ademas, Quebec se
vio forzado a reconocer su propia naturaleza como metr6poli den-
tro de las Americas -y estos mismos sujetos "tercermundistas,"
con los cuales Quebec se habia identificado, ahora inmigrantes en
Montreal, representaban una amenaza a la cultural qu6b6coise.
Este cambio de registro se nota en tres poemas de la poeta naciona-
lista Michele Lalonde, que escribia a lo largo de este period. En
"Apatrie" dice "Je suis fille de race blanche / issue d'un m6tissage
entire l'histoire et la l1gende / ne demandez ni mon nom ni la couleur
de mon teint / je suis noire" [Yo soy hija de raza blanca / provenida
de un mestizaje entire la historic y la leyenda / no me pregunten ni
por mi nombre ni por el color de mi piel / Yo soy negra] (187). En
"Speak White," Lalonde describe la explotaci6n econ6mica y cultu-
ral de Quebec en un "Franglish" que establece una relaci6n solida-
ria con una lucha global contra el poder institucionalizado del mun-
do anglo-saj6n: "speak white / de Westminster A Washington relayez-
vous / speak white comme A Wall Street / white comme a Watts / be
civilized / et comprenez notre parler de circonstance / quand vous
nous demandez poliment / how do you do ... we're doing all right /
we're doing fine / we / are not alone / nous savons que nous ne
sommes pas seuls" [speak white/de Westminster a Washington /
absuelvanse / speak white como en Wall Street / white como en Watts
/ be civilized / y entiendan nuestro hablar de circunstancia / cuando
76 CATHERINE DEN TANDT
Uds. nos preguntan cort6smente / how do you do ... we're doing all
right / we're doing fine / we / are not alone / nosotros sabemos que
no estamos solos (40). En "Destination 80" [Destinaci6n 80], poema
en prosa que Lalonde public en 1979 en un libro titulado Defense et
illustration de la langue quebecoise [Defensa e ilustraci6n de la len-
gua qu6b6coise], la voz po6tica reflexiona con tristeza, mientras
pasea en autobiis por la calle Sherbrooke en Montreal, sobre la pre-
sencia abrumadora de tantos inmigrantes que hablan lenguas dife-
rentes y viven cultures diferentes: "Absurdement d6sidentifi6s,
rendus m&connaissables, nous entrons solitaires dans le cosmopolite
anonymat de la Great City of" [Absurdamente desidentificados, vuel-
tos a ser irreconocibles, entramos solitarios en el anonimato cos-
mopolita de la Great City of] (158). La presencia de tanta "diferen-
cia" sefala para la poeta la p&rdida de una identidad qu6ebcoise ya
muy frdgil despues de casi dos siglos de dominaci6n inglesa.
En agosto de 1991 apareci6 en el peri6dico Le Devoir un articulo
bajo el siguiente titulo: "Le lait 'Grand Pr&' bloqu6 A Porto Rico" [La
leche Grand Pr& bloqueada en Puerto Rico] (Turcotte). El articulo
decia que el gobierno puertorriquefo habia revocado el derecho
de una compafia quebecoise de exportar su leche a Puerto Rico
porque la leche Grand Pre amenazaba la sobrevivencia de la pro-
ducci6n de leche estatal. Seg6n el articulo, los productores de la
leche Grand Pre exigian que el gobierno qu6bicois se quejara fren-
te al gobierno puertorriquefo y si la cosa no era resuelta de esta
manera, entonces que el gobierno qu6ebcois se dirigiera al gobier-
no de Estados Unidos invocando el acuerdo de libre comercio entire
Canada y Estados Unidos como base legal de su queja contra Puer-
to Rico. Es quizAs con cierta mala fe que les hablo de esta pequeia
tension en las relaciones comerciales puertorriquefas/quebecoises.
Sin embargo, refleja precisamente esta flexibilidad de registros a la
cual me refiero. Al fin y al cabo la posici6n de Quebec frente a Cana-
dA no se asemeja a la posici6n de Puerto Rico frente a Estados Uni-
dos. Quebec es una provincia de Canada, hoy en dia una de las mas
poderosas; junto con Ontario domina la political national, raz6n por
la cual se quejan much las provincias del oeste y las del este, ni
hablar. Ocupa 75 de 295 asientos en el parlamento federal y, para
darles un ejemplo hasta c6mico, en las elecciones federales de 1993,
el Bloc Quebecois, partido federal separatist, gan6 dos tercios de
PUERTO RICO Y QU'BEC: DOS SOIEDADES
los asientos federales en Quebec. Esto fue bastante para que el Bloc
Quebbcois formara la Oposici6n Oficial en el parlamento federal:
seria algo como si el partido Independentista puertorriquefo estu-
viera en la posici6n de los dem6cratas en el congress de los Esta-
Sefalar estas interrupciones que complican el proyecto compa-
rado entire Quebec y Puerto Rico es algo como sefalar que Puerto
Rico, en el context regional, tambien goza de ciertos privilegios,
aunque siempre contradictorios y ambivalentes. Como puerta de
entrada para inmigrantes que van rumbo a Estados Unidos, funcio-
na como una pseudo-metr6poli y hasta metr6poli caribefia. Puerto
Rico tiene acceso a multiples discursos de identidad tambi6n -
somos latinoamericanos, somos afro-caribefos, somos hispanos,
somos norteamericanos, somos puertorriquefos, y, el coup de grace
de los Nuevo-Progresistas: somos puertorriquefos y norteamerica-
nos a la vez. Y si seguimos el analisis de Jorge Heine y Juan M. Garcia-
Passalacqua, la historic de la political econ6mica de Puerto Rico en
