|Table of Contents|
Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
Table of Contents
Voice and performance in society, culture, and art
Cultural expression and popular performance
Performance y el teatro Puertorriqueno
A tATHIERING OF
PLAYERS AND POIETS
LIN CONVITICE DE POET~AS Y TIEATREROS
pr, L 1O
LOWELL FIET JANETTE B~tERRA / Itrsoess
DEFINICIONES, IDENTIDADES Y CULTURES
REGIONALES Y/O NACIONALES
REGIONAL AND/OR NATIONAL DEFINITIONS,
IDENTITIES AND CULTURES
UN CONVITE DE POETAS Y TEATREROS:
VOZ Y PERFORMANCE EN LA(S)
A GATHERING OF PLAYERS AND POETS:
VOICE AND PERFORMANCE IN
DEFINICIONES, IDENTIDADES Y CULTURES
REGIONALES Y/O NACIONALES
REGIONAL AND/OR NATIONAL DEFINITIONS,
IDENTITIES AND CULTURES
Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships in the Humanities
College of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus
Norman Maldonado Presidente Universidad de Puerto Rico
George Hillyer Rector Recinto de Rio Piedras
Josi6 Luis Vega Decano Facultad de Humanidades
Lowell Fiet Director Caribe 2000 / Caribbean 2000
Editores: Lowell Fiet, Janette Becerra
Colaboradores de edici6n: Javier Enrique Avila, Salinda Lewis
Portada: "Chang6 te Ilama". Poli Marichal, 61eo, 1992. Foto por Maryellen Baker
Montaje: Marcos Pastrana
Diseho y diagramaci6n: Marcos Pastrana
Car-ibe 2000 no se responsabiliza por las expresiones vertidas por los autores
en esta publicaci6n.
Caribbean 2000 disclaims responsibility for statements of either fact or opinion
expressed by contributing authors.
Publicado por Caribe 2000 Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto
Rico, Recinto de Rio Piedras, P.O. Box 23356 UPR Station, San Juan, PR 00931-
Tel. (787) 764-0000 ext. 7569, Fax: (787) 763-5899
01999 Caribe 2000 Universidad de Puerto Rico. Todos los derechos
Lowell Fiet Introduccian/Introduction .................... ........... 7
VOICE AND PERFORMANCE IN SOCIETY, CULTURE, AND ART
Helen 1. Safa Female Headed Households in the
Caribbean and the Diaspora: Sign of
Pathology or Altemative Form of
Family Organization ...................... .............. 19
Edward Baugh Poem, Reading, Performance .......................... 38
Peter Roberts The Changing Face ofJibaros .......................... 47
Catherine Den Tandt Still Here, Still Waiting................... .............. 59
June Bobb Reimagining the Caribbean:
Lorna Goodison and the Poetics of Space ........ 68
CULTURAL EXPRESSION AND POPULAR PERFORMANCE
Angel G. Quintero-Rivera ";~No me digan que es muy tarde, ya!":
la temditica del tiempo en tres mementos
de la podtica salsera................ ............... 81
Halbert Barton El espacio social como tambor:
Bomba en la 4poca post-patriarcal ........._....... 109
Brenda F. Berrian Sd Cho (It's Hot): French Antillean Musicians
and Audience Reception .................................. 117
Felipe Smith King Zulu 's Two Bodies: Racial Masquerade
in a Black New Orleans Carnical Performance .... 127
PERFORMANCE Y EL TEATRO PUERTORRIQUENO
Nelson Rivera Experimentacidn, marginalidad y canon
en el teatro puertorriquen'o contempordineo....
Lowell Fiet Re-imdigenes de un teatro popular ..........
Lydia Plat6n Reflexiones y preguntas: el teatro
contempordineo en Puerto Rico .............
Martin Louis Duncan El sabor de Puerto Rico en el teatro
THE FIRST NIGHT
Pedro Pi~rez Sarduy
THE SECOND NIGHT
The Town that Had Known Better Days .......
Travelling Man ......................
Y digo mar....................
the best philosophers I know can 't
read and write ......................
Requiem por Versace ......................
Instrumentos de medicine ..................
Janette Becerra En el fondo del caso hay un negrito ......._.
Plegaria en la red.....................
Lowell Fiet Ancestors .....................
Elidio La Torre Lagares God, what they have made of us ............
mi soledad ......................
Luis Pomales Another wannabi ......................
Discrimination in reverse ..................
"Manhattan, 53"' and 7t" station" ..........
Marzo A. Sil~n Yagrumo Leaves ......................
Richard Weinraub Marx From Wonder Bread Hill .................
A Gathering of Players and Poets:
Voice and Performance in Caribbean Culture(s)
he first question might be: Who gathered?; a second: Are all
Caribbeans, as the literature sometimes implies, either players
or poets or both? Actors came, as did poets, carnival mas' play-
ers, dancers and musicians, theater groups, and of course, the schol-
ars who write about performance but who frequently are also poets,
performers, or musicians as well. At no point during the March 3-5,
1998 symposium did the notion of "voice and performance" as crea-
tive energy and expression move away from the investigative and ana-
lytical tasks around which academic conferences revolve. That sense
of integration -the players and poets who are also scholars or vice
versa- also led to a rethinking of Caribbean 2000 as a transCaribbean
research project focused on cultural process and expression. Thus,
the essay that follows is divided in two parts: the first reviews the
development of and projects a future for Caribbean 2000, and the sec-
ond makes specific reference to the 1998 symposium and the essays
and poems from it included in this volume.
a. the project's beginnings
From August 1994 to July 1998, Caribbean 2000 functioned as a
Rockefeller Foundation-supported residency site for research schol-
ars in geopolitical, historical, sociological, linguistic, literary, and ar-
* Director of Caribbean 2000, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras
tistic aspects of Caribbean life and culture. Along with lectures, read-
ings, and workshops, the project organized an annual symposium that
corresponded to the general theme explored each year by the schol-
ars: 1995-96, "re-Definitions -Global/National/Cultural/Personal- of
Caribbean Space(s)"; 1996-97, "Speaking, Naming, Belonging: The In-
terplay of Language and Identity in Caribbean Culture(s)"; and 1997-
98, "A Cathering of Players and Poets: Voice and Performance in Carib-
bean Culture(s)," the first day of which was a "Women's Forum." Major
figures in Caribbean Studies were also invited as guest speakers:
Antonio Benitez Rojo (1996), George Lamming and Ricardo Alegria
(1997), Helen Safa and Edward Baugh (1998). The bringing together
over a three-year period of these writers and thinkers -the ten resi-
dent research scholars from the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, and the
United States, and Puerto Rican scholars and artists- has borne re-
markable fruit: the published volumes of each annual symposium, the
first Puerto Rican "alternative" theater festival (with support from the
NEA and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture), the re-emergence of
the Caribbean journal SARGASSO, the NEH-sponsored summer sym-
posium "Rethinking English in Puerto Rico" and the collection of es-
says that bears the same title, the 1997 NEH Summer Institute for col-
lege and university professors "Performance and Text in Caribbean
Literature and Art" (book forthcoming), and the most lasting accom-
plishment, the new Ph.D. Program in English in Caribbean literature
and linguistics at the University of Puerto Rico.
b. a future for Caribbean 2000
In August 1998, Caribbean 2000 entered a new stage of development.
Previously conceived around the broad interdisciplinary theme of "Re-
gional and/or National Definitions, Identities, and Cultures" as a research
res idency site, the proj ect's new design is that of a permanent center for
research on and documentation of the convergence of performance and
literature in the Caribbean and its diaspora(s). The terms "performance"
and "literature" assume broad and interdisciplinary meanings inside the
scope of the project. Supposed polarities of popular/formal, oral/scribal,
anthropological/artistic, and Creole/standard creative expression are
reconfigured in a process that negotiates a movement between global
(especially post-colonial and post-modern) issues, local specificity (popu-
lar culture, music, folk customs, and festival arts as well as formal and/
or scribal representation), and (by way of literary and artistic forms and
themes which reflect shared issues of gender, race, nation, and empire)
transcultural aspects of the Caribbean region as a whole.
The redesign of Caribbean 2000 integrates its original notion of inter-
disciplinary research around transcultural themes into a more focused
and potentially controversial debate on the relationship of power and
culture -who determines the validity of creative expression- in an in-
creasingly urbanized Caribbean culturescape which records the neo/
postcolonial simultaneity of third- and first-world economies, values,
and vices in glaring and, at times, explosively dramatic terms. Con-
temporary Caribbean performance and literature live on and need to
be documented and studied on that fault line.
c. research and documentation of performance and literature
Speaking and reading poets, performance and "dub" poets, story-
tellers (cuenteros) and writers presenting their texts, and individual
"performers" and group enactments (theater) constitute the project's
core interests. However, popular performance forms such as calyp-
sos, ddcimas, bombas and plenas, Carnival, Jonkonnu and Santiago Fes-
tival arts and mas' playing, tea meetings, religious ritual and healing
ceremonies will also be documented and analyzed in terms of the per-
formative elements they display and the oral or written text (litera-
ture) that informs them. The points at which performance and litera-
ture converge in Caribbean cultural expression are numerous, as sev-
eral examples illustrate: the Francophone Caribbean myth of Ti-Jean
as it appears in Walcott's play Ti-Jean and His Brothers, Simon Schwarz-
Bart's novels, and Ina C~saire's play L'enfant des Passages; Earl
Lovelace's incorporation of Trinidad's Carnival in The Dragon Can't
Dance and the rites of Spiritual Baptists in The Wine ofAstonishment,
Dennis Scott's use of the Nine-Night Ceremony as the structuring ele-
ment of his play An Echo in the Bone, and spirit possession in Kamau
Brathwaite's poem "Angel Engine"; vodou ritual in Alejo Carpentier's
El reino de este mundo; the Sistren Theater Collective's performance of
their personal narratives in Lionheart Gal; and on and on.
The documentation involves (1) the audio and video recording of
invited poets, players, and performers, (2) active field work on the
part of faculty and graduate students to audio and video-tape formal
and popular performances, and (3) the acquisition of copies of exist-
ing audio tapes and records, video tapes, CDs, CD-ROMs, etc., of per-
formance of creative Caribbean expression. A small performance space
and an interactive archive of audio and video materials and biblio-
graphical holdings will be developed to host guest performers and
graduate student, faculty, and visiting scholars. The annual Caribbean
2000 symposium will act as the forum for performance and literary
and linguistic analysis of it at the same time that it increases audio and
video archival holdings. The combined journal SARGASSO/Caribbean
2000 will provide additional opportunities for the publication of re-
search in Caribbean performance and literature.
Audio as well as video and digital camera recording are essential to
the documentation research process. Furthermore, their use as re-
search tools solidifies the relationship between previously unrelated
UPR-Rio Piedras facilities: the Language Resource Center (audio), the
Video Screening Room, and the Richardson Seminar Room -(perform-
ance space and archive) of the Department of English, the virtual class-
room developed by the Caribbean Resource Center (College of Social
Sciences), and the video projection facilities and video library of the
School of Public Communications.
The third annual symposium of Caribbean 2000, "A Gathering of Play-
ers and Poets: Voice and Performance in Caribbean Culture(s)," March
3-5, 1998, included performances by the Shakespeare Carnival Mas'
Players from the island of Carriacou, a Forum on Caribbean Women,
two poetry readings, the original play "Pepin y Rosita" by the Agua,
Sol y Sereno theater collective, a toque de bomba (bomba drumming,
song, and dance) by the Agileybanti bomba group, and twenty academic
papers related to issues of culture, cultural expression and production,
performance as art form and as a way of life, and the relation of perform-
ance and poetic voice in Caribbean spaces. This volume collects as many
of the papers as possible. It is an impressive group that includes work
by Helen Safa, Edward Baugh, Peter Roberts, and Angel Quintero Rivera,
to name only a few of the more established contributors. Yet other as-
pects of the symposium -and especially performance itself-- are more
difficult to record and require additional description.
a. the Shakespeare mas' players of Carriacou
George "Wim" Andrew, Vibert Douglas, Roger Allort, Alfred Boat-
swain, and Christopher Jones are working men on the Grenadine is-
land of Carriacou, a territorial extension of, and accessible by three-
hour boat ride or air from, the island republic of Grenada. Yet every
year during Carriacou's pre-Lenten carnival they distinguish themselves
from their cohorts by donning the elaborate dress, cape, headdress,
and wire-screen mask (see front cover) and brushing up on speeches
from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to "play mas"' in the towns and on
the roads of Carriacou. Based on a call and response format, the play-
ers challenge each other to recite the speeches in creole English, and
mistakes are punished by robust beating to the back of the head and
shoulders -the reason for the headdress and cape- with the taped wire
whip carried for that purpose by each player. The brilliance of the cos-
tumes, the vitality of engagement, retreat, confrontation, beating, et
cetera, and the overall plasticity of form as an audience forms around
pairs of sparring reciters makes this performance, with roots in the
nineteenth (or earlier) century, a model of syncretic AfroCaribbean
The Shakespeare mas' players arrived for the symposium through
the tireless efforts of Joan McMurray and Joan Fayer, colleagues at the
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, who have documented
and studied the Carriacou performances over the past six years. The
performance and demonstrations at the symposium represented one
of the first times the Shakespeare mas' had been performed outside of
Carriacou. Among several other publications, Joan Fayer and Joan
McMurray, "Shakespeare in Carriacou," Caribbean Studies (27: 3-4, July-
December 1994): 242-54, provides substantial background information
on the performances in Carriacou. Also see Antonio Benitez Rojo, The
Repeating Island: Thle Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective, 2nd
ed. (Durham and London: Duke UP, 1996): 307-11, for reference to the
Carriacou players and the work of McMurray and Fayer in the broader
context of Caribbean carnival performance.
b. forum on Caribbean women
Organized by University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras colleagues Nalini
Natarajan and Maria Soledad Rodriguez, the one-day forum featured
sociologist Helen Safa (University of Florida), historian Jean Stubbs
(Caribbean 2000 fellow, University of North London), art historian
Judith Bettelheim (San Francisco State University), and poet and lin-
guist Velma Pollard (Caribbean 2000 fellow, University of the West
Indies, Mona, Jamaica) in a provocative morning session that moved
from the social and economic conditions of contemporary Caribbean
women to cultural production and strategies of resistance through
performance. The afternoon session focused on local participation:
sociologist Maria Barcel6 Miller (Sacred Heart University) and histo-
rian Barbara Southard, poet Mayra Santos, and literary and dance critic
Susan Homar (University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras). Titled "Re-invent-
ing the role of women in the colonies," the comparative analysis of
colonial status and women's roles brought an energetic impromptu
response from audience members and served to reopen debates on
women and cultural production in Puerto Rico. Helen Safa's keynote
essay "Gender, Households, and Economic Crisis in the Caribbean" is
included in this volume.
c. "No Speeches" and other happenings
The opening session of "A Gathering of Players and Poets: Voice and
Performance in Caribbean Culture(s)" attempted to circumvent the
usual protocol of welcoming addresses by mildly interested dignitar-
ies by only allowing performance: poetry, theater, and music/dance.
The bilingual Spanish/English poetry reading -poets reading their origi-
nal verse followed by translations read by others- included five distin-
guished Caribbean poets: Edward Baugh and Velma Pollard (Jamaica),
Pedro Pi~rez Sarduy (Cuba), and Mayra Santos and Rafael Acevedo
(Puerto Rico). This interstitching of Spanish and English verse is, I
believe, unique in the annals of Caribbean poetry and performance.
The production of "Pepin y Rosita," a collaborative work by the theater
collective Agua, Sol y Sereno under the direction of Pedro Adorno,
brought the sense of a new theatrical project based on original crea-
tion and community-based audiences and themes. Pepin y Rosita, like
their North American equivalents Dick and Jane, were for decades the
standard characters of grade school readers in Puerto Rico. Agua, Sol
y Serene contributed a comparsa -an Hispanic form of "playing mas"'-
later in the symposium as well.
"No Speeches" ended with a toque de bomba -inspired AfroPuerto
Rican drumming, song, and dance- by the Agileybanti group. This final
section of the opening was organized by Caribbean 2000 fellow Hal-
bert Barton, who also performed on drums and danced with the group.
After the "formal" performance, which brought the audience to its feet
on several occasions, the drums were moved to the patio outside the
School of Education Amphitheater and music and dance -now with
full audience participation- continued through the reception. Barton's
essay on new approaches to bomba and AfroPuerto Rican culture ap-
pears in this volume.
The other significant performance event was the "open" poetry read-
ing that closed the symposium. Of the "No Speeches" poets, only Rafael
Acevedo could not return to participate in the final reading in which
Baugh, Pollard, Santos, and Pi~rez Sarduy were joined by a remarkable
array of local poets, singers, and musicians. Guitarist and singer Juan
Carlos Canals opened the session with songs by Silvio Rodriguez and
then interspersed the readings with other songs by Silvio and by Roy
Brown (based on poems by Juan Antonio Corretjer). Elidio La Torre
Lagares, guitar in hand, sang his poems in Spanish and English. There
was also a striking participation by culturally-committed rappers Pablo
Ferrer and Welmo Romero. In general, however, the remarkable nature
of the event came from the easy mixture of poetry in Spanish and Eng-
lish and the diversity and depth of the poets who read. From the for-
mal verse of Richard Weinraub (in English) to the deceptively playful
lyricism of Janette Becerra (in Spanish) to the rough-hewed tones of
street-wise Spanglish in poems by Luis Pomales to the passionate in-
spiration of Marzo Sil~n (in English and Spanish), newer voices joined
more established ones in a performance that lost touch with a sense of
time. We began at 4:00 p.m., sent out for sandwiches at 6:00 p.m., and
another activity finally forced us to leave the lecture room shortly af-
ter 7:00 p.m. Mayra Santos brought the evening -and the symposium-
to a brilliant point of closure by reading from her forthcoming novel,
"Sirena Silena vestida de pena". Perhaps more than any other aspects
of the 1998 symposium, this "open" reading and intertwining of po-
ems, songs, and prose in English and Spanish that did not want to end
of its own accord provided the strongest sense of the vibrancy of voice
and performance in Caribbean cultures) and signaled what the future
of Caribbean 2000 as a project of research and documentation of per-
formance and literature would be. Poems from the opening and the
closing readings are included here.
d. and the essays .. .
The essays as listed in the table of contents speak for themselves
and require very little additional comment. Other papers read during
the symposium are not available here because of previous commit-
ments to publication elsewhere. This was the case with Jean Stubbs'
work on transCaribbean gender issues, Judith Bettelheim's talks on
women, resistance, and Afro-Amerindian performance, and Humberto
Garcia's discussion of Garveyism in the Dominican Republic. We hope
to be able to print Mervyn Alleyne's preliminary exploration on nota-
tion and classification of Jamaican dance at a later date. The technical
difficulties in recording the interactive nature of many of the presenta-
tions of the Women's Forum has made publication impossible.
The essays of the 1998 symposium require an organization different
from the strict alphabetical ordering that characterized the two previ-
ous Caribbean 2000 volumes. The section titled "Voice and Perform-
ance in Caribbean Society, Culture, and Art" includes keynote essays
by Helen Safa (already noted above) on gender issues and Caribbean
14 LOWELL FIET
society and Edward Baugh (University of the West Indies, Mona, Ja-
maica) on the interrelation of poetry and performance. Peter Robert's
(University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados) analysis of the
changing meaning of jibaros (the word for Puerto Rican peasants),
Catherine Den Tandt's (University of Alberta, Edmonton) exploration
of Caribbean cultural crisis and the political isolation of Cuba, and June
Bobb's (Queens College, CUNY) reflection on "poetic space" in the
poetry of Lorna Goodison are included in this section as well.
The section "Cultural Expression and Popular Performance" begins
with Angel Quintero Rivera's (University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras)
keynote essay on transformative aspects of the poetics of salsa across
three generations of salseros. The section also includes Hal Barton's
(Long Island University) innovative study of the socio-esthetics of
bomba, Brenda Berrian's (University of Pittsburgh) analysis of the mass
appeal of zouk music in the Francophone Caribbean and in France,
and Felipe Smith's (Tulane University) evaluation of the role of King
Zulu in Black New Orleans Carnival.
