Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096005/00033
 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Added title page title: Sargazo
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras, P.R
Creation Date: 2008
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
Subjects / Keywords: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location: University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411
System ID: UF00096005:00033


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m 2008-09, II

S2008-09, II

SARGASSO 2008-09, II
Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended

Sargasso, a peer-reviewed journal of literature, language, and culture edited at the University of
Puerto Rico's Rio Piedras campus, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews, and some
poems and short stories. Sargasso particularly welcomes material written by/about the people of
the Caribbean region and its multiple diasporas. Unless otherwise specified, essays and critical
studies should conform to the style of the MLA Handbook. Short stories should be kept to no
more than 2,500 words in length, and poems should be kept to no more than twenty to thirty
lines. All postal mail should include a S.A.S.E. See http://humanidades.uprrp.edu/ingles/pubs/
sargasso.htm for more information. For electronic submission, write to: sargasso@uprrp.edu.

Postal Address:

P.O. Box 22831, UPR Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Issue Editor
Lowell Fiet, Founding Editor
Don E. Walicek, Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Book Review Editor

Sally Everson, Contributing Editor
Katherine Miranda, Administrative Assistant

Editorial Board
Jessica Adams, Independent Scholar
Mary Ann Gosser-Esquilin, Florida Atlantic University
Peter Roberts, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill
Ivette Romero, Marist College
Felipe Smith, Tulane University

Antonio Garcia Padilla, President of the University of Puerto Rico
Gladys Escalona de Motta, Chancellor, Rio Piedras Campus
Jos6 L. Ramos Escobar, Dean of Humanities

Layout: Marcos Pastrana
Visit: http://humanidades.uprrp.edu/ingles/pubs/sargasso.htm
Front and back cover photos by Herminio Rodriguez
Visit: http://www.herminiorodriguez.com

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors and are not
necessarily shared by Sargasso' Editorial Board members. All rights return to authors. This journal
is indexed by HAPI, Latindex, MLA, and the Periodical Contents Index. Copies of Sargasso
2008-09, H as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the Library of Congress. Filed December
2010. ISSN 1060-5533.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note vii
Maria Cristina Rodriguez

Chiqui Vicioso 3
Selections from Un extrafio ulular traia el viento...
Nelly Rosario 9
How to Date a Thugboy, Artboy, Nerdboy, or Papichulo:
Variation on a Junot Diaz Theme...
Luis Martin G6mez, translated by Rosa Mirna Sinchez 13
Don't Have Dreams About Me, Mom...

Jose Alcintara, translated by Luis Guzmin Valerio 17
Seaward Bound...

Junot Diaz, Diaspora, and Redemption: Creating Progressive
Imaginaries (Interview by Katherine Miranda)... 23
Daniel Bautista 41
Junot Diaz and the Lucha Libre...

El Texto en Nosotros: Entrevista con Rey Andijar 59
(Interview by Maria Cristina Rodriguez)...
Races al Aire: Entrevista con Claudio Mir 65
(Interview by Maria Cristina Rodriguez and Lowell Fiet)...

Carmen Benitez-Morales 71
La espacialidad fugitive del recuerdo: La ciudad en la narrative
de Jos6 Alcintara AlmAnzar...

Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended


Rosana Diaz Zambrana 83
iUna alternative a la novela del dictador?: Paternalismo,
naci6n y posmodernidad en Papi de Rita Indiana Hernindez...
Meg Petersen 93
Shadow People and Shared History...
Marisel Moreno 101
Dominican Dreams: Diasporic Identity in Angie Cruz's
Let It Rain Coffee...
Maria de Jesis Cordero 117
Art on the Haitian/Dominican Border: A Journey
to Rio Limpio and Batey Libertad...

Nalini Natarajan 133
The First Crossing being the Diary ofTheophilus Richmond, Ship's Surgeon
Aboard the Hesperus, 1837-8, edited by David Dabydeen, Jonathan
Morley, Brinsley Samaroo, Amir Wahab and Brigid Wells...
C6sar A. Salgado 135
Vulnerable States: Bodies ofMemory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction,
by Guillermina de Ferrari...
Roberto Echevarria 137
The Polyphonic Feast. Caballeros, vejigantes, locasy viejos,
by Lowell Fiet...
Prudence Layne 141
Triangular Road, by Paule Marshall...
Lucia Stecher Guzmmn 142
Representations of the Island of Caribbean Literature: Caribbean
Women Redefine Their Homelands, by Florence Ramond Jurney...
Katherine Miranda 146
Eva/Sidn/es, by Chiqui Vicioso...
Edgardo Perez 148
The Lunatic and Dog War by Anthony C. Winkler...


SARGASSO 2008-09, II

Editor's Note

T his Sargasso issue focuses on the Dominican Republica Dominicana/
Quisqueya, the Caribbean's fastest growing migratory population. It fol-
lows a similar project, a Sargasso 2007-2008 issue "Puerto Rico, the Floating
Homeland/La patriaflotante," which re-moves geographical divisions to ad-
dress a population that claims Puerto Ricanness but feels at home both on the
island and the continent.
Dominicans do not have the advantages or the confusion of Puerto Ricans,
who as US citizens from a Spanish-speaking island can migrate without a
passport (until 2010), but still often find themselves branded as legal or illegal
Latinos. Fifty years ago, as Julia Alvarez narrates in When the Garcia Girls
Lost Their Accent and iYo!, the United States was the frequent destination for
the Dominican upper classes and government officials of the Trujillo regime.
With the assassination ofTrujillo in 1961 and the ensuing civil strife between
the upholders of the old regime and the democratic political groups that sur-
vived the dictatorship, migration to the US increased. The 1965 US invasion
that guaranteed the ouster of Juan Bosch -democratically elected president
in1963- and secured the new presidency of the former Trujillo puppet presi-
dent,Joaqufn Balaguer, in 1966, established a more open migration policy that
allowed thousands of middle and low-income Dominican families to enter the
US in search of jobs and new opportunities. When visa restrictions were im-
posed, illegal migration increased in the form of fake passports, Puerto Rican
impersonation, and deadly voyages across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.
Today thousands of Dominicans are unable to visit family and relatives
back home because of their illegal status, but calling cards and cellular phones,
the Internet, videos and DVDs, and remittances maintain family and com-
munity ties, as well as religious and political links. For the other thousands
who have the coveted "green" card of legal residency or a US passport, visit-
ing family, spending holidays back home, attending baptisms, weddings, and
funerals are part of their daily life, much the same as Puerto Ricans and their
"guagua aerea"/airbus.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


The extended and inclusive concept of Quisqueya is enriched and further
developed by the cultural exchanges that allow Dominicans in Puerto Rico,
New York, and New Jersey to engage in theatre, performance, music and dance
projects, as well as poetry and fiction writing quickly translated and dissemi-
nated in English and Spanish. Claudio Mir and Rey Anddjar move between
languages, cultures, and locations with the same ease as those who travel back
and forth. They care, get involved, and create artistic expressions to deal with
the issues that affect the communities they live in, whether in the US, Puerto
Rico, or the Dominican Republic. In their interviews, both Mir and Andujar
pause to rethink their community work, their individual creative productions,
and their movable rootedness.
Also residing elsewhere, Junot Diaz has catapulted to fame with the Pulit-
zer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. But his previ-
ous book of stories, Drown, where identity, self-exploration, gender and gen-
erational differences are at the center of character development, merits a close
reading and analysis. We have included a section on Junot Diaz with a very
recent interview prepared by literary researcher, Katie Miranda, and a detailed
study of one of his stories by Daniel Bautista.
Both renowned and emerging writers responded to our call for this issue.
The creative writing section includes a fragment of Chiqui Vicioso's latest
poetic venture (Un extraio ulular traia elviento) and a story by Jos6 Alcantara
("Seaward Bound") translated into English by Luis Guzman. Nelly Rosario
in "How to Date a Thugboy, Artboy, Nerdboy, or Papichulo: Variation on a
Junot Diaz Theme" and Martin G6mez in "Don't Have Dreams About Me,
Mom" take on their present experiences in a style influenced by music, media,
and self- reflection.
The essay section reflects diversity in its inclusion of literary and cultural
approaches to the writings of established authors (Carmen Benitez Morales on
Jose Alcintara), women writers (Rosana Diaz Zambrana on Indiana Hernin-
dez and Marisel Moreno on Angie Cruz), and to the closeness and sameness
of the Dominican and Haitian landscape (Meg Petersen and Maria de Jesus
Cordero). Because of the unexpected length of this issue and its relevance
to the topic of place, an extensive study of Julia Alvarez's work by Marika
Preziuso will be published in the upcoming issue "Placing the Archipelago:
Interconnections and Extensions."
We consider the Book Review section to be an important news source on
the Caribbean. In this issue, the section includes reviews of a reprint of the

SARGASSO 2008-09, I1


eighteenth-century diary of a young surgeon aboard a ship carrying inden-
tured servants on its way to Guiana, a study of cultural performance by Lowell
Fiet, an analysis of Caribbean women writers without linguistic divisions by
Florence Ramond Jurney, the use of the trope of the vulnerable body to study
contemporary Caribbean fiction by Guillermina de Ferrari, the most recent
creative works of Paule Marshall and Chiqui Vicioso, and new editions of two
of Anthony Winkler's novels.
With Quisqueya, La Repziblica Extended, as with Puerto Rico, the Floating
Homeland, Sargasso focuses on the literary, linguistic and cultural expressions
of two hispanophone islands with diasporic communities already diversified
and enriched by a constant and on-going two-way migration. We thank our
collaborators, in the Caribbean and in the metropolitan urban centers where
they reside, who made this issue possible.

Maria Cristina Rodriguez
Issue Editor

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended




Descubrir que eres todo lo que Es
(lo que pudo ser, lo que fue, lo que seri)
temer que seas personaje que invento
recurrir a los viejos comprobantes
(afdn de realidad que mora en los linderos)
buscar fotos, borradores, tus poemas
(frescas flores guardadas en mis libros)
recorder que miramos de igual modo
(descubriendo las formas del lenguaje)
sentir que otra dimension habitas
(donde lo conocido result nuevo
y lo nuevo tan viejo que tras/pasa)

CC6mo vivir ahora que no existo?


En la oscuridad el mar es rumor
S6 que hay mar y playas vacias
Donde se lega cruzando la profundidad
Un rio con bejucos colgantes
Y negras garzas
Y pelicanos que en el aire
Me conducen hacia un es6fago de agua.

Cansada de viajar s6 que es tarde
La ciudad esti cerca y pregunto
Por qu6 el mar
La barranca de corales

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended

CHIQUI Vicioso

Me han dicho que la casa es verde
Pero en la oscuridad

Mis que la luz los pijaros
Mis que los pijaros el mar jubiloso
MIs que el mar jubiloso
Una sensaci6n de haber estado.

En las sillas
Las telarafias cuentan
Corro al frente donde el azul
Burl6n sonrie
iAh galeria azul que siempre estuvo!
iAh casa verde equivocada!
iAh gallos de este Bissau que despierta!
iAh mi casa!
iEsta casa!
iQue buscaba!


Esta ciudad es un gran edificio
De apartamentos con areas verdes programadas.
El pueblo, sereno mal pago,
Morboso la ronda
Ignorando las cosas del cemento
El granite de estas escaleras
Es el mismo de las tumbas.
Mientras pongo vitamin a mis rosas
Un hombre escarba el basurero.

Queda el mar.

SARGASSO 2008-09, II



Los mangles no permiten que el mar
Rompa las piedras
Bajo sus races
La arena en ondas se escama.
Un respiro para los pies
Y tambien un engafio
Lo que el mar no rompe
Se vuelve pantano.

Los mangles tambien ocultan
Rocas y peces deshechos
Alli encontre un hombre boca abajo
De espaldas parecia un bailarin desnudo
Cuando lo volted tenia
Por coraz6n un cangrejo
Encontr6 un arp6n de hueso
Un pene de piedra
Cinco esqueletos de flores
Y una
-Y griega-
Que se sostenia
Sobre la cabeza
De un pijaro triste.


De moment el espacio se acerca
El verde de jardines que no miras
Te agarra el iris, las pestafias
Se te meten inflindote la piel
Con una euforia rosa las buganvillas
Huele sin doler el aire
Y la cafia

Quisqueya: La RepOblica Extended

CHIQUI Vicioso

El filo con que corta inexpertas manos
El filo con que se venga
Del dulce que le extraen
Se suaviza en un mar de pana
Para que jueguen los niflos
Para que se adorne el poblado
Y todo el azul desciende
Y todo el rosa de las buganvillas
Del violeta de la muerte aparente
De la tarde
Toda la vida invisible se revela
Y descubre devuelta
Que es noviembre.


Gesto que de/tiene
Conteniendo la ex/presi6n
De otros gestos a la espera
Como gatos al acecho
0 el sonido
Voz y resonancia
Caracol de ecos.

Unidad que des/compone
Particulas de luz: la imagen
La imagen: particular de luz
A su vez particular de LA IMAGEN.

Esto que nombro
Y por lo tanto

Y por lo tanto

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11



Aqui el agua cuando arriba
Agrieta la tierra empolvada
Hurga la aridez establecida
Sacia su sed mojada
Que por mojada es siete veces sed
Y mas que besar...resaca.

Marido de agua emigrante: el Sur
Escarmienta de visits esporAdicas
Reviste su ansiedad de rocosa apatia
Cactus para no dejarse herir
Algod6n para restafiar heridas
Para esconder la cicatriz

Una mujer con cigarro
Arrea mi realidad amaneciendo
Sobre el maiz
Agua de discordia: la poesia
Cuartea esta realidad de cuaresma
Se levanta temprano sin odiar
Este sol que nunca
Tuvo infancia.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended

How to Date a Thugboy, Artboy, Nerdboy, or

Papichulo: Variation on a Junot Diaz Theme

Nelly Rosario
Texas State University

W ait for your sister and your father to leave the apartment. You've already
old them you're feeling too sick to go to Jersey to visit that tio who
likes to brush your tits whenever he hugs you hello. (She's getting so smart,
he'll say.) And even though your pops knows you ain't sick, you told him your
very own crampy tia was visiting in a bad way until finally he said, It better be
what you say it is, mentirosa.
Clear the huge Bible from the living room shelf. If the boy's a nerdboy
who wears dress shoes with jeans, ram the Bible between the unread cook-
books over the refrigerator. If he's an artboy who believes in no god but him-
self, hide the Bible in the oven, inside one of the pots stored there. Make a
mental note to get it out before morning or your pops will crucify your ass
to kitchen duty for the rest of your life. Take down any embarrassing photos
of your young parents floating in a wine glass, and especially the one with
ashy-kneed campo kids straddling a donkey. The kids are your half-siblings
because whenever your pops visited DR, he did with their mamas what he'll
kill you for trying to do now. Hide the pictures of yourself crowned by four
mofios in rainbow ribbons. Make sure the bathroom smells like Pine Sol. Pull
down you and your sister's stiff panties from the curtain rod. Toss them in the
hamper, even though you scrubbed yours in the crotch with Irish Spring the
way your late mother taught you.
Shower, braid, dress. Sit on your father's Lazy-Boy and watch crap on
local cable. If he's a nerdboy his mother will be bringing him, maybe his very
present father. Neither of them want him seeing a girl from the Southside
-people still get shot in the Southside-but they're relieved he's showing
interest in girls and he'll get his way, as all boys do. If he's an artboy, you know
he'll at least go down on you.
You typed the directions, so his parents won't think you're an airhead.
Get up from the Lazy-Boy and check the streets below. Nada. If the boy's
thug, don't sweat it. He'll flow over when he gets the munchies. Sometimes

Quisqueya: La Repbblica Extended


he'll run into his other friends and a whole crowd will show up at your apart-
ment, and even though that means there'll be other girls with whom he'll lock
himself in the bathroom, it'll be fun anyway and you'll wish your father visited
your uncle more often. Sometimes the boy won't come over at all and the next
day in school he'll shrug, smile, lick his lips and you'll be pendeja enough to
want him to come over again.
Wait, and after an hour, run down to the stoop. The neighborhood's
crawling with people. Wave at one of your friends across the street and when
she shouts, You still waiting on that asshole? say, Shut the hell up, Nelly.
Run back inside. Blow up his cell and when his girlfriend picks up ask
if he's there. She'll ask, Who the fu- Hang up. She sounds like a wrestler
or a cop, the sort of chick with thick hands, who likes to go around slapping
people. Lie down and wait. By the time your belly's ready to give you real
cramps, you hear the buzzer and up he comes.
Hey, you'll whisper.
Um, he'll say. My father wants to meet you. He's got himself adrenalined
for naught.
Panic. Flip your braids like the white girls do even though the only
thing that can flip your hair is a lava-fueled iron. He won't look as hot as the
papichulo. The local papichulos with slick hair, they're the ones you want
most, right? Usually, the ones who want you are the ones who aren't from the
Southside but want to be, artboys too afraid to come out of the closet or who
try to get the gushy stuff by writing gushy poems. If he's a nerdboy, don't be
surprised if his father is white. Say, Greetings. His pops will say, Ohla, and
you'll see that you scare him, really. He'll say that the directions were unneces-
sary because he's familiar with your vibrant neighborhood, culture, and even
though he has the best directions in his hands explain that, actually, you wrote
down the wrong exit. Boost his ego.
You have too many choices. If the boy's a papichulo from around the way,
suggest El Amigo for lunch. Order everything in SAT English. Let him cor-
rect your enunciation if he's nerdboy and amaze him if he's thug. If he's an
artboy, pizza will do. As you walk to the restaurant talk about the block. Art-
boy or nerdboy won't need stories about prep school but the other ones might.
Supply the story about the wannabe frat boys who buy tanks of nitrous oxide
from the chem professors each semester, how they wear T-shirts that read, Say
N20 to Drugs, how one day a tank leaked and the whole dorm got a crazy dose
of laughing gas. Tell him that whenever students need coke for a snowparty,
they ask you for directions to hoods like yours.

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


Hope that you don't run into Awilda, the crackhead with the killer mouth.
She walks it all over the neighborhood and every now and then the mouth
corners itself a victim and tears it to shreds. Awilda, laughing as the victim
chokes on her words, its eyes askew like a cat clock's, embarrassment burning
through soft skin. If her mouth hasn't cornered a victim, she'll walk behind
you and yell, Hey, Petra, lend me that john.
Let her talk. Awilda weighs about ninety pounds but could smoke you
if she wanted. At the pizzeria she'll shuffle away. She sees a cop, and doesn't
want that john again. If the boy's an artboy, he'll hiss and say, What human
waste. A papichulo would've been winking at her the whole time, just be-
cause. Either way don't feel bad about staying shut. Never get cussed out on
a first date or that'll mark the start of things.
Lunch will be chill. You're too good at talking to people you don't know.
An artboy will tell you that his parents separated after 9/11, will say, Terrorists
made people think harder about their raison d'etre. Raison d'etre will sound
like an idea he'd just picked up. Your sister once heard that phrase and said,
Sounds like a whole lotta French cheese to me. Repeat this.
Take a bite of your hamburger and say, Must've been easy for them.
He will appreciate your irony. He will tell you more. Virgos, he'll say, treat
me real bad. That's why life's tough for a Pisces like me. You'll wonder how
he feels about Geminis. Ask. Let him speak circles and when you're both
finished eating stroll back to the block. The skies will be jigsawed. High-rise
lofts have made Southside sunsets one of the mysteries of the world. Don't
point this out. Rub his shoulder and say, It's still early.
Play it off. Pretend to watch TV. Sip some of the Manischewitz your
father keeps in the cabinet, which he doesn't touch anyway. A local papichulo
may wear a crucifix around his neck and have a Jesus tattoo but he'll be quick
to finger you. A thugboy, too, has to live on the same block you do, has to deal
with keeping up his game. He won't just chill with you and then go home. He
won't just tongue you and then go home. He might, if he's way too high, just
say no, but that's rare. Necking won't be enough. A nerdboy might just get
asthma right then. Keep at him. He'll press a fresh mint in his mouth, stick
the wrapper in his pocket, and then shift away from you. You have a brilliant
mind, he might say.
Tell him that you love his mind, too, that you love his hands, his eyes,
because, in truth, you love them less than you love your own.
He'll say, I like Latin girls, and even though you don't speak Latin, say,
Veni, vidi, vici. You'll sound stupid.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


You'll be with him until about eight-thirty and then he'll want to take a
dump. In the bathroom he'll freestyle and rap the beat against the lip of the
sink. Try not to imagine his girl coming to get him, what she'd say if she knew
her boy had just lain over you and rapped your name into your ear. While he's
in the bathroom, call Nelly and say, Girl, he never showed. Or just sit back on
the Lazy-Boy and sigh.
It always works this way. Never prepare. He'll always want to mess with
you. Let's do it, he'll say. The papichulo might lean forward, breaking away
from you. He'll open his arms, say, I'm just too big for you. Roll your eyes as
he strokes your hair. I like to talk first, he'll say. He'll act like somebody you
don't know. On the block he's known for his smooth stride, as well-oiled as a
racecar's, but here he'll worry you. You won't know what to say.
You're the kind of bitch I can talk to, he'll say. Your neighbors will be
making calls to Jersey by now, since Nelly's spread the word. You and my
sister, he'll whisper.
Stay shut. Let him re-button his shirt, let him comb his hair, your want
dribbling like tears inside you. When his girlfriend calls then buzzes, let him
go with way too little good-byes. He'll want them. During the next hour the
phone will ring. You'll be tempted to answer. Don't. Watch the shows you
don't want to watch, the ones your family loves. Don't go downstairs. Fall
asleep. It'll help. But keep the Bible in its place even if your pops crucifies