el Caribe raras veces demuestra un interns en establecer relaciones
solidarias con los vecinos. Dicen ellos: "Puerto Rico's ties with other
Caribbean countries have no intrinsic value to Puerto Rico but are
simply a means to obtain the benefits or to protect the privileges
Puerto Rico gains through its relationship with the United Sates
En "Puerto Principe abajo" de 1981, Ana Lydia Vega describe el
viaje a Haiti de un grupo de seforas puertorriquehas, varias de ellas
"matronas urbanizadas" que llevan d6lares en sus carteras y muy
poco en la cabeza. El cuento se burla de sus pretensiones
"primermundistas/muhocistas" frente a la pobreza y la falta de de-
sarrollo que encuentran en esta otra isla caribefa "Ay m'hija, la
De Diego es Fifth Avenue al lao de aquello" (93) y de sus preten-
siones raciales "Ave Maria, qu6 oscuridA, como estA el prieto
ahi..." (92). Al lado de este discurso de clase media puertorriquena
y del "recuerdo acondicionado de un dia de compras en Plaza Las
Americas" (94), el cuento contrapone otra voz, de otra viajera, que
mira la miseria que la rodea con la amargura de una conciencia
caribefa, pero que se siente hasta mareada por todas las contradic-
clones que tiene que enfrentar cuando sale a darse "una vueltecita
por este reventado archipielago" (97). Habla de su "paranoia
CATHERINE DEN TANDT
galopante de colonizada" y de una bfsqueda identitaria abrumado-
ra a trav6s del Partido Comunista, el feminismo, la negritud, etc.
(96), para acabar mAs confusa que nunca al terminar el cuento
cuando reconoce que en Haiti ella es tambi6n "TURISTA. A pesar
del color, a pesar del amor. TURISTA: como ellos" (98) y regresa
con alivio a Puerto Rico.
ZIndependencia? Yes. No. Maybe. Can I Call My Accountant?
Esta multiplicidad de posiciones que causa confusion en la pro-
tagonista de "Puerto Principe abajo", y que puede interrumpir la
mirada comparada, es parad6jicamente lo que hoy me permit re-
gresar al studio de estas dos "soledades," como las nombro en mi
titulo, porque como voy a tratar de argiiir, es precisamente este es-
tado de "interstitiality," para usar una palabra favorite de Homi
Bhabha, "neither the one nor the other" (25) lo que tienen en comfn.
Ademds, algunos de los mismos preceptos del pensamiento
poscolonial que sustentaban el proyecto comparado fallan aqui, algo
que me parece tremendamente ir6nico que los models analiti-
cos desarrollados para estudiar y entender la historic y la naturale-
za del colonialismo y sus resultados no correspondent a las necesi-
dades de estas dos colonies que no se descolonizaron.
El pensamiento poscolonial supone una trayectoria lineal y
teleol6gica a trav6s de la cual un pueblo se liberal de un estado colo-
nizado (por lo que entendemos opresi6n, falta de libertad, explota-
ci6n, falta de libre albedrio, violencia epist6mica, etc.) para entrar
en un estado de lo que voy a llamar "independencia clasica," que
idealmente significa el mejoramiento de la vida spiritual y fisica de
un pueblo a traves de la formaci6n de una nueva naci6n juridica y un
desarrollo ec6nomico dominado por el capital native. Yo diria que ni
en el caso de Quebec ni en el caso de Puerto Rico, hoy en dia, pode-
mos hablar de la independencia bajo este modelo, modelo que domi-
n6 el gran period de descolonizaci6n que vino despu6s de 1945.
En Quebec, fuera del caso del Front de la Liberation du Qu6bec, la
independencia clasica nunca ha sido la meta de los separatists y
no lo es hoy tampoco. En el plebiscite de 1980, la opci6n que el
gobierno separatist de Ren6 Levesque dio al pueblo fue la de
"souverainet6-association" algo que se acerca a la noci6n de "aso-
PUERTO Rico Y QUEBEC: DOS SOLEDADES 79
ciaci6n libre" que esta circulando ahora en Puerto Rico y en Was-
hington (el "oui" perdi6 40% a 60%, pero entire franc6fonos era 50%/
50%). En 1987, Quebec se mostr6 dispuesto a firmar el Acuerdo de
Meech Lake, acuerdo que le daba el status de "soci6et distinct"
entire otras cosas, pero dentro de la constituci6n canadiense. Meech
Lake fracas6, no por Quebec, sino por la resistencia aut6ctona al
acuerdo. En el iltimo plebiscite de octubre de 1995 (50.5% para el
"non" y 49.5% para el "oui," entire franc6fonos el voto fue 60% "oui"
y 40% "non"), la pregunta que escribi6 el Parti Quebecois no incluia
ni la palabra "naci6n", ni la palabra "independencia", ni la palabra
"separarse." Se hablaba de soberania precedida por "un partenariat
economique et politique [con el Canada] visant notamment A
consolider 1'espace economique actuel" [un acuerdo econ6mico y
politico [con el Canada] que tiene como meta la consolidaci6n del
espacio econ6mico actual] ("Entente pr6sent6e par Jacques
Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard et Mario Dumont"), y el lider del Parti
Qu6ebcois, Jacques Parizeau, decia a lo largo de la campafa que un
Quebec independiente mantendria la ciudadania canadiense y la
misma moneda, provocando esta reacci6n de un comentarista poli-
Where is the grand vision? The mighty declaration of an indepen-
dent state? Turns out he [Parizeau] wants training wheels instead....