The third section takes its title from the panel discussion "Perform-
ance y el teatro puertorriqueito" from which three of the four essays
derive. Nelson Rivera's (University of Puerto Rico-Humacao) contest-
ing of "alternative theater" and celebration of marginal performance
forms, Lowell Fiet's (University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras) "re-imaging"
of popular Puerto Rican theater, and Lydia Plat6n's (Sacred Heart Uni-
versity) revision of recent creative junctures of theater, movement, and
dance retain their original format and style as talks. Martin Duncan's
(University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras) essay is a more formal work on
recent Nuyorican theater principally written and performed in Eng-
lish. However, taken altogether they represent one of the most incisive
groups of critical statements on issues of the contemporary Puerto
Rican theater to appear in the past decade.
The final "Poetry" section is divided into "first night" and "second night"
readings and records the creativity and artistry of all the poets who
read during the symposium.
There is little doubt in my mind that A Gathering of Players and Po-
ets: V/oice and Performance in Caribbean Culture(s) is the most impres-
sive and substantial volume in the Caribbean 2000 series. For that, I
want to thank all those who participated by performing or presenting
papers, by working on the organization of the event, and/or by attend-
inig the sessions. My co-editor and administrative assistant, Janette
Becerra, cannot be thanked enough for her contribution to this and
previous Caribbean 2000 symposia and volumes. Graduate assistants
AN INTRODUCTION 15
Salinda Lewis, Anamari Irizarry, Sheila Berm~dez, Natalia Gonz~lez, and
Javier Enrique Avila also deserve special mention for their constant
efforts before, during, and after the 1998 symposium. As always, Maria
Cristina Rodriguez provided endless personal and professional sup-
port. Finally, the projects proposed and carried out by Caribbean 2000
would not be possible without the interest and support of Dr. Norman
1. Maldonado, the President of the University of Puerto Rico, and the
continuing counsel and commitment to the project of Tombs Ybarra
Frausto and Lynn Szwaja of the Arts and Humanities division of the
VOICE AND PERFORMANCE
IN SOCIETY, CULTURE, AND ART
Female-Headed Households in the
Caribbean and the Diaspora:
Sign of Pathology or Alternative
Form of Family Organization
Helen I. Safa*
he rapid increase in female-heads of household worldwide has
led to widespread concern among policymakers as well as schol-
Tars regarding the factors responsible for this phenomenon.
(Bruce 1994, Buvinic and Gupta 1995, Chant 1997). This concern is par-
ticularly intense in advanced industrial countries such as the U.S., where
female-headed households are attacked as the primary symbol of the
welfare state and a key factor in the formation of a permanent
underclass (Abramovitz 1988). Female-headed households, and par-
ticularly single mothers, are seen as examples of family disorganiza-
tion and a breakdown of family values, and held responsible for rising
rates of divorce, juvenile delinquency and crime. While attacks on fe-
male-headed households are not as strong in Latin America or the Car-
ibbean, policymakers there are also alarmed at their increase and see
them as a deviant form of family organization (e.g. Katzman 1992).
But are female heads of household pathological or can they be seen
as an alternative form of family organization? This essay will address
this question, drawing on my own research in the Caribbean and com-
paring this with other research on female heads of household. The
negative view of female-headed households is partly conceptual in that
our Eurocentric emphasis on the nuclear family as the norm and the
embodiment of modernity and progress leads us to view female-headed
households as pathological, primarily because of the rupture of the
Center for Latmn American7 Studies. Uruversity of Florida and Rockefeller Hu-
mianities Scholar, C'UNY Dominican Studies Institute
20 HELEN i. SAFA
conjugal bond. The assumption is that the family is centered on mar-
riage or the conjugal bond, while I argue that in many urban low-in-
come households, particularly in the Caribbean, conjugal bonds are
weak and unstable in comparison to consanguineal relationships be-
tween a mother, her children, and her female kin. Even in male-headed
households, the strongest bond is often between mother and child and
female kin, rather than the conjugal tie which is emphasized in the
nuclear family. The conjugal bond has been weakened through con-
sensual unions, which are often more unstable than legal marriage,
migration, and now a deterioration of the man's ability to fulfill his
role as economic provider.
In a recent book entitled The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women
and Industrialization in the Caribbean, comparing women industrial
workers in the Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, I show
that profound changes in the gender composition of the labor force
have contributed to changes in family structure and authority patterns,
as women increase their economic role in the household and male
employment declines or deteriorates. I argue that when women have
to substitute for men as principal breadwinners, it often leads to fam-
ily conflict and marital breakdown, contributing to the rising percent-
age of female heads of household in each of these countries. Close to
one-third of the households are now headed by women in Cuba and
the Dominican Republic, while in Puerto Rico they constitute 23 per-
cent. Deterioration in male employment has been severe in Puerto Rico
and the Dominican Republic, due to economic crisis and the move-
ment away from a sugar economy based on male employment to a
service economy which employs more women. Female labor force par-
ticipation increased in each country, in part because of the deteriora-
tion in male employment, while in Cuba socialist redistributive meas-
ures also made it easier for women to head families on their own. Trans-
fer payments such as social security and particularly AFDC may also
have contributed to the increase in female-headed households in Puerto
Rico, and appears to have altered the form which female-headed house-
holds take, as we shall see later in this essay.
While female-headed households are often seen simply as responses
to economic crisis, I argue that they are alternative forms of family or-
ganization with their own legitimacy. Historical analysis suggests that fe-
male-headed households may be an older pattern of family organization
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA
in Latin America and the Caribbean, which re-emerges at times of eco-
nomic crisis. Though the Spanish colonial legal system of patria potestad
granted men wide powers over their wives and children, it was always
more weakly applied to the rural and urban poor (Dore 1997). Spanish
and Portuguese legal systems and custom in the West Indies sanctioned
a dual marriage system, whereby legal marriages were confined to class
and racial equals, whereas unions between unequals were relegated to
concubinage or consensual unions (R. T. Smith 1996). It is difficult to
know whether the elite stigma for consensual unions is due to their
association with blacks and the poor, or whether this reflected a more
widespread concern with patriarchal control over female sexuality, to
which consensual unions clearly posed a challenge. Consensual inter-
racial unions most often were between a man of lighter skin and higher
status and a low status woman of color, whose position and offspring
were legally and socially subordinate to that of his legal wife. Inter-
racial marriages in Brazil were not encouraged by the church (Nazzari
1996), while in Cuba they required special approval from the state and
were later barred (Martinez Alier 1974). Martinez Alier demonstrates
that nineteenth century endogamous marriage codes in Cuba were a
way of maintaining racial and class superiority, serving to distinguish
colonizer from colonized, much as Stoler (1989) has shown for colo-
nial rule in Southeast Asia. However, the high percentage of consen-
sual inter-racial unions in many Latin American and Caribbean coun-
tries and the mechanisms devised to incorporate their mulatto offspring
into the dominant white society suggest that the barriers between
colonizer and colonized were not as great as in other colonial areas.
Studies of the urban slave population in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for
example, show a marked increase in mestizaj e or inter-racial marriage
in the nineteenth century, especially among black women (Mayo
Santana, Negr6n Portillo, Mayo Ldpez 1997: 123).
The prevalence of female heads of household among black
populations in the Afro-American areas of the Caribbean and Brazil
has led some to argue this is a historical or cultural pattern, stemming
from slavery and the African heritage. There is no question that slay-
ery greatly weakened the conjugal bond, by discouraging or in some
cases prohibiting marriage between slaves, who were often sold sepa-
rately, although the mother-child unit was usually left intact. However,
Higman (1978) has shown that in some areas of the Anglophone Car-
ibbean nuclear families actually predominated among first-genera-
tion African slaves, and female-headed households became more im-
portant among creole slaves born in the New World, diminishing the
HELEN I. SAFA
likelihood of African roots. Creole female-headed households were of-
ten the products of consensual or visiting unions between white men
and slaves and free colored women, many of whom earned their living
as urban domestics or artisans. These inter-racial consensual unions
can be seen as forming the basis for the creation of a free colored group
in the Americas, which was to play a pivotal leadership role in the
Afro-American community, especially after abolition and in the post-
colonial period. The size of the free colored group also varied between
regions, and was much more important in Puerto Rico and the other
islands of the Hispanic Caribbean than in the Anglophone Caribbean,
where interracial unions were severely restricted.
The importance of consensual unions among the free colored
(Kuznesof 1991) may also help to explain the lack of stigma of consen-
sual unions and female-headed households among the rural and urban
black poor in the Caribbean today, where they are still the predomi-
nant mating form, particularly in the Anglophone Caribbean.
The nuclear family remains the norm, however, and among the brown
elite, legal marriage came to be seen as the mark of middle class status.
Hall (1995) demonstrates how 19th century post-emancipation Baptist
missionaries in Jamaica attempted to recreate free black villagers in their
own image, including inculcating European norms of legal marriage and
the nuclear family, which retain a powerful ideological influence on the
brown middle class to this day. It was only under Manley in 1972 that
Jamaica recognized the right to inheritance of women in consensual
unions and their children, and in some islands of the Anglophone Car-
ibbean, they still have no legal status. Here we see how the hegemony
of the nuclear family became the legal norm, though the majority of
the population lived in consensual unions, since for the poor, status
considerations and property inheritance had little validity.
In Puerto Rico, the state played a more direct role in fostering legal
marriage and divorce. As part of its modernization effort after occupa-
tion of Puerto Rico in 1898, the U.S. promoted a new Civil Code which
broadened the legalization of all civil marriages and also granted the
right to divorce of both sexes. U.S. colonial officials were shocked that
only about 50 percent of the marriageable population lived in formal
marriage, and sought to "civilize" the population by making both mar-
riage and divorce more accessible. However, divorce proved more popu-
lar than marriage, particularly for women seeking to rid themselves of
abusive or unfit husbands, chiefly on grounds of lack of financial sup-
port. Then as now, male infidelity or even abuse might be accepted so
long as the man provided for his family (Findlay 1998). Apparently,
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA 23
however, the institutionalization of legal marriage was later reinforced
by limiting access to federal transfer payments to spouses who are
legally married, since today the percentage of consensual unions has
fallen to five percent, while the divorce rate continues to climb. Thus,
U.S. attempts to modernize Puerto Rico and make it a showcase for
imperialism, included adherence to norms of respectability such as
legal marriage and nuclear families set largely by a Eurocentric order.
Great differences in the percentage of consensual unions and female-
headed households continue to exist within different countries in Latin
America, with much lower percentages in heavily Catholic countries
such as Mexico, Colombia and Argentina than in the Hispanic Carib-
bean, where both Catholicism and property rights were weaker (cf.
Gonzillez de la Rocha 1994, Wartenberg 1997, Geldstein 1994). This
suggests that the norm of legal marriage was more widely accepted in
some countries than in others, where large indigenous or black
populations resisted its implementation.
The proportion of female-headed households in the Caribbean contin-
ues to be closely tied to the level of consensual unions, which are more
unstable than legal marriage and are still found mostly in the low-in-
come group. However, consensual unions are now found predominantly
among status equals rather than the inter-class and inter-racial unions
common in the colonial period. The liberalization of divorce in many
Caribbean countries also accounts for a high percentage of female-
headed households, although divorce like legal marriage is more com-
mon in the middle and upper classes. Only in Puerto Rico, where di-
vorce rates have increased dramatically, while consensual unions have
practically been eliminated, has the relationship between consensual
unions and female heads of household been severed.
The impact of the revolution on Cuban marital patterns has been
quite contrary to state policy. The Cuban state tried to promote wom-
en's incorporation into the labor force, through raising educational
levels, increasing job opportunities for women, generous maternity
leaves, and free day care. Female labor force participation increased
rapidly, reaching 40.6 percent in 1993, although there has been some
decline with the economic crisis brought on by the special period
(Catasus 1997: 3). But the Cuban state did not expect women's in-
creased economic autonomy to contribute to marital instability. On
the contrary, the sharing of rights and responsibilities spelled out in
HELEN I. SAFA
the Cuban Family Code clearly envisions a nuclear family and was
meant to stabilize the family by reinforcing more egalitarian marital
relations (Cf. Benglesdorf 1997). However, the percentage of house-
holds headed by women has grown at an alarming rate, from 14 per-
cent in 1953 to 28.1 percent in 1981, to 36 percent in 1995 (Catasus
1997). Part of this can be attributed to a high rate of teenage mothers,
most of whom live in consensual union. Consensual unions have also
increased, particularly among the white population, while more blacks
are getting married (de la Fuente 1995: 147; Catasus 1997), suggesting
a convergence of marital patterns along racial lines. The rate of female
heads of household continues to be higher among black women than
among white or mulatta women, but varies little by educational level,
labor force participation, or even occupation, though professional
women have a somewhat lower rate than other employed women
(Catasus 1997: Table 2). The divorce rate has also increased, from 2.9
per thousand in 1981 to 3.7 per thousand in 1995 (Catasusl977: 7).
Marital dissolution is still more prevalent among blacks, but has in-
creased in all racial groups, and among those younger than 24, racial
differences had disappeared in 1981 (de la Fuente 1995: 146).
Teenage pregnancy as well as the increase in consensual unions and
divorce are principal factors behind the rise in female-headed house-
holds in Cuba. It is quite clear that sexual mores have changed dra-
matically among Cuban youth, though not necessarily in the way Cu-
ban state policy intended. Despite free access to birth control, abor-
tion, and sex education programs, teenage pregnancy has increased
since the revolution, and the age of first union and first pregnancy has
fallen rather than risen, as would be expected with growing educa-
tional and occupational opportunities for women. Nevertheless, the
birthrate continues to fall and is now below replacement levels, be-
cause most women have one or two children early and then stop un-
der age 30, even if they enter successive unions. Before the special
period, the provision of free health care and education as well as in-
creasing educational and occupational opportunities for women made
it easier for women to have children on their own and greatly weak-
ened dependence on a male breadwinner, though men also enjoyed
full employment. As one of our Cuban respondents, a woman textile
worker who raised three small children on her own, remarked: "Ahora
actualmente, cualquier mujer, para mi, cualquier mujer cria un hijo
sola, porque hay much trabajo, hay miks facilidades para la mujer"
(Now, any woman, for me any woman raises a child alone, because
there are a lot of jobs, there are more facilities for women). Though the
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA
special period has curtailed many of these benefits, the rate of female-
headed households continues to rise.
A recent study in central Havana by the Centro de Antropologia notes
that inter-racial unions among the young have also increased, and now
more often take the form of unions between black or mulatto men with
white women (Rodriguez Ruiz et al 1994). However, racial endogamy
at the time of the 1981 census remained high, especially among whites,
93 percent of whom marry someone of the same race, while the corre-
sponding figures for blacks and mulattos are close to 70 percent (Reca
et al. 1990: 50-51). Despite the clear educational and occupational gains
made by Afro-Cubans during the revolution, parental disapproval of
inter-racial marriage remains strong, reflecting deep racial prejudices
which have surfaced again during the special period (Fern~ndez 1996).
The extended family is essential to the survival of these Cuban female-
headed households, more so now that the support services provided
by the state have been sharply curtailed. In the study of Cuban women
textile workers we conducted in the 1980's, over half of the female-
headed households consist of three generations and are composed
both of younger single mothers living with their parents and older un-
married women living with children and grandchildren. Older women
provide important support to young working mothers in terms of child
care and other domestic duties, but also maintain these women in a
subordinate position in the household. Young single mothers gener-
ally pay a fixed sum to the head of household for rent and food, and
maintain their own budget for clothing and other personal expenses
of their own and their children. The housing shortage has also con-
tributed to the high percentage of extended families in Cuba, which
reached 32.5 percent in 1981. Female-headed households receive no
preference in housing or special payments from the state, as in the
United States or Puerto Rico, although they have some priority in em-
ployment. Given the alarming increase in female-headed households,
it could be argued that the Cub'an state did not want to encourage
their formation through additional support.
No state support for female-headed households exists in the Do-
minican Republic, yet the percentage has increased from 21.7 percent
in 1981 to 29.1 percent in 1991 (Duarte and Tejada 1995: 47). Female
heads have a higher labor force participation rate than married or even
single women, and this rate has increased rapidly for all women since
1960, standing at 38 percent in 1990 (B~ez 1991). Here again the ex-
tended family plays a critical role, although in some cases women work-
ing in the free trade zone leave their children with their parents in the
HELEN I. SAFA
rural area (Safa 1995). Women whose marriages fail seemr to have no
difficulty moving back with their parents) or other relatives, despite
very crowded living conditions. Gladys, for example, a 25 year old
Dominican woman working in a free trade zone, shares a bedroom with
her sister and 9 month old boy. She contributes 100 Dominican pesos
(about $6) a week to the household expenses, and pays another 150
pesos to a woman who looks after her child, since her mother is also
working as a domestic in the city and only returns home on weekends.
Two of her sisters also work in the free trade zone, while the youngest
of 14 stays home to prepare their midday meal and studies in the after-
noon. All members of the household contribute to a fund for a new
house which Gladys' father is building behind their present home. Here
we see clearly how extended families allow for the incorporation of
additional wage earners in the household, and provide critical sup-
port to female-headed households.
The household composition of female heads of household, whether
living alone or in extended families, plays a fundamental role in deter-
mining the standard of living of these households, regardless of the
absence of a male breadwinner. An analysis I conducted with the
Institute de Estudios de Poblaci6n y Desarrollo (IEPD) (Institute of
Population and Development Studies) in the Dominican Republic of
the 1991 national level Demographic and Health found that though fe-
male heads of household earn less than male heads and have a much
higher rate of unemployment, their total family incomes are nearly equal
(Duarte and Tejada 1995: 80-81). Apparently female heads of house-
hold are able to raise their income through the contributions of other
family members, particularly subheads, since over half (53 percent) of
households headed by women are extended compared to only 35 per-
cent of male-headed households. Extended households in the Domini-
can Republic represented 40 percent of all households surveyed in
1991, and are even more prevalent in urban than in rural areas.
Many young, single mothers like Gladys living as subfamilies in ex-
tended households go undetected in the census, because they are
counted as part of the extended family in which they live, which in
Gladys' case is headed by her father. Like Gladys, nearly three fourths
of these subheads are daughters of the head of household and over
half have only one child. Duarte and Tejada (1995: 67) have calculated
on the basis of the DHS survey that one in ten families in the Domini-
can Republic contain these "invisible" female heads, which would in-
crease the national percentage of female-headed households from 29.5
percent to 37.3 percent. Further analysis of the DHS survey reveals
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA
that in comparison to female heads, sub-heads are younger (85 per-
cent are under 35), which helps explain why they have higher educa-
tional levels and higher labor force participation. Because many are in
higher occupational levels, their earnings compare favorably with male
heads of households and are considerably higher than female heads
of household or wives (Duarte and Tejada 1995:81). The individual in-
comes of subheads is particularly high in female-headed households,
in which their contribution would appear to be critical, but all house-
holds with subheads, regardless of headship, have higher incomes than
nuclear or even simply extended families (Ibid: 86).
Part of the reason for the superior socioeconomic position of house-
holds with subheads is that they are found in even greater proportion
among middle- and high-income groups than among the poor (Ibid:
90). It must be pointed out that the DHS survey is a nationally repre-
sentative survey of all Dominican households, and not just the poor.
This suggests that the incorporation of subheads or other additional
wage earners is a strategy used not just by the poor, but by the middle
class to combat the economic crisis and the high cost of living.
Our ethnographic research among Dominican free trade zone work-
ers shows that female heads of household often resist marriage or re-
marriage and prefer to support themselves if they cannot find a good
provider. Maria has a six year old daughter with a married man who left
for the U.S. when the little girl was two months old and has never sup-
ported the child, except for 500 pesos he gave Maria on a return visit.