SARGASSO 2008-09, II

Don't Have Dreams About Me, Mom

Luis Martin G6mez
Translated by Rosa Mirna S6nchez

Don't have dreams about me, mom, I beg of you, don't include me in your
dreams, it's nothing personal, I assure you, it's just that, you know, that
premonition you had about the Pope, "last night I had a dream of the Pope
wearing a black tunic and without a face, it's a bad thing when I can't see
people's faces..." and three days later: Bang! Bang! Ali Agca gives the repre-
sentative of Christ on Earth two shots that almost send him to Heaven; don't
have dreams about me, mom, I beg of you, remember President Guzmin, "oh,
I don't know, I had a dream about Guzmin going up the staircase of the
presidential palace backwards," and a week later, the funeral procession was
coming down the staircase with the body of the president; no, mom, don't
dream about me, because you had a dream with Isaac inside a glass of water
and Isaac drowned; you dreamt about Don Pununo having a melted raspberry
ice cream and Don Pununo died of a hemorrhage; you dreamt about Carmen-
cita trapped inside a refrigerator and Carmencita died of pneumonia...I just
get terrified when you come near me in the mornings, ii the middle of break-
fast, and you look at me with those eyes that still seem to be sleeping, they are
awake but they are still as in a dream, and then you talk to me about those
images you seem to have in front of you, almost touching them, "and then
Isabelita smiled and I noticed that she didn't have any teeth, they say that to
dream about teeth means death," I feel even more scared days later as I hear
you re-telling that same dream to the neighbors who attend Isabelita's wake,
of course; I just get so distressed when I see you absorbed in your thoughts on
your bed, shocked by your own dream, trying to come up with another inter-
pretation that doesn't imply the death of a loved one, "Francisco appeared
dressed as a woman, a woman usually means eight, so cancer won't kill him
until eight years from now," but there's no use, it wasn't eight years, but months,
you knew it, but you loved Uncle Francisco so much that you wished in vain
for him to have a little more life; your precision with dreams is such that once
you order mourning clothes from the seamstress, we know you are giving us a

Quisqueya: La Repblica Extended


sign that we should be getting ready for the next burial; you even book fu-
neral masses in advance with a precise date and time, "reserve one for Iris,
Father, I saw her clearly, eating at a banquet"; you also indiscreetly say good-
bye to those already condemned in your dreams...So please, do not dream
about me, mom, do not come telling me that you saw me looking pale or
happy, that I was swimming in garbage or floating naked in the air, or that I
was being bitten by a snake, or vomiting flowers; no, mom, do not tell me now
that doctors have promised me that I will get better, now that scientists can't
explain to themselves why I am still breathing, talking, laughing, now that
priests use me to show what a miracle is-that argument that, without fail,
always attracts more parishioners and raises the collections for the parish; yes,
I know, I did not take you seriously when you told me that you had dreamt
about me being thin, really thin, so much so that you almost couldn't make me
out under the dim lights of the brothel, where strange beings that were half
women, half female monkeys were surrounding me; I admit it, I thought you
were just being an old lady when you told me to come to my senses and dis-
tance myself from my addictions, "I dreamt that a big syringe was following
you, you are not using drugs, right, son?," and then I said no, "how could you
think that, mom?," while I was discreetly trying to fix the sleeves of my shirt
to hide the needle marks on my arm; I didn't even pay attention to you when
you predicted the first red marks on my skin, "I saw you dressed as a clown, all
covered in blush," and although I was a clown in your dream, I did not laugh,
mom, I was crying, like I cried out in fear when I first discovered that my he-
moglobin had suddenly gone down, when they forced me at the office to get a
blood test on the pretext that they needed to know my blood type in case of an
emergency, and even that you perceived in your dreams, "are you feeling well,
son?, last night I saw a negative of a picture of your body, that means that you
are ill even though you may look well," "damn it, mom! do you think that these
muscles could be those of a sick person?"; again you were on the right track
because my muscles continued to be just as strong although on the second
analysis, which this time I decided to take on my own, my red blood cells were
already less than three million and the white blood cells were starting to go
up... Just how you can foresee everything that happens to me is to me a mys-
tery as profound as your dreams, the truth is that I have even thought that
perhaps you do not exist while you are awake, that you only live while you are
sleeping, that your nature is not physical but dreamlike, that your natural state
is the subconscious; because you have an extraordinary way of getting to know
the most trivial detail, my candidiasis, for example, "I dreamt that you were
counting the stars," and the incredible way in which you interpret them, "you

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


were counting them with your mouth and the light of the stars was reflecting
on your lips"; I even stayed over at my friend's summer house for longer than
planned, but not even the distance interferes with your dreams, which seem to
have 360 degree, multi-directional antennas with transmitters in every moun-
tain and valley of this country, because from the city you were able to see
clearly my first coughing fit and how I almost died of asphyxiation had it not
been for the country people who made me drink a really bitter tea, which
made me feel better, but I do not know if it was a result of the tea leaves or
because I just cannot die far from you and the rest of the family, and even that
nostalgia you captured in a dream, "you were alone under a tree, its leaves were
falling, once upon you, they turned out to be pictures of us, yellow and sepia";
what a big and pleasant surprise I had when I saw you getting off your mo-
toconcho ride and walk towards the portico like a sleepwalker, ever since that
moment I feel more relaxed, a mother is a mother, even if she spends her time
foreseeing everyone's death, and so the hot meal promptly at noon, your ca-
resses at the hour of siesta and the security that comes from having you close,
sitting down, looking at me, made me get better faster, I was only scared in the
morning, "what if she dreamt about me but is afraid to tell me," but no, days
passed by and my recovery was a fact, I did not come up in her dreams; how-
ever, the grandmother of Remigio, the gardener, was not spared, nor the uncle
of Crucito, the milker, only one dream buried them both in a flash, and then
the word spread around and everyone decided to paint the nail of their little
finger of their left hand red as a protection against your dreams, even me,
mom, yes, me!, I painted it and not only on the little finger on my left hand,
but on the toe on my left foot as well, just in case... Returning to the city
made all my fears about my health come back to me, being close to work, to
my co-workers, the neighbors, everyone staring at me as if I was on the other
side of a wire fence, they made me feel like an insignificant being, an infected
dog, a dung beetle, a cell unavoidably wearing out; the city is a prison in which
we are voluntary inmates, you think you enjoy it but you are completely lim-
ited: to the North, the backwater is peppered by industries that return the fa-
vor of cheap labor by giving back smoke and noise to the environment; to the
South, elmalecdn with the same old sea, always tired and green; to the East, the
monument to the Admiral of the Ocean Sea projecting a cross to the sky that
does not allow us to forget we are living in an open tomb which awaits more
deaths; and to the West, the unknown, the mystery lies where the Sun sets,
almost no one goes West, but the Admiral did set off with his chimera and you
know the rest, got here lost-because that is the only way he could have gotten
here-to this island that is only getting more isolated, this rocky hill that's

Ouisqueya: Lo Repiblica Extended


alone, alone, alone, where everyone walks fast to nowhere, everyone except for
me, I am condemned to a destiny when all I want is to stay here, sitting in
front of you, trying to keep you from falling asleep because if your eyes close,
the end of me is near; no, mom, do not dream about me, "the night before last,
I saw you...", because I know that afterwards you will secretly start calling the
funeral home to inquire about coffins and candles, or you will let family and
friends know with clumsy discretion, or you will scribble down the funeral
notice and leave it lying around without realizing; do not fall asleep, mom, "...
you were floating above the city...," take those pills that keep you from sleep-
ing, make yourself some strong coffee, un-count sheep or kill them if you want
so they stop jumping over the fence and stop making your eyes tired, because
then your eyes will close and you will fall into the abyss of sleep, that tunnel
that so quickly communicates with the magical side, impossible to grasp, a
nebulous garden where I am, but I am not, my image erasing itself slowly, thin,
dehydrated, coughing, you will see me clearly and then you won't have to in-
terpret, it will be that and nothing else, the end; wake up, morn, "...and
then...," look, the priest is coming with the guys from the church choir to sing
psalms of thanks for the diarrhea has passed, because the pneumonia is gone,
because the spots on my skin have cleared; no, do not take off the tape I placed
on your eyelids, it's there so that your eyes don't close, mom, do not fall asleep,
wake up, mom, do not dream about me, wake up!...

SARGASSO 2008-09, II

Seaward Bound*

Jose Alc6ntara Alm6nzar
Translated by Luis Guzm6n Valerio

The waters of the Ozama River have brought me here. This voyage is not
the result of a willful act, nor is the manner in which I have undertaken it.
My journey on the murky depths of the river has been complicated by a myriad of
unforeseen circumstances. Propelled by some huge force, I fell into a muddy and
cold part of the river, and this prevented me from moving at first. I was stuck in
that spot, while my insides flooded, until a current of water pushed me with
such force that it released me from the mud. On that swampy shore, where I
first found myself almost entirely submerged in mud, I was not particularly in-
convenienced, nothing bothered me during those eternal minutes, so it would
have been preferable to remain there protected by the sandbanks.
I quickly floated down the turgid Ozama. There was no sun. My forced
departure took place in the wee hours of the morning. Beside me were tree
trunks, rotten leaves, dilapidated cardboard, useless pieces of wood, and bits
of garbage that floated easily and drifted alongside me: rusty juice cans, empty
rum bottles, pieces of newsprint, plantain peels, and I don't know how many
more things. It wasn't good company, but all that garbage and I had been set
free at once and it couldn't be helped. Now I'm here, by the cliff, still motion-
less under the radiant May sun, on a day when the seagulls are flying near the
beach, and further on, near Sans Souci beach, the swallows are forecasting
that rainfall will continue into the afternoon. Before reaching the foot of this
precipice, and before the fury of the waves threw me onto the beach, forcing
me to wait until other waves would drag me out of a bog, a blackish oil covered
my body as I drifted away from the bridge. This oil is probably spillage from
cargo ships that dock here-I didn't see any, of course. A continuous cloud of
smoke that thickened occasionally with the slightest wind change came from
the pier. I was able to notice that the warehouses had been nearly destroyed
and that the goods had been lost almost entirely. The port appeared not to be
functioning with the usual hustle and bustle even though it was a workday.
Today is Monday and there is no activity on the pier. Well, like the rest of the
city, it has been involuntarily paralyzed for some weeks now.

Quisqueya: La Repblica Extended


So, when I arrived at the pier, I bumped into some pieces of timber and
couldn't continue my route to the sea. Fatigued by the boredom of the never-
ending shift, a soldier who was making his rounds in the vicinity saw me. Sus-
picious, careful not to be seen, hiding behind machinery that was still stand-
ing, he observed me for a while, trying to make out my identity. Impossible.
Impossible as in all the cases up to the present: no one has been able to help
me or identify me. Recovered from the shock, he wanted to lend me a hand
so that I could get out of the water. He crouched down, extended his rifle by
the butt, and tried unsuccessfully to pull me out from among the flotsam and
onto hard ground. He was very close to the water, exposed to the dangers of
enemy eyes, wanting to offer help to a drifting skiff. He grabbed a long pipe
from the scrapheap. He tried again, this time with more success. He was able
to hook onto the ropes that bound me and almost hauled me ashore when
the tip of the iron hoop gave way to the resistance I unintentionally offered.
He almost fell into the water. He had to hide again because they began firing
at him from the other side of the river. A few minutes passed while he tried
to come to my rescue but had to return crawling to his hiding place, pursued
by gunfire. Meanwhile, dozens of fish proceeded to harass me by nibbling on
my mouth, hands, and feet. Why didn't they go for the garbage that was still
trapped among the flotsam beside me? I noticed that only small fish fed on
the flotsam while larger fish preferred to bite my arms and legs. It was rather
unpleasant and at the same time ticklish, but I was lucky that the torture didn't
last long. Another rush of water helped carry me onto a clearer and less muddy
surface, increasing the loneliness and boredom of the soldier who wouldn't
stop looking at me desolately from the cloud of smoke on the pier, unable to
leave his hiding place. The water became increasingly warmer; undoubtedly it
was the proximity of the sea now warming the estuary's undercurrents. When
I reached the confluence I-who had been traveling facing the pale dawn
sky-was tossed into the whirlpool that ensnared me and violently dispersed
my flotsam companions at the same time. I was left entirely alone. There were
terrible swirls that reminded me of the first time I tried to swim: swallowing
water, hearing a buzzing in my ears, feeling an unbearable blow to my stomach
and experiencing the sensation that the whole world was upside down. This
is how I left the pier behind, before the indifferent silence of the Don Diego
palace, its rear walls to me.
Now I confronted the sea and its perils. The movement of the waters kept
the sharks from coming near me at first. I had barely arrived at a point where
the current died, when they rushed over to attack me. A few bites turned my
extremities into stumps. I didn't bleed much. Some hours before I had been

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


thrown into the river, I had lost a great deal of blood on the floor of that
makeshift cell. Maybe that's why the sharks allowed me to drift out to sea
without touching me again. For now, they were satisfied with what they had
gotten. The waves, which in perpetual battle with a derelict breakwater strain
to be totally free, have run me aground on a swath of wet sand that is slowly
warming up at the foot of this cliff. I have remained still, have not made the
slightest movement for half an hour. A storm of ravenous flies, which doubt-
less came from the city's fetid trash dumps, has caught scent of my flesh and
won't stop attacking me. They sense me, they bite me, they throw themselves
onto my moist flesh, they make all sorts of crazy noises and flights in the
air, they dance around as though they were celebrating a banquet, they seem
to fly away, they buzz, they come back. It's horrible. A man isn't worth any-
thing when he doesn't even have the respect of flies. Along with the flies, a
child, then two others, have also shown up, and now there are already eight or
ten people who I imagine are pointing at me, putting their hands over their
mouths in clear signs of terror.
"A cadaver, it doesn't have hands or feet!"
"It's got its arms tied to its back!"
"How terrible!"
"It looks like the one we saw on the breakwater yesterday!"
I start to feel uncomfortable because I don't like comparisons, nor do I feel
flattered when I'm seen as a public spectacle. I've always been a serious guy.
Other than the flies that are really revolting, now all these people are trying to
see who I am, wanting to identify me (because they can't see my face: I'm lying
face down, and I can only hear their voices coming closer and closer).
"Get a rope, we're gonna bring him up!"
I'd like to know what will happen once they get over here and see my face
and finally realize who I am. My thanks would go out to the waves if these
people can't do it: the only thing I want now is to be left alone.
"Give me the rope, quick!"
The waves are getting stronger, they're almost taking me with them, I feel
the sand loosening up under my legs. The flies are frightened away when the
salty surf splashes around me. I hear cries different from the ones I heard a
moment ago, and I believe the people above have reached a point that forces
them to stop their descent: if they fall, it would be fatal. The rocks down here
are sharp.
"Hold me tight... No, not like that... That's it!"
The waves are carrying me away, first my legs and abdomen, then my chest
and head. The cries grow louder.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


My accidental rescuer is so close I can feel his breath. If he had more imagi-
nation and less fear, he'd be able to reach me easily. He won't do it. It's not
heights he's scared of, but me. I can't see him, but I can guess the expression
on his face, those bulging, terrified eyes. I hear the cries again; the man seems
to be going up. A general uproar.
"I need more help!"
Others have been smarter. A group of youngsters is coming down to the
beach now. They only have to get past a stretch of violent waves and then
they'll be able to rescue me. A giant wave draws me a considerable distance
from the shore. I'm drifting away under the cawing of hungry seagulls that
swoop down closer, attracted by my body. I'm drifting along the surface once
again. The cries follow me along the half-ruined breakwater. They stop there;
they can't continue. I'm out a good hundred meters, the shots from the enemy
side start again, and the voices stop suddenly: everyone runs for shelter.
I'm out on the open sea. My body is now a fishing boat sailing without a

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


Junot Diaz, Diaspora, and Redemption:

Creating Progressive Imaginaries

Interview by Katherine Miranda
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

Recorded in New York City
June 13th, 2009

Tunot Diaz is the author of the short story collection Drown (1996) and the novel
SThe Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), which won the Pulitzer
Prize in 2008. Born in Villa Juana, a barrio of Santo Domingo, Dominican Re-
public, he moved with his family to New Jersey at the age ofseven. He is currently
a Professor of Creative Writing at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Katherine Miranda: I'd like to start this interview by throwing out a term and
seeing where it leads us. This volume of Sargasso is entitled "Quisqueya: La
Reptblica Extended." Could you talk about how you see an "extended" Do-
minican Republic both in terms of your work as a writer and also personally,
as a member of the diaspora?

Junot Diaz: Any exploded society, like the Dominican Republic, in some
ways you could say has multiple existences. It's funny how some people in
the Dominican diaspora don't see any diaspora whatsoever who believe that
somehow, miraculously, at some imaginary level, that a nation exists as some
sort of pure territorial space, and that therefore the insane level of connectiv-
ity that late modern capitalism brought and that international divisions of
labor, which produced a lot of fucking waves of immigration that all of
these things don't exist. The idea is just that there's a Dominican Republic
and there are people who live in it -even though the people who live in it is
also contested- and everyone who lives outside of it isn't Dominican. It's the
"milk theory," that you have a certain shelf life as a Dominican and as soon as
you leave the never of Santo Domingo you, within a few days, go bad. And
you're no longer milk. I think this idea's ridiculous, but clearly it's a narrative
that works for some people. And that's what I mean when I say there are

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


multiple diasporas, multiple worlds. There's one that's completely unaware,
doesn't see itself in any form of diaspora. Like my mother. My mother doesn't
think of the Dominican diaspora, my mother sees herself as Dominican. Who
just happens to live in fucking New Jersey. It's a terrible accident, but in her
mind, she in no way links her brain, her imagination, to the U.S., even though
she's been here for thirty years. What do you do with someone like that who's
literally, physically living in a place thirty years non-stop and yet that place is
more insubstantial than memories from her first thirty years?
My sense of it as a writer and an artist . what fascinates ... is that all
of these points of view are existing not only simultaneously, but also at a level
of enormous intensity and tension; that because of the historical moment of
the Dominican diaspora, the tension between these various sectors is very,
very strong. And what I mean by that is that there's an increased sense of
nationalism, of national identity based on things like bachata, based on things
like merengue, based on things like baseball, based on the fact that we've got
over a million people in the New York area. There's a certain consciousness
of the nation as a possible entity that casts all these things in a different light.
When we were living in the United States in New Jersey in the 70s, I don't
think these questions were as charged.

KM: Because of the demographics?

JD: The historical moment. There was no possibility, no-one ever imagined
that Dominicans would be at the place they're at now in 1974. We had no
idea. I think that why this is all very interesting is because you rarely get this
much intellectual leverage at such an important historical moment. I feel like
we're time witnesses to an extraordinary moment in what we could call the
Dominican "century," the Dominican "state." As an artist, that's what drives
me, I feel like will we ever be in this situation again? Imagine having in-
stitutional, intellectual, all the historical ancestry that me and you have now,
but imagine that and being a Puerto Rican in 1950s Manhattan. Being on the
ground floor, but with all the intellectual institutional apparatus we've man-
aged to accumulate after long years of struggles it's a wonderful opportunity,
and it certainly draws all my energies, both intellectual and artistic, and in
some ways even spiritual.

KM: Related to this idea of a unique historical moment, Juan Flores' recent
book, The Diaspora Strikes Back: Tales ofLearning and Turning, talks about the
idea of "cultural remittance," something that really interests me as it relates

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


specifically to literary remittances what the diaspora "sends home" in terms
of literary production and how that's changed over time. Do you see your
work geared in that way to be sent back to the Dominican Republic? Or is
it more of a part of this extended Dominican nation you were just describing
that exists outside of the territorial boundaries of the DR?

JD: This has been an important criticism before The Diaspora Strikes Back
and I always ask: how much money do you send home? We're very, very
aware, anyone who has been in a remittance economy, that when a nation gets
wind that it's getting a ton of remittances, that it has a certain percent of its
people outside of its borders, the state, or the elite factors, begin to organize
themselves in a way to immunize the territorial, let's say Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo has organized itself at a political, cultural, and social level to
immunize itself against its diaspora. Which is to say that, and we've always
criticized this, our money is always welcome in Santo Domingo, but not our
intellectual or cultural ideas. These are not welcome. There are certain spaces
where perhaps they're welcome, like, let's say, the moment of political unity
around Vieques. Certain kinds of solidarity, but do you really see the political
elites of Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo open to the contributions and sugges-
tions and ideas of their diasporic populations? Get the fuck out of here, there's
no space at the fucking table.

KM: Do you think that these relationships are changing at all? In Puerto
Rico that certainly was the case for writers decades ago, but it may be chang-
ing slightly, shifting certainly from what it was in the 1970s.

JD: Well, I wasn't even thinking about the writers.

KM: Cultural production more broadly?