He wants to keep the Canadian currency. He wants to keep the
Canadian passport... In essence, what the rotund Rene wants is to
turn Quebec into a Puerto Rico, which is a semi-demi vassal of the
United States, with passport privileges but no statehood, a piece
of flotsam in the American currency stream, with no powers of its
own to control its own money supply. (Fotheringham)
El Partido Quebecois, ahora encabezado por Lucien Bouchard,
separatist menos radical que Jacques Parizeau, parece que se esta
preparando para otro plebiscite cerca del afio 2000. Sera, posible-
mente, mas de lo mismo: situaci6n que me Ileva a preguntar si en
Quebec no se habrA institucionalizado el separatismo.
En Puerto Rico, la independencia clAsica hist6ricamente ha sido
la meta de los independentistas. Sin embargo, el pueblo nunca los
ha apoyado, raz6n por la cual Antonio S. Pedreira se desperaba en
los 1930, declarando que el hombre puertorriquefto era debil e in-
80 CATHERINE DEN TANDT
capaz de tomar control de su future politico como lo habian hecho
otros machos en America Latina ("Insularismo"). Este discurso de
la "debilidad" puertorriquefia nunca ha sido enteramente supera-
do, aunque Jos6 Luis Gonzalez hizo much en "El pais de cuatro
pisos" (1979/80) para mostrar que ni el hombre puertorriquefio ni
la mujer puertorriquefia tenian muchas razones por las cuales mon-
tarse sobre el independentismo traditional en Puerto Rico. El Parti-
do Popular Democrdtico entendi6 esto muy bien en 1952, y uno de
los grandes logros ret6ricos y politicos del PPD fue -como han
sefalado estudiosos como Silvia Alvarez-Curbelo- desautorizar el
nacionalismo y reemplazarlo con un discurso populist que se di-
vorciaba del nacionalismo y por consecuencia del independentismo
("El discurso populista de Luis Mufioz Marin").
Se nota en la colecci6n de ensayos sobre el populismo y el nacio-
nalismo de 1993, en la cual aparece el trabajo de Alvarez-Curbelo y
otros ms, una tendencia hacia una lectura del populismo de Luis
Mufoz Marin como una construcci6n enteramente ret6rica que tie-
ne como meta el engafio del pueblo puertorriquefio para asegurar
la victoria del Estado Libre Asociado y consolidar el poder del par-
tido (ver Del nacionalismo al populismo: Cultura y political en Puerto
Rico). Esta lectura del populismo, que minimize la agencia del pue-
blo, se contrast a la historic social y political de Puerto Rico que
nos construye un Jose Luis Gonzalez, por ejemplo, en la que se in-
siste precisamente en la agencia de este mismo pueblo ("El pais de
cuatro pisos"). No quiero entrar en este debate aqui, sino simple-
mente sefialar la multiplicidad de lectures que rodean la cuesti6n
de "agencia" en la historic de las relaciones entire el puertorriqueno
y la independencia.
Son los posmodernistas, por razones obvias, los que mejor han
analizado este "political indeterminacy and the plenitude of
discourses over the 'national culture,' como lo described Juan Flo-
res, Maria Milagros L6pez y Nalini Natarajan, que caracterizan no
s6lo a la historiografia puertorriquefia sino tambiEn al estado poli-
tico y cultural actual (93). En su introducci6n a "Dossier Puerto Rico,"
una secci6n especial de la revista Social Text de 1994, donde apare-
cen una series de articulos que analizan este estado de
"indeterminacy" con much mis profundidad de lo que yo hago
PUERTO RICO Y QUEBEC: DOS SOLEDADES 81
aqui, hablan de "the baffling complexity of colonial politics under
conditions of global postcoloniality" (93), y sugieren que Puerto Rico
se puede conceptualizar como "a location where new versions of
the postmodern subject may be in formation" (93). Estoy de acuer-
do con el espiritu de su andlisis, aunque no me consuele much la
idea de que "contemporary Puerto Rico is also turning out to be an
ideal site for productive vacillation" (95), ni estoy segura si ha llega-
do el moment de hablar de un "postnational phenomena" (93).
ZC6mo hablar de posnacionalismo cuando parece que el afio que
viene se va a celebrar otro plebiscito aqui sobre la cuesti6n del
status? El deseo te6rico no corresponde a la realidad political. La
proliferaci6n del "pos" en este discurso sugiere, a mi pensar, que
algo se ha superado, cuando en realidad estamos entire lo colonial y
lo poscolonial, en un "no-man's land" politico y te6rico.
Dos soledades Lanacr6nicas o ultra-modernas?
Aqui hemos Ilegado a un tipo de callej6n sin salida, un callej6n
sin salida que refleja la crisis en la cual se encuentran la teoria y el
pensamiento poscolonial actualmente. Sefiala Lawrence Grossberg
que "Post-colonialism and cultural studies (and to some extent
postmodernism) intersect at a number of different sites... And both
face at least three immediate and serious challenges" (169). Entre
los tres, me interest destacar uno de los puntos que desarrolla
Grossberg: "both cultural and post-colonial studies seem to have
reached the limit- and hence must confront the limitations -of
theorizing political struggles organised around notions, however
complex, of identity and difference... Such a logic not only too easily
equates political and cultural identities, it makes politics into a
matter of representation (or its absence). Moreover the only
political strategies open to it are deconstruction, strategic
essentialism and an unfocused alliance" (169). Creo que el comen-
tario de Grossberg se dirige directamente al debate, aqui en Puer-
to Rico, entire los que Luis Fernando Coss llama "los posmodernos
pesimistas" y la posici6n del propio Coss, o sea, la revindicaci6n del
nacionalismo (ver La naci6n en la orilla: respuesta a los posmodernos
pesimistas), y tambi6n se dirige al gran problema que confront el
nacionalismo qu6b6cois la oposici6n dentro de la provincia de
CATHERINE DEN TANDT
grupos minoritarios, especialmente en la comunidad indigena, a su
plan cultural y politico separatist.