But she earns a good salary as a supervisor in a free trade zone and lives
comfortably with a refrigerator, stove, television and radio, in the three
room apartment she rents from her father, who lives next door. She
refuses to live with a man who could not offer financial support: "I won't
accept anyone to live with me, he has to buy something. So I know many
women that make life very easy (for them). There are many women who
go out to work and the man stays resting... If all the women were as
demanding as before, as were our mothers that the man had the re-
sponsibility for the house... then things would be different."
It is difficult to know whether men have become more irresponsi-
ble, as Maria suggests, or whether women's expectations of men have
increased, and they are no longer willing to accept male abuse and
domination. It is clear that as a result of improved economic autonomy
women increasingly take the initiative in breaking relationships that
are unsatisfactory, whereas previously female heads of household were
often the result of male abandonment. One of our older Puerto Rican
respondents, Evarista, is 59 and raised five children on her own after
28 HELEN I. SAFA
her husband left her for another woman 30 years ago. Although she
received some public welfare when the children were young, she also
has worked for years in a garment factory, and her sister and mother
watched the children. Evarista's mother moved in with her and contin-
ued to live with her until she died a few years ago. Here we see evi-
dence of the strong mother-daughter tie common in Puerto Rican work-
ing class families, which are especially critical in female-headed house-
holds. Like Dominican women, two-thirds of the female heads of house-
hold in our Puerto Rican sample say they would prefer not to remarry
(Safa 1995: 83). As Evarista explains: "Porque qlue yo coja un hombre y
que yo tenga qlue, qlue mantener ese hombre, pasar malos rats y
maltrato, pues me quedo sola veinte mil veces. Me encuentro mejor
sola porque asi sola yo tiro pa' donde quiera y no tengo qlue estarle
pidiendo." (Why should I take a man and have to maintain him, have a
hard time and suffer abuse, well I am twenty thousand times better off
alone. I feel better alone because alone I take off for where I please and
don't have to be asking").
However, Puerto Rican female heads of household differ in certain
important respects from the profile of Cuban and Dominican female
heads outlined above. The percentage of Puerto Rican female heads of
household is much lower, reaching only 23 percent in 1990, despite a
high divorce rate. Their poverty rate is also very high, with 70 percent
falling below the poverty line in 1990 (Col6n 1997: 160). The absence
of extended families and lack of support from additional wage earners
appears to be one reason. Many female heads live alone, and like
Evarista, depend entirely on their wages for support. Older women
like Evarista can manage on these low incomes, especially if they own
their own home. But women with young children, even if they are work-
ing, must seek additional forms of support, which in our sample con-
sists primarily of food stamps. Both male-and female-headed house-
holds, especially in the rural area, also rely on networks of mutual aid
among relatives and neighbors, who generally do not live in the same
house (Safa 1995: 81). None of the female heads of household report
receiving any support from their former husbands.
However, the principal reason such a high percentage of Puerto Rican
female heads of household fall below the poverty line is that their labor
force participation rate is much lower than in Cuba or the Dominican
Republic. Only a third of Puerto Rican female heads of household
were employed between 1969 and 1989, and for those below the
poverty line, the figure is even lower, or 24 percent. In 1989, 45 percent
of female-headed household had no one employed in the household,
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA
compared to 22 percent of male-headed households (Col6n 1997: 160).
Some of these women may be earning income in the informal economy,
which goes unreported in the census. But most of these female-headed
households with no one employed depend on public welfare, which in
1989 covered nearly half of these households, and 61 percent of those
below the poverty line. The average income of families where no one
is employed was only $4,093 in 1989 (Col6n 1997: 162-3).
Though unemployment is also high in Puerto Rico, it would appear
that public welfare has dampened formal female labor force participa-
tion. Many women on welfare work in the informal sector so that their
welfare allowances will not be cut. Welfare also appears to have an
impact on family structure, encouraging female heads of household to
live alone rather than in extended families as in Cuba and the Domini-
can Republic. A small study of Puerto Rican female heads of house-
hold in 1990 found a considerable difference in household extension
between those employed and unemployed (Burgos and Colberg 1990).
Unemployed women were younger, with lower educational levels and
depended basically on public welfare for an income (Ibid: 14). Only a
fifth had additional relatives living with them compared to 44 percent of
employed female heads of household. These additional relatives pro-
vide additional income as well as child care. In short, public assistance
not only encourages Puerto Rican women to remain unemployed, but
also to live apart from relatives who could provide essential support.
Welfare may also have contributed to a dramatic decrease in con-
sensual unions in Puerto Rico, which now stands only at five percent
compared to the 25 percent figures found in the 1950s in my earlier
research in a shantytown (Safa 1974), or the 50 percent encountered
by U.S. colonial officials earlier in the century. Initial attempts by U.S.
colonial officials to institutionalize legal marriage were reinforced by
U.S. federal provisions which limited access to public welfare, as well as
other transfer payments such as social security or veterans benefits, to
legally married couples. Here we see again how legal marriage and the
nuclear family formed an essential part of the U.S. civilizing and colonial
project, and were designed to counter earlier forms of family structure
based on consanguineal ties rather than the conjugal bond.
Migration to the U.S.
Migration is another demographic factor that helps explain the forma-
tion of female-headed households, both in the Caribbean and in the
United States, where many Caribbean migrants now live. Earlier forms
HELEN 1. SAFA
of migration starting in the 19th century within the Caribbean were
largely male dominated, such as the migration of male laborers from
Jamaica and other West Indian islands to Panama, Cuba and the Do-
minican Republic, which helps account for the large percentage of fe-
male-headed households found in the Anglophone Caribbean today.
Initial mass waves of migration from Puerto Rico and the Dominican
Republic to the U.S. were also male dominated, but today, whole fami-
lies are migrating and women often outnumber men and take the ini-
tiative in migration. Still remittances now constitute the second most
important source of foreign exchange in the Dominican Republic, and
are often sent by men to women and their families left behind. While
ethnographic sources emphasize its importance in earlier stages, it
would appear that the impact of outmigration on the formation of fe-
male-headed households in the Caribbean is diminishing.
More important is the increasing number of female-headed house-
holds among Hispanic Caribbean migrants to the U.S., and specifically
New York City. In the Dominican community, for example, the percent-
age of househ-olds headed by women in New York City has grown nearly
ten percent since 1990 to 49.3 percent in 1996 (Hern~ndez and Rivera-
Batiz 199'7: 39). This increase appears to be due to the same factors of
economic restructuring and decline that precipitated their increase in
the Caribbean. Although New York City exhibited solid economic
growth during the second half of the 1980s, the manufacturing sector
and specifically the garment industry, which traditionally offered jobs
to unskilled, non-English speaking migrants, continued to decline. A
recession beginning in 1989 and lasting until 1993 resulted in the loss
of hundreds of thousands of jobs, with particularly negative effects on
Africani Americans and Hispanics. Unemployment among Dominicans
in New York City climbed in 1996 to 18 percent, the highest of all racial
and ethnic groups, while their earnings are the lowest of all groups
(!bid: 43-48). Ear-nings decreased much more precipitously for men than
for women (18 percent vs. 6.6 percent), suggesting that the economic
decline of the 1990s has had a particularly devastating effect on men.
Women may have used welfare to bolster their loss in earnings, since
'9 percent of Domninican households received public assistance in 1990.
As a result, Dominicans in New York City in 1996 had a poverty rate of
45.7 percent, the highest of all racial and ethnic groups. Poverty is a
result of the~ deteriorating employment situation combined with demo-
graphlic feat ures of the Dominican community which heighten their dis-
advantages in? i ne labor market. Dominicans suffer from low educational
le-vels, poor English language proficiency, and a large percentage of
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA 3
recently arrived immigrants (Hernandez and Rivera Batiz 1997). Re-
cent welfare reforms under the Personal Responsibility and Work Op-
portunity Act of 1996 sharply curtail access to welfare benefits by all
recipients, including legal immigrants, in an effort to force welfare
mothers back to work, and may increase poverty levels even further.
The importance of household extension also applies to migrant
groups, as Angel and Tienda (1982) have shown. A study of household
extension in New York City shows that the presence of other adults in
the household boosts the labor force participation rates of Dominican
mothers, including single mothers, in New York City in 1991 from 40
percent to 61 percent (Rosenbaum and Gilbertson 1995: 246). Their
findings are similar but not so dramatic in the Puerto Rican commu-
nity, where female labor force participation increased from 37 to 43
percent as a result of household extension. However, the 1980s saw a
marked increase in household extension among Puerto Rican female
heads of household to live in multigenerational households. The per-
centage of female heads of household living alone with their children
actually declined ten percent during the decade, but those living in
extended families increased 81 percent, resulting in a marginal increase
from 33 to 35 percent in the total number of female-headed families
during the 1980-90 decade (Dept. of City Planning 1994: 26). The study
notes that the new tendency to form subfamilies is accentuated among
Puerto Ricans, where it grew 182 percent, but extends to all families in
New York City, apparently pressed by an acute housing shortage.
As we found in the Dominican Republic, household extension has
an important impact on income. In the 1980s, female-headed families
living alone with their children experienced a decline in income in com-
parison to a 15 percent increase for multigenerational households.
Public assistance levels were high in both cases (58 and 54 percent
respectively), but extended households had a higher percentage with
earnings (lbid: 54-55).
This study notes that in 1990 for the first time, a majority of Puerto
Ricans living in the U.S. were also born there (lbid: 17), but it does not
explore generational differences in household structure and income.
One-third of the Dominican population has now been born in the U.S.
and their poverty rates are even higher than among recent migrants,
particularly among female heads of household (Grasmuck and Pessar
1996). At the same time, Dominican female heads of household are
concentrated in New York City, which suggests that upwardly mobile,
two-parent families may be leaving the city, while the poor, and espe-
cially female heads of household, remain behind. (cf. Safa 1981) It would
HELEN I. SAFA
be important to explore these generational differences in the forma-
tion of female-headed households among Hispanic migrants in New
Migration is also a response to deteriorating socioeconomic conditions
at home, which I see as the main factor behind the increase in female-
headed households. Both in the Caribbean and in the U.S., economic
crisis and poverty has forced more women into the labor force to com-
pensate for the declining ability of men to be the sole breadwinner. If
women replace men in their economic role, marital conflict often en-
sues, leading in some cases to the formation of female-headed house-
holds. Cultural factors such as the prevalence of consensual unions,
the fragility of the conjugal bond, and the strength of consanguineal
relationships facilitate the formation of female-headed households in
the Hispanic Caribbean. The recent increase in Puerto Rican female-
headed households living in extended multigenerational households
in New York City suggests that some consanguineal ties have been re-
tained in the migrant community. The increase in female-headed house-
holds in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, where no public support
for them exists, suggests that the role of public welfare in the forma-
tion of female heads of household has been exaggerated. Welfare may
dampen labor force participation among single mothers with young
children, but it also enables them to live independently rather than
being submerged in extended families as in Cuba and in the Dominican
Republic. The increase in female-headed households both in Puerto
Rico and among Puerto Rican and Dominican migrants in New York
City may be due partly to their increased visibility in the census, as
they establish households of their own rather than live in extended
households. As Garfinkel and McLanahan's (1986) study of single moth-
ers in the U.S. points out, the percentage of female-headed households
may not have increased as much as their ability to live independently
I would argue, however, that living independently also increases the
vulnerability of female-headed households by depriving them of the
economic and social support of the extended household. Our Carib-
bean data show that female heads of household are better off economi-
cally if they share household expenses with relatives who provide ad-
ditional sources of income or child care than living alone. In the U.S. as
well, the presence of other adults in the household has been shown to
FEMALE-HEADED HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND THE DIASPORA i
boost the labor force participation rate of Dominican and Puerto Rican
single mothers in New York City (Rosenbaum and Gilbertson 1995: 246).
The effect of extended households on the emotional well-being of young
mothers and their children remains to be researched, but my experi-
ence in the Caribbean suggests it is positive. Consanguineal ties may
compensate for the loss of a husband-father and may reflect a much
older pattern of family organization that is reinforced at times of eco-
nomic crisis. Studies in other areas of Latin America (Gonz~lez de la
Rocha 1997, Wartenberg 1997) as well as a worldwide survey of woman-
headed households by Chant (1997) confirm the importance of ex-
tended families as a way female-headed households cope with the loss
of income of a male partner.
These findings suggest that female-headed households should be
seen as an alternate form of family organization and are not necessarily
pathological, as the popular literature suggests. One apparent key to
their ability to function adequately is the maintenance of consanguineal
ties either through extended households or other forms of mutual aid,
which provide economic and emotional support to female-headed house-
holds. Policy provisions which facilitate household extension may be
more supportive for low-income families under stress than urging fe-
male-headed households to live alone and weaken these ties.
34 HELEN I. SAFA
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Policy from Colonial Times to the Present. Boston: South End Press.
Angel, R. and Tienda M. 1982. "Determinants of extended household
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B~ez, Clara. 1991. Mujer y Desarrollo en la Repdiblica Dominicana: 1981-
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Poem, Reading, Performance
These reflections on the relationship between poetry and per-
formance have been gathering, adjusting and readjusting them-
Tselves over the last twenty-five years, as we have witnessed the
phenomenal rise of what is called performance poetry. This form, which
is perhaps more accurately seen as a set of variable forms, has been
foregrounded by the most striking and influential of its variations in
the Anglophone Caribbean, namely dub poetry. But performance po-
etry reaches back to include a poet like Louise Bennett, who flour-
ished, although not properly recognized, before the label "perform-
ance poetry" came to add "legitimacy" to her work. It reaches out-
wards to include the storytelling mode of a Paul Keens-Douglas, and
the lyrics of calypsos and reggae songs.
I speak not just as a teacher and critic of literature, who ought to
have a professional, indeed professorial interest in these matters. I
speak more personally, as someone who writes poetry and who reads
it in public often enough, and who gives thought to the reading of po-
etry as being in itself an art, an art which involves the actor's art, which
I have at some time or other included in my "bag of tricks."
Performance poetry of the Anglophone Caribbean and its diasporas,
and, more particularly, dub poetry, have latterly been attracting a grow-
ing body of serious critical attention, especially, for example, from
Mervyn Morris and Gordon Rohlehr, in Carolyn Cooper's Noises in the
Blood (1993), and in Christian Habekost's Verbal Riddim: The Politics and
Aesthetics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry (1993). These critics have
focused variously on the sociology of performance poetry, or on defin-
ing the art of it, on showing how it achieves its special effects, on show-
ing that it is not just raw, untutored "carrying on." Such critical work
*Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies Mona, Jamaica
POEM, READING, PERFORMANCE S
has served in effect to modify a situation to which Habekost has called
attention, the looking-down-the-nose at dub/performance poetry on
the part of the conventional, academic literary-critical establishment.
Even here, though, we must be aware of complications, as in the fact
that, whereas Cooper is one of the academics who promotes the oral/
performance tradition, Habekost associates her, identified pointedly
as "Carolyn Cooper of the University of the West Indies" (Habekost,
76), with the academic "put;-down" of dub, by virtue of her less-than-
enthusiastic response to the work, or at least some of it, of the British
dubbist Benjamin Zephaniah (Habekost, 76-78).
This skirmish raises or represents pervasive, though sometimes
unspoken, issues and questions involved in the reception of perform-
ance poetry. It is true that it is in the nature of "the academy" to be
conservative and to resist having to readjust its criteria to appreciate
new, iconoclastic forms. On the other hand, is there a likelihood that
any academic critic who dares to find fault with any performance poet
will be automatically accused of ulterior motives, of snobbery, of not un-
derstanding the nature of what is being judged? Presumably some dub
poems are better than others as dub poetry, and none, as with any other
kind of poetry, are above criticism. What then are the criteria for choos-
ing between one dub poem and the other, and are these criteria entirely
exclusive of the traditional criteria for evaluating poetry? These ques-
tions widen, as Habekost is aware, into the question "What is poetry?"
This inevitably becomes the question, "What is good poetry?" And then,
who is to decide? Every kind and level of poetic production can presum-
ably claim excellence according to its own criteria. Further, is it that we
should now recognize two distinct, (potentially) equal domains of poetry
- performance poetry and poetry with, for all practical purposes, two
distinct publics, representing deep fissures of class and power in society?
Or may we theorise one seamless estate of poetry that easily accommo-
dates performance poetry and dub and so on? How rigid or how foolproof
are the categorisations? Do Jean Breeze and Lorna Goodison occupy
really different spaces as poets? Goodison would hardly claim to be a
performance poet, let alone a dub poet. Breeze is one of the finest practi-
tioners of that art, male or female. A recent newspaper article on her re-
ported her as saying that "she is content now to be an ambassador of
dub poetry" (Flair Magazine, 23 February 1998, 12). But when I read
her or hear her perform, I am not thinking so much, "What a fine dub
poet!" as "What a fine poet!" Would she think I have done her a dis-
service by not identifying her strictly as dub?
Other questions follow. How certain are the distinctions between
performance and non-performance? When is a reading just a reading
and not a performance? When is the poem not performed? In perform-
ance poetry, is there a necessary integral relationship between text
and performance? Is the oral/performance mode to be contrasted to
its advantage with the scribal mode by virtue of spontaneity, imme-
diacy, "naturalness," political directness and urgency, and wide popu-
lar appeal? Granted the critical imperative of delineating the aesthet-
ics of the oral/performance modes, I find myself no less interested in
following the rich interplay of oral and scribal modes across the po-
But let me be more personal and try to indicate, anecdotally, where
I am coming from, so to speak. Seven years ago, I was invited to take
part in a concert of poetry and music put on by students of one of the
halls of residence on the Mona campus of the University of the West
Indies. Before I went to the concert, I had no idea who the other poets
would be. When I arrived and found out, I was in some anxiety for
myself; not because I knew that the other poets were persons of great
ability and reputation (indeed, I had not heard of any of them before),
but because I realized that they were all dub poets, and that, conse-
quently, with that audience, I was sure to start at a disadvantage. I
came away feeling that the student who had organised the concert
had shown good judgement in putting me on first, because, although I
think I got a warm and not just respectful reception, I would have felt a
little awkward about trying to follow the other acts. Although they were
of uneven quality, or so I judged, they constituted the kind of perform-
ance that most entertained the audience and most elicited a respon-
sive participation from it.
The last poet was the one who, it seemed, the audience had most
come to hear. His name, his stage name, the origin of which I have still
not fathomed, was Durm-L. He was a full-fledged and very gifted dub
poet who proclaimed Mutabaruka as his role model. He came on, in ap-
propriate costume, clutching an exercise book which one assumed to
contain his poems, and saying that he had brought it along just in case
he forgot his lines. Then he put the exercise book on the lectern and
proceeded to move the lectern out of the way, far out of the way, saying
that it reminded him too much of preaching and that he had not come
there to preach. It was all a finely managed piece of theatre, an audi-
ence-winning entrance. What is more, as he effected it, I guiltily thought
that he was looking, with a knowing smile, in my direction, and I felt
that my number was up. For I had used the lectern, as I always do, no
doubt staid, static, professorial. I had leaned on it. I would have felt lost
without it. It had literally been my prop; but then, therein lies a pun, for
POEM, READING, PERFORMANCE
prop also signifies theatre. Anyway, Durm-1 proceeded to use the full
width and depth of the playing area as he recited his poems. It occurred
to me, gasping for air and clutching at a straw of irony, or perhaps it
occurred to me only in retrospect, that preaching is itself theatre.
A further irony about this business of preaching or not preaching
(and perhaps he had knowingly negotiated it), was that much of Durm-
I's poetry, as indeed much dub poetry, is didactic and it seemed to
me that there were some tricks to be learnt from him about how to
preach and yet be entertaining, how to speak straight and slant at the
same time, and how to reach an audience. l am myself, of course, speak-
ing slant through an anecdote such as this, hoping to suggest implica-
tions for the issues I am raising.