JD: I'm thinking about our intellectual and cultural work. By intellectual
work I mean, for me, the gold standard is do our political ideas have any
space? And there is no way that anyone can tell me that beyond minor inser-
tions, that the diaspora has been able to take part in the national conversation
of the Dominican Republic. I think any state permits a certain level of entry
so that people don't feel like they're completely being blocked. There've been
some changes, certain kinds of interventions are possible, but I feel like these
states are even more guarded against their diasporas now than they were in the
past. In the Dominican Republic, diasporic Dominicans have been success-

Quisqueya: La Repbblica Extended


fully stigmatized as drug dealers and delinquents. We send millions of dollars
home, but we're the problem -not the state- that fails to serve its people.
A very useful divide-and-conquer strategy for elites. And when I hear my
Puerto Rican students at MIT talk about U.S. Puerto Ricans, they are not
level or very open-minded. They speak of US Puerto Ricans in the same
negative register. And I think that these are folkloric points of view, folkloric
stereotypes, that have enormous power, that make it very difficult for some-
one from the diaspora to enter productively or to challenge productively these
vocal, regressive hegemonies.

KM: Is it a challenge you take up consciously as a writer? Because Oscar Wao
is certainly tackling, or at least making a very strong political critique, of many
of these Dominican hegemonies.

JD: Elite structures try to 'manage' the diaspora in the DR but they can't
block us completely, no more than the U.S. can build a wall around itself. We
diaspora Dominicans participate in the society at so many levels that can't be
regulated. The very fact that we're not just there with our money, that we're
also there with our bodies and our experiences and our intellectual power and
our critical perspectives, is, as you indicated, an optimistic sign.

KM: Is it the sort of change that's going to be felt from the ground up?

JD: I'm not prescient or anything, but barring large utopian change, I suspect
that it will only be felt at the ground level. For a while at least. I mean, I
haven't seen U.S. political elites give up an inch to the larger African American
community. Sure, we might have a black president, but has that changed the
fate of the Black community in the U.S. one iota? Why?

KM: So is part of your writing then directed towards these powers that be?
This political elite?

JD: When I write about the Dominican Republic, I think about the fact that
I sit across from a relative who never left the island, and never wants to leave
the island, and who can make that choice because we send dollars. I sit across
from a brother who was born in the United States and has never gone back
to Santo Domingo. I sit across from a cousin who lived in the United States,
went back to Santo Domingo and never returned. Anyone who's writing in a
form as complicated as the novel is writing often to multiple audiences. So,

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


who I'm writing to, sure, it could cover those people. But in the same breath it
could be said that it's not covering them. It's like a coin that just keeps spin-
ning. Sometimes it's facing you, sometimes it's not. I always felt that I was
trying to write to that complex moment of what I knew.

KM: Your personal experience.

JD: Well, your subjectivity is all you have. I grew up with a very complex view
of the Dominican Republic. I had a very complicated family. It's hard for me
to say, because it's too short a term, whether what I write speaks to the Do-
minicans back on the island who never left. It's hard for me to say if it speaks
to the Dominicans living here. It's something I think we have to look at, and
view, over a long period. In twenty years, me and you will have a better idea
if this book has been a part of the conversation of the diaspora or not. I hope
it has, but will it?

KM: In terms of the literary acclaim the novel has received, and winning the
Pulitzer, do you think that that's going to change the way either audience
receives the work?

JD: Well, you know, I don't want to say this, but sometimes you have to get
recognized from outsiders before your own culture values what you are. What
that means in the long term is very difficult. You can't tell me you know who
won the Pulitzer five years ago. And in five years no one will remember that I
won it, either. And I think that that's really important, that for a book to sur-
vive in the long-term isn't because it won an award. A book survives because
it remains relevant at some sort of a cultural, social, political level. And we can
only determine that by actually sticking around long enough to see it.

KM: What would you say are the major influences, the canonical influences,
on your work? You blend many different genres and styles science fiction,
magical realism, you've discussed how Chamoiseau was very influential in the
use of extensive footnotes in Oscar Wao.

JD: In everything, Chamoiseau is important to me in almost everything.

KM: Is there a particular canon that was more influential than any other?
Can you speak to the influences that are reflected in your work and how this
relates to your diasporic identity?

Quisqueya: La RepOblica Extended


JD: Hard to say. Because I always joke around about this, but asking a writer
about their creative genealogy tends to mean that the answer you're going to
get back is more a fantasy than anything. I don't have direct access to what
shaped my unconscious interests; I don't really know which writers gave me
my art. So yeah, my literary genealogy is going to be more wishful thinking
than accurate. But with that said: I always felt that the African diaspora had
an enormous impact, whether it was U.S. African American letters, whether it
was writing from sub-Saharan Africa, whether it was Caribbean writing... but
also immigrant writing across the board. I've read a ton of Asian-American
writers. And I could never be the writer that I am if I hadn't learned to write
about immigration in interesting ways from what I learned from those kinds
of writers. A lot of international work in translation, and then of course huge
blocks of what Samuel R. Delaney calls the "paraliterary." I grew up reading
fucking junk. I love junk of all forms.

KM: (laughing) Like what?

JD: You name it. Science fiction, fantasy, horror. Most people find historical
monographs really boring. I find them absolutely fascinating. About topics
no one gives a fuck about.

KM: Any one in particular?

JD: Sure, when I worked at Rutgers University Press we put out this won-
derful sociology series called the ASA Rose Monograph Series that had a
tremendous impact on the way I thought about how communities survive and
thrive across time. I know a lot about South Africa. A tremendous amount
about South Africa. I've read a lot of South African literature starting from
the 80s. Strangely enough, I am the local resident nerd on post-50s Vietnam-
ese history. I know a fucking awful lot about Vietnamese history I don't
know why, it just interests me.

KM: In terms of the political oppression and postcolonial history it may share
with the Dominican Republic? Do you see links there?

JD: Who wouldn't? I think nothing changed my life more than the fact that
when I was ten years old I was a paper boy. And I was a paper boy for four
years until I could lie my way into a regular job, and every god damn day I
would hand out papers and there would be the headlines. And I was the only

SARGASSO 2008-09,11


kid in my neighborhood who knew what the fuck was happening in Northern
Ireland, who knew what the fuck was happening in Central America, who
watched the Brazilian dictatorship throw itself over the financial cliff. And
I think that had a great way of shaping my mind and my art. I think that
writers like Edward Rivera, Oscar Hijuelos, Cristina Garcia, Toni Morrison,
Edward Jones, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin... I'm a child of Maxine Hong-
Kingston, Leslie Marmon Silko, Anjana Appachana, Rushdie, Chamoiseau,
Carpentier, Borges, Valenzuela, tons of Colombians, Rulfo, I mean, I just read
and read and read. If you're like me, when you read, you're looking for nar-
ratives that make explicit things that only a kid who grew up really poor in
the 70s saw every day. So South Africa and Ireland -two places I was very
interested in in the 80s- made explicit the certain dynamics that I was seeing
everyday, growing up a poor fucking Dominican in central NewJersey. I mean
it's a far stretch to say that these struggles are analogous, but certainly they're

KM: In terms of oppression?

JD: More than that, oppression doesn't entirely cover what we're talking about.
As a writer, what fascinates me is how people "un-see." How societies are
trained to not see. In other words, I don't think what determines a person is
what their point of view is. I think it's what their point of"un-view" is. What
are the things that you've been socialized not to see. And that fascinates me.

KM: Things that for immigrants -exposed to two different societies and able
to see comparatively- would stick out so much more?

JD: Well, for most immigrants, no, we're as good at un-seeing as anyone else.
In fact, immigration gives you a license to un-see in two cultures. I grew up
in a fucking hard-core community, man. I didn't see anyone encouraging me
to talk about the silences that surrounded us. In fact, it was considered more
problematic for you to challenge or to question what was going on because
as immigrants we were so desperate to have a stable identity. So when I was
reading about South Africa, what was fascinating to me wasn't the brutal, hor-
rific, white supremacist, near-genocidal violence, and in some cases, genocidal
-which of course are enormous, enormous things- but how a society can or-
ganize itself not to see that. And live happily.

KM: "Happily" in quotes.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


JD: Yeah, happily in quotes, I agree, of course. The world has organized itself
to be completely blind about what happened in the New World, specifically
what happened in the Caribbean.

KM: Or to silence those who are talking out against those horrors.

JD: Well, you don't even need to silence them. You just don't need to listen.
We come from places where we're not in a position to stop the music long
enough for you to announce there's a fire in the house. And that's what's really
interesting. I feel that all of these things get back to the fundamental impulse
for me as an intellectual and artist, which is that I came out of the site of the
greatest trauma of our New World. And the fact that that doesn't exist in
most people's minds, the fact that the reality of it doesn't exist in most people's
minds, both inside the trauma and outside the trauma zone, Jesus. That put
me on the path.

KM: Do you think the ways the diaspora views that trauma is similar to the
ways it's still viewed at home? Or does leaving the Caribbean change the way
the trauma of conquest and slavery and colonization is viewed?

JD: It's very nuanced. For example, my Dominican friends in Jersey are way
more willing to talk about colorism. Even folks who have no progressive
training, or don't see themselves as progressive, openly talk about being dis-
criminated against or treated well depending on their skin color. In Santo
Domingo, there's a lot more silence around it. Yet, whether one speaks about
it or not, colorism is practiced quite enthusiastically in both places. So I do
think there are differences in silences, clearly, but I don't think the sum total is
any better or any worse. I mean, Jesus, the amount of fucking rape of children
that goes on in my community in the United States? Well clearly, a lot goes on
at home, too. I mean, are things really, per capital, that different is it worse or
better? And that for me is very important to remember: I'm a poster child for
the idea of immigration as progress. And yet I'm not so sure that that myth is
something we should be so happily embracing.

KM: You said something in an interview in 1996 that you did with Silvio
Torres-Saillant and Di6geno C6spedes,

JD: An almost incoherent interview, but go on.

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


KM: (laughing) And they were asking you about the success you may have
been allowed through your immigration to the U.S. that others who remained
in the D. R. may not have had. You said:

I think success is more arbitrary in the U.S. than most people like to admit.
We all have an easy time congratulating ourselves when we succeed, but how
much of that success is just plain luck? Sure, you might have the talent and the
drive but so do a thousand other folks. So why you? I'd say it's arbitrary.

Considering you are the second latino to win the Pulitzer Prize, would you
still say the same thing is true now?

JD: Oh, certainly. We all participate in our fortunes, there's no question. Lay
in bed till three in the afternoon and smoke weed all day, you're participating
in your fortune. Get up every day and bust your ass, you're participating in
your fate. But we're also talking about systems. I was asked that question thir-
teen years ago... but I would add that there's more to it than that. That we use
the success of individuals to erase critiques at a collective level. In other words,
we elected Obama, yea, we can clap, but we're not asking: Has the African
American community's condition really changed?

KM: So just because two latinos have won a Pulitzer doesn't mean that we
have an equal standing ground in the U.S. as the largest minority.

JD: Or, that we can clap so that we don't have to think about the fact that the
Dominican community is in as bad a state as it's been in the last twenty years.
For me, the question of being allowed and not being allowed to succeed at the
individual level erases what for me is more important, which is that histori-
cally there's always been room in most societies for "extraordinary individuals."
Someone from the slave class can suddenly own a million slaves or somebody
who was a tailor can suddenly be the most important general. Societies are
not that fixed, that simple, where these things don't happen. The real ques-
tion isn't what happens at the individual level, the real question always to me
is what happens at the collective level. And often in societies that are hege-
monic, like the United States, there's a lot at stake in promoting the success
of individuals as a way to silence a conversation about how the community is

KM: So how do we change how our communities are doing?

Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended


JD: We change them the way we always change them. To think of my success
as an individual Dominican writer masks something very important that you
have to take my entire cadre into consideration. In other words, for me to win
this award, how many of us go to prison? How many of us are not given the
proper services for our mental health? How many of us have to work terrible
jobs? How many of us, because of environmental racism, suffer from asthma
and all sorts of other conditions? It seems an incredibly high price to pay for
the community, for one person to get a Pulitzer, when you connect all the dots.
And I think that my "success" cannot be seen outside of the conditions that we
all came up in, and that we all had to experience. It's a remarkable thing it's
like the house burned down and fifty people die and you just say, hey, let's just
talk about the one guy who survived.

KM: So these narratives of uplift cannot be normalized.

JD: I mean, Jesus. As far as how do these communities change, I mean, I'm
no fucking expert, but from what I know about history it always seems to be
the same thing. It's that you gotta do community work and you've gotta create
progressive imaginaries at an artistic level and an intellectual level and a politi-
cal level. And then you wait around and do as much work as possible until
the historical moment comes that opens the door for utopian change. Beyond
that I think it would be incredibly hard to predict. Each generation at a his-
torical level seems to surprise the shit out of the generation that came before.
What's unfortunate is that where I came up, and I can't talk about anyone
else, seeing things too clearly was considered negative. If you point out that
this thing [pointing to a bottle] has a crack in it, people think you're a negative
person and that you're not optimistic. I always think that true optimism is
demonstrating that even though there is a crack, that the bottle still has value,
still is beautiful. True optimism isn't un-seeing that crack in the bottle and
saying the bottle's wonderful. I think that at many political levels, we function
in this way. We think positivity is underplaying what's wrong and promoting
the positive. And I think that's fucking toxic. Real positivity is seeing how
fucked-up and crazy things are and still thinking that we're worthy of all the
things human beings should be worthy of: justice and fuckin' fairness and
peace and well-being. So I believe in positive change, I think the stuff that
my generation -the generation that came before and the generation that came
after- has done is remarkable. Could we do more? Always. Are we a bunch
of narrow-minded, consumer capitalist stooges??

SARGASSO 2008-09,11


KM: (laughing)

JD: Yes. Given that, are we trying the best we can? I think a lot of times we
are. I think we try. I think we good.

KM: I'd like to talk a bit about your literary technique, and about the ways I
see your work engaging both science fiction and magical realism. There are
two figures in Oscar Wao that strike me personally as incredibly magically real:
the mongoose and the man without a face. You mentioned in another inter-
view that the mongoose is actually the most "real" character in the novel, and
that it's from a family history...

JD: My mother's history.

KM: But there are also constant canonical references to science fiction in this
novel. What is the connection between science fiction and magical realism?
Do they engage each other as two sides of the same coin?

JD: Nuh-uh. I think it's the Todorov question. You know Todorov's book
on genre? There's a book called The Fantastic that discusses the uncanny, the
fantastic, and the marvelous. This book talks about this very issue -you say
the mongoose is magical realism- and I think that the text is pointing to other
things. Oscar Wao is in some ways a litmus test, a Todorov box. Todorov was a
Franco-Bulgarian critic and in The Fantastic he argues this: you see someone
there in the middle of the room, floating above the ground. That event is fan-
tastic, it's not normal. And there are two ways this thing works: if this fantas-
tic event is proven to be an optical trick, and then what you think is fantastic
suddenly is revealed to be just uncanny. Ever watch Scooby Doo?

KM: Of course!

JD: Scooby Doo's a perfect Todorov example. There's a ghost, that ghost is
the fantastic element, the kids go in and find out it's Old Mr. Petersen and it's
revealed just to be uncanny. And then, at the end, there's actually a real ghost,
and that's the marvelous. When something is proven to be human or normal,
it's just uncanny. When it's proven to be for real, like if he's really levitating,
it's marvelous. Now, the thing is that the marvelous can be subdivided into
various genres. Into horror, fantasy, science fiction, and even these areas can
be sub-divided even further. It's up to the viewer of a fantastic event to decide

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


whether what they're experiencing is marvelous or uncanny. But I also think
it's up to the viewer (in our specific case the reader of this book) to decide
which form of the marvelous they encounter. Most readers are more comfort-
able with making the argument that the fantastic elements they encounter in
my novel are magical realism/marvelous. But the text makes a very strong
argument that things like the mongoose are either the marvelous of fantasy
literature or the marvelous of science fiction. The text is organizing itself and
training the reader to view the world from a science fiction/fantasy and su-
pernatural background. Everything is described in this way because it's trying
to give you an epistemology. The mongoose that appears in this book, even
though it had its origin in a family moment -my mom tells the story about
being saved by a mongoose when she was lost and almost starving to death in
a coffee plantation when she was little- is actually from a young adult novel
written by Alexander Key that takes place in Puerto Rico called Flight to the
Lonesome Place where the mongoose is an alien from another world. Alexan-
der Key is the guy who wrote the books -way before you were born,jovencita-
the Witch Mountain books, very popular young-adult books in the 70s.
And so, in some ways, it's a test for the reader because most readers are
more comfortable with rejecting Oscar's point of view. They don't mind hang-
ing out with Oscar, or feeling sympathy for him. As a form of entertainment
or emotional affection, Oscar's interesting. But when it comes down to it,
very few people want to really embrace Oscar's intellectual point of view. And
from his epistemological point of view, if you embrace not only the language
and the literature and the genre and the lenses he cherishes, if you embrace
as well what meaning these things create, both the man without a face and
the mongoose suddenly can lead you along very different lines than magical
realism. But because as scholars and as readers we've been trained to think of
anything fantastic happening in a Latin American novel as being part of the
magic realist marvelous, we miss the trail of breadcrumbs that's leading us to
an alternate conclusion. And I think this novel in some ways aims to teach
you to see along a science fiction way, or, in fact, a fantasy way. It's perfect in
some ways... because so many readers resist the novel's lessons. We, in the
end, resist Oscar.
The book opens with this wonderful admonition: of what import are
brief, nameless lives? I would argue not just of what import are brief, nameless
lives to Galactus, but: of what import are brief, nameless lives and their nerdy,
genre points of view? I think that many readers, without realizing it, embrace
their inner Yunior, their inner dictator. The person who's like, "I privilege cer-
tain kinds of narratives, and even though the main protagonist has a narrative

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


that he argues is very, very important, I'm not gonna fuckin' embrace it." I've
always thought of this book as a really interesting choose-your-own-adventure
book at the level of signification.

KM: You had that in mind throughout the whole process of writing it?

JD: Oh, yeah. There were a number of ways I was trying to do it, I actually
had pages where the narrative would stop and it would say: "If you think this
is science fiction, go to page 77," for real. But it was too complex, I couldn't
pull it off.

KM:. Well, maybe for volume two?

JD: No, no, no. It's enough. I did what I did. The grad students are the ones
who can take it to the next level.

KM: (laughing) When you mention Yunior as an inner dictator, and talk
about the ways Oscar is overpowered by his own readers, I'd like to relate this
to a discussion of gender. I see your work as deeply critical of Dominican
machismo, and the ways that it can perpetuate forms of both domestic and in-
stitutionalized violence. But Oscar Wao has been critiqued by certain scholars.
Lisa Sinchez Gonzalez refers to Oscar Hijuelos' The Mambo Kings Sing Songs
ofLove to claim that a latino Pulitzer-prize winning novelist must "interweave
in his tale miles and miles of sexualized floss. Preferably the kind that con-
firms stereotypes about muy macho Latin men and Latina hotties." How would
you respond to the ways your construction/representation/ approach of gender
deals with these stereotypes?

JD: Look, I'm not a woman, so I might not have a leg to stand on, but I don't
think that's a very rigorous critical argument. You put two bottles next to each
other and just because of their proximity you say they're both wine that's not
the way that it works. I'd like to hear an argument of how my representation
of sexualized latinos and latinas is similar to that of Oscar Hijuelos. That
would help me out. And honestly, miles and miles? I got more sci-fi refer-
ences in this novel than ass references so where does that leave us?
But really, I would love to have this conversation in Santo Domingo or
Puerto Rico, countries where the majority of the inhabitants were basically
raped into existence, where (in simplistic terms) we've covered this trauma

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


with a certain kind of internally embraced hyper-sexualization. Listen: bodies
mean something in the Caribbean that they don't mean anywhere else, and
that has everything to do with a deep history of black, brown and red bod-
ies having been sold, dominated, and raped. Go to the Dominican Republic
and give your average woman this choice: "Be a whore for life or have no ass.
Which one do you want to choose?" Even though this is a folkloric joke, the
importance of our bodies, the importance of beauty, the importance of sex -
these things cannot be denied or underestimated. Lisa's critique seems to con-
fuse representation with approbation. I also repeatedly describe child rape in
this book. So therefore I am encouraging child rape because I'm representing
it? I find those arguments really simplistic.
Look, I'm a male writer. My sexism is a given. There's no question of my
masculine privilege, no matter how foreign or how much of African descent I
am. No matter these things, my sexism is a given. My privilege blinds me to
an entire half of the planet.

KM.: A little more than half...

JD: The way this novel is organized is to try to take advantage of that lapse.
For me, this book is literally arguing that the person telling the fucking story,
the person who is using this language, who is talking about women in this way,
who is talking about men in this way, is the son of Trujillo. He is the perfect
child of the Trujillato. In this book, you could draw a direct line in Dominican
society from Trujillo to Yunior. Yunior takes the present role of the dicta-
tor in the past Trujillo was the dictator, he was the only one who spoke. In
this novel, in the present, Yunior's the only one who speaks. He's literally the
dictator. The point, I thought, what was really dangerous about the novel,
why Yunior's such a scary narrator, is because he's so incredibly charming...
If you buy the book. If you don't buy the book, of course, he doesn't work.
But if you buy the book, Yunior's a winner. He's a fucking winner, people like
this guy. And he's a horror. He does everything Lisa accuses me of doing.
What's ironic is that Trujillo is this horror in the book, but the readers don't
even recognize that the person telling them the story is Trujillo with a differ-
ent mask. All the stuff that Trujillo believed in, Yunior practices in one form
or the other. No matter how critical or how left-wing he is, his sexual politics
are fucking nightmarish.

KM: But is there redemption for him in the end? Does he end the same way
he starts?