Para mi, no hay ninguna duda de que la orientaci6n anti-
esencialista, pos-estructuralista del poscolonialismo lo deja desar-
mado cuando viene el moment de teorizar luchas political organi-
zadas, parad6jicamente, alrededor de nociones de identidad y dife-
rencia, como sefala Grossberg. Dentro del campo, Ilevan afios dis-
cutiendo este problema. Ya en 1987 Benita Parry masacr6 a Homi
Bhabha y a Gayatri Spivak en su "Problems in Current Theories of
Colonial Discourse," contrastando el binarismo revolucionario de
Franz Fanon a lo que ella describia como la resistencia puramente
discursiva de los te6ricos pos-estructuralistas. Los poscolonialistas
se han destacado en deconstruir las metanarrativas occidentales,
analizar luchas anti-coloniales ya realizadas y los problems del neo-
colonialismo. Cuando viene el moment de acercarse a luchas de
liberaci6n actuales, se encuentran con bombas en Algeria y en
Irlandia, amenazas de muerte contra Salman Rushdie, genocidio en
Europa del Este, etc. La obra del propio Homi Bhabha refleja este
conflict hasta cierto punto. En el ensayo magistral "Signs Taken
for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree
in Delhi, May 1817" (1985), por ejemplo, desarrolla un analisis bri-
Ilante de la resistencia anti-colonial en la India. Sin embargo, en
Nation and Narration (1990), la naci6n ha desaparecido, poco con-
suelo en espacios todavia no-independientes. Lo que si nos podria
consolar es que quizAs la naturaleza de la naci6n ha cambiado, sin
que la teoria se diera cuenta.
ZRegresar al nacionalismo traditional? Ni siquiera me parece po-
sible. Snapshot: una parada de metro en un barrio de inmigrantes en
Montreal en mayo de 1995 en la que aparece un poster inmenso de
un nifo mulato con pelo rizado con un letrero que dice "Cheveux
boucles, un coeur quebecois" [Pelo rizado, un coraz6n qu6ebcois].
Snapshot: Jacques Parizeau, la noche de la perdida del "oui" en el
ltimo plebiscite, diciendo en la televi6n national que habian per-
dido a causa de los votos 6tnicos, raz6n por la cual tuvo que renun-
ciar como lider del Partido Quebecois al dia siguiente. Snapshot:
96% de los indigenas en Quebec votaron "non" en el plebiscite de 1995
y han dicho que si Quebec se separa del Canada, se van a separar
PUERTO Rico Y QUEBEC: DOS SOLEDADES 83
de Quebec. Snapshot: palabras de un comentarista en el peri6dico
El Mundo en septiembre de 1990, unos meses antes de la Ley del
Idioma Oficial de 1991: "De origen hispanico, somos descendientes
de una civilizaci6n, la hispAnica, a la que Lope de Vega, Cervantes,
De Hostos y Garcia MArquez afiadieron gloria. No es possible fraccio-
nar un idioma official; es, siempre, uno solo: aqui en Puerto Rico, en
Estados Unidos, en Alemania, en cualquier lugar. No hay tal cosa
como dos idiomas oficiales ni tampoco un official bilingiiismo.... El
espafol es el secret, el asiento y el coraz6n de la puertorriquefiidad,
su causa eficiente" (Colberg RAmirez). Snapshot: poema "Side 12"
de Victor HernAndez Cruz: "Manhattan dance Latin / In Spanish to
African rhythms / A language lesson / Without opening your mouth"
(103). Snapshot: oficiales de La Commission de la Protection de la
Langue Frangaise saliendo a la calle en Montreal buscando gente
que haya desobedecido la ley 101 (el ingles en letreros pfiblicos es
illegal; inmigrantes y personas que vengan de otras provincias tie-
nen que mandar a sus hijos a escuelas francesas) la ley 178 (el in-
gl6s es legal en el interior de un negocio pero no afuera), la ley 86 (el
ingl6s es legal a veces en letreros bilingiies, pero la letra de la por-
ci6n inglesa tiene que ser mas pequefia que la letra francesa).