Two years later, I was honoured, though again with some sense of
awkwardness, to find myself invited to take part in a presentation enti-
tied "Human Voices: Dub Poets in Concert." What is more, the programme
showed no differentiation of category between the dub poets on the
one hand and me and my colleague-poet Mervyn Morris on the other.
This pleased me. Our names appeared among names such as Mbala,
Cherry Natural, Nabbi Natural, Little Natural, Jackie-Dread, Durm-1, Ras
Haughton and Ras Habbakuk. Mervyn and I fitted in somehow, perhaps
as honorary dub poets, and the community of poetry seemed secure.
Habekost lists some features which are characteristic, and even nor-
mative of (dub) performance. However, if we consider them as defini-
tive, we may want to conclude that the difference between performance
and non-performance poetry is more a matter of degree than strictly of
kind. For instance, Habekost says, "The success of a dub performance
depends ... primarily on the clear articulation of the words, on their dic-
tion and pace, volume and emphasis" (Habekost, 99). But these are pre-
cisely important criteria when I read my poems in public, and I work at
getting them right, even including notations on the script to direct my
delivery. Again, he says, "Apart from the actual recital of the poem in
this, the most basic situation of oral performance [i.e. a capella per-
formance], the poet's relationship with the audience is crucial: a poet
must be able to communicate with and respond to the audience"
(Habekost, 100). Well, yes, I always thought so, and not just for dub po-
ets or performance poets, but for any poet reading or performing his
poetry for an audience. Non-performance poets also perform. "It is thus
important," continues Habekost, "how the poet structures the running
order of the performance; further, if and how the poems are introduced."
(100). It is now clear to me that I am a performance poet, even down to
my preference for being not too theatrical, not too histrionic in my
42 EDWARD BAUGH
performance! I am acutely conscious of my audience, and will change my
selection of poems at the last minute, or even during the reading, depend-
ing on how I read the audience. There are some of my poems that I never
read to audiences, and some I very seldom read, because I do not think
that they will elicit the kind of flattering audience reaction that the per-
former craves. I get "mixed feelings," when, after a reading, someone from
the audience, commenting on a poem / performance that went down well,
says enthusiastically, "I really liked that poem." It is not just that one has
the secret reaction "O, so you didn't like the others, eh?" It is also that one
senses that there is likely to have been a toweasy equation between "poem-
performance that worked best" and "best poem." There is a temptation to
make one's reading or performance too much a matter of playing to the
audience, a collusion with the tyranny of the audience.
On the matter of movement and gesture, commonly taken for granted
as a characteristic of dub performance, Habekost makes a thought-
provoking, if not provocative, judgement:
Not all good dub poets are equally good performers. On stage, Linton
Kwesi Johnson, who possesses an extraordinary poetic talent, remains
very static; even when accompanied by a band, his range of action
remains very restricted. Johnson is, however, capitalising on the re-
serve bordering on diffidence that holds him back from histrionic
expression: his frozen appearance is the deliberate attempt to let the
words speak for themselves, undisturbed by additional performative
means that might divert the audience's attention. (100).
Might there be an inherent contradiction here? Having judged Johnson's
lack of movement ("action") as a failure of performance, Habekost pro-
ceeds to suggest that there may be an appreciable, positive reason for
it, a reason which, however, is not equated with performance. Might it
not be that Johnson's frozen stance, and his relatively deadpan, non-
vivacious style of reciting, and the counterpoint between these and
their musical accompaniment, constitute a powerful feature of his per-
formance technique? Habekost's statement also provides useful grist
for the mill of the question about necessary relationship between poem
and performance, a question to which I shall return.
This is Habekost again: "Another aspect of the dub poetry perform-
ance is the particular stage appearance each dub poet cultivates, as a
visual marker both for recognition and for emphasis of his/her person-
ality" (100). Which mere reader does not also give careful thought to
his costume, even if it is to be distinguished by apparent carelessness
or lack of distinction? Mervyn Morris does not remember the story I
POEM, READING, PERFORMANCE
am about to tell, but I shall tell it anyway. The occasion was a confer-
ence on West Indian literature held at the University of Puerto Rico.
Most of the sessions took place at the Rio Piedras campus, but for one
day the conference moved to the Cayey campus. During one session,
Morris slipped out to do a bit of shopping. When he slipped back in, he
placed a shopping bag under his seat. At the end of the day's delibera-
tions, he and I travelled back to San Juan in the same car. Half way
through the journey, he suddenly realized that he had left the shop-
ping bag under his seat in the lecture theatre. This realisation caused
him anxiety, and the UPR colleague who was transporting us turned
back. It was a long way and we were in a race against time, because
Morris and I were to take part in a reading that evening at the Rio
Piedras campus. When we got back to Cayey, it took a long time to find
someone to open the lecture theatre so that the bag could be retrieved.
Anyway, later, back at Rio Piedras, shortly before we dressed to go to
the reading, he told me that he had been anxious to retrieve the bag
because he had bought a pair of jeans that he wanted to wear for the
reading. May we not say that he had been concerned about his cos-
tume, that he wanted to project the identity of a jeans-wearing poet?
Finally, to return to the question of the often assumed necessary
relationship between text and performance in the case of performance
poetry, the assumed inseparability of poem and performance. This view
sometimes expresses itself, for example, in one's being told, when,
having read a performance poem, one doesn't think that it is up to
much, that one can't appreciate it until one sees it performed. Clearly,
there are poems which, even as one begins to read them on the page,
suggest immediately that they want to be acted. Besides, like everyone
else, I have had moments of revelation, when some crucial nuance, which
I had missed in my engagement with the words on the page, suddenly
became clear when I heard the poem read aloud, performed. How-
ever, just as some meanings beg to be sounded, so some meanings
cannot be sounded. There is also a performance on the page. There is
the poem playing on the stage, and there is the play of the poem on
the page, by which latter concept I do not mean only the visual vivac-
ity that a text may have, a vitality exploited most deliberately and
engagingly, for example, in Kamau Brathwaite's more recent "video
style." In truth, a poem is only ever just "the text on the page" when no
one is looking at it. The moment a pair of conscious eyes engage with
it, those words begin to get up off the page and to perform.
Audiences have helped me to compose a poem or two. The clearest
case occurred recently, when, after two or three public readings of a
44 EDWARD BAUGH
particular poem, I knew for certain that it should end a few lines ear-
lier than the original end.
As for the idea that some poems are for sounding and some, by im-
plication, for performance, while some are not, it is perfectly under-
standable; but that dichotomy represents two static theoretical poles,
while the reality of experience is dynamic and in-between. All poems
exist as sound, as performances of sound, even if most are never per-
formed in the usual sense. When one reads a poem, one has to hear a
sound, a voice. Speaking for myself, the crucial, absolutely imperative
factor in composing a poem, is that I must first get the sound, the voice
right. I will have the feeling that wants to find words, and the idea that
the words should convey. I may even have the images that will em-
body the idea and the feeling; but if the right sound, the right voice
doesn't come, the poem will be stillborn.
The Brazilian poet Joao Cabral de Melo Neto once said, in an inter-
view with Selden Rodman, "Ideally, I'd like to write a poem that couldn 't
be read aloud!" (Rodman, 226) What that ambition, only half tongue-
in-cheek, concedes is that it is unrealisable. It also says that there is
such a thing as playing to the audience, a tyranny of audience that
may corrupt the poem. Cabral continues: "Neruda's poems gain by
being read aloud. When we read a poem, we use our eyes--and so
observe all the details, an impossibility when listening" (Rodman, 226).
The italicised "gain" is rich with meaning. At the same time, as I have
suggested, to read with the eyes is also a way of hearing.
To say that a poem "gains by being read aloud" subsumes the issue
of whether, or to what extent, the poem, or more specifically the per-
formance poem, exists prior to or outside of the performance. In a
discussion about West Indian poetry, broadcast in the BBC television
series "Caribbean Nights" on 21 June 1986, Derek Walcott, responding
to a video-taped reading by Kamau Brathwaite of his "Negus" (The
If you take it line by line, what's going on in this poem, really? As a
poem. Not as a performance, but as a poem. Now, many people would
say that you can't separate the two things, but you can, you can ....
The claim of the inseparability of poem from performance in the per-
formance poem implies an aesthetics of naturalness and organicism
that may be questionable. Performance, like poem, and like the rela-
tionship between them, may be arbitrary and conventional, a construct,
a matter of artifice. They may have a profound relationship to "na-
ture," but they are themselves not natural. And that is their nature.
PoEM, READING, PERFORMANCE 45
Cooper, Carolyn. Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the 'Vulgar'
Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. London & Basingstoke:
Macmillan Caribbean, 1993.
Habekost, Christian. Verbal Riddim: The Politics and Aesthetics of Afri-
can-Caribbean Dub Poetry. Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1994.
Rodman, Selden.Tongues of Fallen Angels. New York: New Directions,
Wright, Keril. "Jean Breeze 'Ridin on de Ridim'". Flair Magazine, 23 Feb-
ruary 1998, p. 12.
The Changing Face of Jibaros
From his experiences as a plantation and slave owner in Jamaica,
the Englishman, Edward Long (1774 2:260-1) constructed the fol-
Flowing table, with a preliminary comment:
The intermixture of Whites, Blacks, and Indians, has generated several
different casts, which have all their proper denominations, invented
by the Spaniards, who make this a kind of science among them. Per-
haps they will be better understood by the following table:
DIRECT lineal Ascent from the Negroe Venter.
White Man, Negroe Woman.
White Man, Mulatta.
White Man, Terceron.
White Man, Quateron.
White Man, Quinteron.
Mediate or Stationary, neither advancing nor receding.
1995-96 Fellow of C~aribb~ean 2000, Department of Linguistics, University of the West
Indlies. Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
THE CHANGING FACE OF IBDAROs 47
Mulatto,= Terceron. Negroe,= Mulatta. Indian,= Mulatta Negroe,= Indian
Saltatras Sambo de Negroe Mestize Sambode-Sambo ch
Mulatta Indian Mulatto
(Perhaps from Gifero, a butcher)
The two terms given by Long which identified Indian+Black+White
mixtures were the words mestize and givero. In the case of the latter,
he said specifically that it was the product of Sambo de Indian and
Sambo de Mulatta and his use of the Spanish word de (as well as the
word order) suggests that these terms were direct borrowings from
the Spanish islands rather than common terms in use in Jamaica at the
time. Long clearly had no knowledge of the source of the word, but the
source word (gifero) which he gives is interesting, as will be seen later.
About the giveros specifically, he went on to make the following com-
The Giveros lie under the imputation of having the worst inclinations
and principles; and if the cast is known, they are banished. (Long
One would have to conclude from Long's words either that giveros were
not honest and hard-working and did not fit well into the plantation
and slavery system or that this opinion was founded upon another
one that was quite common at the time. This latter opinion was ex-
pressed by Thomas Howard in 1796 as follows:
1 prefer the Negroes, to the Mulattoes; the latter mostly partaking of
all the vices of white, & Black, from whom they spring, without inher-
iting their virtues ...
The general idea was that mixture caused deterioration, which meant
that a combination of three races would have been regarded as even
worse than a combination of two. Over and above this general view, it
is obvious also that, for giveros to have been singled out in this way by
Long, they must have been either numerous or well known.
48 PETER ROBERTS
Long's word givero was of course the word that occurred in Spanish
writings as gibaro or jibaro. Long's spelling of the word was not unu-
sual, for Manuel Alvar (1987: 148, note 550) pointed that J.J. Virey in
his Historie naturelle du genre human ( 1834) also gave the word
as givero. Probably the earliest appearance of the word in the litera-
ture was in the comprehensive history of the world by P. Murillo Velarde
in 1752 in which he said:
... y aora no hay Indios en toda la Isla [Espanola], sino Espatholes,
Mestizos, Negros, y Mulatos, y en todo lo demis se ha diminuldo su
antigua abundancia, y riqueza. Los Criollos, y Mestizos de la Espanola,
de Puerto Rico, y otras Islas se Ilaman Gibaros, y es gente de animo, y
brio. (Bk. ix, Chap. xxi, p.345)
Apparently, then, the term Gibaros provided a common identity for the
people of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and other islands, but, other than
Cuba, it is not clear what Murillo Velarde meant by otras Islas. The
essence of what Murillo Velarde was saying was that the original, 'pure'
population had disappeared to be replaced by people whose parents
had come from the Old World as well as mixtures of these latter with
the original population. In other words, from this definition Gibaros
included Negroes, Mulattos and Whites who were creole and it was
therefore contrasting the new population with the original population.
What was probably not explicitly stated was that this name was being
associated principally or exclusively with the Spanish islands.
An explanation of the route of the development of the word as well
as its meaning is given by Alvarez Nazario 1977:68 note 52:
... el cual [xibaro] se adapta desde antiguo en el portugu~s del Brasil,
con la significaci6n racial de 'mestizo de cafuso (zambo o mezcla de
indio y negro) y negro', todavia sobreviviente en dicho pais ...
acarreada esta palabra hasta las Antillas espaholas por los mismos
negreros lusitanos que provelan de esclavos a la par a los puertos
brasilehos y antillanos. En la documentaci6n mis antigua de jibaro
[i.e. P. Murillo Velarde] en las islas espaholas del Caribe figure
precisamente la aludida significaci6n de indole Ctnica ...
The use of the word gibaros therefore made a statement about the pre-
dominant colour and racial mixture of the non-black populations of
Hispaniola and Puerto Rico in the 18th century.
By 1822 when the Coplas del jibaro appeared, the word still had nega-
tive social status, for, by highlighting their non-standard dialect, the
THE CHANGING FACE OF JiBAROS
writer of the Coplas was clearly making a mockery of the idea of such
people as jibaros ruling themselves in the context of an independent
Puerto Rico. The same is true, more or less, of Manuel Alonso's gibaros
in 1844. When the language of the jibaro was resurrected by Alonso, one
of the earliest writers associated with the delineation of Puerto Rican
identity, he maintained the view of the jibaro as a rustic, comical figure
in obvious contrast with sophisticated Puerto Ricans like himself. The
spectators encouraging the cocks in the cockfight with the words
Pica gayo, engriya jiro,
mueide al ala renegao,
juy que puflalon de baca (Alonso  1992:92)
were obviously Puerto Rican, but of a lower class, whose language could
be presented as 'original' and amusing.
Alonso himself was a first generation criollo, born in 1822 of white
Spanish parents his father from Galicia and his mother actually born
in North Africa. Alonso spent a significant proportion of his adult life
in Spain and it is there as a young man that he wrote his famous pieces
- the sonnet el puertorriquenio (1844) and El gibaro (1849). The model
identity of a Puerto Rican that Alonso presented in verse in the sonnet
el puertorriquelio (1844) was quite different from the jibaro:
Color moreno, frente despejada,
Mirar I~nguido, altivo y penetrante,
La barba negra, palido el semblante,
Rostro enjuto, nariz proporcionada.
Mediana talla, march acompasada;
El alma de ilusiones anhelante,
Agudo ingenio, libre y arrogante,
Pensar inquieto, mente acalorada;
Humane, afable, just, dadivoso,
En empresas de amor siempre variable,
Tras la gloria y placer siempre afanoso,
Y en amor a su patria insuperable,
Este es, a no dudarlo, fiel diseho
Para copiar un buen Puertorriquei~o.
As Jos6 Luis Gonz~lez (1980) 1993:41 argues, Alonso's vision of a Puerto
Rican, as put forward in the sonnet, was essentially white:
The reference at the beginning of the sonnet to 'dark in color'
shouldn't be misinterpreted, since what it refers to is a white Puerto
Rican whose skin has been tanned by the tropical sun (as the 'pale'
complexion and a 'well-proportioned nose' confirm). The 'country,'
subject of an unsurpassablee love,' is obviously no longer Spain, but
Puerto Rico. The 'soul tremulous with dreams,' the wit that is 'free
and proud,' the 'restless thought' and the 'ardent mind,' speak of an
inquisitive and challenging attitude toward reality. In fact, the por-
trait is of a social class as a whole: the new creole bourgeoisie already
conscious of its historical destiny.
According to Modesto Rivera Rivera (1952) 1980:40 the sonnet el
puertorriquedio was basically a self-portrait:
Podemos considerar como sintesis de esta personalidad un soneto:
El Puertorriquefio, autorretrato fisico y spiritual del autor y
definici6n del criollo ...
It is quite interesting and revealing also that in the sonnet Alonso did
not identify a special variety of language as a peculiar characteristic of
the Puerto Rican. Obviously, the characteristics of the jibaro were not
consistent with the sophisticated image that Alonso was trying to put
forward. The Puertorriquello being projected then was an educated,
high society person rather than a middle class or lower working-class
one; it was the image of a Spanish-Puerto Rican.
Even so, the jfbaro 's speech was portrayed only as a variant of Span-
ish and not as a creole with African or Indian characteristics. The vari-
ation was predominantly phonological, as is clear from Alonso's lines
above as well as those of Vassallo Cabrera (1866):
Seflore, si~ntense toos
y un ratito esten cayhos,
pB que les pueda contal,
si Dios me ay~ia A pensayo,
como me fu@ en una fiesta
aora ey mes atrasao ...
This kind of portrayal of the language of the uneducated by the educated,
that is, the dropping of [s] at the end of words, the non-articulation
THE CHANGING FACE OF .)iBAROS
of consonants coming between vowels, the change of [r] to , and
the change of  and [r] to vocalic [y], intended to signal class distinc-
tion above all else.
Although Alonso's jibaro was clearly of a lower social class than
himself, at that time the jibaro had already begun to be converted into
a whiter as well as more Indian figure. The name itself was largely re-
sponsible for this transformation, especially in the minds of those who
knew little about Puerto Rico. For instance, before he visited the is-
land, the Frenchman, Granier de Cassagnac believed the jibaros to be
the only remaining natives of the region:
La seule ~e de l'archipel des Antilles que les anciens habitants n'aient
pas abandonni~e, c'est Porto-Rico.11ly reste encore environ vingt deux
mille individus nomm~s lbaros, et qui descendent de la nation sur
laquelle les Espagnols prirent fIle. (1842:100)
Because he saw them, during that time of emancipation and imminent
emancipation of the slaves, as a foil against the slaves and the emanci-
pated slaves, they became in his eyes a wonderful, hard-working people:
C'est une race superbe, leste, active, probe, amie du travail et de
l'ordre, et qui fera un jour de Porto-Rico, avec le concours des
Europi~ens, la premiere colonie du monde. Les Ibaros sont de taille
moyenne, 61ancits, bien faits, montant A cheval comme les Gaouches
du Parana et de l'Uruguay, et d'un caractbre essentiellement agricole.
Ce sont eux qui d~frichent les magnifiques forts de Porto-Rico,
empetr~es de vanilliers et couvertes de perroquets; qui am~nagent la
terre des habitations, et qui font la meilleure parties du travail des
sucreries. Le sentiment qui domine le caractibre des Ibaros, c'est la
digniti6 et I'estime d'eux-mames.... Ils ont, comme tous les hommes g
peau rouge, un grand m~tpris pour les nigres; mais les lbaros mi~prisent
surtout dans le ni~gre la fainbantise, la mauvaise foi et le penchant au
vol. .... A Porto-Rico, malgr6 l'immensiti: des bois, il n'y a pas un n~gre
marron, parce que les Ibaros vont les chercher dans les retraites les
plus inaccessibles, et les ramihnent sur les habitations. (Granier de
After he visited the island, the looros had changed to become a popula-
tion mixte, formee d'indigenes, de Canariens et d'Espagnols (1844:190).
These were the people who in previous accounts of Puerto Rico were
either mulattos or madle up of African, European and Indian compo-
nents. Granier die Cassagnac's view of the population of Puerto Rico
was that it was made up of
52 PETER ROBERTS
soixante-mille esclaves, de vingt-deux mille Ivaros, de vingt mille
Europ~ens ou Canariens, et de trente mille n~gres libres. (Granier de
What is noticeable here is not so much the figures in themselves but
that, in spite of the fact that there were so many black people, slaves
and free, and so many Europdens ou Canariens, there were no longer
Another writer whose ignorance of Puerto Rico led him to believe
that the people of the island were not mulatto was the Englishman,
Anthony Trollope, who in 1860 said:
In Porto Rico, for instance, one of the two remaining Spanish colonies
in the West Indies, the Peons, or free peasant laborers, are of mixed
Spanish and Indian blood, without, I believe, any negro element.