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


JD: Well, that's a very good question that the reader has to decide. And that
is what the book is an argument for or against. The book, in a way, is Yunior's
last testament. So, is he different from the person who cheated on Lola and
broke all of their hearts? Who betrayed Oscar? Is this book an act of love?
Does this book show, despite its language, despite its limitations, the real life
of a specific group of Dominican women in a way that other men haven't
spoken about before? And as a reader, you've gotta answer that question, I
can't. And that determines whether Yunior finally escapes... If a part of him

KM. So it's more in the hands of Yunior than Oscar. The novel is not as
much about Oscar as it is about this inner dictator's redemption or non-re-

JD: No, I think it's about the two of them. The reason Oscar's so important
to Yunior is the reason Yunior's so important to Oscar: the two of them circle
each other in this book because no matter what we think about Yunior and his
sexual practices, Yunior isn't an evil dictator. He doesn't really want to kill or
hurt anybody. And in Oscar, Yunior sees something that Yunior's never had.
Oscar is a million things that are fucked up, but he's one thing that is really
quite beautiful, really quite luminous, and it's that Oscar's always Oscar. He
has an authentic self, no matter how complicated, how fragmented, how fluid,
he has an authentic self. He's always who he is. Yunior is never who he is.
I always joke around that Oscar has only one mask that he never takes
off, and Yunior only has masks. We never know who the fuck Yunior is. Os-
car's always vulnerable, he's always revealing himself. The only way you could
become vulnerable with another person is to drop all your masks. That's Os-
car. He's always without his mask. In this novel, there's non-stop references
not only to The Wizard of Oz, but also to everything the The Wizard of Oz
inspired. There's a really terrible science fiction movie called Zardoz (from
wiZARD of OZ), and there's always these references in the book to people
with masks. There are references to masks behind masks. And the reason is
that Yunior is the ultimate masked man, the bakd in the Dominican Republic,
this shape-shifter that has no original form. And that's why Oscar sees Yunior
as really attractive, because Yunior can play social codes better than anyone.
Yunior knows how to wear the masks that are socially beneficial. They may
oppress other people, Yunior don't give a fuck, at least he didn't give a fuck at
the beginning. And I think that the book is about these two guys, wrestling
with this. Yunior is haunted by Lola because he knew that if he had revealed

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


himself to her, she would have loved him and accepted him, and he couldn't do
it. And he saw in Oscar the lesson that could have given him the ability to do
that. And Oscar's the same way. His obsession with what Yunior has. I see
all these figures linked in a way that was productive to me as a writer.
You know, when I sat down I was like (laughing) ha-ha...

KM: (laughing)

JD: (laughing) ha-ha eso si me da risa.

KM: I hear there's a movie in the works?

JD: Yes.

KM: How is that gonna change things? These representations of characters
and their social significations?

JD: I have nothing to do with it, so I don't know how it's gonna change any-

KM: (laughing) You don't have anything to do with the screenplay?

JD: Nope, I just know that the Boricua playwright, Jos6 Rivera, he's the one
who's writing it, and Walter Salles, the Brazilian director of The Motorcycle
Diaries, I hear he's the one who's directing it. I mean, it's a very complicated
book. I talk to you about it because I'm interested in the different levels of
meaning, but you can't have any of that in a movie. In a novel I can have all
these really neat, intellectual games that I love. I don't think a movie can cap-
ture them all in the same way.

KM: So it's going to be quite a task.

JD: I'm just glad I got nothing to do with it. Because in the end, what can
you do? If it comes out really bad, everyone's gonna come up to you and say,
"How was the movie?" If it comes out really good, people are gonna be like, "I
like the book better." You can't win, man!

KM: Yeah, it's complicated. Well, I have one final question: What's next?

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


JD: I don't know. I really don't know. You know, you don't want to put too
fine a point of it, but look, I'm really fucking weird, dude. As a person, as
an artist, that's how you have to be. If you're not fucking weird, and I mean
that in the sort of weird America way of weird, if you're not weird, what's the
use, man? Why be an artist? You've gotta have a point of view that's fucking
coming at things orthogonally, and there's a part of me that just wants to do
something really bizarre. I really want to write a science fiction book. I don't
know if I can do it though.

KM: Wait a minute (laughing) everything you just explained to me means
that Oscar Wao is not a science fiction book?

JD: Well, you know, the thing is, the book is a bakd, the book itself changes
its shape non-stop, it does. It's supposed to do that. The novel has reportage,
it has actual autobiography, femme-noir, confession, it mixes literary genres,
it's science fiction, it's fantasy, it's horror, it's a literary fiction, so it's constantly
changing shape. What I mean by science fiction is to actually play into the
side of the stable genre expectations. That would be fun. I feel like it would
narrow the box some. I mean, you have to have a restless mind for this kind
of shit. I have a very restless mind.

KM: Well, here's to restless minds, and keep us posted for the first interview
after you write it! (laughing)

JD: (laughing) Que muchacha fiesca, jcono!

KM: (laughing) Thanks so much for this interview.

Quisqueya: La Rep6blica Extended

Junot Diaz and the Lucha Libre

Daniel Bautista
Lehman College

n the many positive reviews of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, critics
have frequently commented on Junot Diaz's inventive use of popular cul-
ture. Rather than the stereotypical macho Dominican-American male, Oscar
is represented as distinctly nerdy, drawing his identity and values as much
if not more from The Lord of the Rings and comic books as any Dominican
tradition. The science fiction/fantasy narratives he devours become a potent
metaphor for both Oscar's heroic aspirations and his nerdish alienation, as
well as providing Junot Diaz with a useful frame of reference for describing
the strange dislocations of Dominican history in the twentieth and twenty-
first century. Although this popular culture serves as a useful resource for the
otherwise downtrodden boy, it also leads Oscar astray from truly recognizing
the dimensions of the social challenges he faces. Oscar's quixotic dreams of
living his life according to the values of his favorite science fiction and comic
book heroes contribute to his tragic end. Although this might appear to be a
new theme in Junot Diaz's writing, a few short stories in his first book Drown
also draw on popular culture in similar if less obvious ways.
In two stories set in the Dominican Republic, "No Face" and the epony-
mous "Ysrael," we meet Ysrael, a character who also clearly derives much of
his sense of identity from the comic books he reads. This connection is made
all the stronger by his peculiar condition: because his face was terribly dam-
aged by a pig when he was a small child, Ysrael wears a mask to hide his in-
juries. In "No Face," Diaz traces the alternative imaginative life the damaged
boy creates for himself in the years after his accident. Inspired by the mask he
wears, Ysrael explicitly models himself after the comic book superheroes he
admires. As he races about town pretending to perform feats of heroism and
even flight, we get the sense that this "comic book identity" is a great solace to
the unhappy boy. The superhero Kaliman is his particular favorite, a character
who would only be more perfect in Ysrael's estimation if he also wore a mask.
Though Kaliman himself does not keep his face covered, the heroic fantasy
world he represents forms a welcome escape for the young boy from an other-
wise dreary existence. Neglected, persecuted, and treated as an outcast, Ysrael

Quisqueya: La Rep6blica Extended


is continually harassed by the other boys living around his poor village who
chase him and try to remove his mask.
The story "Ysrael" is told from the point of view of two of these boys.
Intrigued by the rumors surrounding Ysrael's hidden face, two young broth-
ers named Yunior and Rafa decide to journey over to Ysrael's village to "pay
that kid a visit" (3). Although Yunior, the more sensitive narrator of the tale,
briefly bonds with Ysrael, Rafa brutally attacks and unmasks the boy. As they
head back to their own village, Yunior holds out hope that American doctors
will eventually fix Ysrael's face, a possibility that the more cynical Rafa imme-
diately dismisses. Which one of them is right is not quite settled, as the story
ends somewhat ambiguously. Although there does not appear to be a very
clear moral to the story, several critics have read it as a commentary on Do-
minican or Latino identity. Drawing on Freud's theories about melancholy,
for example, Lyn Di Iorio Sandin suggests that Ysrael's violent unmasking
reveals the secretly damaged identity that many Latino men hide behind their
own figurative masks (118). In this vein, Sandin interprets Rafa's violence
toward Ysrael in the story as a result of his own attempts to hide his pain and
mourning over the absence of their father (120).
Although there is much that is compelling in this psychological interpreta-
tion of the story, I would like to propose a more cultural and political reading
of Ysrael's unmasking, which is suggested by other details in the story. Rather
than treating "Ysrael" as a Freudian parable, I will look at the story in rela-
tion to the rules and conventions of wrestling, a sport alluded to at several
key points in the plot. The biblically inspired name of the title character also
invokes this theme. The book of Genesis tells us that when Jacob is on the
road to Canaan, fearing an attack from his brother Esau, he decides to spend
a night alone praying to God. That night he encounters a mysterious being
who wrestles with him all night, though neither is able to defeat the other
until the mysterious being touches his leg and makes Jacob lame, ending their
struggle. Jacob demands a blessing from the strange being, who some have
identified as an angel or perhaps God himself, and receives the name of Ysrael,
"he who strives or struggles with God" (Bible Gen. 32.24-28). Not inciden-
tally, we also find out in the course of the story that both Ysrael and Yunior
are big wrestling fans, a reflection of the popularity of the sport in Dominican
culture. However, it is the particular nature of Latin American wrestling that
provides the most suggestive frame of reference for the story. As aficionados
of the sport know, the major difference between American professional wres-
tling and the lucha libre is the extensive use of masks in the latter. Like the
comics Ysrael loves, the lucha libre features larger than life characters who are

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


identified by the colorful masks they wear. The symbolic importance of these
masks, and the ritual nature of masking and unmasking in this sport, forms an
important subtext to the story. I will argue that the ironic contrast between
the rules and conventions of the lucha libre and the actual events of the story
contribute much to the meaning ofYsrael's ultimate unmasking.
Some background on the lucha libre is necessary. Historians of the sport like
Heather Levi, a cultural anthropologist who trained as a wrestler in Mexico as part
of her research, agree that the lucha libre was first introduced to Latin America
through Mexico in 1933 by Salvador Lutteroth, an entrepreneur inspired by the
professional wrestling matches he had attended in Texas. Like the American sport,
the lucha libre (which literally means "free fight") features morally coded wrestlers
or teams of wrestlers, who do battle to a usually predetermined conclusion. One
side is normally represented by the tecnicos, the supposedly "good" wrestlers who
play fair and follow the rules as much as possible. On the other side are the rudos,
the "rude" or bad team who cheat and bend the rules whenever they can, a strategy
abetted by referees who are too distracted, incompetent, (or perhaps even corrupt)
to enforce the rules ("Masked" 332-35). These are the conventions of professional
wrestling around the world. However, as mentioned above, the lucha libre is fur-
ther distinguished by the extensive use of masks, an innovation some attribute to
the immense popularity of comic books like The Phantom in Mexico during the
early decades of the sport ("Sport" 64). As Levi puts it: "A novelty during lucha
libre's first decade, the wrestling mask became a common feature of costuming by
the 1950s, eventually coming to symbolize the sport itself..." ("Masked" 334).
It would be difficult to overstate the key role that these masks, which ef-
fectively make the wrestlers comic book heroes come to life, play in creating
both the mystique and popularity of the lucha libre in Mexico and other Latin
American countries. Heather Levi again provides us with some useful back-
ground here. Wrestlers identify with their masks to such an extent that they
will do their utmost to keep their real faces concealed both inside and outside
of the ring. El Santo, perhaps the most famous lucha libre wrestler of all time,
was even waked and buried in his mask at the end of his life. There are ba-
sically only two ways that a mask is ever removed in the ring. In so-called
mask matches, wrestlers will actually wager their masks on the outcome of the
match. The loser is ceremoniously stripped of his/her mask, an act considered
to be the height of humiliation, losing his/her identity as that wrestler forever.
Masks are also sometimes forcibly removed during the course of a match,
usually by a rudo, an act considered to be the height of treachery and one that
immediately disqualifies the offending wrestler. Nonetheless, the unmasked
wrestler is still humiliated, and will do his/her utmost to hide his/her face until

Quisqueya: La Repblica Extended


the mask is returned. In the words of one wrestling aficionado, any attempt to
remove a mask this way is akin to "despoil[ing] the most cared for and coveted
virginity on earth" (Levi, "Masked" 65).
Although this statement might seem a bit hyperbolic to the uninitiated,
it does capture the particularly sacred place of the mask in the lucha libre and
the passion the sport generates in its fans. Of course, whether the lucha libre
or any professional wrestling should really be called a "sport" in the first place
has long been a point of contention. The most common criticism of the lu-
cha libre is that it is not a sport at all, since the outcomes of the matches are
decided beforehand. In an essay on wrestling in his well-known book My-
thologies, Roland Barthes directly addresses this issue. Barthes argues that to
demand a real match is to miss the point of wrestling. The clearly delineated
roles of both the good and the bad wrestlers, the exaggerated slaps that are
only simulations of real blows, and the pantomime of suffering and defeat the
wrestlers adopt when in the grips of some elaborate yet flimsy hold all reveal
the true nature of wrestling, which is not a sport so much as a type of spectacle:
a theater of passion. Comparing wrestling to ancient drama, Barthes argues
that "there is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in the theatre. In
both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations
which are usually private" (18). The clear moral coding of the wrestlers and
of acceptable versus unacceptable moves, all point to wrestling's function as a
kind of allegory: "what wrestling is above all meant to portray is a purely moral
concept: that ofjustice" (21).
While Barthes' reading of wrestling is still rightly considered the classic
examination of the form, other critics have expanded on his argument and
proposed some revisions with particular regard to the lucha libre. Levi argues
that while the lucha libre is indeed a type of spectacle or melodrama, the way
that viewers understand the sport can be more complicated than Barthes and
others would suggest. Rather than looking for "justice" in the spectacle, Levi
argues that the audience may just as easily connect to the opposite. Levi
points out that the "good" guys, who do not necessarily win more matches
than the "bad" guys in the ring, "are not universally admired, nor are the bad
guys universally despised" ("Sport" 62). In Levi's own experience attending
lucha libre matches, audience members were just as likely to cheer for the ru-
dos as for the tecnicos in a match. Moreover, the rudos were often considered
to have more sabor or passion, and their willingness to cheat to win matches
potentially made more sense to audience members who recognized that fol-
lowing the rules to get ahead in Mexico was often a futile exercise:

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


In the interactions between apparently suffering t6cnicos and apparently un-
derhanded rudos, lucha libre dramatized and parodied common understandings
of the postrevolutionary system and their place in it. It reflected a political sys-
tem in which people who appear to be opponents are really working together.
It paralleled an electoral system in which electioneering took place behind
closed doors and elections ratified decisions that had already been made. On-
going dramas in the ring demonstrated that loyalty to kin and friends is more
important than ideology, and that arbiters of authority are not necessarily on
the side of the honest and honorable. ("Masked" 344)

As Levi suggests, in the context of Latin American politics, where dishon-
est governments have sometimes made the notion of following the rules and
fair play a hollow facade at best, the lucha libre may not reflect justice so much
as the basic corruption of the system. This argument could easily apply to
the post-Trujillo Dominican society represented in "Ysrael," which includes a
scene that suggests just the kind of symbolic analogy between wrestling and
politics that Levi describes above. In a significant flashback, it is revealed that
the first time Yunior encounters Ysrael, he spots him picking up leaflets for an
upcoming wrestling match that he initially mistakes for political flyers: "They
came down as slow as butterfly blossoms and were posters of wrestlers, not
politicians, and that's when us kids started shouting at each other. Usually
the planes only covered Ocoa, but if extras had been printed the nearby towns
would also get leaflets, especially if the match or the election was a big one...I
spotted Ysrael in an alley, stooping over a stack of leaflets...He was wearing
his mask" (7). The equation of politics with wrestling provides some useful
context for the story of"Ysrael" and helps explain much about the actions of
the brothers who set out to unmask him. Although Trujillo was long dead by
the time of the incidents represented in the story, his legacy of violence and
corruption is reflected in the questionable ethics of the different characters
and especially in Rafa's behavior, as we shall see.
"Ysrael" starts out like a typical coming-of-age story. The tale recounts a
summer that Rafa and Yunior spend out in the Dominican countryside, the
campo. As the story begins, both boys struggle against the boredom of campo
life. While Rafa fools around with the local country girls, Yunior finds some
solace in a closer relationship with his brother and in the vicarious thrill of
his sexual adventures. Nonetheless, both boys seem particularly adrift. Rafa
and Yunior are only out in the campo in the first place because of the lack of
parental care back in the capital. As Yunior acknowledges early in the story,
"Mami shipped me and Rafa out to the campo every summer. She worked

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long hours at the chocolate factory and didn't have the time or energy to look
after us during the months school was out" (3). In the absence of their father,
the boys' mother struggles to bring them up by herself. No moral paragon to
begin with, the father's absence also reflects a general lack of rules or moral
compass for these boys.
The various nameless "tios" in the campo who are supposed to look after
them do not provide much guidance or emotional support either. The few
men mentioned in the story spend their time drinking, playing dominos, or
otherwise distracted from really keeping track of these neglected children,
who spend their time in random diversions like trying to catch crabs in the
nearby river to Rafa's less innocent pursuit of the local girls. On one level, the
decision to visit Ysrael is just another attempt to kill some time. On another
level, however, the trip is cast in particularly portentous terms:

We were on our way to the colmado for an errand, a beer for my tio, when Rafa
stood still and tilted his head, as if listening to a message I couldn't hear, some-
thing beamed in from afar. We were close to the colmado; you could hear the
music and the gentle clop of drunken voices. I was nine that summer, but my
brother was twelve, and he was the one who wanted to see Ysrael, who looked
out towards Barbacoa and said, We should pay that kid a visit. (3)

The reasons behind their visit are left unclear in this passage, but Rafa's
almost religious sense of connection "from afar" suggests the special connota-
tions of Ysrael's name and a quasi-mystical sense of purpose that will form an
ironic contrast with the actual events of theirjourney. Although later on in the
story we find out that Rafa has more cynical reasons for wanting to visit "that
kid," this sense of magic seems to remain for his younger brother. Much of
what the boys know about Ysrael is only rumor and conjecture, adding to the
aura of mystery surrounding him:

Ysrael was a different story. Even on this side of Ocoa people had heard of
him, how when he was a baby a pig had eaten his face off, skinned it like an
orange. He was something to talk about, a name that set the kids to scream-
ing, worse than el Cuco or la Vieja Calusa. (7)

"El Cuco" and "la Vieja Calusa" are both imaginary monsters that have
traditionally been used to scare children in the Dominican Republic, much
like the "boogeyman" in the US. The fact that Ysrael is spoken about in the
same breath suggests that he has achieved a similar mythical status. Although
the villagers all have different opinions concerning the amount of damage to

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


Ysrael's face, one particular warning stands out for Yunior: "Tia said that if we
were to look on his face we would be sad for the rest of our lives...I had never
been sad more than a few hours and the thought of that sensation lasting a
lifetime scared the hell out of me" (9). The Tia, who provides the only female
voice in the story, is speaking figuratively, of course. But to a young boy like
Yunior her pronouncement seems frighteningly literal, giving Ysrael's face an
extra sense of danger, the forbidden, or taboo.
Much is revealed about the two brothers and their attitudes towards life
on the journey over to see Ysrael. The more cynical and scheming of the two,
Rafa steers the trip as Yunior simply tries to keep up and learn from his exam-
ple, which is not always salutary. Rafa displays a wily opportunism on the bus
trip over to Ysrael's village, when he rudely outmaneuvers a young ticket col-
lector to get both of the boys a free ride to their destination. While Rafa pulls
off this piece of trickery, however, the younger Yunior does not fare nearly
so well. After Yunior notices a stain on his shorts, a man he sits next to uses
the pretext of helping him clean it off to feel the young boy up. Although he
struggles against the man once he realizes what is happening, Yunior is hardly
equipped to deal with this sexual molestation. To make matters worse, his fear
and shame keep him from appealing for help from his brother or the other
people on the bus.
With a typical lack of understanding or sympathy, Rafa mistakes his
brother's sad state when they disembark as a reaction to his own trickery:

Rafa took off his shirt and fanned himself and that's when I started to cry.
He watched for a moment. You, he said, are a pussy.
I'm sorry.
What the hell's the matter with you? We didn't do anything wrong.
I'll be OK in a second. I sawed my forearm across my nose.
He took a look around, drawing in the lay of the land. If you can't stop crying,
I'll leave you. He headed towards a shack that was rusting in the sun.
I watched him disappear. (13)

Although Rafa clearly misunderstands the situation, his insistence that
they "didn't do anything wrong" reveals much about his own morality and
the ethics of the place they live in. The fact that Rafa sees nothing out of the
ordinary or wrong about tricking and taking advantage of others makes him a
perfect representation of a tiguere. In a study on globalization and the politics
of the Dominican Republic, Steven Gregory provides a useful definition of
this key figure in Dominican culture:

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tiguere is a versatile term typically used to refer to men whose behavior and
disposition place them beyond the pale of respectability and, often, the law.
Commonly, it was used to refer to hustlers and criminals or, more generally,
to people engaged in behaviors that victimized others...the idea of the tiguere
conveyed a sense of daring, rebelliousness, and above all, savvy: to be ttguere
was to surmount obstacles, flaunt conventions, and skillfully, if not always
ethically, manipulate the world to one's advantage....For some, tigueres are as
much admired as they are feared for their ability to manipulate, if not subvert,
a social system stacked against the poor and the powerless. (41-42)