Si hay anacronismos aqui, puede que sean precisamente esos mo-
delos de la naci6n, de la independencia, del colonialismo y del
poscolonialismo que estamos usando para comprender modalida-
des nuevas que han surgido de un pasado colonizado y se cruzan
con un present marcado por el capitalism global. En sus comen-
tarios sobre el independentismo y el nacionalismo en Puerto Rico,
Carlos Pab6n sugiere algo parecido ("De Albizu a Madonna: para
armar y desarmar la nacionalidad" (35)), y yo creo que ya era hora
de que alguien lo dijera. Esto no significa que podemos darnos el
lujo de entrar en un gran baile posmoderno, discurso te6rico que
suele celebrar tanto la "dislocaci6n", que nos olvidamos de los pro-
blemas concretos, materials y espirituales que no se han resuelto
ni en Quebec, ni en Puerto Rico. Sin embargo, es en ese campo que
vagamente se define como studioss culturales", y en el
cuestionamiento de studios poscoloniales que se encuentra en
escritos recientes de gente como Stuart Hall y Lawrence Grossberg,
en el trabajo de Nestor Garcia Canclini, Jesfis Martin Barbero, Juan
Flores y Maria Milagros L6pez, que se encuentra el rigor critic que
84 CATHERINE DEN TANDT
nos permit abarcar nuestra modernidad. Al fin y al cabo, Puerto
Rico y Quebec ni siquiera son "dos soledades" que perdieron el tren,
condenadas a flotar en un purgatorio poscolonial primero, por-
que existen otros espacios que comparten una realidad similar a la
de ellos, como Martinique y Guadeloupe, para mencionar dos ejem-
plos, y segundo, porque el studio de Quebec y Puerto Rico, pro-
vee, junta y separadamente, un realce que puede contradecir y com-
plementar lo que llamamos el discurso de la globalizaci6n, y es pre-
cisamente alli que hay que intervenir en esta 6poca que parece ser
la del movimiento transnacional y transglobal de gente, capital, cul-
turas e ideas.
PUERTO RICO Y QUEBEC: DOS SOLEDADES 85
Alvarez-Curbelo, Silvia. "La conflictividad en el discurso politico de Luis
Munoz Marin: 1926-1936." Del nacionalismo al populismo. Cultura y
political en Puerto Rico. Eds. Silvia Alvarez-Curbelo & Maria Elena
Rodriguez Castro. Rio Piedras: Huracan. 1993.
Bhabha, Homi. "The Commitment to Theory." The Location of Culture.
London: Routledge, 1994. 19-39.
ed. Nation and Narration. London: Routledge. 1990.
"Signs Taken For Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and
Authority Under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817." The Location of
Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. 102-22.
Colberg Ramirez, Severo. "El espafol: Idioma official El Mundo [San Juan]
sept. 3, 1990: 27.
Coss, Luis Fernando. La naci6n en la orilla: respuesta a los posmodernistas
pesimistas. San Juan: Punto de Encuentro. 1996.
Cruz, Victor Hernandez. "Side 12." Puerto Rican Writers at Home in the
USA: An Anthology. Ed. Faythe Turner. Seattle: Open Hand, 1991. 103.
Den Tandt, Catherine. "Tracing a Comparative American Project: the
Case of Quebec and Puerto Rico." diacritics 25.1: 46-62.
"Entente Pr6sent6e par Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard et Mario
Dumont." Le Soleil [Montr6al] junio 13, 1995.
Flores, Juan, Maria Milagros L6pez & Nalini Natarajan. Introducci6n.
"Dossier Puerto Rico." Social Text 12.1: 93-5.
Fotheringham, Allan. "The Return of Rend Livesque." Macleans Magazine.
dic. 19, 1994: 60.
Gonzalez, Jos6 Luis. El pais de cuatro pisos. Rio Piedras: HuracAn. 1989.
Grossberg, Lawrence. "The Space of Culture, the Power of Space." The
Post-Colonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons. Eds. lain
Chambers & Lidia Curti. London: Routledge: 1996. 169-88.
Heine, Jorge & Juan M. Garcia-Passalacqua. "Political Economy and
Foreign Policy in Puerto Rico." Modern Caribbean Politics. Eds.
Anthony Payne & Paul Sutton. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993.
86 CATHERINE DEN TANDT
Lalonde, Michele. "Apatrie." Anthologie de la poesie des femmes au
Qudbec. Eds. Nicole Brossard & Lisette Girouard. Montreal: Remue-
M6nage, 1991. 187-9.
"Destination 80." Defense et illustration de la langue queb&coise.
Montr6al: Hexagone, 1979. 147-58.
"Speak White." Defense et illustration de la langue qudb&coise.
Montreal: Hexagone, 1979. 37-40.
Pab6n, Carlos. "De Albizu a Madonna: para armar y desarmar la nacio-
nalidad." bordes 1.1 (1995): 22-40.
Parry, Benita. "Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse."
Oxford Literary Review 9.1.2 (1987): 27-58.
Pedreira, Antonio S. Insularismo. Rio Piedras: Gil, 1988.
P&rez Firmat, Gustavo. "Cheek to Cheek." Introducci6n. Do the Americas
Have a Common Literature? Ed. Gustavo Perez Firmat. Durham: Duke
UP, 1990. 1-5.
Turcotte, Claude. "Le lait 'Grand Pr&' bloqu6 A Porto Rico." Le Devoir
[Quebec] ag. 9, 1991: 5.
Filippi, Carmen Lugo & Ana Lydia Vega. Virgenes y mdrtires. Rio Piedras:
History Through Words:
Aspects ofAfro-Seminole Lexicography
ibri wortu kisi en eigi tori
What scholars call Afro-Seminole Creole is referred to by
its speakers as siminoul in Texas, and mAskougou in
Mexico. Since the data here were collected mainly in
Coahuila, the language is called Maskogo in the present paper. While
we know that it was brought West from Florida and before that origi-
nated in the coastal American creole which has subsequently given
rise to Gullah (Sea Islands Creole), determining the more precise
linguistic affinities of the language, and for Sea Islands Creole within
the larger framework of the Atlantic Anglophone Creoles, is less
This paper attempts to examine a number of items from the
Maskogo lexicon selected from a larger corpus assembled by the
author in El Nacimiento de los Negros in Coahuila, and to match
them with related forms in other creoles. In this way, an indication
of the linguistic affinity of the language can be obtained. It also ar-
gues against Haynes' claim that it is not a creole (1976), Leap's claim
that it is "Indian English" (referred to in Haynes), Drechsel's claim
(1976) that it is relexified Mobilian Yama (a Choctaw-based pidgin),
and the general polygeneticist argument that it is a product of local
origin and development (see Hancock, 1986d), and not the result of
diffusion from a common anglophone creole base.