No doubt it was the name jibaro which led him to this belief. More
generally, what is clear is that as the 19th century progressed, the jibaro
was losing his blackness (in the literature) and was becoming increas-
ingly white and European.
By the beginning of the 20th century, therefore, the rustic jibaro had
been created in a way that linked Puerto Ricans to a pure white Span-
ish peasant speaking regional and conservative forms of Spanish. This
is expressly stated in Cayetano Coll y Toste 1914:131:
Asi, pues, el campesino de las sierras de Puerto Rico, es castellano
puro ... conservando abn hasta el modo de hablar de los compafleros
de Juan Ponce de Le6n, o sea, el idioma del siglo XVI, tal como lo
hallamos en obras de Cervantes, Quevedo, Lope de Vega y demis
The identification of the same language characteristics in the classical
authors was quite accurate, but Coll y Toste deliberately, or out of
ignorance, forgot to mention that they occurred in the speech of ladino
Africans in Spain. So, in spite of the non-standard identity exposed by
the Coplas and El Gibaro, in spite of the striking appearance of a ra-
cially mixed people, in spite of the evidence in the writings of the clas-
sical authors, the Puerto Rican jibaro became a pure Castillian. It seems
as if the absence of a distinctly creole language was at the root of con-
tradictions of national identity in Puerto Rico. For while defining fea-
tures of character and the customs of the people of Puerto Rico were
THE CHANGING FACE OF JjBAROS
apparent by the end of the 18th century and fostered the national iden-
tity of criollo and jibaro in the 19th, general facility in the Spanish lan-
guage allowed for the easier transmission, filtering down and mainte-
nance of European ideas and value systems among most of the popula-
tion. It also allowed the literate and conservative to foster the identity
with Spain. There was no obvious general set of linguistic features to
tie the people to and constantly remind them of the African and Indian
parts of their heritage. It was not difficult therefore for the concept of
jibaro to emerge in 19th century Puerto Rican literature as a rustic
white speaking an old dialect of Spanish.
The fact is that after 1898, in the face of American domination, the
jibaro became more closely associated with notions of independence.
The jibaro also became a symbol of Puerto Rican identity, an identity
which was sustained by a long Spanish history on the one hand and on
the other one that was rooted to the notion of tierra (native land). This
latter notion was the starting point for Jos6 de J. Dominguez' explana-
tion of the word gibaro:
El nombre de Gibaro corresponde al indigena de Puerto Rico. Debe
de escribirse Hibaro, aspirando la H, y vale tanto como Hijo de la
Tierra. (Font 1903:138)
Here tierra had a double significance native and agricultural. So, the
jibaro was essentially a rural peasant, a product of the very land that
he was farming, an independent and self-reliant individual. However,
because the prevailing philosophy in the Spanish Antilles among the
ruling class was lineal ascent to whiteness, sources for the character-
istics of the jibaro were perforce sought and found in Europe.
This link to Europe was also explicitly made by Dominguez under
the guise of a philological explanation in the following:
Pero Gibaros hubo en Europa much antes de haberlos en Puerto Rico.
Para hacer esta afirmaci6n, tenemos pruebas filol6gicas decisivas. Dice
el Padre litigo --nuestro Oinico historiador-- que los indigenas de
Puerto-Rico se deformaban la cabeza, diindole la forma de una culia:
no se sabe d6nde obtuvo el ilustre benedictino ese dato; pero es lo
clerto que la filologia lo confirm. En efecto la expresi6n latina Gibber,
equivale a la castellana coreova. Ahora bien: Gibber es ap6cope de
Cibber-o, y Gibbero es flexi6n de Gibbaro: la duplicaci6n de la b, s61o
tiene por objeto robustecer la pronunciaci6n de la simple que en su
origen tenia. Nuestra voz castellana Giba, ap6cope de Gibara, sirve para
llamar a la corcova con la Tierra primordial. (Font 1903:139)
54 PETER ROBERTS
Here Castillian Spanish, la Tierra primordial and the jibaro were pre-
sented in an association and vision that far transcended the notion of
a simple campesino.
Ironically, in his determination to establish a link between the jibaro
and the European, Dominguez' explanation draws attention to a link
much closer to home, that between the jibaro and the Caribs (Red and
Black) of St. Vincent. In other words, Iiiigo Abbad y Lasierra's claim
(according to Dominguez) about the deliberate 'deformation' of the
head of the natives of Puerto Rico would have been written at the time
when the Black Caribs, who were noted for the deformation of their
heads, were in conflict with the British in the island of St. Vincent. In
fact, by the last half of the 18th century Black Caribs had emerged into
a clearly differentiated ethnic group, distinct from the African slave
and from the creole slave. In describing the Black Caribs, Anderson
The men in structure of their bodies and color of the skin differ but
little from their other African brethren in the islands. The only exter-
nal difference was the flattening of the head, which custom they
adopted from the yellow Carib.
There was therefore some surviving memory of a feature which con-
nected the natives of Puerto Rico and the indigenous inhabitants of
the smaller islands to the south, even though this connection had be-
The matter of head flattening had been well known and repeatedly
mentioned. It stood out because it was seen as hideous and became a
feature of ridicule. Anderson 1797:63 noted:
... however, the flattening the head was left off among some years
previous to the insurrection, owing to the negroes by way of ridicule
calling them flatheads
In other words, the Black Caribs were cajoled into modifying their cul-
tural practices. Reference to head-flattening in Puerto Rico therefore
linked the jibaro, not to any corcoca con la Tierra primordial, but to
other Indians (Black and Yellow) in the Caribbean island chain. The
Black Caribs themselves came to be called Garifuna, a name which
bears some vague resemblance to Long's word gifero. The resemblance
becomes a little less vague when the variant terms grifo, grinfo, griffe
and grifonne are considered. The meaning of grifo is given by Alvar
THE CHANGING FACE OF Jj1IBAOS
1987: 141 as el hijo de indio y loba and lobo is given as hijo de negro e
india. Givero/gifero was not far removed on the table of mixtures from
grifo/grinfo/grifonne and this latter was not far removed in reality from
the people called Garifuna.
Besides the association of the word givero with Garifuna and be-
sides the head-flattening link between Puerto Rico and the smaller is-
lands, there is still another good reason for associating the small is-
lands with the big ones. It is that the word givero/jibaro, this symbol of
Puerto Rico, appears to have come out of the smaller islands. Almost
all of the writing on the source and development of the term jibaro has
associated it with South America, specifically Ecuador and Brazil, or
with Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola. There are the odd explana-
tions (as the one by Dominguez) that have associated its origin with
Europe. No explanation, to my knowledge, has looked to the early lit-
erature from the smaller islands for an explanation for the term, even
though there is a general theory of waves of migration from South
America through the smaller islands to the bigger islands to explain
the different ethnic groups of the native inhabitants at the time of the
arrival of the Europeans.
One of the earliest and best known lexicographical works on one of
the languages of the Caribs was by the French priest, Raymond Breton.
Breton's dictionary was the result of thirteen years (1641-53) spent
among the Caribs of the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe. In his
dictionary, Breton included the following entry:
Chib~rali, cachionna yaboulo~pou, sont les enfans engendrez des
Sauvages & des Negresses, qui sont nommez ainsi (Breton 1665: 12 13)
The word cachionna is elsewhere in the dictionary (p.99) given as en-
fant engendrd d'un homme blanco & d'une femme noire ("a child born of
a white man and a black woman"), which meant that it was a less spe-
cialised word than chibdrali. The word Chibdrali had a common word
ending -li, which, if removed left chibdra, and bearing in mind that Taylor
In early borrowings from Spanish, orthographic s, x, j, and ch of the
model are alike replaced by Breton's IC ch [s] ...
It means that chibdra could otherwise be spelt jibdra or xibdira. This
relationship between sounds is exactly the same as that between French
chef, English chief and Spanish jefe, which all come from the same Latin
word caput. The Carib word and its meaning clearly appear to be the
source for the word that became so common later.
Of further interest is the origin of the word within the Carib lan-
guage itself. The meaning child of a Carib man and a Negro woman -
was apparently a metaphorical extension of the word. The basic mean-
ing given by Breton was:
Chiblirali, fleche qui a pour pointe une queuii de raye, c'est la plus
dangereuse, parce qu'elle est point& par le bout & 61largit en montant,
outre qu'elle est dentel~e comme une scie, & venimeuse de soy. (1665: 90)
The child born of a relationship between a Carib and a Negro woman may
have been seen metaphorically within the Carib community as a danger-
ous, poisoned arrow, but what is more important is the shape of the ar-
row head described by Breton pointuii par le bout & Olargit en montant. It
is the same as the head of the Black Carib with the flattened forehead.
So, among the Carib community in the mid-1 7th century the chibdrali
may have been seen as a dangerous creature but was really identified
for the shape of his head; in Long's table in the latter half of the 18th
century the givero was not only at the bottom and identified as retro-
grade but also identified as a person to be banished if discovered it is
not coincidence then that at the same time that Long was writing this,
the British were contemplating banishing the Black Caribs from St. Vin-
cent and eventually did this in 1797. Yet, on the other hand, by the
beginning of the 19th century the jibaro had become a glorious figure,
symbol of independence and Puerto Rican-ness. In terms of race, the
chibdirali midway in the 17th century was half-Indian and half-Black; a
hundred years later the givero had become a little less Indian, a little
less black and a little white; and the jibaro at the beginning of the 20th
century had become white and virtually Spanish.
The popularization of the jibaro as a national figure in Puerto Rico
was altogether a matter of the romanticization of the campesino and la
tierra. Note that even as early as 1934, Francisco Manrique Cabrera
found himself forced to say in the essay "Jibarismo y jibaridad":
... Basta de jibaros pintorescos. Basta de visions buc61icas. Hay que
ahondar en el pensar y sentir para sacar a flor de arte la verdadera
entrafia nuestra. (Quoted in Alonso 1992:16 by Luis O. Zayas Micheli)
It was really the appropriation of a cultural and historical figure from
the smaller islands, whose reality had long been forgotten. The Caribs
THE CHANGING FACE OF .IfBARos 57
had from the start of European colonisation of the islands been branded
by the Europeans as a dangerous and hostile people. The Black Caribs,
who took over the island of St. Vincent from the ('yellow') Caribs, because
of their opposition to the British, also acquired the same reputation:
The flat-head Caribs, who were ... hardy and fierce ... (Raynal 
It was the perpetuation of a name which had come to symbolise admi-
rable characteristics, and the assertion of a fundamental claim to the
island of Puerto Rico by being a native of it, in the face of foreign domi-
nation. The mulatto or mestize of Puerto Rico, who in the European
(primarily English and French) scale of racial classification, hierarchy
and values was without historicity, that is, without a geographical ori-
gin as a race, was therefore, through a name, converted into a fiercely
independent hijo de la tierra, thereby identifying America as the place
of origin and presenting a challenge to sharp and old concepts of race.
58 PETER ROBERTS
Alonso, Manuel A. 1992. El Jibaro. Estudio de Luis O. Zayas Micheli. Rio
[Anderson, A., 1797] Howard, Richard A. & Elizabeth S. Howard (eds.)
1983. Alexander Anderson 's Geography and History of St. Vincent,
West Indies. Cambridge: Harvard College and The Linnean Society
Breton, Raymond. 1665. Dictionaire Caraibe Francois. M/esid de quantity
de Remarques historiques pour l'esclaircissemnent de la Langue.
Compost par le R. R1 Raymond Breton, Religieux de I'ordre des Freres
Prescheurs, & I'un des premiers Missionaires Apostoliques en I'isle
de la Gardeloupe & autres circonvoisines de I'Amerique. Auxerre:
Coll y Toste, Cayetano. 1914. Origen del campesino de Puerto Rico. In
Boletin Histdrico, vol. VII.
Font, Josi6 Gonzillez. 1903. Escritos sobre Puerto Rico. Barcelona.
Granier de Cassagnac, Adolphe. 1842. Voyage aux Antilles, frangaises.
Premiere parties. Paris: Dauvin et Fontaines Libraires.
1844. Voyage aux Antilles. Deuxieme parties. Les Antilles anglaises,
danoises et espagnoles, Saint Domingue et les Etats-Ulnis. Paris: Au
Comptoir des Imprimeurs-Unis.
Howard, Thomas. 1796. Journal of a voyage to the West Indies... ,vol. 3.
Long, Edward. 1774. The history of Jamaica, or General Survey of the
Antient and Modern state of that island: with reflections on its Situa-
tions, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws
and Government. 1970, New Edition with a New Introduction by
George Metcalf of King's College, London. Frank Cass.
Murillo Velarde, El Padre Pedro. 1752. Geographic historic. Madrid:
Imprenta de Don Agustin de Gordejuela y Sierra.
Raynal, Abb6. 1798. A philosophical and political history of the settle-
ments and trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies. Re-
vised, augmented, and published in ten volumes. Newly translated
from the French, by J.O. Justamond, with a new set of maps
adapted to the Work, and a copious index. In six volumes. Re-
printed 1969 by New York Universities Press, New York.
Taylor, Douglas. 1977. Languages of th~e West Indies. Baltimore and Lon-
don: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Trollope, Anthony. 1860. The West Indies and the Spanish Main. New
York: Harper & Brothers.
Still Here, Still Waiting
Catherine Den Tandt*
West Indians first became aware of themselves as a
people in the Haitian Revolution. Whatever its ulti-
mate fate, the Cuban Revolution marks the ultimate
stage of a Caribbean quest for national identity.
C.L.R. James, "From Toussaint L'Ouverture to Fi-
del Castro" (1962)
Los cubanos hemos pasado la vida esperando. Y no
hablo s6lo de los cubanos de abora, sino de los
cubanos de siempre... Por eso, porque hemos pasado
la vida esperando, esperamos hoy al ancianito albo
que vive como un rey en el Vaticano... Repito: no
sabemos por quC viene y much menos para que lo
esperamos, pero el porque y el para que resultan
pormenores que se mitigan con el jdbilo que nos
provoca toda espera.
--Abilio Esteves, "Cuba, el Papa y la espera" (Janu-
open this paper with two quotations: the first by a well-known fig-
ure of Caribbean cultural history, the Trinidadian writer and activ-
Iist C.L.R. James. The second epigraph is taken from an essay writ-
ten to mark the visit of Pope John Paul 11 to Cuba in January 1998. Its
author, Abilio Esteves, is a contemporary Cuban writer, a playwright,
poet, editor, and critic who recently published his first novel, Tuyo es
el reino (1997). Each of these quotations addresses critical moments
in Caribbean political and cultural history, and, at the same time, pro-
vides its own particular vision of the trajectory of Caribbean history.
1997 Fellow of Caribbean 2000, Department of Modern Languages and Com-
p~arative Studlies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
60 CATHERINE DEN TANDT
In the following pages, I will stage a conversation between the C.L.R.
James essay and Esteves's commentary on the recent visit of Pope John
Paul II to Cuba. Other voices will join in as we move along, the voices of
Edouard Glissant, Derek Walcott, Ana Lydia Vega, as well as those of a
younger generation of writers. My goal in this short paper is to trace
some of the challenges that confront the production of Caribbean cul-
tural and political discourse as we near the turn of the century.
C.L.R. James's essay "From Toussaint L'Ouverture to Fidel Castro"
was written in 1962 in the afterglow of Castro's triumphant 1959 revo-
lution. In this essay, James declared that Cuba was "the most West
Indian island in the West Indies" (310). Because he allowed Cuba to
stand in for the Caribbean as a whole, James could announce comple-
tion here, the end of one Caribbean history (of colonialism, of despot-
ism) and the beginning of another. The essay is a beautiful and confi-
dent call to a future of strong Caribbean nations, to a collective forged
from broken and battered histories that "emerged from the womb in
July 1958" (310). James was well aware of the pitfalls involved in such
a project. When he invoked the Cuban Revolution as the final stage in
a struggle for political and cultural identity begun in Haiti in 1792, he
was careful to add "whatever its [the Cuban Revolution's] ultimate fate,"
and immediately following, he wrote that the process consisted "of a
series of uncoordinated periods of drift, punctuated by spurts, leaps
and catastrophes" (296). Nonetheless, "the inherent movement is clear
and strong" (296).
It is precisely this sense of movement that is absent in Abilio Esteves's
essay, written 46 years after James penned his tribute to Caribbean
revolutions and to Cuba. James's characterization of Caribbean and
Cuban history as progressive (in leaps and spurts), as coming to an
end and starting again, is met here with a very different model of his-
torical evolution. For Esteves, Cuban history is most accurately de-
scribed as a long process of waiting and hoping waiting for the Brit-
ish to leave, waiting for the Spanish to leave, hoping for independence,
hoping that Jos6 Marti would not die, waiting for the Americans to
leave, waiting and hoping for just presidents to lead the nation....
Esteves concludes his long list with the following: "Tambi~n durante
ailos se estuvo esperando el triunfo de una revoluci6n qlue cambiara
realmente la fortune del pais."
This sentence, the continuation and conclusion of a bittersweet
list of things wanted, hoped for, and mostly not gotten, slices like a
knife. For it declares the Cuban Revolution forever stalled, from
within, and the weight of this admission is almost unbearable. The
SnILL HERE, SmoL WAmTNG
gently mocking and ironic commentary on the Papal visit which fol-
lows softens the blow somewhat. Esteves points out that although
Cubans do not know why they are waiting for the Pope, they do so
with great enthusiasm, and renewed hope that other meaning of the
verb "esperar" in Spanish. It does not matter that John Paul 11 repre-
sents a "fuerte ortodoxia," that his sanctified portrait is that of a
"mis6gino, enemigo del cond6n (c6mplice por lo tanto de la
enfermedad), opuesto al aborto y feroz adversario de la
homosexualidad." None of this matters, in part because the right to
worship a god or enter a church had for so long been denied to those
Cubans who wanted it But mostly we wait for him, says Esteves,
because we have always waited.
The timeless or cyclical nature of political and social struggle that
this essay dramatizes represents more than a philosophical argument
(about modernity or postmodernity, for example). It says something
about Cuba, about the Cuban Revolution, and about the forty some
years that have passed since C.L.R. James wrote that the Caribbean
had finally come into its own, born from the womb of July 1958. My
own feeling is that contemporary cultural critics devoted to the Carib-
bean and to cultural and political development in the region are loathe
to confront the fact that we have come to a crisis, along with the Cu-
ban Revolution. We have no discourse, few weapons with which to
address the blank space between C.L.R. James's confident teleology
(something like Frantz Fanon to Edouard Glissant) and the spectacle
of the Papal visit to Cuba in January 1998, when the local spokesper-
son for solidarity and justice was the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba,
monsehior Pedro Meurice Estiu (Palabras de saludo al papa Juan Pablo
II, pronunciadas por el arzobispo de Santiago de Cuba, January 24,
1998). Where do we go from here?
From Frantz Fanon to Edouard Glissant Or, From
Revolution to Discourse
There is a curious contradiction or tension within C.L.R. James's essay
that I want to tease out here, because it has serious repercussions for
a retrospective view of Caribbean cultural studies as it has developed
in the years following decolonization. I am interested specifically in
James' treatment of the literary in "From Toussaint L'Ouverture to Fi-
del Castro." When James made the link between the two revolutions
in Haiti and Cuba, he indicated, in the very first lines, that he was not
CATHERINE DEN TANDT
merely establishing a "convenient or journalistic demarcation of his-
torical time. What took place in French San Domingo in 1792-1804 re-
appeared in Cuba in 1958" (296; my emphasis). This is already a very
literary move to deny a historical continuum in favour of metaphor.
For James, one revolution could stand in for the other.