The tfguere code of conduct is not always a happy or sympathetic one, to say
the least, but Rafa draws this philosophy from the society around them. Using
their father's example as further justification, Rafa tries to instill the same les-
son in Yunior through his own rough treatment of his younger brother: "Rafa
spit. You have to get tougher. Crying all the time. Do you think our papi's
crying? Do you think that's what he's been doing the last six years? He turned
from me" (14). According to Rafa's tfguere philosophy, in a corrupt world one
must cheat and take advantage of others to avoid becoming a victim oneself.
One must also act like a "macho" male at all costs and avoid anything, like
Yunior's crying, that would mark them as feminine (a "pussy") or weak. Of
course, what Rafa fails to recognize is how much his own actions contribute to
a cycle of injustice, making him blind to the fact that just as he takes advantage
of others, someone else has just taken advantage of Yunior. Still, the entire
scene helps set up the way they both act when they reach Ysrael.
When the brothers finally find Ysrael, he strikes Yunior as an extraordinary

He was about a foot bigger than either of us and looked like he'd been
fattened on that supergrain the farmers around Ocoa were giving their
stock, a new product which kept my tio up at night, muttering jealously,
Proxyl Feed 9, Proxyl Feed 9. Ysrael's sandals were of stiff leather and his
clothes were Northamerican. I looked over at Rafa but my brother seemed

Ysrael's size adds to the sense that he is completely other, that he is some-
how beyond the pale of ordinary mortals in his village. But the clothes he
wears reveal that Ysrael is not quite the monster or magical being Rafa and
Yunior might have imagined, betraying the expectations that the story has
built up until this point. Indeed, the boys' encounter with Ysrael quickly re-
veals some potentially disturbing similarities between them. The fact that

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


his clothes are "Northamerican" reminds the boys that they also sometimes
receive clothes from the States. While Yunior is excited to learn that Ysrael
also has a father in "Nueva York" once they start speaking to him, Rafa is not
nearly as happy about how this similarity reflects on their own father. The kite
that Ysrael is flying when they find him reveals that at least in some respects,
Ysrael has received much more than they have: "I looked at Rafa, who, for an
instant, frowned. Our father only sent us letters and an occasional shirt or pair
of jeans at Christmas" (16). The scene reminds us again of their father's ne-
glect while also revealing how even within one community the transnational
ties between the Dominican Republic and the United States can create or
exacerbate existing inequities. The tfo's "jealousy" over the "Proxyl Feed 9" he
probably cannot afford is another clear example of how foreign products can
change the dynamics of local conditions in ways that produce both winners
and losers.
Rafa's harsh treatment of Ysrael from this point on seems to result from
a mixture of jealousy and his usual cynical and scheming attitude. Rafa scoffs
at Ysrael's refusal to take off his mask when he asks to see his face and accuses
him of lying when he informs them that he is going to have an operation in
the United States (17). Yunior, meanwhile, seems increasingly drawn to
the outcast and genuinely interested in his plight. The boys even start
to develop a real sense of connection after Yunior brings up the topic of

Are you still into wrestling? 1 asked.
He turned to me and something rippled under the mask. How did you know
I heard, I said. Do they have wrestling in the States?
I hope so.
Are you a wrestler?
I'm a great wrestler. I almost went to fight in the Capital.
My brother laughed, swigging on the bottle.
You want to try it, pendejo? (17-18)

The scene highlights the different and competing ways that these young
boys relate to or use the lucha libre. Just as Ysrael identifies with comic book
superheroes in the story "No Face," it is not surprising that he would identify
with the wrestlers of the popular lucha libre. For Ysrael, wrestling offers a sense
of hope and validation. Although he is an outcast in his own village, he can

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


still aspire to wrestle in the "Capital." The fact that he already wears a mask
would seem to make him a natural for a sport where he might actually "fit
in," at least in his own mind. Their mutual interest in the lucha libre briefly
draws Yunior and Ysrael together. Whatever else the boys might lack in other
aspects of their life, they can at least partake of this bit of popular culture, one
resource to which even the poor in the Dominican Republic have some ac-
cess. Rafa's position vis-a-vis the lucha libre is more complex. The story never
reveals whether he is as much of a fan as Ysrael and Yunior, though Rafa's offer
to wrestle Ysrael suggests that he is familiar with the sport. However, he is
quick to use Ysrael's boast about being a great wrestler as a pretext for inject-
ing some real violence into the situation. Ysrael wisely refuses to be baited by
his thinly veiled threat, revealing that, whatever his comic book pretensions,
he at least does recognize the difference between wrestling in the ring and the
prospect of a real fight.
Although Rafa's challenge foreshadows some of what follows, the hint of
potential friendship between Yunior and Ysrael makes the subsequent scene
especially sad and surprising:

The mask twitched. I realized he was smiling and then my brother brought his
arm around and smashed the bottle on top of his head. It exploded, the thick
bottom spinning away like a crazed eyeglass and I said, Holy fucking shit. Ys-
rael stumbled once and slammed into a fence post that had been sunk into the
side of the road. Glass crumbled off his mask. He spun towards me, then fell
down on his stomach. Rafa kicked him in the side. Ysrael seemed not to notice.
He had his hands flat in the dirt and was concentrating on pushing himself up.
Roll him on his back, my brother said and we did, pushing like crazy. Rafa took
off his mask and threw it spinning into the grass. (18)

The scene, which is the climax of the story, is shocking in its unexpected
violence. Yunior clearly did not know what Rafa was planning, but this does
not stop him from helping his brother roll Ysrael onto his back once he is
down. As Levi suggests in her argument concerning the relationship between
wrestling and politics, "loyalty to kin" is more important than doing what is
right here. Despite Yunior's growing feeling of connection with Ysrael, his
allegiance and obedience to his brother remains stronger, even if this means
joining him in this brutal unmasking. More tragically, the assault echoes
Yunior's own molestation on the bus earlier in the story, suggesting that even
he has now become a perpetrator in a general cycle of violence in this society.
In a way, Rafa is simply doing what corrupt politicians in the Dominican

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


Republic and elsewhere have done for generations. His initial challenge to
Ysrael implicitly relies on the pretense that he might actually follow or respect
the rules of a fair match that they really would only be "wrestling." As such,
the scene is of a piece with the sham elections, ceremonies, and mock formali-
ties that tyrants like Trujillo used to veil their true intentions and maintain
their often brutal grip on power. Like them, Rafa acts as if he might follow
the rules of a fair fight when it suits him or gives him some advantage, only
to ignore them more systematically when they do not. Not surprisingly, even
Ysrael's refusal to "wrestle" does not stop Rafa from taking advantage of the
situation. Putting aside all pretenses in the end, Rafa's attack reveals just how
little respect he has for any sense of fair play.
As Levi points out, this dynamic is reflected in the very heart of the lucha
libre' form, where respect for and a sham adherence to the rules while break-
ing them are both essential elements of the sport. However, Ysrael's unmask-
ing is a particularly dark parody of what might occur in the ring. Like the
typical rudo, Rafa is willing to cheat at any opportunity to get what he wants.
Moreover, Rafa is the worst kind of rudo who does not respect the sanctity of
the mask or the norms one might expect from even the dirtiest of matches. As
Levi points out, masks are usually only removed in the ring when both wres-
tlers agree to wager them beforehand. Even in the absence of such an agree-
ment, wrestlers will still adhere to certain conventions of the lucha libre when
a mask is unfairly removed: "in the course of a match, the expected behavior
of the unmasked wrestler is to hide his face and to begin an elaborate panto-
mime of shame and outrage until the mask is returned" ("Sport" 65). While
the unmasked wrestler is still humiliated, the recourse to convention at least
acknowledges the existence of rules that have been broken and the offending
wrestler's treachery is further signaled by his disqualification. In "Ysrael," by
contrast, there is no such pantomime, no convention, no such ritual that might
mitigate the pure violence of the moment: by the end of the encounter an un-
conscious Ysrael is simply an inert victim, mute and unresponsive. His mask
is not returned, and Rafa receives no punishment or censure for his actions,
reflecting an even greater lack of ethical norms here than that displayed by the
actions of the rudos in the ring.
Rafa's violent actions also reveal that Ysrael's wrestling pretensions are
ultimately just that. If the mask in the lucha libre transforms men into super-
heroes, removing the mask reminds us that they are mere men. The fact that
Rafa and Yunior remove Ysrael's mask so easily reveals, not surprisingly, that
he is not really the superhero, nor even the great wrestler he imagines he is.
Ultimately his mask is there to hide the shocking damage to his face, which

Quisqueya: La Rep6blica Extended


the rest of the scene describes in gory detail, revealing the "mystery" that the
story has been leading up to:

His left ear was a nub and you could see the thick veined slab of his tongue
through a hole in his cheek. He had no lips. His head was tipped back and
his eyes had gone white and the cords were out on his neck. He'd been an in-
fant when the pig had come into the house. The damage looked old but I still
jumped back and said, Please Rafa, let's go! Rafa crouched and using only two
of his fingers, turned Ysrael's head from side to side. (18-19)

While this face can be read metaphorically, as in Sandin's interpretation of
the tale, it is also useful to think of this as a moment of stark realism. Diaz's
language here is coldly clinical and concrete, forcing the reader to consider the
purely physical and objective fact of Ysrael's ravaged face. Although the scene
may fulfill our desire to know what lies behind the mask, like Yunior, most
people would be inclined to turn away from this damage. Rafa's insistence on
turning Ysrael's head "from side to side" to take a better look, by contrast, is a
particularly cold-blooded and cruel finish to this violent assault. In this final
gesture, Rafa again displays an absolute disregard for the rights or wishes of
others, and a willingness to violently take what he wants. At the same time,
however, his gesture reveals Rafa's willingness to look at things, quite literally,
"in the face," no matter how terrible, as opposed to his brother who seems to
have a more idealized and sentimental view of life. In an essay that explores
how masculinity in this and other Diaz stories depends on keeping "empathy"
or any other "feminine" values at bay, John Riofrio argues that this scene also
serves "to inform Yunior as to the totalizing and inevitable consequences that
empathizing with another brings" (31).
As they set out for home, Yunior tries to hold on to the belief that Ysrael
will get better, that his face will be fixed by the doctors up north. With his
typically jaded and cynical view of life, Rafa insists on just the opposite:

Ysrael will be OK, I said.
Don't bet on it.
They're going to fix him.
A muscle fluttered between his jawbone and his ear. Yunior, he said tiredly.
They aren't going to do shit to him.
How do you know?
I know, he said. (19)

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


Just who is right here is left unclear, though Rafa's greater certainty makes
his pronouncement seem more likely. His point of view is based on the hard
experience of being more or less abandoned by their own father and the
knowledge that promises from the U.S. are not necessarily worth much. Yet
Rafa's depressing assertion should also remind us that there was nothing brave
or heroic about their quest to see the face of a poor young boy who was never
a monster at all, just another unfortunate victim of the neglect associated with
growing up poor in the Dominican Republic. The fact that the boys get on
the wrong bus on their way back, headed in the opposite direction from home,
adds to the feeling that they have learned nothing: they are still "lost" at the
end of the story. Rather than recognize their similarities with Ysrael, which
the detail about Rafa's face here indirectly invokes once again, the boys ulti-
mately help perpetuate this cycle of misfortune on one another. "No one, alas,
more oppressive than the oppressed," as Diaz puts it in one of the footnotes
to Oscar Wao (22).
In the conclusion of his essay on wrestling, Barthes returns to the idea
that by taking part in this ritual, wrestlers connect to something higher than

When the hero or the villain of the drama, the man who was seen a few min-
utes earlier possessed by moral rage, magnified into a sort of metaphysical sign,
leaves the wrestling hall, impassive, anonymous, carrying a small suitcase and
arm-in-arm with his wife, no one can doubt that wrestling holds that power
of transmutation which is common to the Spectacle and to Religious Wor-
ship. In the ring, and even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers
remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature,
the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a
Justice which is at last intelligible. (25)

By contrast, all sense of religious significance or justice is markedly absent
by the end of Diaz's tale. After Jacob wrestles with his angel, the place where
they met would be known as Penuel, meaning the "face of God," and Jacob
would say of his encounter that he had "seen God face to face" and lived (Gen.
32.30). Yet despite the connotations of Ysrael's name, there is little sense at
the end of this story that any of these boys have wrestled with an angel or
been transformed by their experience. There is no transmutation, revelation,
or salvation here. Unlike in Barthes's interpretation of wrestling, the division
between the "good" and the "bad" has not been made any clearer: the signs
remain vague and ambiguous. In this sense, the "wrestling" in Diaz's story has

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


more in common with Levi's more nuanced reading of the place of lucha libre
in Latin America. Rather than a moral spectacle, where the struggle on stage
is potentially redeemed in the moral understanding of the spectators, what we
have here is the unexamined and confused struggle of three young boys that
sadly reflects the inequities and oppressions of Dominican society in the con-
text of American neo-imperialism. Diaz develops ironic contrasts between
various paradigmatic frames of reference in this tale like the religious connota-
tions of Ysrael's name, the conventions of the lucha libre, and the actual lived
experience of these young boys, in order to suggest the absence of transcendent
meaning in their lives. Rather than catharsis, or a connection to something
higher, Diaz reveals the sordid machinations that lie beneath both the political
and interpersonal relations in Dominican society. As the wrestlers of the lucha
libre know, once the mask is removed, it loses all of its mystery, mystique, and
significance. Rather than the face of God, at the end of this story we are left
instead with an image of Ysrael's terribly damaged face.
We do not ever learn what happens to Ysrael afterwards in Drown, though
in Oscar Wao we do find the recurrent participation of a man with "no face" in
the many scenes of government violence against various members of Oscar's
family, an enigmatic symbol perhaps of an Ysrael eventually perverted by his
own tough experience. We also encounter a much older Yunior in the novel,
who plays an important role as both narrator and friend to Oscar. While he
too is presented as a fan of some of the same comic books and fantasy novels
that fill Oscar's imagination, quite significantly, the older Yunior is a much
more cynical character and reader of popular culture. Although he is not quite
the tiguere his brother was, Rafa's lessons have clearly had an effect on him.
No longer the innocent boy we met in "Ysrael," Yunior's own willingness to
cheat and break the rules in his older years is amply revealed by his problem-
atic relationships with the women in his life. In a telling reversal, he now oc-
cupies the role of realistic foil to Oscar's idealistic faith that his brother played
for him in the earlier story. Oscar also ultimately meets his own end, a severe
beating and eventual assassination, in a lonely cane field in the Dominican
Republic. It would seem that even after immigration to the United States, the
cycle of violence has yet to be broken for Dominican Americans who return
to the island. The fact that this end is also a clear echo of the conclusion of
"Ysrael" suggests the significance of the story as an early sketch of some of the
recurrent themes of transnationalism, violence, and the complicated place of
popular culture in the Dominican-American imagination that Diaz expands
upon in the novel.

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. 1957. Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: Hill
and Wang, 1972.
The Bible. Revised Standard Version. New York: American Bible Society,
1980. Print.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead
Books, 2007.
--. Drown. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996.
Gregory, Steven. The Devil Behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the
Dominican Republic. Berkeley: U of California Press, 2007.
Levi, Heather. "Masked Media: The Adventures of Lucha Libre on the Small
Screen." Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico since
1940. Gilbert Joseph, Anne Rubenstein, and Eric Zolov, eds. Durham:
Duke U Press, 2001. 330-72.
-- "Sport and Melodrama: The Case of Mexican Professional Wrestling."
Social Text. 50 (1997): 57-68.
Riofrio, John. "Situating Latin American Masculinity: Immigration, Empa-
thy and Emasculation in Junot Diaz's Drown." Atenea XXVIII.1 (Junio
2008): 23-36.
Sandin, Lyn Di Iorio. Killing Spanish: Literary Essays on Ambivalent US
Latino/a Identity. New York: Palgrave, 2004.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


El Texto en Nosotros: Entrevista con Rey Andujar

Entrevista por Maria Cristina Rodriguez
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

21 de mayo de 2009
Libreria La Tertulia
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico

Rey Andujar is a young Dominican writer who has distinguished himself as
a narrator of short stories and novels and the winner of literary prizes, and
through his performance "El ciudadano cero" ("Citizen Zero"), which inaugurated
the 2008 International Theatre Festival of the Puerto Rican Cultural Institute.

Rey Andujar es unjoven escritor dominicano que se ha distinguido como narrador
de cuentos y novelas y ganador de premios literarios, y tambien por su performance
"El ciudadano cero" que inaugurd el Festival de Teatro Internacional del Instituto
de Cultura Puertorriquena de 2008.

El Comienzo/The Beginning
Yo nazco en Santo Domingo pero a muy temprana edad empiezo a viajar por
cosas ajenas a mi porque todavia yo era muy joven para tomar una decision.
Me desarrollo en una parte de la economic dominicana en donde la soluci6n
a los problems no era ir a la Universidad y conseguir un titulo y trabajar, sino
buscarse a alguien que vivia en EE.UU, que era el primer sitio donde uno
queria irse, principalmente a la costa este de los EE.UU, y que una parte de la
familiar se fuera para que arrastrara a la otra parte. Entonces a mi me pusieron
en un avi6n a los 6 afios para que conociera los aviones y me acostumbrara a
eso porque eso era lo que iba a pasar.
La primera vez concidencialmente que vine a Puerto Rico fue aqui a
Aguadilla a los 6 afios a jugar pelota y despues segui viajando por distintas
razones hasta que ya a los 12 6 13 afos me llevan, porque mi mama se va, se
instala en el Caribe holand6s, que es Curagao, entonces empieza esa cosa de ir
a Curagao y de vivir alli y vivir en Santo Domingo pero me fui quedando poco
a poco en Curacao y en Aruba y Holanda y mi papi vivia en Nueva York y ahi

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


lo visit. Entonces hacia una parte del afio de la escuela en Santo Domingo,
otra parte en Curaqao, unas vacaciones en NY, las navidades en Holanda, asi.
A los 15, ya cuando lleg6 el tiempo de estudiar en la Universidad de-
cido instalarme en Santo Domingo a estudiar una carrera universitaria que
era negocios y estudi6 administraci6n de empresas. Ya en la Universidad pues
empiezo con mi primera clase de teatro como elective y despu6s fui invitado
a former parte del grupo teatral de APEC (Acci6n Pro Cultura y Desarrollo)
de la Universidad. Eso me ayud6 a mi como escritor para desarrollar c6mo es
un personaje. Cuando ya me estoy graduando de la universidad me encuentro
a Lorraine Ferrand que ese fue el encuentro total con el teatro.

Lorraine Ferrand y la Dramaturgia del Escritor a Partir de la Dramaturgia
del Cuerpo
Lorraine es una persona que trabaja con laboratorio, es una muchacha que
se gradu6 en la Sorbona y que trabaja el teatro antropol6gico. Trabajamos a
partir de laboratories. Ella abri6 un laboratorio que se llamaba Catarsis que
era para escribir la bisqueda de texto, de luz representable y cuando ella habla
de texto de luz es el texto que nace a partir del esfuerzo fisico que se consigue
entrenando en el teatro, se consiguen para ser representados. Yo lego a hacer
obras al final de ese laboratorio y entonces ella decide abrir un laboratorio
conmigo que es el cuerpo del escritor a partir de la dramaturgia del cuerpo del
actor. C6mo un escritor puede conseguir una series de textos, a partir de unos
entrenamientos antropol6gicos que ella trae, para 61 mismo representarlo no
para que lo represent otro. Entonces yo me meto en esta locura sin saber lo
que era, lo bueno de esto es que ella primero me ensefia la parte fisica, trabaja-
mos much la parte fisica, y despu6s viene la parte te6rica en donde ella me da
todos esos libros de Grotowski, de Barba, de Etienne de Croux. Asi conozco
todos esos nombres de todas esas distintas t6cnicas y entiendo lo que estoy
haciendo. Ese laboratorio dur6 dos afios y el resultado es El ciudadano cero."
Entonces, el prop6sito es no tener muchas obras, ni actuar en muchas obras,
sino trabajar constantemente. O sea el asunto de nosotros, que yo aprendi con
ella... yo te voy a dar a ti la consistencia para que tui puedas montar tus propios
laboratories. Ahora mismo hace siete afios que estamos trabajando juntos y
en ese process.
Yo vivo en Puerto Rico y Lorraine vive en Santo Domingo y lo que no-
sotros hacemos es que nos vemos tres veces al afio, tenemos sesiones y entre-
namientos en donde yo llevo los resultados de los ejercicios que ya habiamos
pautado en la 6ltima visit y ella me propone ejercicios nuevos en las que pone
cosas nuevas. Cuando yo te hablo de ejercicios, te hablo de ejercicios de cul-

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


tura, ejercicios culturales, ejercicios de respiraci6n y ejercicios de direcci6n en
el scenario. Para nosotros el scenario no tiene nada que ver con la luz y la
cortina y todo eso sino el scenario es el lugar de la representaci6n.
Cuando ya creemos que ya esta listo para el especticulo entonces ella lo vuelve
un especticulo. Todavia yo no he Ilegado a eso. Cuando ya ella dice estamos listos,
esto hay que presentarlo, entonces pienso en luces, pienso en el vestuario, pienso en
una est6tica porque ya el concept esti entonces yo creo que es mis seguro traba-
jar asi. Ya despu6s que td tienes el concept porque lo has conseguido a trav6s de
tanto ejercicio, el entrenamiento, las lectures y las relecturas y las revisitas que se
le hacen a ese personaje a trav6s de tu cuerpo pues entonces ya uno va a buscar
un concept y ya se tiene como le llamo yo o le Hlaman en literature el motivo,
pero el motivo lo tienes en el cuerpo y el cuerpo se lo sabe. Cuando el texto tu
te lo pasas por el cuerpo, y ese cuerpo se lo aprende con esas inflexiones, con
esas acciones, el cuerpo no te va a traicionar, el cuerpo tiene su memorial aparte.
Entonces ese cuerpo tiene una memorial social, una memorial antropol6gica,
una memorial Ilena de unos referentes que cuando tu lo levas enfrente al texto
que te entrega a ese referente, a esa memorial, a esa antropologia social de ese
cuerpo no hay manera que ti no digas ese texto como es.