*Department of Linguistics, University of Texas at Austin
The Seminoles were made up of different Black populations
(Africans and West Indians) together with different Native Ameri-
can groups. According to Giddings (1858:3), the word "Seminole"
was first used to refer to the Black escapees into Florida, and was
only later applied by the Creeks to the Indian fugitives. The rea-
son most people today think that the word Seminole refers only
to Florida and to an Indian population, is because nearly all the
Black Seminoles left that state during the 1830s. Very few Black
Seminoles remain in Florida today, and their linguistic situation
(i.e. whether or not they have retained a creole language amongst
themselves) has not been investigated. Both Indian and African
Seminole groups moved West to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but
only African Seminoles (together with very few Indian families)
moved on from there to Mexico, and subsequently into Texas.
Some of the earliest Seminoles were Calusa, who were the inhab-
itants of the Florida peninsula first encountered by the Europe-
ans; they were reportedly a Black population, though Indian
speaking, and were confused by the Muskogee with the refugee
African and West Indians (it is possible that they descended, en-
tirely or in part, from African escapees to the Florida coast from the
The lexical items selected here are grouped under five headings:
English, African, Spanish, Native American and Unidentified. It may
be supposed that those words for which no etymology has so far
been located will also fall into one of the first four categories.
The bulk of the Maskogo lexicon is derived from English. The
form of these items is of some significance in determining the time
period of transmission, and the relationship with other creoles
within the Atlantic group, sometimes because it is archaic in En-
glish, and sometimes because it has retained a pronunciation no
longer found in English. Thus certain phonological features sup-
port an origin going back to the Early Modern period, i.e. prior to
ca. AD 1700. These include for example the pronunciation of the
Modern English diphthong [oi] as [ AI]; words preserving this in
HISTORY THROUGH WORDS: ASPECTS OF AFRO-SEMINOLE LEXICOGRAPHY
Migrations of the Afro-Seminoles in North America.
90 IAN HANCOCK
385 Si29i0ld 8Junction
2 DV!Z.t. .T .,A 'VT E S c 4
. : .0 l. 83 SKll
... San Antonio
Mcab Del RIo *.acketovill n4.er
I *1 -.1 Fl r s-
alde Devine Vle
Sani D..i.e MI.I.ll
1n S Pearsall Pmap.n
banch. ilanle a l e 51 LMW o.
t r c lr Ea iss Near 221
N mLa Cu"C"'.No. Ca ga 83
a is i n caEer End indtl
eia skogo 810rW 39
A Pals "Igrlnu Al"c
M oa ada I g FOrd red
orrgn a A IA nn d n e
cameede 0ales $3PP
tMoncl Aono R my.
baseman f E e au 85 un d F L
30 ,, ,5 2
C m Pa.e
Locagis ofipse AMonSeminoje cawnwsiu
gj al "girl"
gj a: dn "garden"
gja: 1k "garlic"
kj a: ndl "candle"
HISTORY THROUGH WORDS: ASPECTS OF AFRO-SEMINOLE LEXICOGRAPHY
kja: f "calf"
kja: s "cask;" "cast"
Phonological clues alone are not entirely reliable, however, since
certain Early Modern English features, while having disappeared
from most varieties of English, survive in some regional dialects to
this day. It must be kept in mind that so-called "Standard English"
played no part in the early formation of the creoles. More indicative
of early acquisition is the presence of such words as mAskjaet "musk-
rat" (in Gullah and Krio, though not so far recorded for Maskogo)
which have not occurred in print in English since the early seven-
Dialect forms abound in the Atlantic Anglophone creoles, which
reflect the mixed lexicon of the English heard for the first time by
the Africans in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries,
and which were transmitted into the emerging creoles. The eclectic
nature of the vocabulary, i.e. the presence of words from Scottish,
Northern, Midlands, Southwestern, Irish, &c., British dialects, can be
attributed to the variety of English which emerged during the period
of the coasting trade, which linked the port communities in the Brit-
ish Isles. This brought crew members and their different dialects from
all parts of Britain into close sustained contact, and led to the estab-
lishment of a levelled occupational register which we refer to now as
Ship English. A few such regional forms which are found in Maskogo,
are listed here with their region of origin in Britain:
Sre "any" (cf Southwest and South "ary")
nere "not any" (cf Southwest and South naryy")
wi : kdei "weekday" (cf Southwest "weeken-day")
lef "leave" (cf Southwest "lev," "left")
brouk "break" (cf Southwest "broke")
Dns "lose" (cf Southwest "lost")
swInj "singe (feathers)" (cf Southwest "swindge")
moul fontanellee" (cf Southwest "mould")
enti "indeed" (cf Southwest "ain't ee")
Inrg "with" (cf Southwest "along o")
j edi "hear" (cf Southwest yearry" "hearee")
uman "woman" (cf Southwest "oman")
92 IAN HANCOCK
ud "wood" (cf Southwest "ood")
i:s "yeast" (cf Southwest "east")
dri:n "drain" (cf "Midlands "dreen")
lili "little" (cf Midlands and Northern "lil")
kibe "cover" (cf Midlands and Northern "kivver")
rinc "rinse" (cf Yorkshire "rinch")
greita "grate" (cf Northern "grater" (vb.))