At the same time, James' discourse in the first few pages of the es-
say is profoundly historical; and he organized his piece in segments
titled: "The Nineteenth Century," "Between the Wars," and "After World
War II." Shortly into his analysis of Haitian political and economic de-
velopment in the 19th century, which showed that "the decisive pat-
terns of Caribbean development took form in Haiti" (297), James turned
overtly to the literary, to a discussion of N~gritude as a "national rally-
ing point" with which to combat both "foreign pens" and the "bayo-
nets of American Marines" (298). In the pages that follow, the bounda-
ries between history and literature are completely undone; history and
literature merge into one another and stand alongside each other,
equally capable of representing the Caribbean. For example, a narra-
tive of pan-Africanist movements and West Indian political develop-
ment between the World Wars turns naturally to long quoted segments
of Aim& C~saire's "Cabier d'un retour au pays natal" (301-303).
Throughout the essay, history repeatedly gives way to literature.
This pattern is most striking in the final segment, when James addressed
his own historical moment the Caribbean in the period after the
Second World War. James' concluding segment on the difficulties con-
fronting Caribbean nations, on economics and United States
neocolonialist involvement in the region, priviledged literature and
made it a primordial function of the trajectory towards national and
regional consolidation. In the face of the "spurts, leaps, and catastro-
phes" of Caribbean development, James suggested that it might be
easier to look to literature to locate the Caribbean: "The West Indian
national identity is more easily to be glimpsed in the published writ-
ings of West Indian authors" (311). Appropriately enough, James con-
cludedl his socio-political commentary on Carribean history with a dis-
cussion of novels, novelists, and poets, for without them, a new nation
is a "mere administrative convenience" (314).
At the end of the essay, we note with slight shock that James effec-
tively handed the national prerogative over to the literary in the last
instance. He seemed to suggest that, in the absence of political and
economic unity and strength in the Caribbean, we should look to its
!!terature to catch a glimpses" of a civic and political b~ody that other-
wise didl not exist or existed only partially. At the samie time, he stated
STILL HERE, STILL WAmTNo
that "The vision of the poet is not economics or politics, it is poetic,
sui generis, true unto itself and needing no other truth" (303; his em-
phasis). How do we reconcile this insistence in the absolute fictionality
of literature with its primordial function in the process of national and
regional consolidation? What does it mean to say that the Caribbean
is its literature?
In 1896, Josi6 Marti wrote that "In a new nation, a governor means a
creator" (87). A poststructuralist avant-la-lettre, Marti insisted that
healthy Latin American and Caribbean states could only emerge
through the creation of a "Latin American Book" as opposed to a "Eu-
ropean Book"; that is, new epistemologies that represented local reali-
ties (87). Literature has always been a primary agent in this project, a
project that effectively links history, politics, and art, making them in
some sense interchangeable. It explains why Carlos Fuentes could write
triumphantly in 1974 that the Latin American Boom novels represented
"las armas indispensables para beber el agua y comer los frutos de
nuestra verdadera identidad" (98), and it explains why the James es-
say could so easily move in and out of historical and literary discourse
in his discussion of Caribbean development, leaving it all, in the end,
Caribbean writers and their critics since the 1960s have understood
the dual nature of the writerly project and recognized their role as
leading figures, along with politicians and statesmen in the
decolonizing process. Their task has been to legitimize the ruptures
and violations of Caribbean history, "this gathering of broken pieces"
(Walcott 28), "[scattering] of entrails" (Benitez-Rojo 105), this "fragile
reality... negatively twisted together" (Glissant 221), and turn them into
a "vital dream" (Glissant 221). For Derek Walcott, "Antillean art is this
restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our
archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the origi-
nal continent" (28). In a 1991 dialogue with Edouard Glissant, Kamau
Brathwaite described that moment when, as a young writer in Barba-
dos on the eve of independence, he began to speak in Caribbean: "And
so this poem, which is the heart of my concept of nation language be-
cause I could relate the skidding stone to the song of the calypso, freed
me of Milton and the pentameter and Michelangelo and anybody else.
It celebrates the rhythms of our own people permitting to enter in the
experience that the rhythms correspond to" (Brathwaite and Glissant
21-22; his emphasis). For E~douard Glissant, "The language of the Car-
ibbean artist does not originate in the obsession with celebrating his
inner self; this inner self is inseparable from the future evolution of his
CATHERINE DEN TANDT
community. .. This conscious research creates the possibility of a
collective effervescence" (Glissant 236).
This project was vibrant; it moved from island to island, taking up
local realities but remaining true to its pan-Caribbean and Afro-Carib-
bean function. It fed a generation of writers in Puerto Rico, for exam-
ple, like Luis Rafael S~nchez and Ana Lydia Vega. Vega's 1982 collec-
tion of short stories Encancaranublado y otros cuentos de naufragio tes-
tifies to the power of this dream made real in literature. The title story,
"Encancaranublado,"' is an allegory of Caribbean vulnerability in a neo-
colonial sea of sharks and other dangers. It tells the quintessential
tale of the contemporary Caribbean; its characters three men on a
makeshift craft heading for Miami. Here too the realm of the geopoliti-
cal and the socio-political (political exile, flight from dictators, pov-
erty and exploitation) gives way to fiction, the dream. For each man
represents an island: Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. They
are all "in the same boat" but do not quite realize this as the sarcastic
and witty narrator highlights their linguistic and historical
incompatibilities, their mutual prejudices and petty squables, quick
allegiance and equally quick betrayals. In a battle over provisions
controlled by the Haitian (whose boat they are on), they overturn the
craft and land in the water. At this critical moment, a boat, "Americano
por cierto," appears on the scene and they are brought on board (20).
The captain shouts, "Get those niggers down there and let the spiks
take care of 'em" (20). Down below, a Puerto Rican crew member warns
that here they have to work because "Estos gringos no le dan na gratis
ni a su mai" and he reaches out "un brazo negro por entire las cajas
para pasarles la ropa seca" (20).
The lesson is clear. Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, and
by extension, the entire Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, already on
board the U.S. boat, must unite as a geopolitical and symbolic entity in
order to survive and prosper. What is also very clear, and here I come
to the crux of my paper, is that this has not happened. The metaphors
of Caribbean identity so carefully and beautifully elaborated over the
past several decades N~gritude, cri~olit&, afro-antillanismo, the re-
peating island, the black atlantic, synthesis, salsa, "the rhythms of the
Peoples of the Sea" (Benitez-Rojo 104) have battled but not over-
come the historical forces of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Dominican historian Frank Moya Pons wrote in 1979 that "For the
majority of the population of the area, to speak of the Caribbean has
meaning only as a convenience in geography classes; for most of its
people the Caribbean as a living community, with common interests
STILL HERE, STILL WAITING
and aspirations, just does not exist" (33). Moya Pons went on to sug-
gest that the caribbean as an entity existed for three groups: multina-
tional corporations who have economic interests in the region, Wash-
ington policy makers, and finally, academics, intellectuals, and artists
both from the region and from without (34).' To put figures such as
Edouard Glissant, Derek Walcott, George Lamming, Antonio Benitez-
Rojo, Ana Lydia Vega Roberto Fern~ndez Retamar, Luis Rafael Sanchez
in the same group as multinational corporations and Washington policy
makers is almost unthinkable. But the point needed to be made in 1979,
and I think it needs to be made today, if only to focus for a moment on
the realities of Caribbean nations and peoples, who have never had an
"adequate communication system and strong economic ties that would
allow them .. to understand themselves" as a community (Moya Pons
34). The efforts of academics, artists, and intellectuals, such as the
figures I mention above and many others, have not been enough to
forge such a community, except amongst themselves. Vega introduced
the collection of stories in which "Encancaranublado" appeared with
the following lines: "A la confederacibn caribeha del future / Para que
llueva pronto y escampe (dedication). Well, the sky hasn't cleared. In
fact, it has gotten cloudier.
A new generation of writers like the Dominican Junot Diaz, the Hai-
tian Eldwidge Danticat, and the Puerto Rican Mayra Santos Febres seem
to recognize this new reality, superimposed on an old dream. One
does not find, in the work of these writers, articulations of Caribbean
identity on a grand scale, although they are most certainly Caribbean
and politically committed. On the contrary, their short stories tend to
concentrate on the local realities and histories of their individual is-
lands and diasporic Caribbean communities in the United States.
Danticat, for example, writes powerful and intimate accounts of the
massacre of Haitians by Dominicans under Rafael Trujillo. There are
boat stories, stories of exile, and finally, stories of migration. Diaz, for
his part, writes of childhood and poverty in the Dominican Republic, a
Puerto Rican factory owner, and life in the barrios of New York.
Both Diaz and Danticat write in English and are based in the United
States. Santos Febres lives in Puerto Rico and writes in Spanish, but is
part of a newer generation of Puerto Rican artists who are intimately
familiar with Puerto Rican culture in the U.S. and who see themselves
SElizabeth De Loughrey brought this article to my attention in her conference
paper, "The Fragmented Archipelago: Regionalism and the Anglophone Caribbean."
CATHERINE DEN TANDT
as part of a community of artists based in the United States as well as
in Puerto Rico. My point is not to celebrate these developments, but
merely to point to their existence. Writers like Diaz, Danticat, and Santos
Febres represent a generation of artists whose primordial concern may
no longer be to "learn to speak Caribbean." They already speak the
local language, and several others besides. Perhaps, given the "leaps,
spurts, and catastrophes" that have characterized Caribbean devel-
opment over the past 50 years, it no longer seems like a viable project
- and there are so many more pressing concerns immediately at hand.
Puerto Rico, after all, faces another plebiscite and a possible vote for
statehood in the coming year. Haiti and the Dominican Republic floun-
der in poverty and political disarray. All the islands are increasingly
dependent on tourism. Young girls and boys line the malecdn in Ha-
vana, waiting for clients with dollars, and the French islands seem
bissfully unaware, wondering perhaps how they ever ended up so far
away from France. Derek Walcott speaks of "one literature in several
imperial languages, French, English, Spanish" that "bud and open is-
lanid after island in the early morning of a culture. .." He says, "this
flowering had to come" (29). It has come, but Caribbean culture is less
and less an articulation of "Caribbeanness" in several languages, and
more often the manifestation of new borders, patterns of migration,
and movement of capital that break apart the vase of Caribbean frag-
ments his poetry so lovingly assembled. This is precisely why cultural
critics committed to the Caribbean need to re-group. The battlegrounds
have shifted under our feet, and I, for one, feel like I am walking on
STILL HERE, STILL WAITING;
Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. "The Repeating Island. Do the Americas Have
a Common Literature? Ed. Gustavo Pirez-Firmat. Duke UP, 1990:
Brathwaite,Kamau & Edouard Glissant. "A Dialogue: Nation Language
and Poetics of Creolization." Presencia criolla en el Caribe y Ambrica
Latina/Creole Presence in the Caribbean and Latin America. Ed.
Ineke Phaf. Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert, 1996. 19-35.
De Loughrey, Elizabeth. "The Fragmented Archipelago: Regionalism and
the Anglophone Caribbean." Modern Language Association, To-
ronto. Dec. 1997.
Esteves, Abilio. "Cuba, el Papa y la espera." El Pais [Madrid] 21 Janu-
ary, 1998: 11.
Fuentes, Carlos. La nueva novela hispanoamericana. Mi~xico: Joaquin
Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse. Selected Essays. Trans. J.
Michael Dash. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.
James, C.L.R. "From Toussaint L'Ouverture to Fidel Castro." The
C.L.R.James Reader. Ed. Anna Grimshaw. London: Blackwell, 1992.
Marti, Josi6. "Our America." Our America. Ed. Philip S. Foner. New York
Monthly Review Press, 1977.
Moya Pons, Frank. "Is There a Caribbean Consciousness?" Amdricas.
31.8 (1979): 33-36.
Vega, Ana Lydia. Encancaranublado y otros cuentos de naufragio. 4th
ed. Rio Piedras: Antillana, 1990.
Walcott, Derek. "The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory." The New,
Republic. December 28, 1992: 26-32.
Reimagining the Caribbean:
Lorna Goodison and the Poetics of Space
In his essay entitled "Validation of Fiction: A Personal View of Imagi-
native Truth," Guyanese novelist Wilson Harris makes the follow
The world in which we live sometimes appears to border upon a thea-
tre of demonic comedy, and to reveal a tissue of absurdities, not to
speak of disinformation. ...But when one looks deep into the fabric of
creation one may discern there, ... the outlines of genuine hope, how-
ever apparently frail.'
Harris goes on to say that while there is no "short cut" to the cycles of
local and global violence (and he names the many faces of violence--
famine, pollution, nuclear peril--in these times he would add chemi-
cal warfare) rigged elections in the so-called Third World and drug
addiction--yet, he believes that "solutions exist," and they "hinge" on
what he describes as "a profound literacy of the imagination." This
"literacy of the imagination" is at the center of Lorna Goodison's po-
etic consciousness. Lorna Goodison, even as she recognizes the Car-
ibbean's violent fragmented past, and a present no less tortured, leaps
beyond fragmentation and torture to a space where history and the
past are rewritten and self, relationship and community reaffirmed.
Memory is the vehicle through which Goodison journeys into the larger
history of the Caribbean and rewrites it. On this journey, events of the
Department of English, Queens College, City University of New York.
REIMAGINING THE CARIBBEAN. LORNA GOODISON AND THE POETICS OF SPACE 69
past are remapped and renamed. In discussing "the language of
memory" Mary Chamberlain makes the following observation:
The language of memory is the means by which tradition is transmit-
ted, the means by which structure and values are internalized, passed
on and inherited. Memories are imaginative recountings, representa-
tive of a set of meanings by which and through which lives are inter-
preted, and transmitted, constructed and changed. 2
Memory for Goodison is the agent in the reconstruction and transfor-
mation of Caribbean reality. Located at the center of this transformative
space is the female self. It is from this center that Goodison's female
personae embark on sacred and redemptive journeys to new identi-
ties. These redemptive journeys are played out against the backdrop
of a hostile colonial space, for the contemporary Caribbean remains
entrapped. It is the Caribbean that Derek Walcott describes in "The
Is crab climbing crab-back, in a crab-quarrel,
and going round and round in the same barrel,
is sharks with shirt-jacs, sharks with well-pressed fins
ripping we small fry off with razor grins;
nothing ain't change but color and attire.3
It is a territory where men control both public and private space and
women are silenced in many ways, both physical and psychical. Mov-
ing beyond the public and private spaces of daily existence, Goodison
creates an alternate internal space of recovery and possibility, a fe-
male-centered space. Olive Senior describes this space as a "space of
resonance."l It is performance space. Enclosed in this space Goodison's
women go about their daily lives as mothers, wives and lovers, very
often entrapped in these roles. But in the sanctity of the performance
space, they subtly act out other existences, create narratives of resist-
ance and embark on journeys of liberation.
At the heart of these female-centered counter-narratives, Coodison
positions Nanny, Ashanti woman, maroon warrior, symbol of the sub-
merged but subversive female presence in the life and literature of the
region. Nanny bridges ancestral past and present, reality and imagina-
tion, myth and history. She dominates the imaginary landscape upon
which Goodison explores strategies of resistance and inscribes her
vision of a new world--a world where the self is inviolate; where
relationships are liberated from the burden of history and become both
possible and palpable; and the Caribbean community, traditionally
viewed as tortured and fragmented, is offered the possibility of heal-
ing and rebirth.
Goodison, in IAm Becoming My Mother, explores the female capac-
ity for regeneration and healing in the companion poems, "Nanny" and
"Guinea Woman."s "Nanny" mythologizes the famous maroon warrior.
In an attempt to retrieve the collective past, Goodison imbues Nanny
with superhuman qualities. Nanny travels through time and space,
and in her journeys Goodison's own consciousness of the past and
history is explored. Nanny's journey from Africa to the New World is a
subversive act. She is trained in the ways of resistance and deliber-
ately sold into slavery in order to spearhead the resistance movement
in the New World:
And when my training was over
they circled my waist with pumpkin seeds
and dried okra, a traveller's jigida
and sold me to the traders
all my weapons within me.
I was sent, tell that to history. (45)
While Nanny travels through historical time, and her consciousness is
collective, Goodison utilizes her metaphorical wanderings in order to
explore the complexity of the female self. In her poetry, this self is
constantly in the process of development, but it is also firmly rooted
in knowledge of the past. Nanny, carrying within her person seeds of
resistance and a knowledge of survival and healing, becomes a power-
ful symbol of the supremacy of the female self. She is both universal
and idealized, personal and pragmatic. The ultimate warrior, she is a
woman for whom physical motherhood cannot be actualized. Instead,
she is the racial mother. Always in a "state of perpetual siege," her
"'womb was sealed with molten wax of killer bees" (44). This acknowl-
edgement of the fearsome power of sexuality and its deliberate sup-
p~ression allows Goodison to create a figure who represents the epitome
of resistance, a figure who will destroy as well as create. Goodison's
image of the life-giving womb plastered shut with the killer bees' wax
foregrounds the complexity of the woman warrior's experience. Such
a symbolic union of womb and killer bees' wax gives reality to the forces
dlominating the drama of Nanny, the woman warrior's life. The womb
is transformed into performance space. It becomes the site where past
RElMAGINING THE CARIBBEAN. LORNA GOODISON AND THE POETICS OF SPACE 71
and present demons are eliminated. Nanny is a self-sufficient being
who alone must ensure the survival of the fragile, vulnerable, yet vi-
brant and creative womb. Goodison creates a space where the de-
structive forces of the past cannot destroy the New World history in-
scribed on Nanny's body. Having been granted the powers of rebellion
and salvation, Nanny inhabits the lonely space of self knowledge: "[She]
became most knowing / and forever alone" (44). Goodison, in repos-
sessing an ancestor, Nanny, from the void of colonial history, trans-
forms her into a timeless figure of wisdom and rebellion, protection
Like Nanny, Guinea Woman is another of Goodison's excavations and
refashionings. Both are ancestral figures and powerfully resistant.
Guinea woman, too, is a worker of miracles. Her descendants are im-
bued with her powers in spite of attempts to negate them:
They forbade great grandmother's
gumnea woman presence
They washed away her scent of
cinnamon and escallions
controlled the child's antelope walk
and called her uprisings rebellions. (39)
But ancestral memory is never erased; it is simply submerged and, for
Goodison, it remains an integral part of the female psyche. She imposes
the memory of the past on the present moment and thus allows the self
to come into existence without the burden of personal alienation.
While Goodison's women exist in varied spaces of confinement from
which they struggle to emerge, she celebrates female presence in all
their infinite variety. Ranging from her own mother to Rosa Parks and
Winnie Mandela, she sings of their strengths, their daily struggles to
survive and their commitment to refashion the flawed worlds in which
they find themselves. "For My Mother May I Inherit Half Her Strength,"
is a tribute to the many faces of women. Goodison explores the public
ceremony of marriage as well as the private pain, and she captures a
young woman's initial entry into the world of domesticity.
But even as Goodison presents the simple traditional world of the
domestic, at the same time she subtly creates the tension between
outward acceptance and inward rebellion. In the arena of the domes-
tic, all is not what it seems: "And she rose early and sent us clean into
the world and she / went to bed in the dark, for my father came in
always last" (483). Even at her husband's death, she walked "straight-
backed." Goodison's female personae occupy constantly shifting
psychological spaces. In fact, Pamela Mordecai comments on the "keen-
ness of her observation, her certain demarcation of shapes [and] her
canny sense of physical and sociological textures."' The constantly
changing psychological spaces that Goodison's women occupy are
nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the poem, "On Houses."7
"House" becomes a metaphor for the various places of entrapment in
which women find themselves:
I have built many houses
made warm smells in many kitchens
created content within
according to the color of the season. (13)
The achievement of "content" is the barometer of relationship. When
all is well in the created domestic world, the woman/builder is able to
create. But soon, the "season" is transformed into a season of per-
sonal discontent. The relationship is clouded with misconceptions, and
the "garden deep with dreams" is juxtaposed with the "kitchen elec-
tric." The loss of promised passion galvanizes Goodison's persona into
an awareness of her position; she is imprisoned in domestic space. Both
places, kitchen and bedroom, are prisons. In addition, the bedroom also
symbolizes the depersonalization of the woman; she is obj ect, commod-
ity. But she does not lose her desire for a self-fulfilling space:
Yet that house was not the last,
you commissioned one of newest glass,
and tried to create calm smells
in that transparent kitchen.
