May 3rd, 2013
Prof. Chris Olsen
U.S. Latino Drama
1. The Nuyorican Reality
You really can’t talk about immigration to the United States without mentioning New York City, and you really can’t talk about New York City without mentioning Puerto Ricans. For decades, New York City has been a theme in Puerto Rican literature, present even before the Jones Act was ever passed. Ramón Emeterio Betances planned the Puerto Rican Independence movement in New York and Julia De Burgos died in its streets. Among the great writers that have taken it upon themselves to talk about the movement are René Marques, Pedro Pietri and Edwin Sanchez. Although they come from different time periods, they all have immigration to New York City in common. It is in their plays where you will see examples of the different paths Puerto Ricans choose to take in order to survive the great city, and to achieve the American dream. I believe that the throughout the duration of time you will see how the theme running through their plays begins with one in search of freedom to identity crisis and the willingness of one to assimilate in order to survive. It is in the theater in New York where Puerto Ricans are able to express themselves and expose problems within their own newly created “Nuyorican” culture.
First of I’d like to discuss, what is a Nuyorican? Well, on a personal level, my father was born and raised in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, and wherever we go, he says he is a Nuyorican. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a Nuyorican is “a person of Puerto Rican birth or descent who is a current or former resident of New York City”. But when you look on Dictionary.com you will see “Neo Rican” listed as an adjective of Nuyorican. The prefix “neo-“ means “new”, so it’s as if the website is suggesting that a Nuyorican is new kind of Puerto Rican. So are Nuyoricans, Puerto Rican or American. Can they be both?
When you read La carreta or “The Oxcart” in English written by René Marqués, you will find an early view of what Marqués thought about the migratory experience of Puerto Ricans in New York. It is here where we see the Puerto Rican in search for freedom in a foreign land. In his essay, The Function of the Puerto Rican Writer Today, Marqués discusses how he considers the theme of freedom essential to Puerto Rican literature due to the colonial status of the island. He says:
And his painful search for truth becomes one for freedom. Freedom is for the Puerto Rican writer the truth always sought and never captured. It is, therefore the theme most repeated in Puerto Rican literature—the primary theme, I would venture to say. Whether it has political thrust or deals with individual or metaphysical freedom, the Puerto Rican writer’s desire for freedom is always present in his work. I believe that in “The Oxcart” what Marqués is trying to express is how freedom is not found in immigrating to New York, like the character Luis believes, but in appreciating what you have already and finding freedom in yourself. In this play, you see a “jíbara” family who uproots from their native environment in the countryside of Puerto Rico, who in the end, wind up in New York City. Marqués believed in the political independence of Puerto Rico, which I think is seen through the Grandfather’s character Don Chago, who refuses to leave his land, and the death of He thought the immigration experience was the cause of the erosion of Puerto Rican culture. Norine Polio writes for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, in her “Analysis of the Oxcart by René Marqués, Puerto Rican Playwright” that there are three types of Puerto Rican seen in this play:
The first adjustment is escape from the parent group in which a person becomes as much like members of the established community as possible in the shortest amount of time. The role of Luis illustrates this response in The Oxcart as he encourages the family to uproot...