wArom "worm" (cf Scottish "worom")
snuwt "snout" (cf Scottish "snoot")
brc "brush" (cf Scottish and Berkshire "bresh")
Most of these are found throughout the creoles, especially Gullah,
Bahamian, Bajan and Krio; the preponderance of Southwestern dia-
lect forms reflects the fact that many of the seafaring men during
the early period of maritime trade came from the West Country,
leaving Bristol, Portsmouth and other western ports. Since these
items are all from English, their existence throughout the
anglophone group of creoles is hardly surprising, and does little
to support the diffusionist hypothesis. This maintains that the vari-
ous creoles share, at least in part of their individual makeup, a
common origin (as opposed to the polygenetic hypothesis, referred
to above, which claims an independent origin and development
for each separate creole); more indicative of a shared source is
the widespread existence of English-derived items which have no
demonstrable origin in English itself, i.e. forms which appear to have
developed within the creoles (or perhaps in Ship English before that)
externally to any kind of English, either in form or use, spoken in
Britain. Examples include
lAke "like, as" (<"likea,"ctKr. lck, Gu.lake, Jam.laika)
fen6 "fence" (cf. Krio, Gullah fen6)
rAIg "rag" (cf Krio baig "bag,' Jamaican haig "hag")
bitl "victuals" (cf Jamaican bikl)
kanebe "kind of (a)" (cf Krio kanaba)
krukitI "crooked" (cf Gullah krukItl)
housi "hoarse" (not located elsewhere)
santapi "centipede" (cf Krio, Jamaican santapi)
nAf "plenty (of)" (<"enough,"cf Krio nof,Jamaican nof)
HISTORY THROUGH WORDS: ASPECTS OF AFRO-SEMINOLE LEXICOGRAPHY
nAme "only" (<"no more,"cf Gu. nAme, Kr., Jam.,
sou til "until" (< "so till," c Gu. sou tl, Ja. suo til, Kr. so te)
6uwc "spill; waste" (< "throw away," cf Krio, Bahamian,
mi: t "encounter" (cf Kr. trobul mit am "he encountered
sei "make a noise" (cf Kr. di ton se wiiish "the rock
pApIsou "showy display" (cf Kr. papisho, Ja. popishuo, &c.)
Some of the items in Maskogo derive from English plural forms,
and turn up throughout the Atlantic Anglophone group:
su: z "shoe" (cf Jam., Bah., Tr. shuuz, Kr. sus, Sr. susu)
jeiz "ear" (cf Jamaican yiez, Krio yes, Sranan yesi)
aen "ant" (cf Krio anch, Cameroonian hans)
t i: t "tooth" (cf Krio tit, Jam., Bah. tiit, Sranan tifi)
Some items consisting of one or more English-derived morphemes,
but not found in English itself, may be calques formed on an African
model, and are similarly widespread in the creoles. Some of these,
with examples of African parallels are listed here; the African lan-
guage listed is not necessarily the one which provided the model:
wise "where" (<"which side," cf Kr., Sr. usai, Cam.
wisai, Jam. wesai and Igbo olee cbe
"question-word" + "place")
wipa: t "where" (<"which part,"cf Jam.wich-paat, and
Igbo olEs Ebe "question-word" + "place")
doumAut "doorway" (<"door mouth," cf. Krio domot Jam.
duo-mout, Sra. doro-mofo, &c., and
Yoruba ilorun enu "door- way"
bIgj AI "envy, envious" (<"big eye," cf Krio, Bah., Jam., &c.,and
Igbo anya uku "big eye" = "covetous")
kAtjAI "glance of disdain" (<"cut eye," cf Kr., Guy, Jam., Bah., &c,
and Twi bu anyi-kye "cut eye shut" = do.)
94 IAN HANCOCK
"tears" (<"eye water," cf Kr. yai-wata, Sr.
and Mandinka nye-yi "eye water" = do.)
mensess" (<"moon," cf. Krio si mun, Dominican
CrFr we lalin, and Grebo hobo ni mo
ne "I see my moon" = I am menstruating")
"daybreak" (<"day clean," cf. Gu., Bah. dei-kli :n
Kr. de-klin, and Wolof ber bu sst "day
has cleaned" + do.)
"why" (<"(what) make so," cf Gu. meksou,
Jam. wa-mek, Kr. wetin mek, &c., and
Igbo gene mere "what make" = "why")
"hand and/ (<"hand," common creole, general
or arm" West African).
"leg and/ (<"foot," common creole and general
or foot" West African).