You fenced it in when I was not looking. (13)
The vision of the garden retreats further and further into the distance
as the woman becomes increasingly conscious of her imprisonment in
various domestic spaces. In her visionary garden, the female body is
the territory of desire. In this garden of the female imagination, ide-
ally, the supremacy of female desire and sexuality should be essential
components for relationship. However, desire and sexuality remain
unliberated: "I finger chains and make clinking noises / in key" (14).
Goodison articulates a liberating concept of relationship which is in
direct contrast to the brutality and destructiveness that generally char-
acterize male/female relationships in the Caribbean.8 She moves her
RElMAGINING THE CARIBBEAN: LORNA GOODISON AND THE POETICS OF SPACE 73
female personae away from the compressed spaces of the domestic
and the passively sexual into a space where they are actively involved
in the pleasures of desire. She liberates them from positions of de-
pendency and passivity; she annihilates the ceremonies of the domes-
tic and brings into existence the rituals of desire. As they explore the
tenuous spaces of womanhood, Goodison's women are, at the same
time, vulnerable and inviolable. They journey beyond the fragility of
self toward the strength of relationship.
Before this is possible, however, the woman must come to her own
awareness of the sanctity of "self." The journey is one fraught with
dread. Lorna Goodison confronts this dread. An example of such a
confrontation and its inevitable transformation occurs in "Ceremony
For The Banishment Of The King Of Swords."' The King of Swords rep-
resents the illimitability of conscious pain and its various manifesta-
tions. Goodison carefully charts the individual's blind journey towards
personal and sexual disintegration. Slowly, she brings her persona to
an awareness of her own intuitive knowledge and strength, even as
she carefully charts the fragmentation of the persona's psyche. While
intuitive knowledge is always present, love has its own masking prop-
erties. The desire for wholeness in relationship is so strong that
Goodison's persona lets down her guard, and at this moment of per-
sonal vulnerability "enter the king," and "you know about the sword /
and you know about the wounding" (54). But at the very moment that
the persona suffers the rage and pain of betrayal, sexual and psychic
wounding, the poet offers deliverance: "King of Swords / You are no
more / We have light ... ". The "light" that the poet presents is the light
of self knowledge, "a shining antidote to pain" (55). A single, fragile
sensibility inhabits the battered landscape of this poem, but finally,
the poet offers healing through community. The persona enters the
community of women who protest love's painful meanderings, but re-
main deeply committed to the fulfillment of desire.
Goodison articulates a liberating concept of relationship. She moves
her female personae away from the compressed worlds of the domes-
tic and the passively sexual into a space where the women are actively
involved in the pleasures of desire. She relieves them from their posi-
tions of dependency and passivity; she annihilates the ceremonies of
the domestic and brings into existence the rituals of desire.
In "Garden Of The Women Once Fallen," common weeds and flowers
of Jamaica are analogues in her discourse on traditional female sexual
reticence and the endless monotony of domesticity thrust upon
women.' Goodison explores the psychology of women's sexuality. In
this garden, Goodison introduces the weeds and flowers of Jamaica. The
leaves of Shame Mi Lady close up if touched. Broom Weed is gathered
and bunched and used for sweeping. In this garden rooted in land which
is always the site of violence and struggle, Goodison attempts to revolu-
tionize the world of weary women: "Come lady, tie bright ribbon-grass
round your waist / Let you and I bloom redemption in this place" (14).
The female personae who inhabit the garden range from the "bashful ...
shy ... innocent lady" of "Shame Mi Lady" and the woman "devoted to
sweeping, cleaning / even in [her] fullest blooming" in "Broom Weed" to
the aging woman in "Sunflower Possessed" who is "hoping the golden
circle of her unmaking / will give her the go-round once more" (14-15).
Goodison is aware that in exploring the roles women play in relation-
ships, a certain commonality emerges. This awareness of experience
shared, moves the women away from a tendency to internalize these
roles. Instead, the women recognize that they are not the roles they play.
The introduction of the flamboyant poui and the blazing sunflower trans-
forms the garden into a place of sexual recovery and healing. "Poui"
begins with the woman in an anticipatory space waiting for a sexual
encounter. The woman is waiting and the man is in control; he is the
possessor: "She waits for HIM / and in his high august heat / he takes
her" (15). But in the intensity of their encounter, the balance of power is
upset; what becomes the focus is not the male's ecstasy of possession,
but the female's achievement of a center of sexual fulfillment:
... their celestial mating
is so intense
that for weeks her rose-gold dress
lies tangled round her feet
and she don't even notice. (15)
Both Velma Pollard and Edward Baugh have commented on Goodison's
distinctive use of language." In one statement, "and she don't even no-
tice," rendered in the language of the folk, all fallen women are regener-
ated. Pretense, drudgery and self-effacement are eliminated and the
women find their way back to a liberating sexuality. In another context
Benedict Anderson acknowledges the transformative power of the lan-
guage of the folk: "Through that language, encountered at mother's
knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships
are imagined and futures dreamed."l2 Self, relationship and community,
restored and transformed by Goodison's poetic imagination, will inform
the new territory she is creating.
REIMAG;INING THE CARIBBEAN: LORNA GOODISON AND THE POETICS OF SPACE 75
Such a gathering together of forces explodes in "Love Song of Cane in
Three Parts."'" Goodison's "lances of green cane" bring to mind the
harsh relentlessness of labor on the cane fields of the Caribbean. In
the first verse, spoken in the voice of the female persona, a sudden
epiphany of passion provides the "only ... tenderness in that place"
(136). The woman offers her lover water. The image is loaded sym-
bolically. Water is the life-giving force; it is the water of the womb and
creation. It is also the sea and the water of memory and preservation,
the preservation of ancestral bones interred in the Caribbean Sea.
Therefore, Goodison's persona offers water that is life, sustenance, and
an entering into community both present and ancestral. This sense of
sacred entrances into the past and present is very striking in this poem.
In the second verse, it is the voice of the male that is heard. He identi-
fies the cataclysmic moment of love's revelation. The landscape be-
comes a healing space, a place of shelter and strength:
...the sun suddenly ceased to beat down
but slipped over into the time of cool, the easier time
of afternoon. (136)
In the final verse, it is the voice of the woman that is heard once more.
Here she attempts to name the experience: "Something happens when
we love. In some ways it is outside telling." Goodison's personae ar-
ticulate sound and feeling into meaning. She very carefully has her per-
sonae detail a natural Edenic world that mirrors love's physical and spir-
itual journey and reveals the internal journey of the lovers. The poet
returns to the past and origins, and out of these memories, she
reconceives a visionary space where, in the strength of community, the
self is made whole and the ideal of relationship is made possible:
It is then, released by memory, sure of our twinship,
that our dust
swells high and escalating
and in a language known to no outsiders, indivisible,
we sing. (137)
In the visionary landscape of Lorna Goodison's poetry she sings of
new worlds of possibility. Helen Pyne-Timothy recognizes this abil-
ity of Caribbean women writers to transform and inspirit the spaces
they inhabit. As she puts it, "many Caribbean women writers ...
76 JUNE BOBBY
have reclaimed their homeland and are assisting in the assertion of
identity, the infusion of meaning, and the transformation of society
which art can accomplish."" Goodison reclaims a Caribbean past full
of the searing pain of the region's experience of slavery and coloniza-
tion; but, in reclaiming this past, she refashions it to reflect the power
and passion of ancestral voices. As she refashions conceptions of self,
relationship and community, Lorna Goodison returns to origins and
brings to the surface of Caribbean consciousness, the submerged his-
tory of the region. This is a necessary act of survival.
RElMAGINING THE CARIBBEAN: LORNA GOODISON AND THE POETICS OF SPACE 77
1. Wilson Harris, "Validation of Fiction: a Personal View of Imaginative
Truth," Tibisiri, ed. Maggie Butcher (Australia: Dangaroo, 1989) 40.
2. Mary Chamberlain, "Gender and Memory: Oral History and Wom-
en's History," Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical
Perspective, ed. Verene Shepherd, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bai-
ley (Jamaica: Randle, 1995) 108.5.
3. Derek Walcott, "The Spoiler's Return," The Fortunate Traveller, (New
York: Farrar,1970) 54.
4. Olive Senior made this observation in a lecture entitled "Rattling
Our Stones: The Women Writers Journey to Resonance" (Rio Piedras,
PR: NEH Summer Institute, 1997).
5. Lorna Goodison, IAm Becoming My Mother (London: New Beacon,
1986) 39 & 44.
6. Pamela Mordecai, "Wooing with Words: Some Comments on the
Poetry of Lorna Goodison," Jamaica Journal 45 (1981) 39.
7. Lorna Goodison. Selected Poems. (Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, A
8. See Merle Hodge's essay, "The Shadow of the Whip: A comment on
Male-Female Relations in the Caribbean, Is Massa Day Dead?: Black
Moods in the Caribbean, ed. Orde Coombs (New York: Anchor, 1974)
9. Lorna Goodison, Heartease (London: New Beacon, 1988) 51.
10. Goodison, IAm Becoming My Mother 14.
11. See Velma Pollard, "Mothertongue Voices in the Writing of Olive
Senior and Lorna Goodison," Motherlands, ed. Susheila Nasta (New Jer-
sey: Rutgers UP, 1992) 248, and Edward Baugh, "Goodison on the Road
to Heartease," 1.1 (1986).
12. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Ori-
gins and Spread of Nationalism (London and New York: Verso, 1983) 154.
13. Lorna Goodison, Selected Poems 136.
14. Helen Pyne-Timothy, introduction, The Woman, the Writer &
Caribbean Society (Los Angeles: CAAS, University of California, 1998).
AND POPULAR PERFORMANCE
I";N met digaL qIue es3 maLy tarde, ya!":
la temeltica del tiempo en tres
mementos de la podtica salsera"'
Angel G. Quintero-Rivera*
n el Primer Simposio de CARIBE 2000 dos ailos atr~s, presentC
Euna ponencia sobre las identidades sociales y las concepciones
del tiempo en la mdsica de salso, o mis ampliamente en la lla-
mada "m~isica tropical".' AnalicC c6mo fue i6sta quebrando los inten-
tos de sistema-tizacidn qlue caracterizaron a la tradici6n musical "occi-
dental" en los Qltimos siglos: la preponderancia de la sincronia a tra-
vits del predominio de la melodia, el intent de que todos los elemen-
tos sonoros fueran gravitando en torno a los principios de la tonali-
dad. Argumentit que la m~isica "tropical", estructurindose sobre una
m~trica de clave (es decir, de pulsaciones temporales no equivalen-
tes) y a travi~s de un dialogo mas democratico y libre entire las dimen-
siones sincr6nicas y diacr6nicas de la m~isica -entre la melodia y los
otros elements de la sonoridad, especialmente el ritmo- combinaba
diversas nociones del tiempo, indirectamente impugnando la visi6n
lineal -de progreso- predominante en la modernidad "occidental". Con-
clui aquella ponencia argumentando que en la misica caribeha, mito,
historic y cotidianidad se entrecruzan en elaboraciones polirritmicas
sobre la posibilidad de la utopia.2
Para este encuentro entire voz y performance, entire poetas y
teatreros, quisiera abundar sobre esta tesis, pero centrindome en el
*Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad
die Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras.
Para este articulo he intentado dar forma de ensayo a una seccibn del Cap. 2
detl libro iSalsal, sulbor y control!, Sociologra de la muisica "tropical", premio Casa de
las Americas 1998 (en p~rensa).
ANGEL G. QUINTERo-RIVERA
andlisis de la podtica de las canciones. En una i6poca de acelerada
mundializaci6n de los arquetipos de comunicaci6n masiva, sorprende
qlue en la poi~tica salsera (m~isica tan atravesada por la masificaci6n
commercial) se insist en desafiar el presentismo predominante del pop
international, se recalque la presencia contemporinea del pasado y
En 1980, unos trece anos aproximadamente despuibs de la emergen-
cia del movimiento salsa, dos de sus iniciadores, qlue comenzaron en
la salsa, ademis, muy j6venes -cuando tenian apenas alrededor de
quince aios- los puertorriquehos nuyoricans Ismael Miranda y Willie
Col6n emprendieron el proyecto de producer un disco juntos. El LP fue
titulado Doble Energia3 y la car~tula mostraba a los protagonistas pe-
daleando juntos una bicicleta double en un paisaje otoiial meridio-
nal. La composici6n que escogen para abrir el disco -una salsa de tema
rom~ntico- Ileva de titulo la frase que enfatiza tanto el cantante solista
como el coro: iNo me digan que es muy tarde, ya! La composici6n es del
cantautor Josi: Nogueras, entonces un joyen puertorriqueho que se
habia iniciado en la mdsica como rockero. Nogueras particip6 a princi-
pios de los setenta en el movimiento de la Nueva Trova, adquiri6 noto-
riedad como compositor de salsas a finales de esa di~cada y es mayor-
mente conocido hoy dia por su revitalizaci6n de la m~sica de parran-
das navidebas, componiendo en estilo salsero canciones de entronque
jibaro. iNo me digan que es muy tarde, ya! constitute un debate jovial
en torno a los significados "generacionales" del tiempo en el trayecto
de una historic de vida. Elabora un dicho popular qlue recuerda el so-
lista en el soneo: "nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena"
El tiempo decidirdi futureo)
si hay verdad en mi caritio
busco la felicidad presentt)
con mi corazdn de niiio (pasado)
El rejuego de temporalidades toma una direcei6n opuesta en otra de
El amor en mi pasado (pasado)
por no haberlo compr-endido
muchas veces me olvidd. (repetici6n proyectiva del
Ya no es asi; pasado)
ahora en luz del universo
oivo feliz, presentt)
";NO ME DIGAN QUE 5 MUIY TARDE, YA!" 83
la vida me da los versos
que son mi sentir
y son para ti. futureo)
Esta estrofa es retrabajada mis adelante para incorporar, en la proble-
m~tica del tiempo, la dimensi6n espacial de la realidad migratoria y de
la nacionalidad extraterritorial.
El amor en mi pasado
por no haberlo comprendido
muchas veces me oloidd.
Ya no es ast;
mi familiar ya es muy grande,
por la calle ca una parte
otros lejos de aqut,
a nadie he perdido.
Nunca es tarde
en el juego de la vida,
por eso echo pa'lante...
la canci6n reafirma la importancia de la conjunci6n entire los recuer-
dos y los sueflos, la experiencia y la aboranza, la mirada simultinea
del pasado y el future, que rebasa limits territoriales
traen amor los cuatro vientos.
Reconociendo las limitaciones de su juventud, alude a la car~tula del LP
me hace falta carretera, tengo que darle al pedal,
para sef~alarle a una possible enamorada, en tono un tanto de broma,
liegas a tiempo,
en el ocaso de mi vidla...
A esta canci6n siguen en el LP otras dos composiciones de tema amo-
roso atravlesadas tambitn de un rejuego de temporalidades. Cartas
84 ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVERA
marcadas, de la propia autoria del cantante Ismael Miranda, abre con
Hace (pasado al present)
qlue estoy por decirte. futureo)
El coro recalca la importancia de la dimensi6n temporal:
iGracias a Dios! que a tiempo me di cuenta
presente en proyecei6n al future)
y ahora en mi memorial, eres un nombre mds.
(presente con proyecei6n al pasado)
La siguiente canci6n, c61ebre por su contrapunteo de descargas (solos
improvisatorios instrumentales) entire el timbre campesino del cuatro
p~uertorriqueffo del m~isico de la vieja trova Yomo Toro y la sonoridad
Aspera urbana del tromb6n del joyen Willie Col6n, incorpora en su
propio titulo la presencia protag6nica de la temporalidad: Cuando tri
quieras. En su declaracibn amorosa, la canci6n est8 colmada de frases
como "bien pronto adivinardis..."
A estas tres canciones de temas rom~nticos siguen cinco de corte
social, centradas en la temitica de las identidades socio-culturales. Y
el LP concluye con un interesante bolero de tema nuevamente amoroso.
Es significativo que entire canciones de amor, que han dominado,
abrumadoramente, la m~isica popular de nuestro siglo, Doble energia
incorpore una composici6n que, explicando su particular forma de
hablar del amor, remita a la formaci6n cultural original de las sociedades
del Caribe. Biardi, tambi~n del ex-rockero Jos6 Nogueras, sorprende
por sus cambios dramiticos en el tempo de la composici6n, cuando la
sonoridad rockera que predominaba en la mdsica popular a nivel
international se caracterizaba por un tempo constant machac6n en
su back beat. Con un largo o adagio, la cancibn comienza:
Por los mares de mis islas
adin navega el mensajero
con la palabra qlue se extiende
por todito el mundo entero.
Con un cursor firme y decidido
viene desde tiempo 'e Espanda, sendores.
la libertad 10 tiene muy comprometido:
"iNO ME DIGAN QUE 5 MUIY TARDE, YA!)
que to diga el tangd!
La cancibn toma s~bitamente un tempo de rumba presto y se hilvanan
una retahila de palabras de sonoridad .africana ininteligibles. Como
explic~ndolas, la canci6n contintia:
Yo vine dando consejos por el tiempo y por el mar;
consejos a Dios y a vivos, como los de mi papdi.
Mdis sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo, tci verdis.
iEcha pa ^cd!
Lo vi con los chiquitines, jugaban a ver pasar,
los sellores pajaritos y el mensaje en el cantar.
"Escucha, iqud canto hermoso!", me decia mi mamd.
Echa pa 'cd!
E inmediatamente, luego de crear expectativas sobre el tema central
de la canci6n, como preludio al climax explica:
Su abuelo tinto ofricano
a escondidas se enamored
de una india quisqueyanas
que su tierra defendid.
Atalicio' es de tres razas
las tres saben del valor
y el amor:
Y luego de un dramitico repique tamborero llega finalmente a la "tesis
central" de la composici6n que cantan juntos, "pero no revueltos" -en
inmediata alternancia-, el solista y el coro:
Soy antillano, Soy antillano,
de corazdn, de corazdn,
soy tomborero soy tamborero
para hablar de amor para hablar de amor.
ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVERA
De aqui en adelante la canci6n sigue alternando, sobre un complejo y
r~pido polirritmo, el estribillo del coro con palabras que evocan un
lenguaje africano. Esta alternancia es s6lo interrumpida con dos
estrofas que dan palabra a la voz de los dos tambores que conforman
la musicalidad central de la bomba, la misica de mis evidence heren-
cia africana en Puerto Rico. La miisica de bomba se conforma por la
combinaci6n de dos tambores: uno -a veces denominado tumbodor-
establece el ritmo b~sico o toque y otro -quinto o repicador- improvisa
innumerables variaciones sobre dicha base. Biardi intent reenfatizar
la importancia de esa Doble energra: la continuidad y la ruptura, la
tradici6n y la invenci6n, lo esperado y lo sorpresivo, el tiempo mitico
y el tiempo hist6rico.
iCamo estdi el tambor?
que cosa me dice
que trae la rumba.
El quinto repica
curando el cuero
al son de la tumba.
Soy antillano... etc.
";~Soy el guriiaaa!",
dice el tumbador.
"Si pierdes la clave
conmigo la encuentras,
en fiesta de cueros
yo marco el sendero
en mi estdi la fuerza. "
Soy antillano Yo soy antillano
de corazdn Yo soy borincano
soy tomborero Toco los tombores
para hablar de amor. le conto al amor.
"iNO ME DIGAN QUE ES MUY TARD~E, YA!"