HacerTeatro en Otras Localidades
Ese process de laboratorio con Lorraine Ferrand me llev6 a Nueva York a
donde despu6s regres6 a trabajar teatro en espafiol muy commercial que me sir-
vi6 para saber qu6 era lo que yo queria hacer. Yo hice alrededor de seis obras
con puertorriquefios, con uruguayos, con colombianos, pero me di cuenta que
eso no era lo que yo queria, yo queria escribir y hacer performance dentro de
un laboratorio. Pues no sd, eso me dio much paciencia porque me he dado
cuenta que esa sola obra, "El ciudadano cero," que es la inica que tengo o
sea escrita totalmente y performeada por mi del resultado de ese laboratorio,
pues ya yo la he llevado a EE.UU, Santo Domingo, festivales de teatro con la
que inaugur6 el Festival de aqui o sea que para mi es un orgullo. Cuando yo
termind aqui me di cuenta que ese laboratorio se termin6, que iba a tener que
abrir otro laboratorio, entonces lo que estoy hacienda ahora es recopilando
informaci6n para ver desde d6nde voy a asediar lo otro que quiero hacer. Pero
bisicamente asi es que se trabaja, uno se mete en lo que llamamos laboratories
por afios, se investiga algo y a partir de esto se da un resultado que se muestra
al pdblico. Todavia no he l1egado a la fase de trabajar para el espectdculo, yo
no, yo trabajo para el ejercicio si hay un resultado pues se present y el pfiblico
lo ve como un especticulo pero yo en realidad, la compania, o lo que sea que
se esti presentando es el resultado de ese laboratorio.

Quisqueya: La Repblika Extended


El Escritor Narrador
Todos mis laboratories y performances y todo yo lo trabajo desde el escritor
hacia fuera, por eso se llama La dramaturgia del cuerpo del escritor a partir
de la dramaturgia del cuerpo." Se llama asi porque todo el trabajo parte de la
partitura del escritor, el itinerario del escritor. Mis novelas, mis ensayos, mis
cuentos, mis poemas, con eso yo trabajo el cuerpo y busco en mi trabajo del
cuerpo en las direcciones teatrales, en las estructuras del teatro. Yo busco el
performance del escritor, de ese personaje que es el escritor y asi yo lo trabajo.
Yo empiezo publicando cuentos, empiezo a escribir mi primer cuento que se
llama "El factor came" y lo mand6 a un concurso en Santo Domingo y gan6
una menci6n alli. Entonces yo tendria 20 6 21 afios (ahora tengo 31). Gano
con la figure mis important de literature en mi pals y en vez de esa gente pre-
guntarse extrafiadamente quin soy yo pues me dicen, "no te precipites tienes
que seguir trabajando, si hubieses corregido ese cuento hubieras ganado un
mejor premio." Entonces empiezo a trabajar asi mismo, como un desaforado,
a leer todo lo que me caia en la mano pero con otros fines, siempre leia pero
era con otro tipo de malicia. Y publiqu6 otro cuento y se gan6 otro premio el
afio siguiente y otro premio el afio siguiente.
Cuando escribo esos cuatro cuentos y me pongo a escribir Candela, que
es la novela, me pongo a entrenar con miras al Ciudadano cero porque el tex-
to de Ciudadano son todos esos cuentos ganadores que se convirtieron en la
partitura teatral porque la obra no tiene acotaciones ni nada. Pero entonces
sali6 la novela que es Elhombre tridngulo y despu6s sali6 Candela que fue la que
publiqud con Alfaguara y despu6s Amoricidio que fue otro taller de cuentos. O
sea ese entrenamiento a partir del amor. Ahi empec6 con unos bailes, con una
danza, solo en mi casa, ino? Entrenaba por las mafianas y por la tarde escribia
el cuento o sea lo iba haciendo en la mafiana en imigenes. Despues que ya es-
taba preparado fisicamente, ya caliente, empezaba a buscar las imagenes. Ya en
la tarde despu6s de comer me sentaba, con las imigenes ahi frescas, a escribir
el cuento y al otro dia lo corregia en acci6n y lo corregia en papel y sali6 el libro
que se llama Amoricidio. Para mi es fascinante este laboratorio de trabajo y asi
es que escribo, asi es que trabajo de moment. He hecho cine, he hecho hasta
danza modern sin ser actor ni bailarin.
Ya yo tengo el texto de la obra que voy a montar ahora. Pero como mi
maestra no lo ha visto creo que se va a tardar dos, tres o cuatro afios. Pero no
tengo prisa, o sea hay gente que monta una obra al afio pero como no soy actor
no tengo necesidad de estar encajonado; y a mi lo que me interest en realidad
es la investigaci6n. Los libros mios salen: ahoraAmoricidio lo vuelvan a reeditar
y me van a sacar un libro de ensayos, tambien he estado publicando en Clari-

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


dad unos cuentos. Como escritor hago mi trabajo, public en dos revistas en
Santo Domingo, o sea, me mantengo trabajando. Pero esa parte de la investi-
gaci6n del performance pues es much lectura. Creo que porque respeto tanto
eso me da much miedo salir inventando cualquier disparate.

El Ciudadano Cero
El Ciudadano tiene 8 videos y tiene ocho "sketches." Siempre tiene una parti-
tura y cuando la monto siempre es igual, igual en la partitura, en la intenci6n
del texto, el personaje ya del Ciudadano esti ahi, o sea eso no cambia. Cambia
la escenografia, cambia la disposici6n del scenario, cambia el scenario, puede
cambiar incluso el movimiento de escena, lo que no cambia es la partitura, la
m6dula del trabajo. Yo te puedo hacer del Ciudadano por ejemplo un "sketch"
del medio, para mi yo estoy haciendo la obra complete en mi mente y la agarro
ahi para hacer lo que estoy tratando de hacer. Para hacer ese trabajo, esa parte
del trabajo, me ayud6 much, cuando yo llegu6 a Puerto Rico, el trabajo de
Nelson Rivera y de Carmen Zeta. Carmen Zeta es una dramaturga y escritora
puertorriquefa y Nelson es dramaturge e investigator puertorriquefio. Ellos
ya habian visto Ciudadano en Santo Domingo y entendieron el concept del
trabajo porque ellos ya habian visto a Lorraine trabajar y todo eso. Entonces,
cuando vinimos a Puerto Rico a trabajar ellos propusieron hacer la obra y aqui
hicimos unos "sketches" pero seguimos trabajando hasta que Nelson y Carmen
me proponen hacer Ciudadano para el Festival. Carmen se encarga de la parte
de entrenarme aqui para ese especticulo, y Nelson se encarga del montaje
fisico, de todo lo que es luces, sonido, producci6n para l1 reproducir ese texto
ahi. Entonces aqui la director sigue siendo Lorraine, aunque la cogen otra
gente. Yo sigo como el ejecutante y es hermosisimo porque la obra se hizo aqui
sin elements que tenia en Santo Domingo, no perdi6 su esencia, pero era
re-hacer la obra pero lo inico que estibamos buscando era comprobar si esos
ejercicios funcionan.

El Piblico/The Audience
Cuando tui me hablabas me pareci6 bien interesante que me hicieras la pre-
gunta de que si yo pensaba en un public para la obra de teatro. No, y tampoco
lo hago con la literature, el texto es su propio p6blico, tiene que sustentarse por
si mismo y eso es lo que ando buscando. 0 sea ya el texto en si, su lenguaje...,
tiene que funcionar, circular, para 1l mismo. Estoy tratando que en cada trabajo
nuevo que estoy haciendo utilizar la menor cantidad de referentes externos
porque, lo voy a poner en palabras de Carlos Castro, que es otro productor

Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended


dominicano genial y gran amigo, que dice "me gusta porque estis escribiendo
en tierra de nadie" y eso a mi me fascina porque es cierto, esta gente flota en el
texto, entonces su lenguaje los determine, sus acciones, sus motives, sus inten-
clones, en lo que te abren a ti la propuesta del texto y yo la planteo desde las
tres primeras lines lo que yo quiero hacer con ese texto de ficci6n.

Raices y Nacion/Roots and Homeland
Cuando trabajo mi texto no estoy pensando en una naci6n, no estoy pensando
en un espacio geogrfico determinado sino que estoy atendiendo a mis nece-
sidades humans. Esas necesidades pueden ser tristeza, nostalgia, melancolia
aplicadas a mi realidad, a mi b6squeda. Cuando te hablo tanto de antropo-
logia es porque en el process de bosqueda del texto y de preparaci6n de la
obra se cantan canciones de cuna de cuando uno era nifio, se cantan carciones
haitiano-dominicanas de cuando uno era nifio, se busca en ese espacio en es-
pecifico, esas canciones o esos rezos o esos textos que forman parte de lo que
yo era antes de ser. Canciones que cantaba mi mama, que cantaba' ni abuela,
desde ahi se buscan unas cosas, se buscan esas cosas hasta que tu ll1gas al tex-
to. Entonces td empiezas a recitar ese texto, cuando te vas entrenando, le vas
buscando esas inflexiones, le vas buscando esas necesidades, si vas a ilorar, si te
vas a reir, c6mo lo vas a hacer hoy. Puede conversar ficilmente, puede viajar, es
flexible, puede flotar porque atiende la necesidad bisica de los humans, eso es
lo simple como atiende esas necesidades por eso puede moverse ficilmente. Se
recurre a lo human porque lo human por naturaleza se repite, los humans,
por naturaleza, cometen los mismo errors, sufren las mismas cosas...si nos
separan una series de c6digos linglifsticos, sociales, antropol6gicos, hist6ricos
pero nos acercan, valga la redundancia, hechos hist6ricos porque estin ligados
a hechos humans. Entonces como tenemos esos c6digo que significant el que
yo lore, el que yo me rfa, el que yo sufra el que yo odie pues por eso se puede
comunicar. Quiero sugerir mas que decir, por eso comunica muy bien, quizis
porque el texto esti en nosotros, quizis por eso.

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11

Rakes al Aire: Entrevista con Claudio Mir

Entrevista por Maria Cristina Rodriguez y Lowell Fiet
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

14 de marzo de 2009
Plaza Antonia Martinez
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

Although Claudio Mir is known in artistic circles for his monologue performance
"Mondongo Scam," in his town of New Brunswick, New Jersey he is known for
community activism, starting projects for HIV prevention among youth, medical
check-ups for women of all ages, anti-domestic violence action groups and summer
camps for children and adolescents. All of these initiatives incorporate his train-
ing in theatre and creative talent to organize diasporic Dominican communities.
Claudio Mir talks about his beginnings, his work in New Jersey, his links to the
Dominican Republic and his projects of today and tomorrow.

Aunque a Claudio Mir se le conoce en los circulos artisticos por su mondlogo per-
formero "MIondongo Scam," en su comunidad de la ciudad de New Brunswick en
New Jersey es su trabajo como promoter comunitario lo que lo hace un iniciador de
proyectos que incluyen prevencidn de la infeccidn HIV entire losjdvenes, promocidn
de chequeos medicos y mamografias entire mujeres de todas las edades,formacidn de
grupos de accidn contra la violencia dom6sticay campamentos de veranopara ninos
y adolescents. Todo esto utilizando su entrenamiento teatraly la creatividad de su
talent para organizer a las comunidades de la diaspora dominicana. Claudio Mir
conversa de sus comienzos, el trabajo en New Jersey, sus enlaces con la Repiblica
Dominicana y susproyectos de hoyy de manana.

El comienzo/The Beginning
Tenia mi vida hecha en la Repiblica Dominicana, yo era me decian el actor, la
promesa, eljoven...tenia una carrera hecha pero no hacia un centavo. Trabaja-
ba como maestro, como professor de teatro con el grupo experimental de teatro
infantil de la Secretaria de Estado de Bellas Artes y Cultura. Entonces ahi yo

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


tenia un pequefio salario que pagaba mi apartamento y tenia mi motocicleta y
andaba la vida de los '80. Vivia entonces con una mujer chilena que vivia en la
Rep6blica Dominicana y ella consigui6 una beca Fullbright para ir a estudiar
a Rutgers University y entonces ella me convenci6 de que teniamos que irnos
juntos y yo dej6 todo y me fui. Pero fue muy duro porque venia de una ciudad
grande y de hacer teatro todo el tiempo y pas6 a no hacer nada por tres meses
y no saber qu6 iba a hacer con mi vida.
Pero caf en una casa donde estaban viviendo un mont6n de puertorrique-
fios que habian sido expulsados de la UPR por la huelga del '82. Eran gente
que estaban con much rabia, con muchas ganas de hacer cosas y una de ellas
habia logrado ingresar a Temple University; los otros estaban trabajando como
trabajadores sociales y esa gente me conectaron, me sentaron en una silla cuan-
do yo llegu6 alli, como que me desmontaron la vida y me dijeron cuin dificil
iba a ser y a mi me dio una tristeza tan grande. Pero esa misma gente me
consigui6 trabajo. Llevaron mi resume aqui y alli. Llegu6 en septiembre y ya
en enero estaba trabajando. Llegu6 A New Jersey y fue lo mejor que me pas6.
Creo que llegar a Washington Heights a Nueva York, al barrio dominicano, es
muy c6modo y como que uno se queda ahi, como que uno no tiene la habilidad
de trascender eso. Yo me vi forzado a trascenderlo, a buscar mis conexiones.
Entonces, una cuesti6n que a mi me ayud6 much ... mi inico contacto... el
uinico peri6dico que yo lefa era Claridad.

El trabajo en New Jersey/Working in NewJersey
El legar a New Jersey y conseguir trabajo ahi me dio la oportunidad de usar
cosas que yo sabia y de aprender a la misma vez porque yo vengo con toda esta
idea de "training" y el trabajo y la seriedad y la verticalidad. Pero a aquellos
muchachos no les importaba eso, aquellos muchachos querian jugar, querian
pasarla bien. Entonces yo desarroll como una forma de llegarles sin tener que
confrontarlos, sin tener que hacerlo con un lAtigo y me dio muy buenos resul-
tados. La gente me decia que era una perdida de tiempo. Compr6 una conga y
empece a darle a la conga y ellos empezaron a menearse, empec6 a darle como
si fuera rap y los muchachos empezaron a menearse. Hicimos eso como por
una semana ellos meneindose, bailando, entonces yo les dije OK estamos har-
tos de movernos ahora tenemos que ponerle letra a esto y empezaron a escribir
e hicieron una obra con la conga esa en donde ellos todo lo decian, era como
una opera rap, ellos cantaban todo...

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


La conexi6n dominicana/The Dominican Link
No se da a nivel de performance, de levar yo la obra alli, pero se da a nivel de
conexi6n y de b6squeda de materials o de informaci6n. Por ejemplo, que yo
vaya a la Rep6blica Dominicana y un Carlos Castro me diga "tu leiste tal cosa
o te enteraste de esto?" o Arturo L6pez me diga, "No en Nueva York hay un
tipo que se llama tal y tal y cual" y yo le diga, "mira tengo esta m6sica." Es a
nivel de intercambio cultural.
Tambi6n por ejemplo de dar talleres de ir y de invitarme a su studio y de-
cirme bueno "estoy trabajando esto...esti la dramaturgia del cuerpo."

Ahora y luego/The Now and the Future
Ahora estoy escribiendo sistemdticamente, estoy produciendo cosas nuevas,
estoy haciendo "short stories, cuentos, que quizd se manifiesten en otra cosa
y tengo gente que me esta tocando la puerta. La otra cosa es que yo soy m6si-
co. Nosotros no teniamos ninguna credibilidad en esa comunidad porque no
teniamos todos los elements. Por ejemplo un element fuerte para trabajar
en una comunidad es que to tengas una afiliaci6n fuerte como trabajar en una
agencia de la comunidad, donde todo el mundo te conozca, o ser miembro de
una iglesia. Mi esposa, que es puertorriquefia, siempre se cri6 en la iglesia y
tenia esa informaci6n y nosotros nos hicimos miembros de una iglesia muy
progresista que tiene una linea de pan por las mafianas para la gente, una
tiendecita de ropa para que la gente vaya a buscar ropa cuando tiene necesidad
y un mont6n de ministerios, como se llama en la iglesia, que eran importan-
tes. Entonces parte de mi trabajo en la iglesia es ser misico de la iglesia. He
aprendido y he pasado por todos los instruments.

Raices y Naci6n/Roots and Homeland
Si yo sembrd mis races en New Jersey y eso es dificil reconocer. Lo 6nico que
te ayuda a hacer eso es el trabajo y el tiempo. Yo creo que cuando uno emigra
uno anda con sus races al aire buscando en d6nde las va a plantar y el process
es doloroso pero es much mis doloroso cuando tu no plants esas raices,
cuando tf no te comprometes a trabajar por el lugar, por el espacio y por la
gente con la que estis... eso hace la diferencia.

Quisqueya: La Republika Extended


La espacialidad fugitive del recuerdo: La ciudad en

la narrative de Jose Alcantara Almdnzar

Carmen Benitez-Morales
West Windsor Plainsboro Board of Education, NJ

Jos6 Alcintara Almanzar (1946), ha realizado una amplia labor como cri-
tico, ensayista al igual que como cuentista. Dentro de este iltimo g6nero
se destacan sus tres colecciones de relatos: Testimoniosyprofanaciones (1972),
Las mdscaras de la seduccidn (1983) y La came estremecida (1989). Actualmente
ocupa el cargo de director del Departamento Cultural del Banco Central en la
Rep6blica Dominicana.
Alcintara Almanzar es hijo de la capital. De los recuerdos que de ella
guard, de sus desafios y contradicciones se nutre su narrative. Santo Do-
mingo, se vierte en sus relates y protagonistas pasando a ser scenario de sus
acciones y conflicts.
El present trabajo responded a dos objetivos. El primero, analizar el itinera-
rio de las formas y los modos en que se manifiesta la ciudad. El segundo parte
de la vision del autor y del papel que desempefia el recuerdo de ese espacio-
ciudad que puede ser tan suyo y a la vez tan ajeno. Baso mi andlisis en tres
de sus relates: "Uno" de la colecci6n Testimonios y profanaciones (1978), "El
muertico" de Las mdscaras de la seduccidn (1983) y "Visiones al amanecer" de la
colecci6n La came estremecida (1989).
En su studio La urbanizacidn de la pobreza: urbanizacidn, trabajo y des-
igualdad social en Santo Domingo, el soci6logo dominicano Wilfredo Lozano
consider que: "Santo Domingo ha desempefiado un rol articulador de primer
orden del sistema urban national." De acuerdo con Lozano, durante la ilti-
ma d6cada de la era de Trujillo (1950-60) Santo Domingo se convierte en "el
eje articulador dominant del process de urbanizaci6n en el pais" (71). Las
siguientes gobernaciones de Joaquin Balaguer concentran gran parte de sus
energies en una intense political de remodelaci6n urbana. Advierte Lozano
que esa campafia de remodelaci6n afect6 a los viejos barrios y muy en espe-
cial a sus pobladores. Estos, debilitados y desangrados por los desalojos

Quisqueya: La Rephblica Extended


masivos o por nuevos ejes viales vivieron la destrucci6n de su identidad
comunitaria. 1
Las observaciones de Lozano exponen una perspective que tambi6n estard
vigente en la opinion de Alcdntara Alminzar sobre las etapas por las cuales
pasa la ciudad. La primera etapa es la del recuerdo de una pequefia ciudad, de
ilusiones, seguridad y tranquilidad: ...Yo naci aqui y me cried aqui, como creo
haberte dicho. Para mi esta ciudad era un suefio. Es la ciudad donde creci,
donde surgieron mis primeras ilusiones, enfin, una ciudad pequefia, tranqui-
la... (Entrevista in6dita de Benitez-Morales al author, de ahora en adelante se
identificard como Entrevista). La segunda, que se corresponde con "La guerra
de abril" difiere much de la anterior: "La ciudad se convirti6 en algo de esta-
lidos, basura, humaredas...De repente se me convierte en algo abominable"
Terminada la guerra de abril comienzan los doce afios de Balaguei, etapa
que para el author es la iniciadora de una avalanche de destrucci6n que afecta y
determine la reconstrucci6n misma. La tercera 6poca, la actual, es la del desalo-
jo del espacio que pens6 suyo: "Yo me siento ahora un alienado deitro de mi
propia ciudad. Una persona temerosa de mi ciudad, al punto de que no quiero
salir de mi casa. Por lo tanto... siento que esta ciudad ya no me pertenece, ya
no es mia, ya yo no la conozco" (entrevista con Benitez-Morales, 2002).
En los relates que analizar6, dos de ellos se correspondent con la etapa de
"construcci6n en base a la destrucci6n" realizada por el gobierno de Balaguer.
Son estos: "Uno" (1978) y"El muertico" (1983). "Visiones al amanecer" (1989)
pertenece a esa tercera 6poca de extrafieza y alienaci6n a la cual refiere el autor.
En el apoyo critic destaco a Burton Pike y su trabajo The Image of the City in
Modern Literature, Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities y Michel de Certeau The
Practice of Everyday Life.
Pike opina que una vez la ciudad entra en contact con la palabra escrita,
queda sometida a un process de metaforizaci6n. Pike consider a la ciudad
como la mis important de todas las metiforas de las cuales pueda servirse
aquel escritor que se preocupa por dar voz a los aspects fragmentarios, pre-
conscientes o inconscientes de su cultural (Pike 8, 129-133). Calvino consider
todas las ciudades como una sola. Esa ciudad-espejo formada del reflejo de
otras arrastra consigo unos hilos que la atan en forma definitive y precisa a

1 Balaguer vali6ndose de estrategias arbitrarias en torno a la economic y la reorganizaci6n
demogr~ifica termin6 por lograr aquello que el soci6logo dominicano Joaquin Jer6nimo
clasifica de "un cord6n sanitario alrededor de la pobreza marginal" en su studio Ciudad
y campo: articulosy conferencias sobre temas de urbanismo (Ger6nimo 164).