There are fifty or so African-derived items in Maskogo. Most of
them are also recorded for Gullah, which is to be expected given
the shared early history of the two creoles. Those which are found
in Gullah but not in Maskogo appear to have been acquired by the
language after the African fugitives had separated from the main
body of creole speakers in Georgia and gone into Florida, i.e. by the
middle of the eighteenth century. Also affecting Gullah but not
Maskogo has been the widespread influence of African phonology
as recorded by Turner, such as the ejective and doubly-articulated
consonants, none of which is evident in Maskogo. Much of the non-
shared African lexicon in Gullah is traceable to the indigenous lan-
guages of the Sierra Leone-Liberia area, Vai and Mende in particu-
lar; Gullah but not Maskogo also shares some English-derived lexi-
con with Sierra Leone Krio, e.g. the word blan(t) "customarily" (from
Southwestern "belangt" < "belong to"). The ethnic groups making
up the Black Seminole population included the Igbo, the Egba, the
Kongo, different Manding peoples, Ashanti-Kromanti, and people
from the Senegal region (Wolof, Fula) and the Sierra Leone/Liberia
region (Vai, Temne). Over half of the African words in Maskogo share
look-alikes with languages in the Congo-Angola region, mainly from
HISTORY THROUGH WORDS: ASPECTS OF AFRO-SEMINOLE LEXICOGRAPHY 95
KiKongo but also from KiMbundu where indicated. These are
bidi "small chicken"
dembou "male name"
gcmba "bat sp."
gombe "drum type"
kuti "runt (pig)"
sase "carve wood"
t i: m "dig, hollow out"
u: l "bedbug"
ja:n "tell lies"
(also in Bah., Gu., sim. forms
in Fon and Fula)
(< KiMbundu; also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(Gu., Kr., Ja., Bah., &c.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu. and Sea Islands coast English)
(also in Gu. and Sea Islands coast English)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu., Jam., Kr., &c., cf English "tote")
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu.)
From the Gulf of Guinea the Igbo language has given bAkre, wide-
spread in the American anglophone creoles (but not occurring in
the African ones), meaning "European" or "European-acting Creole."
In Maskogo, it has the further -and apparently exclusive- mean-
ing "any non-Seminole," and so therefore may also be applied ceto
members of the general African American population. The Igbo sec-
ond person plural pronoun unu is generally thought to be the source
for the pan-creole unu/una/ina wuna/june/un, &c., which has the
form hene in Maskogo, but several other languages are equally likely
candidates (e.g. Limba yina, Serer nu, Temne nu, KiMbundu enu,
&c. It is probable that the pan-creole pronoun is the result of con-
vergence of several similar African forms. Igbo has also provided
the word nkre "ockra," but this might have entered Maskogo via
English rather than directly, given its phonological form (in other
creoles it is okro, closer to the Igbo sourceform). The same may be
said for another item traceable to the Nigeria region, viz. huwduw
"sorcery, hoodoo," from Hausa, which is also a part of general Ameri-
can English vocabulary. Hausa has also provided kus "cornmeal
paste," also occurring in Gullah.
From Lower Guinea, Twi contains the following small number of
(widespread, although this cannot also
mean simply "dirt" in Mask., as it does
elsewhere, which argues for an origin
in or convergence with Eng. "dirty")
(also in Gu., Kr., Sr., Jam., &c.)
(also in Gu., Kr., Sr., Jam., &c.)
(also in Sr., Ja., not recorded for Gu.)
The second largest group of similar forms are from the Upper
Guinea coast, the Sierra Leone/Liberia (Mende, Temne, Limba, Vai)
and the Senegambia (Mandinka, Wolof, Fula) in particular. In Mende
bu: bu "insect"
fi : "cornmeal"
j abe "talk incessantly"
wi (mAut)"big (mouth)"
(also in Bah., Gu.)
(also Gu., Kr. ja, but cf. English "jabber")
(also in Gu.)
(also in Gu., Jam., Kr.)
(also in Gu.)
In Temne there are
"onomatopaeia (also in Ja., Kr.; prob. onomat.)
"term of address" (also in Gu., but cf. English "nana")
"ideophone (with fawei; also in Kr. fawe pom)
"cornmeal (also Gu., pan-Caribbean)
HISTORY THROUGH WORDS: ASPECTS OF AFRO-SEMINOLE LEXICOGRAPHY
(also Gu. and Bah., also found in Mende)
(Gu.; Kr. bobo; gen. southern US "bubba")
(also Gu., Bah., Kr.)
The one item traceable to Limba, puwntae3 "vagina," is also gen-
eral African American English, which is probably the direct source
for Maskogo. The possibility that Limbayina contributed to the pan-
creole una/unu "you" has been remarked upon above.
From the Senegambian area, items resembling Wolof forms include
"stab" (also Gu., Bah., Kr. 6uk)
"mud for walls" (Gu., Bah.)
(cf. Antilles Cr French bunda)
(also in Gu.)
moujo "bits and pieces;
item for sorcery"
(needs verification; not located
(butprobably via gen. Amer.
The percentage breakdown of African-derived (or possibly Afri-
can derived) lexical items in Maskogo closely matches the percent-
ages of transportees from Africa grouped by region of origin, as the
charts on the preceding page (from Curtin, 1969) indicate. It is clear
that Maskogo was already fully-formed by the time of its separation
from Gullah between ca. 1690 and 1760.
98 IAN HANCOCK
(circle sizes are proportional to
total 18th-century slave imports;
sectors represent proportions of total)
Windward Coast s
1k Sierra Leone
Bight of Biafra Bight of Benin
SLAVES IMPORTED INTO THE NORTH AMERICAN
MAINAND, BY ORIGIN
Per cent of slaves of identifiable origin
(1) (2) (3) (4)
Coastal region Virginia, South British slave Speculative
of origin 1710-69 Carolina, trade, estimate, all
1733-1807 1690-1807 imported into
Bight of Benin
Bight of Biafra
When they first settled in the area around St. Augustine on the
Florida coast in the late seventeenth century, Africans were in con-
tact with the Spanish language. The extent to which Spanish-derived
lexicon was accreted by the creole at this time, however, is impos-
sible to say, though an examination of the language as spoken in
Oklahoma would be an indication (it may be too late for this, how-