Soy antillano tamborero
de corazon tamborero, tamborero
soy tomborero tamborero, tomborero
para hablar de amor. que repico y tengo sabor.
Esta identificaci6n de la identidad caribeha con la sonoridad de los
cueros y la sensualidad amorosa, a~n con todos los complejos
rejuegos de tiempo qlue manifiesta el di~logo entire el tumbodor y el
repicador, inmediatamente se complejiza en el LP con las cuatro com-
posiciones siguientes. Dos de ellas -Mayoral de Ram6n Rodriguez y
Jibaro castoo de Julio Rodriguez Reyes- refieren al mundo campesi-
no, jibaro, de algunas d~cadas atr~s, y en ambas aparece protag6nica
la sonoridad del cuatro. La primera, Mayoral, trata del conflict so-
cial entire los campesinos sin tierra y el capataz de una hacienda
(aunque en el entrecruce de tiempos y las vinculaciones de sus sig-
nificados, se use un t~rmino que evoca los "tiempos de la esclavi-
tud"). Relata c6mo este Qltimo -el mayoral- impidi6 a dos j6venes
hermanos atrechar por su tierra cuando intentaban avanzar para ir
a ayudar en sus labores a su mam8. La canci6n concluye con una
proyecei6n en el tiempo: los hermanos amenazan al mayoral con
"darle una salso si lo encuentran por su barrio," su territorialidad
popular urbana contemporanea. Salso en este context refiere tan-
to a golpiza, como a su "manera de hacer m~isica". La salso se con-
vierte en la manera de amenazar (referencia al future) con "a-
justiciar"7 en el present una iniquidad del pasado histbrico.
Jibaro castoo reafirma el valor simb61ico identitario de la territoria-
lidad perdida en el process migratorio. Pero, la identidad refiere no a
la territorialidad de un Estado, sino al mundo al margen del Estado, al
mundo jibaro de la contraplantaci6n donde se localizaba una cultural
conformada por una forma espontinea de vivir al margen de la oficia-
lidad colonial. Desde Nueva York (lo que el soneo recuerda con su alu-
si6n a la ci61ebre plena
Mamd, Borinquen me lama,
este pais no es el mfo,
Borinquen es pura flama
y aquf me muero de frfo),
los nuyorricans Ismael Miranda y Willie Col6n cantan en espahol a d~o
al mundo de sus antepasados:
88 ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVER~A
Oye, amigo, Osta es la tierra
donde vivieron mis anteposados,
la buena tierra que ellos cultivaron
hosta cumplirse el mandate de Dios.
Con sus mans laboriosas
y su frente sudorosa,
hicieron nuestro ranchito
que fue su nido de amor.
Es important fijarse en la reiteraci6n salsera de la importancia del
amor para el devenir hist6rico. El coro de esta canci6n repite:
Yjcdmo no voy a querer a esta tierra!
si en ella nact y me criaron
como lo hicieron mis antepasados.
iJibaro castoo, soy yo!
Castar significa cruzar diversas razas de animals para mejorar un li-
naje, y en Puerto Rico se usa principalmente con referencia a los ga-
Ilos de pelea. Por eso, el Diccionario de la Lengua Espaiiola define
castado como un puertorriquefiismo que significa tambiitn valiente.g
Es significativo que estos j6venes salseros se identificaran en 1980 como
jibaros castoos: como desafiantes y arrojados (hacia un future incier-
to), precisamente por la crianza de sus antepasados, por su pasado -
presentado con orgullo en el presente- de amalgama racial.
Entre estas dos canciones, el LP Doble energia coloca otras dos de
la autoria de JosE6 Nogueras. Tumbao caliente es precisamente una ala-
banza al ritmo de tumbao (el predominante en la libre combinaci6n del
movimiento salsero). La composici6n empieza de tal manera que da la
impresi6n de que sera una canci6n de rock. Pronto, sin embargo, se
establece sobre una compleja combinaci6n polirritmica de diversos
gi~neros afrocaribehos, usando como instrument protag6nico las
Si no contaban conmigo,
porque no estaba present,
el ritmo que aqui le inspire
es un tumboo bien caliente.
Mulata ven ven ven
"iNO ME DIGAN QUE ES MUY TARDE, YA."
Que yo naci en las Antillas
y que me libren de mal,
mi ritmo mezcla con todo
viene cruzando la mar;
contando siempre voy
a la amistad.
Qud lindo y qud bueno es el cantar
que suenen los cueros en el solar.
iOye, pa' gozar!
La segunda composici6n, titulada Americano Latino, con la double sig-
nificaci6n -por la colocaci6n de las palabras- de Latinoamericano y
"latinos" en los Estados Unidos, adelanta proposiciones identitarias
desafiantes. La canci6n comienza con la siguiente introducci6n del
solista con una sonoridad qlue evoca a los conjuntos de los aiios trein-
ta (e.g. Cuarteto Marcano o Cuarteto Mayari):
Hermoso tiempo el que civimos,
a pesar de los pesares
ya las fronteras se can cayendo
y el amor toma libertades.
En Jamaica bailan rumba,
buena rumba del cubano;
en Venezuela bailan bomba
contada por borincanos.
Nuestras razas contan juntas
con carmno amenicano.
Nicaragua estdi luchando9
y todos le dan la manor.
Oigo el viento estremecerse
con saludo al "buen vecino"lo
y me siento muy feliz
con mi suello preferido:
cantarle a los de Brasil,
a Quisqueya y los haitianos,
desde Mixico hasta el Cono
Porque soy americano,
ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVER~A
La canci6n se establece entonces en la forma antifonz.l del soneo.
Pero es muy significativo qlue en esta mirada al future, en esta alaban-
za (dentro del viejo sueilo bolivariano) a la present quiebra sonora
de las fronteras nacionales, el cantante improvise su soneo con un
fraseo que evoca la forma poi~tica de la d~cima, qlue es la forma tradi-
cional de la improvisaci6n en la misica jibara.." No se sigue, sin em-
bargo, estrietamente la rima ni la mi~trica traditional. Cada verso es
alternado con el estribillo del coro qlue sencillamente repite America-
no latino. En ese sentido se trata de un nuevo recurs expresivo: una
especie de "d~cima antifonal". Asi combine las dcos principles tradi-
ciones sonoras de la tradici6n musical puertorriquenia: la m~isica jibara
de la contra-plantacibn y el canto antifonal de la bomba y plena de la
plantaci6n. La canci6n es
simultineamente, ademis, nacionalista y
Hoy yo me siento orgulloso
y quiero contar aqui
quiero que escuches mi conto
Borinquen, es para ti.
Y para mi es un honor
poder contar a nuestros hermanos
de toda Amdrica Latina
que unidos vamos de la manor.
a nond, nond, nond.
A pesar de los pesares,
la pobreza y los dolores,
marchitas no estdin las /lores,
la esperanza nos alumbra
y vemos en la penumbra
un son que no nos castiga,
es la fe que nos abriga
y nos guia por el buen camino
que serdi nuestro destiny
y el de Amdrica Latina.
Doble energia concluye con otro cambio radical en timbre y en tempo:
un bolero acompailado de vientos metal asordinados y violines. Este
bolero de Germ~n Fernando se titula Bandolera, produciendo la
"iNO ME DIGAN QUIE ES MUY TARDFE. YA!" 9
impresi6n inicial de que se trata, como la mayoria de los boleros de la
d~cada anterior al surgimiento del movimiento salsa, de una canci6n
de despecho, pues bandolera represent evidentemente un epiteto ne-
gativo. Pero la "nueva manera de hacer m~sica" se manifiesta tambi~n
en la transformaci6n positive, tan propia del mundo popular, de con-
ceptos negatives utilizados en su contra. En el rejuego de
temporalidades, la "mujer de la calle" es comprendida y, en lugar de
condenarla, se la transform en "reina".12
Si ambos ya la fe perdimos (presente-pasado)
por alguien que ayer quisimos (pasado)
no hay que desilusionarse. presente aborado)
Como no tengo fortune presentt)
coy a fabricarte una (presente-futuro)
porque voy a ser tu amante. futureo en certeza)
Con la poi~tica propia del gi~nero bolero, la canci6n se lanza entonces a
"poetizar" a la vilipendiada bandolera en una mitol6gica temporalidad future:
Con el manto de la noche
cubrird tus desnudeces
y me robard la luna
para alumbrarte con ella.
Y en tu cuello de sollozos,
hard un collar de mil estrellas
y al resonar de mis sueifos
yo te nombrard "i~mi reina!"
Y en el climax orgiksmico del romanticismo de los violines, la canci6n
concluye con una gentil invitaci6n a la solidaridad sensual:
Tengo ganas de prenderte
dentro de mi corazdn,
Piensa bien lo que te digo,
ven a comportir conmigo
tu locura y mis quimeras.
Manifestando cierta sensibilidad igualitaria, al repetirse esta estrofa
se invierten los ti~rminos del verso final:
mi locura y tus quimeras.
92 ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVERA
Me he detenido en el examen detallado del disco Doble energia como
ejemplo de que la libre combinaci6n de formas en esta "nueva manera
de hacer mlisica" -y la multiplicidad de tiempos que expresa- se hace
present no s610 en buenas composiciones individualmente, sino tam-
biitn en el conjunto expresivo qlue represent todo un LP. Igualmente
aparece en las presentaciones en vivo. Por ello, para evidenciar la con-
tinuada presencia de esa multiplicidad de tiempos en el movimiento
salsero quisiera utilizar una de las mis recientes grabaciones de salsa
en el memento que escribo, que se trata precisamente, de una graba-
ci6n en vivo, de la grabaci6n de un concerto: de Gilberto Santa Rosa,
En vioo desde Carnegie Hall.'3 Gilberto Santa Rosa ha sido, en la Giltima
d~cada del siglo, el sonero salsero mbs popular en todo el Caribe his-
pano. Produjo sus primeros LPs como solista a mediados de la d~cada
anterior, alcanzando la maxima popularidad con un CD de salso ro-
mintica titulado Perspectiva (1991).14
Al alcanzar el logro de presentarse en una de las mbs prestigiosas
salas de concerto del mundo, Santa Rosa inicia su especticulo con
una canci6n (compuesta por Jochi LouBriel) que intent expresar que
su logro no es en realidad un Cxito individual, sino de la sonoridad y la
cultural que represent. Gilberto Santa Rosa abre su concerto en
Carnegie Hall -lugar can6nico y canonizador- con una manifestaci6n
de identidad colectiva. Produci~ndose como intent de apropiaci6n
de un scenario en los Estados Unidos, pais tan obsesionado por las
divisions raciales, se hacia necesario aclarar la unidad en la
heterogeneidad de la amalgama identitaria.
a los que lievan la mrisica por dentro,
sea mambo, rumba, salsa o flamenco,
lo que importa es el sabor y el movimiento.
una raza de colors diferentes
que se funded para hacerse transparentes,
y yo soy el vivo ejemplo
de mi gente.
Luego de un cambio en tempo y ritmo, que se manifiesta vocalmente
tambiirn en la lirica (en su m~trica y rima), se lanza a expresar el car~c-
ter colectivo de todo sentimiento individual:
"iNO ME DIGAN QUE 5 MUIY TARDE, YA!"
Mi sangre ya
vibrando de emocidn
lista para amar.
Y el corazdn
late al comps
y ya comienza a oir,
Despu~s de una repetici6n de la primera estrofa, la canci6n se estable-
ce en el estilo del soneo. Primero el solista da la pauta y el coro lo
acompaila, y luego se invierte la relaci6n: el coro comienza y es el so-
lista el que sigue.
a los que en este memento
alloran su Patria
por estar muy lejos.
a los miles de hermanos
que estdin a mi lado
buscando un abrazo.
salsa, sabor y movimiento.
al unisono: represent
yo soy latino con
un sabor tropical
y a esta gente,
que tenga la
a cada memento
isalsa, sabor y sentimiento!
por eso yo
ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVERA
DespuE~s de este ingenioso contrapunteo entire solista y coro en una
composici6n de caricter identitario que precisamente intent quebrar
las distinciones entire lo singular y lo plural, Santa Rosa configurar8 la
primera mitad de su concerto con cinco canciones de compositores
de distintos paises de la Ami~rica Latina "tropical". Es interesante que
las primeras y las Q1timas dos forman parte del repertorio que ya i61
habia tornado famoso, mientras en el medio coloca un estreno para el
concerto. Es significativo ademis que la Gltima de estas cinco cancio-
nes fuera la mis popular de su primer disco como solista, inmediata-
mente precedida de la mis popular de su producci6n mis pr6xima al
concerto, manifestando de esta forma tambi~n un rejuego de tiempos.
Cantando en Nueva York, para un pdiblico fundamentalmente de
migrants latinos, o sus descendientes, es important notar que las
primeras dos canciones, luego de su introducci6n identitaria, traten
ambas -canciones de amor- el tema de la separaci6n. La primera -Amor
mfo, no te vayas- es de la mis important cantautora femenina del
movimiento de la Nueva Trova cubana, Sara Gonzblez, y la segunda -
V/ivir sin ella- es de uno de los mis importantes compositores contem-
por~neos del movimiento salsa, el panameho Omar Alfanno. De esta
forma, Santa Rosa incorpora un entrejuego entire las perspectives de
gi~nero -femenino-masculino- en canciones de amor que abordan, indi-
rectamente, una de las principles problemiticas sociales del Caribe,
de su historic y present: los movimientos de poblaci6n. Las diversas
direcciones de los desplazamientos en Amor mfo, no te voyas combi-
nan la temporalidad y el espacio: abundan frases como te fuiste, volvis-
te, te voy a buscar
Primera luz en la ventana (pasado)
cuando se abren tus ojos
y pienso en el antojo presentt)
de tenerlos mailana futureo)
Pero s6 que a mi destiny
se impone un combate...
mientras el coro repite
Amor mio, no te vayas
que yo no quiero quedarme solo otra vez
El tempo acelerado de esta composici6n, donde predominan la guaradcha
y el son, combia dram~ticamente con la pr6xima pieza. Vivir sin ella se
"iNO ME DIGAN QUIE ES MUY TARDE, YA!" Si
estructura sobre el tempo mas sosegado que ha caracterizado a la sal-
so rom~ntica a partir de los ailos ochenta. Comienza en estilo parlatto,
pr~cticamente a capella:
Caminar sin ella astsin rumbo fifo,
refugiarse como un niiio
en los brazos de la soledad,
regresar sin ella es tan delironte,
tan nocivo, tan frustrante,
que a la casa no quiero liegar.
Luego rompe a tocar la orquesta con un polirritmo controlado mien-
tras el cantante elabora la dial~ctica de la ausencia y la presencia:
Es como tener las mans llenas de ella,
-su sonrisa, sus caderas-
y saber que ella no esta.
Es como sentarse a deshojar estrellas,
bajo la luna nueva,
a trauds del ventanal.
Y en el estilo "a caballo" -de ritmo unisono entire los distintos instru-
mentos- la polirritmia sincr6nica se detiene para enfatizar la multipli-
cidad diacr6nica de las contradicciones
V/ivir sin ella es estar
a ese cuerpo que yo amo,
es remerle a la soledad.
V/ivir sin ella es rendirse a cada instant,
es caer, es levantarse
y por ella, comenzar.
a donde ella esta.
La noche sin ella es
es mirar el calendario...
ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVERA
Y mientras el coro repite
Yo no sd to que es vivir sin ella,
yo no sd to que es vivir
el solista complete su improvisaci6n, su soneo, con las dos siguientes
afirmaciones tan significativas:
se me hacen mais largas las horas
smn su presencia
Yo no s& lo que es vivir sin ella,
yo no sd to que es vivir
liegar a mi casa solo
con esta tristeza a cuestars.
La composici6n siguiente -i~uidn 10 dirfa!- de la autoria de Tato Rossi
y Cuco Peila (el director de la orquesta), estreno para este concerto,
retoma el tema de la representaci6n y las identidades con el cual se
habia iniciado el especticulo. La canci6n es b~sicamente un reconoci-
miento de la importancia del p~blico que escucha y baila en la confor-
maci6n de la sonoridad que produce los m~sicos salseros. Esta im-
portancia se hace evidence en la misma canci6n y a todo lo largo de
este concerto grabado. Luego de una pequefia introducci6n cantada
por el solista, iQuidn to dirfa! es principalmente un soneo improvisado
inspirado por el p~blico que Ileva con las palmas de las mans la m6-
trica ritmica de la clave. En muchos otros mementos del concerto el
fen6meno se repetir6 y en muchas ocasiones tambi~n el coro lo hace
el p~blico. Es significativo que en la composicibn siguiente Sin volun-
tod, sea el pdblico a coro quien, precisamente, concluya la canci6n: es
la colectividad la que da la Gltima palabra.
iQuidn 10 dirfa! represent tambiidn un cambio de tempo. La canci6n
comienza como un bolero (de tempo, largo) y s~bitamente adquire la
ritmica sonera predominante en la salso. La secei6n improvisatoria
principal se establece sobre un contrapunto andante entire un ostinato
ritmico de bajo y bong6s y la clave 3-2 que ejecuta el p~blico con las
palmas de las mans. Entre estos cambios ritmicos. e improvisando
sobre el coro que repite ;Quidn 10 dirfa!, recalcando la maravilla del
"iNO ME DIGAN QUE ES MUY TARDE, YA!"
asombro, el sonero agradece al p~blico -pasado y present (a su gen-
te)- su historic, lo que ha llegado a ser.
iQuidn to diria!
a mi, a quien la gente
iQuien to diria!
que mis suen~os,
como el viento,
volarian en el tiempo...
iQuidn 10 diria!
los de siempre,
sentido, luz y fuente
que me mnspira
y da sentido a la lucha cada dia...
Y recalcando la contemporaneidad de la historic concluye
Por eso gracias...
a los amigos de la calle...
por la aventura
de escalar acompailado
cada barrera que la ruta
me ha marcado,
pues yo salo soy
de todo lo que he pasado.
Despui~s de este estreno, la pr6xima canci6n del concerto -Sin volun-
tod-, muy fresca en la memorial del pidblico pues Santa Rosa la habia
popularizado en CD y en la radio escasamente unos mess antes, abre
las posibilidades a una amplia participaci6n de todos. Se trata de una
salso romimtica que enfatiza los significados polivalentes de la rela-
ci6n amorosa, sobre todo en titrminos de la diversidad de tiempos:
que es dolor
98 ANGEL G. QUINTERO-RIVER~A
La primera mitad del concerto concluye con la composici6n Can-
tante de cartel, del puertorriquefio Charlie Donato, qlue exhibe un tempo
much mis acelerado. Esta fue una de las primeras canciones que Santa
Rosa populariz6 como solista y que lo fueron Ilevando al estrellato.'
La cancibn expresa c6mo mientras
mi novia quiere que yo sea un cantante,
un contante de cartel
i1 prefiere mantenerse como un sonero popular
para qud quiero teatro elegant,
si cantando en un baile
es que me siento bien.
Reviste significaci6n especial que Santa Rosa recuerde esa canci6n en
un memento de estrellato, precisamente cantando en uno de los tea-
tros mis elegantes imaginables. Mientras el coro recalca
L~o que quiere es
que yo sea cantante,
el solista enfatiza
Pero como yo soy de pueblo
ser como Cheo,
Andy, Pellin e Ismael.
Las referencias son a Cheo Feliciano, Andy Montanez, Pellin Rodriguez
e Ismael Rivera, cuatro de los mis populares cantantes puertorrique-
Iios de salso de la generaci6n anterior, reestableciendo la continuada
importancia contemporinea de esa historic, de esa tradici6n. Es signi-
ficativo que en las otras dos grandes miisicas "mulatas" del Nuevo
Mundo -el jazz y la misica brasilefia- sea tambi~n frecuente la referen-
cia reverente a "los maestros", lo que contrast con el intent de rom-
pimiento generacional del rock.
Es precisamente con un homenaje a Ismael Rivera entiree los cuatro,
el de mis antiguo abolengo en esta tradici6n musical, cantante funda-