Rosario Josefina Ferré Ramírez de Arellano
(September 28, 1938 - February 18, 2016)
We had been wanting to observe the loss of Puerto Rican writer, Rosario Ferré (Rosario Josefina Ferré Ramírez de Arellano) who died Feburary 21, 2016. Nonetheless we do so now, we hope with proper respect. As said many times before, so many elders are leaving us, while we left behind continue to suffer the loss of their experience and counsel. In view of the tremendous losses on the island this hurricane season, to observe the devastation is not merely a polite nod as we discuss those who have passed in less dreadful times; we also wish to pay respect to the island itself and its vibrant culture. We earnestly hope that its resiliant peoples can once more sobrevivir despite the state-supported ignorance of its colonizers. Should readers wish to contribute to Puerto Rico's relief, we suggest donations to Oxfam online, or by mailing a check to Oxfam, designating Puerto Rico on the memo line: Oxfam America, Attn: Donor Services, 226 Causeway St, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.
La cuesión sobre la cual giraba la polémica del coloquio no era, en si, novedosa: toda literatura nacional se ve obligada a repensar el conflicto entre tradición e inovación concada nueva generación de escritores e artistas, y toda tradición literaria experimenta momentos de "crisis" y renovación. Lo que complicaba enormemente la discusión de dicho en las letras Puerotrriqueñas era el hecho de que detrás de la preocupación sobre el futuro de la literatura de la isla estaba el problema candente de la identidad de Puerto Rico, una identidad amenazada tanto por la incertidumbre de sufuturo como Estado Libre Asociado a Los Estados Unidos, como por el peso y la infraestructura de su pasado comocolonia española que había sido.
(Prologo: Maldito Amory Otros Cuentos)
"The question around which the controversial conversation revolves is not, in essence, original: all national literature is obligated to rethink the conflict between tradition and innovation with each new generation of writers and artists, and all literary tradition undergoes moments of "crisis" and renewal. What complicates, enormously, the discussion as stated in Puerto Rican letters is the fact that after the precoccupation with the future of the island's literature is the current problem of the identity of Puerto Rico, an identity as much threatened by the uncertainty of its future as Associated Free State of the United States, as it had been by the weight and infrastructure of its past as a Spanish colony." 
Ferré was one of Puerto Rico's important intellectuals, a writer who reflected the island's several dilemmas with art, depth, and compassion. After schooling on the island, she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, going on to get advanced degrees at Manhattanville and the University of Puerto Rico, where she studied with Maria Vargas Llosa. Of patrician background, in the absence of her late mother, she once served as First Lady for Puerto Rico, under her Governor father.
In contrast to the racism of the mainland, cherished by so-called "white" Americans against Puerto Ricans, Ferré's work is not removed from more informed concerns. In fact, would prescribe Ferré's signal work, House on the Lagoon, as a good cure for the past and current mainland ignorance of the island and its concerns. The book is an historical novel plus, one in which culture and politics and Puertorriqueñidad, if I may put it that way, are mirrored in a chronicle about a fictional family and their struggle with those very political conundrums. In that, the novel fulfills the wry comment within the novel,
History is one of fiction's most important quarries, he had told her, imagination being the
other important source.
On July 4, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act, which gave all Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship after 19 years of statelessness. This state of political limbo was subsequent to the U.S. taking over the island as its possession, after defeating Spain in the Spanish American War. (And, I must add, with several other possessions— the Philippines, for one—thus officially becoming an imperial power.) Astonishingly, Puerto Ricans were (and still are) not able to participate fully in U.S. life as they cannot vote in federal elections. This situation has led to wry jokes about the island's relations with the U.S., e.g., those comparing the island to Uncle Sam's paramour of whom he has yet to make an honest woman. At this point in time, as we watch the current U.S. regime's leader posture and strut and defy even minimal adult behaviour towards these, our fellow citizens, there is little to joke about, however.
House on the Lagoon, among its many accomplishments clearly lays out Commonwealth vs. statehood vs. independence arguments that have gripped Puerto Rican debates. Interestingly, when Ferré translated the novel into English, she found that the book became lengthier; and her villainous character, more humane. Indeed, in either version, the novel is not a polemic. Rather it shows the disintegration of a patrician-and-not-so-patrician family, the gaps, the seams which become tears and rifts in the society and political life of Puerto Rico. One of Ferre's characters, en route to an independista rally at Lares, comments tellingly on the signal importance of that choice:
"...do you know what Lares means?” Coral asked Manuel as they roared up the winding road.
“It’s the Latin name for the gods that protect the home. ‘Lares’ is the hearthstone, the place that’s
always kept warm. As long as Lares is kept alive, there will always be hope for our island.
Home. This beautiful island, its Spanish-indigenes-African culture constricted by a culture that, more and more, celebrates a perverse "whiteness" the same way that Medieval Spain became obsessed with "limpieza de sangre"—dear god, which corpuscle is Jewish, which Arab, indigenes, or African? "Home" cannot exist without difference and acceptance thereof.
Like what we often say of the dreadful turn of events in the US--that we are glad Uncle Soanso or Grandma Soanso, radicals to the core, did not live to see this-- perhaps it is a mercy that Rosario Ferré did not live to see what Mother Nature and the venal North have done to her island. For all her personal indecisiveness in the statehood vs. independence debate, her fiction surpassed her; and though we are told that she ended on the side of statehood, om a way I suppose, like the patricians in her germinal novel, House on the Lagoon, I suspect she would not now.
 My translation.
(March 1, 1921 - October 15, 2017)
We would be remiss not to observe, more recently, that another voice has gone silent, that of the US poet, Richard Wilbur. As is the case with a poet so well known, his passing has not gone without a great deal of eloquent notice, and so we refer you to the New York Times obituary, which informs us and commemorates his passing as well as any of us could hope to do.
Daniel Alberto Viglietti Indart
(July 24, 1939 - October 30, 2017)