Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dominican Heritage Month, Day 16

I wanted to write a post highlighting all of the amazing Dominican Writers that you should all be reading, so I went to my trusty nemesis, Google, only to come up short. Only the usual suspects appeared: Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez, and Loida Maritza Perez. I asked Mari if she knew any and she found the same, with the addition of essayists Silvio Torres Saillant and Ginetta Candelario. Just tumbleweeds all up and through my mission!

And in my search I also found an old forum discussion that sort-of-but-not-really answered the question: where are all the Dominican writers?

I don’t know how many of those in the forum are fluent in Spanish, given the fact that most of the threads are in English – but I wanted to comment that to me it’s interesting that most of the worthwhile writers of Dominican ancestry are writing in English.

To me it’s an interesting statement on the shift of Dominican identity from a country whose culture was rooted in Hispanic "criollismo" to one whose Diaspora sets the tone of cultural and political dialogue as much as it does affect the country’s economy.

Think of Dominican writers and it’s Junot Díaz and Julia Álvarez who will come to mind. They’re mostly U.S. educated, Americanized, second-generation voices of the “Dominican” experience.

I’m not saying that’s wrong. I’m saying that it reflects the intellectual stagnation of the half-island.

If you ask about writers in the Dominican Republic, most people would only know of political "caudillos" like Juan Bosch and Joaquín Balaguer. Bosch was a good short story writer; Balaguer just an OK writer. Both were mostly politicos. Both are dead.

There are really no major literary works coming from the Dominican Republic. For example, Colombians can speak of “One hundred years of Solitude” and Márquez. Mexicans can choose between Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Mariano Azuela, Elena Poniatowska and many others. Chileans have Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Argentinians have Julio Cortázar and dozens others.

Dominicans can maybe cite Pedro Mir, but he’s not really that well-known outside the island; Salomé Ureña, but she lived a very, very long time ago; or Manuel de Jesús Galván, but he’s from as long a time ago as the period when Cuban poet José Martí was dreaming of one Latin America. In the last decade, Viriato Sención had some literary success, but that was mostly due to the political undertones of the book and the country’s fascination with Balaguer.

The point is, in my view, we do not have any transcendent literary masters in the country's language. The Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa had to come and write the only blockbuster Dominican-themed novel in Spanish, "La fiesta del chivo”. I hate him and admire him for it.

So the question I am throwing out there is why is there no real literary tradition in the Dominican Republic? Why are there not writers surfacing that could tell the country’s story in a way that is universally appealing? I don’t expect any definite answers, just sort of opening the discussion.

I blame the country’s poor educational system and sort of anti-literacy, anti-intellectualism mentality of its popular culture.

This person brought up many good points... those in the know- what say you? Where are our literary representatives??

*besos...wishing there were others to look up to*
Julia and Junot are great, but I hunger for more!