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


la historic. Advierte Calvino que la ciudad no vocifera su historic. La tiene
grabada sin borrarla como las lines en la palma de la mano (11). Para De
Certeau la ciudad esta Ilena de lugares que son presencias de ausencias, silen-
cios con un efecto interior. De acuerdo con De Certeau todo acto cotidiano
va degenerando en lo extraflo y todo recuerdo implica dispersi6n del recuerdo
mismo (93,108).
El tejido de la escritura convierte las lines marcadas en las manos de la
memorial de nuestro autor en metiforas de realidades diversas. Sirvi6ndose
de la metifora, Jos6 Alcintara Alminzar ofrece reflejos de variadas ciudades.
Todas juntas llevan en si una esencia, aquella de la desilusi6n y la p6rdida que
al final lo conducen a la absolute alienaci6n. La primera ciudad, la reflejada
en el relato "Uno" tiene tras de si un recuerdo, el del desalojo de la madre del
autor junto a otros vecinos de la Barriada Villa Francisca, uno de los barrios
mis afectados por la campafia de reconstrucci6n de Joaquin Balaguer. La
segunda ciudad, la de "El muertico" es una representaci6n cruda de la vida de
patio. Ruidos, olores, l1antos, se entremezclan con las ilusiones tronchadas
de los residents que en ella conviven. La tercera, "Visiones al amanecer" es
el espejismo de una realidad cotidiana ante la cual el protagonista se siente
desorientado y acosado.

"Uno" (1978) es un relato muy corto, una pdgina de extension. La acci6n tiene
lugar en una semana: de lunes a lunes. Despu6s de acontecido el desalojo, con-
cluye con los ingenieros y el teniente a cargo de la operaci6n quienes, reunidos
en una barra, celebran su triunfo con la mayor indiferencia. Al final, de toda
la barriada lo que resta es un solar yermo.
Sumamente esquemitico y sucinto el relato intent representar un aconte-
cer hist6rico que los recuerdos se niegan a olvidar. CC6mo borrar el impact
que tuvo en todos los sectors del espacio urban el empefio de renovaci6n y
modernizaci6n llevado a cabo por Joaquin Balaguer? Los viejos barrios atra-
vesados por esa agresividad recibieron un golpe mortal. Sus pobladores se
vieron reducidos a series descartables al perderlo todo en favor de aquellos
pobladores y sectors privilegiados por el poder politico del Estado.
Dos instancias biogrAficas se juntan en el relato, la de la madre y la del ba-
rrio llamado a desaparecer. El autor asi lo percibe: "Un barrio, como cualquier
persona, posee su biografia, uinica e intransferible, que aguarda siempre la voz
de quien pueda contarla" (La aventura interior 103).
En esta biografia de barrio dos fuerzas se enfrentan. La primera, en process
de debilitamiento desde que abre el relato, la constituyen los pobladores del

Quisqueya: Lo Republica Extended


barrio, comenzando con sus fundadores y continuando con las mujeres, los
hombres y hasta las mismas alimafias que huyen una vez se efectfa la destruc-
ci6n final. La segunda, representative de las fuerzas del poder, al igual que
el tiempo cronol6gico, opera con un rigor quasi-militar. Para cada dia de la
semana hay un representante o agent diferente con una funci6n especifica:
"El lunes fueron los ingenieros con los pianos.... El martes, los inspectors
visitaron cada una de las viviendas. El mi6rcoles se presentaron los agrimen-
sores" (11).
El tono frio y distant del narrador se manifiesta en el uso de adjetivos in-
definidos, o imigenes mis bien vagas al referirse a los residents: "unos hom-
bres vestidos de azul", "Algunas mujeres," "Los hombres sin empleo." Junto a
estos contrastan aquellos que reflejan la desesperaci6n ante el desangrarse de
la comunidad, tales como "las mujeres que iloraban," "los ancianos cansados,"
"desesperados," "agonia fulminante." Ese narrador en tercera persona aparen-
temente indiferente enfatiza en su focalizaci6n la agonia que sufre la colectivi-
dad, una vez son obligados a abandonar su barrio.
Michel De Certeau consider el lenguaje del poder como organizador de
un orden de la ciudad. En su desempefio se dan los siguientes factors: sepa-
raciones multiples, intensificaci6n y ramificaci6n del poder, en fin, un espacio
donde impera la confusion, trabajado con m6todos de distribuci6n analiticos,
rigurosos y represivos (De Certeau 95). Las fuerzas del poder van separando
progresiva y met6dicamente al barrio. Primero al escogerlo para su absolute
destrucci6n y segundo al debilitarles su identidad de grupo. Se ramifican en-
viando cada dia un representante diferente. Asi van dejando a su paso una ma-
yor confusion hasta provocar la histeria del grupo y la p6rdida de orientaci6n.
Ante el debilitamiento progresivo del grupo, se encuentra la fuerza crecien-
te de los que representan el poder, ejecutores del desalojo. Los residents son
animalizados al establecerse una correspondencia metaf6rica entire ellos y las
alimafias que escapaban o morian aplastadas: "De los escombros escapaban
cucarachas, lagartos, ciempids. Mucha alimafia muri6 aplastada. La plaga mis
lista huy6, refugiindose en calls vecinas y barrios lejanos" (12).
Los ruidos y sonidos afiaden e intensifican tanto las tensions como la con-
fusi6n. Los Ilantos y maldiciones son seguidos de susurros por parte de los
agents del desalojo. Luego los rezos y el cuchicheo, interrumpidos por una
vocecita atiplada que habla desde un altoparlante, exagerando la voz de aquel
que se sabe representative de la destrucci6n. Finalmente, el silencio seguido
de gritos desesperados.
Un retrato queda fijado en el recuerdo del autor, y "Uno" parte de ese re-
cuerdo, la foto de su madre con el hermano en frente de los escombros de lo

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


que fuera la casa propia en el barrio: "Yo conserve una foto de ella muy patiti-
ca...Estin ellos dos afuera en el patio y todo atris destruido" (Entrevista).
De Certeau explica que en toda ciudad hay una relaci6n entire presencia/
ausencia, lo visible y lo invisible: "It is striking here that the places people live
in are like the presence of diverse absences..." (De Certeau 108). El retra-
to es un entrejuego entire lo invisible del recuerdo y lo visible de la foto. Al
rescatar el moment de desesperaci6n que se plasma en los ojos de la madre
y convertirlo en acto de escritura nace la creaci6n, y la ciudad se convierte en
metifora. Aquella foto fue a su vez testimonio del dolor, del desasosiego y la
desesperaci6n comunicado no por una persona sino por toda esa colectividad
que se sinti6 robada de su identidad y por afiadidura obligada a ser invisible.
"Uno" responded por lo tanto, al cuadro de una ciudad ubicada entire dos
fuerzas, la del poder el cual, guiado por su ansiedad urbanizadora, la desea
invisible y la del recuerdo de sus habitantes que la palpa visible y como tal la
confirm en el propio acto de escritura.

"El muertico"
El segundo relate parte de la experiencia de la marginalidad consecuencia en
gran media de todo lo implicado por el relato anterior. Es un patio residential
tipico de los muchos que se daban en las barriadas como Villa Francisca donde
cotidianamente muchas vidas se entrecruzan.2
La muerte del hijito de uno de los residents es la instancia que atrae a todos
los personajes a convergir en el espacio en comfin, el patio. Abre con el progresivo
lamento de una mujer, la madre del nifio. A media que los gemidos se van con-
virtiendo en llanto que ahoga comienzan todos a identificarse en el scenario
de la muerte del nifio y se retoma el efecto de grupo o comunidad.
En este relato, Alcdntara Alminzar se sirve de dos recursos para presentar
los personajes: la t6cnica fotogrdfica y la teatral. La perspective fotogrdfica,
uno de los recursos mds recurrentes en su obra, traza al personaje con la mayor

2 Frank Moya Pons en su articulo: "Barrios, piezas, patios y cuarterias" brevemente pre-
senta un cuadro del desarrollo de los barrios de acuerdo con los grupos sociales que los
constituyen. Los barrios de obreros construidos por el gobierno estaban formados por
migrants del campo a la ciudad que habian tenido la buena fortune de encontrar un em-
pleo dentro del sistema burocritico gubernamerntal. La mayoria, no obstante, tuvo que
hacinarse en barrios como lo es Villa Francisca. No solamente eso sino que dentro del
barrio mismo se llevaron a cabo divisions que comenzaron por las cuarterias y termina-
ron por el alquiler de los patios dentro de las mismas cuarterias. Asi sucede en el relato
done los residents comparten todos la vivienda en el patio (Moya Pons 4).

Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended


precision possible. Asi va describiendo lo que sienten, oyen y padecen en el ins-
tante en que muere el nifio. A la vez hila de ahi a otras acciones propias de la
vida del personaje que ayudan a visualizarlo e individualizarlo del resto de los
residents, datos y detalles precisos de cada uno de los que habrin de desfilar
por el velorio:

[Fela] dormia pricticamente desnuda para resistir el calor de la noche y estar
preparada para los reclamos sexuales de su marido. (72)
[Los Mellizos] Los laments tambi6n legaban a la habitaci6n de los mellizos, que
dormian a pata suelta en colombinas separadas bajo las cuales colocaban la mer-
cancia: telas y baratijas que temprano saldrian a vender en los barrios. (73)

El segundo recurso enfatiza los movimientos de los personajes 'en el espacio
con la eficacia del director de un drama. Se podria dividir ell relate en tres
secciones organizadas al igual que actos en una pieza teatral. El primero se
corresponderia con los quejidos que escuchan los personajes y lo que cada uno
de ellos piensa o se imagine que esti sucediendo. El segundo act' se concentra
en la solidaridad de grupo. Los personajes operan como una comunidad unida
por el mismo dolor. Ya en lo que se corresponderia con el tercer acto, el entierro
del nifio, todos comienzan a retornar a sus faenas cotidianas. Se cierra el relate
como si cayera un tel6n en un scenario. La iluminaci6n va extinguidndose con
la misma lentitud acompasada de los personajes quienes progresivamente van
abandonando el scenario hasta no quedar nadie en la escena. Finalmente la
m6sica del burdel de Gloria anuncia el retorno a la rutina diaria: "En medio de
la desolaci6n de una tarde cualquiera empezaba a llegar a la cuarteria la mdsica
alegre del burdel de Gloria" (79).
En "El muertico" no se puede hablar de una, sino de dos ciudades que
desempefian su papel particular. La primera se corresponde con el patio, el
espacio comun que pertenece a un conglomerado de barrios de por si margina-
dos y fronterizos. Es decir, la ciudad dentro de la ciudad. La segunda alude a
una ciudad que no esti tan claramente explicit como en los relates anteriores,
pero si deja sentir su presencia.
La ciudad ubicada fuera del barrio y del patio opera cual si fuera una esce-
nografia que prevalece en todos los actos. Familiar a los personajes pero de una
manera inquietante, ajena a ellos, persiste en recordarles siempre su situaci6n.
Como el pan6ptico, los vigila, asegur;ndose que no trasciendan sus limits.
Le recuerda al gemelo que la pulperia con la que tanto suefia es eso mismo, un
suefio. Le recuerda al padre que no habri dinero para enterrar a su hijo. Final-
mente, les recuerda a todos que no hay escape, en fin, que hay una frontera, o

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


mis especifico adn, un cord6n sanitario el cual no estin autorizados a cruzar.
Es el mismo que impuso Balaguer con su ansiada reorganizaci6n demogrifica.
En el fondo la mdsica del burdel como el personaje mismo de Gloria funciona
como el simbolo de un orden normativo afianzado a una cotidianidad que
Ileva en si la negaci6n de cualquier posibilidad de advance y progress. Ante el
cord6n invisible de espacio y tiempo que los encierra s61o les resta el patio para
confirmar su legitimidad.3
D6nde ha quedado el recuerdo aquel que inventa ciudades? Se ha opera-
do un cambio en la naturaleza del recuerdo que aunque ya no cale tan hondo
prevalece adn al evocar la vida del barrio Villa Francisca:

Entonces para mi todo ese torbellino de cosas siempre lo he tenido adentro...
Y muchas de esas cosas que estin contadas... "El Muertico" que se cuenta en
un patio ylas canciones que lRegan, eso es verdad. Yo me dormia por las noches
oyendo esas canciones. Las families que yo describe se parecen a families de
patio que yo conoci (entrevista con Benitez-Morales, 2002).

Alcintara Alminzar, al igual que el Marco Polo de Calvino evoca la ciudad-
espejo donde se acumulan multiples ciudades junto a los recuerdos cual reflejos
y fulgores. "El muertico" aiade otro fulgor mediante personajes cuyos cuerpos
movi6ndose en un scenario se inscriben en la espacialidad fugitive de esa
metifora que es la ciudad Santo Domingo.

"Visiones al amanecer"
"Visiones al amanecer" se corresponde con la tercera experiencia de la ciudad:
el auto-desalojo de un espacio que sinti6 y crey6 suyo. El recuerdo juega un
papel esencial en todas las experiencias anteriores y esta tercera no es una
excepci6n. Las palabras de Calvino nos ayudan a entender el por que de esa
insistencia o necesidad del recuerdo. Para Calvino recorder es un acto redun-
dante y la repetici6n intensifica la imagen en el marco referencial de forma tal
que se logra que la ciudad exista: "Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so
that the city can begin to exist" (19). El empefio por parte del protagonista de

3 Con la muerte del nifio es como si se reviviera una experiencia que pudo ocurrir en el
grupo desalojado. Los cuerpos acumulados en el relato anterior "Uno" son rescatados
en "El muertico" y sin dejar de former parte de la colectividad del patio pasan de ser un
conglomerado generico para convertirse en personajes individuals. Los ejemplos de "al-
gunas mujeres" o "Los hombres sin empleo", en "El Muertico" pasan a ser los personajes
especificos de Olga, de Fela o de Los Gemelos.

Quisqueya: La Repiblica Extended


otorgarle existencia a una ciudad amenazada por la desintegraci6n es el rasgo
evidence en esta narraci6n.
Todo el relate gira alrededor del recorrido que l1eva a cabo el protagonista
una mafiana en su ruta de ejercicio. El propio autor lo efectu6 todas las ma-
fianas durante cinco afios: "Yo vivi cinco afios en la Avenida Independencia
frente a "Bellas Artes" y yo veia el mar desde mi casa caminando por ahi fue
que surgi6 la idea del cuento "Visiones al amanecer" (Entrevista).
Si en el relato anterior, "El muertico," la ciudad se planteaba como el es-
cenario que afectaba el acontecer diario de los personajes, aquf la ciudad con-
funde al personaje, lo embriaga. La repetici6n del mismo acto matutino del
caminar surte el efecto engafioso del espejismo.
Tres signs de distintos moments del pasado sin ning6n aparente enlace
hist6rico entire si se revelan en el trecho de la caminata matutina: la column
solitaria, representative de un naufragio de principios de siglo, el monument
en honor al saldo de una deuda millonaria, y por dltimo "el parquecito que
acogi6 a las muchedumbres" de la lucha armada, aludiendo quizds, a la lucha
en contra de la dictadura (118-119). Mas todo ello parte ya del deterioro, de
una impresi6n de abandon y maltrato que se personifica y agudiza con la
presencia de un borracho semi-desnudo quien duerme al pie del monument,
borrado por la embriaguez todo element de memorial. Ademis de abandon
y maltrato, otros vocablos como solitariaa", "en su mejor 6poca", "imagenes
desvaidas" son signos que evidencian la dispersion del recuerdo.
Los recuerdos quedan atrAs mientras que los cambios van abri6ndose paso.
Esos cambios que lo enfrentan y confrontan se convierten ante sus ojos afecta-
dos por la extrafieza en deformaciones o sutiles deportaciones: "las mutaciones
vertiginosas que a toda prisa van convirti6ndolo en un forastero" (119).
Una ciudad que antes le fue suya, ahora poco a poco cambia por lo opues-
to, le va causando repulsi6n porque el presiente su ausencia de ella. La ob-
servaci6n que hace De Certeau sobre el vagar por toda ciudad ayuda a mejor
entender la situaci6n descrita:

To walk is to lack a place. The moving about that the city multiplies and con-
centrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place
an experience that is, to be sure, broken up into countless tiny deportations
(displacements and walks),... (103)

Si el protagonista va sinti6ndose forastero, la ciudad andlogamente se va
complicando ante sus ojos de tal modo que terminal por transformarse en un
laberinto dificil de resolver, en un espejismo que lo abruma y domina. De

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


acuerdo con Pike toda ciudad combine en si la imagen de un mapa conjunta-
mente con la de un laberinto porque en ella el hombre se orienta, a la vez que
se pierde: "The city as a spatial form presents both the image of a map and
the image of a labyrinth: figures which characters orient, but can also lose,
themselves" (121).
En esa complicaci6n, la ciudad para el protagonista se ve escindida entire
la confusion de un pasado que le l1ega tan vivo y claro que hasta los ruidos,
gestos y visions de figures se revelan y un present de figures an6nimas, de
olores y sonidos:

En este moment lo asalta la imagen del d6spota, anciano ya, de impecable
atuendo, con un pelo cenizo y la tez maquillada, sentado en su trono de oca-
si6n... hay various quioscos vacios, de los que mana un icido de cervezas, nico-
tina, orines y otros residues de incontables noches. (123)

Mas lo que motiva toda esa reacci6n ante una ciudad que esti en process
de mutar en un juego de espejos es el conflict por parte del protagonista a
resistir la desorientaci6n misma. La resistencia, no obstante, se debilita en
tanto que el engafio visual y la confusion se apoderan del hombre. Entra en un
laberinto formado por su propio recorrido. El paisaje de las figures insomnes
regresa, recorre el mismo lugar, pero con la diferencia de que esta vez lo acom-
pafia la sensaci6n de miedo. El espejismo deformador lo acosa, su cuerpo cede
ante el efecto del pinico hasta que el miedo finalmente lo vence:

Siente la boca reseca, tiene palpitaciones, su respiraci6n es atropellada, sus ojos
reclaman una claridad que no acaba de definirse. (125)
Esta desconcertado, no comprende lo que sucede ni c6mo llegaron aquf antes
que 61, los que habia dejado atris, fijos en sus puestos, desvelados o dormidos,
casi al margen de la vida. (127)

Ya Calvino lo dijo, imaginar ciudades es imaginar temores: Cities, like
dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is
secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything con-
ceals something else" (44). Los temores del protagonista representan los del
autor. Es muy dificil separar en este caso al creador de su creaci6n. "Visiones
al amanecer" es espejo fiel del miedo de Alcintara Alminzar. De aquella
ciudad tan suya, s61o le restan alienaci6n y temores: "Y yo me siento ahora
un alienado dentro de mi propia ciudad. Una persona temerosa de mi ciudad,
al punto de que ya yo no quiero salir de mi casa" (entrevista con Benitez-
Morales, 2002).

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


Quizis el miedo mismo proponga un iltimo acercamiento en el cual todos
los elements del relato se obligan a redefinirse a su luz. A manera de guia
muy pertinente afiado los comentarios de Susana Rotker en "Ciudades escritas
por la violencia (A modo de introducci6n)". Segdn la autora, en las ciudades
latinoamericanas mis que hablar de miedo, se debe pensar en pricticas de
inseguridad. En el fondo es la inseguridad la que inicia y da lugar a todos los
otros temores. El protagonista a la par que camina recuerda. Siente temor
ante un paisaje que al cotejarlo con sus propios recuerdos no se correspondent.
A la misma vez que el protagonista va afectindose por la inseguridad, se va
delatando como victim, o lo que Susana Rotker en su studio, califica de
victim en potencia. Se ha pasado del miedo manipulado por el Estado y su
red dictatorial de vigilancia (el Pan6ptico) a otro tipo de miedo. Es un miedo
cotidiano basado en los ataques director dirigidos hacia el ciudadano, caracte-
risticos de la violencia urbana (Rotker 9).
Ademis de su juicio acerca de la victim en potencia, Rotker distingue en-
tre dos cuerpos: el cuerpo fisico y el cuerpo social. El primero tiene tallado
en si "una memorial de prevenciones y, por lo tanto, un sistema de actitudes y
respuestas: la memorial del cuerpo" (19). El cuerpo social, por su parte, esti es-
trechamente atado al espacio social "en una relaci6n no monolitica de marcos
sociales como la clase, la ideologia o la raza" (19). Ambos operan en el relato.
El cuerpo fisico se corresponde con el del protagonista, quien se afecta fisica
y mentalmente. El cuerpo social por otro lado es el que lo amenaza, formado
de un todo social que al principio l6 trata de ignorar por causarle desagrado,
pero que a media que el miedo lo domina y su inseguridad va en aumento,
el mismo protagonista hace de l6 el agresor. Es el cuerpo social representado
por todas las figures an6nimas, insomnes que perturban su rutina y alteran sus
recuerdos: el borracho que duerme en el monument, las momificadas figures
insomnes que perturban su ritmo, el haitiano madrugador, los vendedores que
duermen tirados en el suelo.
Aquello que al comienzo de sus declaraciones representaba para Alcintara
Alminzar una ciudad que dejaba en 61 un efecto maternal, tal cual le sucede
al personaje de "Visiones al amanecer," terminal por convertirse en un espacio
ajeno y desconocido. Las palabras de Pike ayudan a entenderlo: "The city is
disembodied, and the speaker is alienated both from it and in it, although he
paradoxically calls it home" (123-124). Igualmente se augura como el espacio
de identidad national.4
4 In many countries the city (often, a city) represents the symbolic order of national
identity. More and more, we are told that such symbolic orders are being profoundly fis-

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


La escritura de Alcdntara Almdnzar podria ser leida como presagio de esa
nueva 6poca que ya estd latente para la publicaci6n de La came estremecida
(1989), iltima colecci6n de relates que public. Un nuevo imaginario se anun-
cia. Esa nueva ciudad, ese nuevo imaginario, desdibujard zonas como dice
Rotker. Ya no se puede limitar a la ciudad capital ni sus barrios. Se habri de
extender hacia otras zonas y proyectarse mds alli de la isla. Ese nuevo imagi-
nario cuenta con el otro espacio, el de la inmigraci6n y la diaspora. Contra-
dicci6n o augurio? Augurio que ya se ha materializado en obras tales como: La
bachata deldngelcaido (1999) de Pedro Antonio Valdez, Mudanza de los sentidos
(2001) de Angela HernAndez o el reciente Candela (2006) de Rey Emmanuel
Anduijar, novela en la cual se escuchan los ecos de Roberto Marcall6 Abreu y la
agresividad del imaginario ciudad manifestada en su novela Sobre aves negras,
cortes de media luna y Idgrimas de sangre (2002).
Consider convertir esa nota de ansia creative que se percibe en sus pala-
bras en augurio de un nuevo espacio creative donde estas otras voces hallarin
y compartiran la ansiedad de creaci6n.

sured by socio-economic transformations that connect local cultures to the global system
(Balshaw y Kennedy 15).

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


Obras Citadas

Alcintara Alminzar, Jos6. La aventura interior. Santo Domingo: Banco Cen-
tral de la Repdblica Dominicana, 1997.
- Entrevista in6dita de Benitez-Morales al autor. 8-9 de agosto, 2002.
- La care estremecida. Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1989.
- Las mdscaras de la seduccidn. Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1983.
Testimoniosyprofanaciones. Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1978.
Balshaw, Maria & Liam Kennedy, eds. Urban Space and Representation. Lon-
don: Pluto Press, 2000.
Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Tr. William Weaver. San Diego: Harcourt,
de Certeau, Michel. The Practice ofEveryday Life. Tr. Steven Rendall. Ber-
keley: University of California Press, 1984.
Ger6nimo, Joaquin. Ciudady campo: articulosy conferencias sobre temas de urba-
nismo. Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria UASD, 1993.
Lozano, Wilfredo. La urbanizacidn de la pobreza: urbanizacidn, trabajo y des-
igualdadsocialen Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo: Facultad Latinoame-
ricana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), 1997.
Moya Pons, Frank. "Barrios, piezas, patios y cuarterias." Rumbo Rep. Dom.
25-31 de octubre 1995: 4.
Pike, Burton. The Image of the City in Modern Literature. Princeton: Prince-
ton UP, 1981.
Rotker, Susana. "Ciudades escritas por la violencia (a modo de introducci6n)."
Ciudadanias del miedo. Susana Rotker, ed. Caracas: Editorial NuevaSo-
ciedad, 2000. 7-22.

SARGASSO 2008-09,11

,Una alternative a la novel del dictador?:

Paternalismo, nation y posmodernidad

en Papide Rita Indiana Hern6ndez

Rosana Diaz Zambrana
Rollins College

L a emergencia y solidificaci6n identitaria de las republicas latinoamerica-
nas no puede entenderse al margen de la reincidencia de los regimenes to-
talitarios y por ende, de las figures paternalistas a lo largo de su historic political
y fundacional. La base de la novela del dictador no s61o es temdtica sino his-
t6rica por su tendencia a intersecar la evoluci6n de la realidad latinoamericana
con aqu6lla de la creaci6n literaria. En la opinion de Gabriel Garcia Mirquez,
el dictador es el inico personaje mitol6gico que ha producido America Latina
cuyo ciclo hist6rico esti lejos de ser concluido (Mendoza 125). Sin embargo,
a diferencia de otros ejemplos angulares en la tradici6n literaria de la llamada
"novela del dictador," Papi (2005) de Rita Indiana Hernindez (Santo Domin-
go, 1977) da cuenta de una realidad que inequivocamente denota el sostenido
intercambio y superposici6n de campos culturales, lingilisticos, econ6micos y
sociopoliticos que se han consolidado en las 61timas d6cadas en Latinoamerica
y mis especificamente, en el Caribe antillano.
La innovadora novela Papi erige un model del padre que podria insertarse
en el marco populista de la narrative del dictador a la vez que reelabora una
vision suigeneris de las formas de paternalismo caribefio. A trav6s de un mon6-
logo en espiral de la voz narrante en torno a los condicionamientos y secuelas
que genera la autoridad y el vinculo paternos, Hernindez consigue armar un
microcosmos emblemdtico de los espacios, pricticas y experiencias globales
desde la especificidad de una Quisqueya posmoderna y transnacional. En opo-
sici6n a la susodicha novela del dictador o de dictadura done, por un lado, se
indaga en la psicologia del caudillo o por otro, se centra en las repercusiones
sociol6gicas de su poder desp6tico como se advierte en los prototipicos perso-
najes de Asturias, Garcia Mirquez, Roa Bastos, Veloz Maggiolo o Carpentier
o inclusive, en las novelas recientes sobre la "era del trujillato" como En el
tiempo de las mariposas o La fiesta del Chivo, la version de Hernandez inaugura
un giro cardinal y sintomitico del patriarca que merece ser examinada.

Quisqueya: La Republica Extended


En el siguiente ensayo, propongo la relaci6n paterno-filial esbozada en Papi
como analogia del discurso represor y paternalista que singulariza a la novela
del dictador, adn cuando en este caso, el personaje mismo del tirano desapare-
ce. A pesar de que en Papi la orientaci6n y el lenguaje explicitamente politicos
son suplantados por un lenguaje mercantil y un carismitico adalid del bajo
mundo, argument que la reminiscencia del dictador como sujeto por anto-
nomasia que rige el imaginario national no s61o persiste sino que conserve su
lastre patriarcal sustentado por una series de formulas narrativas representatives
del g6nero.
Asi que ademis de prolongar los m6dulos de la novel del dictador tales
como la hip6rbole, la omnipotencia, la masculinizaci6n, la ambigiiedad, entire
otros, la ficci6n en Papi estard mediada por una political tanto opresora como
benigna del poder s61o que ahora dentro de un sistema de consume y explo-
taci6n tipico de las sociedades en una etapa incomplete de modernizaci6n. 0
sea que la reedificaci6n posmoderna del patriarca por Hernindez permit la
creaci6n de un aleg6rico retrato del cabecilla supermacho qdien regirn la vo-
luntad colectiva al ser legitimado por un pueblo que, mis alli de vivenciar una
dictadura per se, esti subordinado a las exigencias del mercado y al impact de
6stas en el scenario national y cotidiano.

Las formas del paternalismo
Segin el Diccionario de la RealAcademia, paternalismo se define como la "ten-
dencia a aplicar las formas de autoridad y protecci6n propias del padre en la
familiar traditional a relaciones sociales de otro tipo; political, laborales, etc.
Vale aclarar que el tdrmino se comenz6 a utilizar para referirse a las disposicio-
nes entire patrons y sus trabajadores durante la segunda mitad del siglo XIX
y las primeras d6cadas del siglo XX en los paises industrializados. Tal dinimi-
ca tambien se distinguia por encubrir y suavizar la explotaci6n imperante en
las sociedades capitalistas. En su analisis sobre paternalismo y literature, Juan
Gelpi lo explica como una relaci6n jerarquica entire sujetos, uno de los cuales se
constitute en "superior" al relegar al otro o a los otros a la categoria de "subor-
dinados", al mismo tiempo que el padre coloca a los miembros de la sociedad
como nifios pertenecientes a una posici6n inferior (2).
En el caso de la Rep6blica Dominicana, tanto la dictadura como la para-
digmitica persona de Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-1961) representan un
enclave hist6rico determinante desde donde abordar el proyecto de naci6n
hasta el dia de hoy. Inclusive, con el gobierno por 22 afios de Joaquin Balaguer
tambidn se consolid6 y exalt6 de forma categ6rica la noci6n del "trujillismo sin

SARGASSO 2008-09, II


Trujillo." En la interpretaci6n de N6stor Rodriguez, Balaguer ayud6 a cemen-
tar la ideologia trujillista despu6s de la muerte del tirano con lo que prolong
pricticas political e intelectuales mediante la glorificaci6n del "espiritu" del
regimen (17). En efecto, el dictador en su posici6n de guia intellectual y moral
de la naci6n cristalizard un singular arquetipo del padre tanto en lo politico
como lo literario que nos ofreceri un pertinente esquema para estudiar las
rearticulaciones mis recientes de este personaje en la constituci6n simb6lica e
ideol6gica del pais.
Es important recalcar que dentro de la platea political el paternalismo be-
nevolente suele trastocarse en una especie de populismo que se inclina a per-
petuar el poder hegem6nico apelando a la complacencia fdcil de las masas.
Para Doris Sommer la ret6rica populista represent las dificultades enfrenta-
das por una naci6n en metamorfosis a una sociedad industrial que ha perturbado
a la familiar traditional y que a su vez, lucha por reintegrarse y recuperar su armonia
perdida (254). Como anade Sommer, el patriarca cumple el rol del esposo mien-
tras la tierra es la mujer que debe ser reclamada y poseida. En muchos aspects
la esfera political (patriarca-dictador) se entreteje con la jerarqufa familiar (padre-
esposo) y los esquemas del ambito privado (Sommer 254). De este modo, seri el
hombre el que adquiera un protagonismo medular dentro de los engranajes de
poder como m6todo para asentar su dominio y supremacia a todos los niveles. A
esto se deberi que el heroe national se sobreponga a la impotencia political y sexual
para facilitar una celebraci6n de la masculinidad y el patriarcado (Sommer 254).
En las palabras de Richard Parker: "the good macho expresses the values of
activity, dominance and violence, penetrating and metaphorically consuming
through possessing both clients and women" (43). No en balde, el padre en
Papi encarnard al ultramacho, procreador ideal de la naci6n cuya promiscuidad
multiplica sus facultades y la extension de su poderfo:

subo el volume de la tele a todo lo que da para que no se oigan los gritos de las
novias de papi [...] lo llaman y llaman y caminan en circulos con pancartas y fotos
de papi y me llaman a mi y luego forman una torre humana [...] Y aqui vienen flacas
y altas, regordetas, nargdas, culias, prietas y pelirrojas, fatas, aguiluchas, tet6nicas,
sint6ticas, con las teticas paradas, aerodinimicos los cabellos [...] Vienen como lo-
cas, chillando, pujando embarazos ficticios, pujando mufiecos de peluche, pariendo
beb6s de latex que orinan si se les aprieta la barriguita. (21)

Como se demuestra en la cita anterior, la potencia sexual de papi, sustenta-
da por la caterva descomunal de "novias" que lo acosan y celebran a lo largo de
la narraci6n, y mis significativo ain, cuya presencia impone una competencia

Quisqueyo: La RepIblica Extended


y amenaza afectiva para la hija, consistentemente valida la misi6n del macho
en la configuraci6n de los nexos familiares y politicos.
Continuando con la interconexi6n entire fertilidad y poder, una de las meta-
foras can6nicas que enmarcan el discurso hegem6nico-patriarcal es la equipa-
raci6n de la naci6n a una gran familiar (Gelpi 15). Esta metifora de la naci6n
como casa tambi6n es una tictica narrative en Papi, de manera que auscultar el
estado del nucleo familiar y mis especificamente, la dindmica padre-hija nos
servird para sondear las relaciones interpersonales y c6mo son transformadas
por la cultural de consume, la preponderancia del individualism extreme y la
actitud hedonista de las sociedades contemporineas que participan, como la
Repdblica Dominicana, de las inusitadas alteraciones de la globalizaci6n.
En Papi, el pueblo urde en la posibilidad de asemejarse cada vez mis al
padre simb6lico con miras a sobrellevar las veleidades econ6micas y lograr
acceso a los bienes de consume o en resumidas cuentas, llegar a ser "alguien"
dentro de las modalidades y demands socioculturales que relegan al colectivo
y favorecen al individuo. En este universe cambiante que pertenece al que mis
"posee," los hijos bastardos buscan adherirse al linaje del patriarca ya que en 61
se condensan los atributos de macho renombrado, exitoso y pr6spero. Este
fen6meno de emulaci6n se registra con mis contundencia al morir papi, ya
que el pueblo se vuelca para reclamar su parentesco con el grann padre" en una
oportuna tentative para instaurar el status y el reconocimiento que la oficiali-
dad estatal le ha negado: "Y ahora filas para confirmar lazos sanguineos [...]
Por dondequiera, en vallas, en cruzacalles, en letreros electr6nicos, en murales
sobre los muros salitrosos del Malec6n la cara de papi, con los colors de la
bandera, debajo un lema que reza: TODOS SOMOS FAMILIA" (97).
De acuerdo a Carmen Oquendo-Villar, la ausencia de la figure paterna en
la literature es un tema recurrente en el imaginario de las sociedades caribefias.
De igual modo, la incursion de personajes nifios o adolescents es considerada
una maniobra narrative que da paso a una identidad national a partir del tropo
del aprendizaje (Gelpi 61). En este sentido, la ausencia o la presencia hostile
del padre dificulta y en ocasiones, inhibe y/o quebranta muchas de las fases de
autoformaci6n y maduraci6n del nifio. Esta trayectoria fracturada del apren-
dizaje infantil no es una excepci6n en Papi ya que los leitmotivs y la reflexi6n
obsesiva y en circulos de la narradora al recrear su relaci6n con el padre, exhi-
ben una series de deficiencies traumiticas que alteran en menor o mayor grado
el process de independencia y asentamiento de su personalidad.
La narradora de Papi persigue ividamente la afirmaci6n del amor paterno,
sin embargo, tal deseo se revela como una elusiva promesa de regreso. Inclusive
la novela se abre con la apote6sica legada de papi a la Rep6blica Dominicana

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11


de los Estados Unidos en lo que sera un montaje hiperb6lico y maravilloso,
digno de un h6roe ben6volo: "todos han tenido la misma idea, ir a tu encuen-
tro, y se han preparado, pancartas en mano, banderolas, letreritos, cruza calls
que dicen iguelcon, guelcon!" (10). No obstante, sera mis bien el tiempo de la
espera el principio central que impulsa y sostiene la obra. Es mis, la progre-
si6n relacional de hija-padre atraviesa por multiples etapas tales como: separa-
ci6n, espera, busqueda, desencuentro, reconciliaci6n, muerte y mitificaci6n.
En realidad, el arquetipo del padre se torna crucial en la percepci6n y apre-
hensi6n de la realidad, por ello, aun en su ausencia, no deja de modificar el
comportamiento de la hija. Por ejemplo, la separaci6n forzosa de la hija (por
el divorcio y el exilio a Estados Unidos) deviene un conflict irresuelto que
debe ser constantemente retomado y procesado por la nifia desde la espera, la
promesa del retorno y la imposibilidad del regreso del padre con que concluye
la novela. Aun asi, despues de su muerte, tiene lugar una simbiosis entire padre
e hija que verifica la envergadura de la presencia paterna en la cimentaci6n de
la autoimagen y la individualidad de la hija: "Papi estaba en mi y yo en papi.
Yo hasta me chupaba la salsa picante de las cuticulas impecables de papi. Yo
era igualita a papi. Yo era papi. Yo soy Papi" (141).

"El reino del padre": la naturaleza ambivalente del patriarca
El discurso de resonancias miticas al que alude Hernindez con la ret6rica
de lo superlative en Papi perfila un patriarca sobrehumano que bien podria
leerse a la luz del pensamiento de Mircea Eliade sobre la afinidad entire los
regimenes totalitarios y el pensamiento mitico ya que el mito representaria
valores inmutables de "otro mundo" que buscan establecer models de com-
portamientos humans (171). Es evidence que la omnipotencia de Papi encaja
en la formulaci6n portentosa tipica del dictador "que todo lo sabe y todo lo
puede" (89). Asimismo, el patriarca goza de una cualidad camale6nica que
concuerda con la figure paternalista del dictador: el despliegue de capacida-
des epifinicas y prodigiosas, en cierta media, amplificadas por el contrast
con un pueblo desvalido y carente. En oposici6n a estos atributos positives
como la idea de benefactor vigoroso, caritativo, altruista, viril, etc., se asoma
el lado "otro", donde prevalecen los regazos de un poder impasible y apatico.
Igualmente, desde el punto de vista de la ret6rica populista, la ambigiiedad
con respect a su caracterizaci6n es parte intrinseca del modelo patriarcal del
dictador. Por ello el magnetismo alucinante de Papi se contrapone a su mano
dura, a su implacabilidad y a su colocaci6n por encima del bien y el mal. Tal
process de mitificaci6n culminard con el encumbramiento simb6lico de Papi
por el pueblo despu6s de su muerte: "Cuando legamos a la casa en la que naci6

Quisqueya: La Repblica Extended


Papi, ya la han convertido en museo, mami se abre paso entire la cola de turistas
que sostienen globitos con la cara de Papi" (130).
Otra manifestaci6n del element mitico en algunas novelas del dictador se
concrete a trav6s de una temporalidad arquetipica que carece de movimien-
to y advance o incluso, se express con un tiempo curvo sin principio ni fin
(Noguerol-Jim6nez 143). Se podria argiir que la narraci6n de Papi posibilita
una lectura que combine ambos movimientos temporales. Aun cuando pre-
dominan las referencias al pasado infantil de la hija, la repetici6n temitica y
narrative de ciertos events de su vida responded a una dimension mitica en
que el tiempo existencial y de la memorial se prolonga y al mismo tiempo, se
condensa y vuelve sobre si.
En su acercamiento al tema del dictador, Francisca Noguerol-Jim6nez ha
detectado un cdmulo de rasgos miticos entire los que se encuentra la megalo-
mania, la misantropia, el mesianismo y un sistema binario donde se establece
de forma manifiesta la dicotomia entire las fuerzas del bien y del mal (144).
En mayor o menor grado, Papi aplica estos distintivos que se adhieren a la
naturaleza y caricter del dictador. Por ejemplo, el patriarca de Papi asume las
veces de una autoridad ambivalente y problemdtica que, en la proliferaci6n
de acciones delictivas certifica la progresiva disoluci6n de cualquier impulso
heroico como resultado de un languidecimiento de la 6tica y los ideales a favor
del bienestar individual, el deleite efimero y el oportunismo. Esto explicaria el
relativismo axiol6gico que da paso a la glorificaci6n de personajes corruptos y
encumbra el disfraz como actitud ejemplar. Como acontece en Papi, la con-
ducta antisocial del lider criminal (papi "el mafioso") lo eleva a h6roe cultural
que mantiene la cohesi6n y el respeto de aqu6llos que buscan adecuarse y
subsistir dentro del organigrama social que privilegia el capital, el facsimil y la
Para aproximarnos a la l6gica con que se manejan las relaciones en Papi, nos
vale el concepto de la brega" que elucida Arcadio Diaz Quifiones como un
quehacer imperative para desplazarse con perspicacia por territories extraofi-
ciales y contingentes. Bregar es, entire otras cosas, un modo de gesti6n, el modus
operandi que denota habilidad, pericia y la ausencia de una confrontaci6n ex-
plicita. Como aclara Diaz Quifiones, el bregar existe por la ley de la necesidad
y cambia en funci6n de las circunstancias y lo que 6stas ameritan, por lo que
se fija como un mecanismo que ayuda a sobrellevar situaciones apabullantes
por medio de una "sensibilidad camale6nica" (73). Esta manera de lidiar con
conflicts poniendo en acci6n un registro de reglas implicitas y sutiles entire las
parties en oposici6n, permit acomodarse, resolver, aliviar, tranquilizar y sobre-
llevar situaciones, de otro modo, insoportables o irresolubles. Los personajes

SARGASSO 2008-09, 11