Ramón E. Soto-Crespo


On his book Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico

Cover Interview of September 13, 2009

A close-up

In the book’s introduction I explain Puerto Rico’s state in relation to other commonwealth states.

Chapter One, “State and Artifice,” examines the eighteenth-century paintings of José Campeche and the nineteenth-century painting of Francisco Oller to show the importance of the political state in Puerto Rican culture.  In this context, painting provides a visual account of the discursive limits of the Puerto Rican state.  More importantly, painting captures the idea of a passage in the Puerto Rican imagination where stasis and mourning are left behind in favor of an unconventional future.

rorotoko.com José Campeche, El Niño Juan Pantaleón Avilés de Luna Alvarado, c. 1808.  Oil on canvas. 271/4 x 19 inches.  Collection of Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña.

Chapters Two and Four, “The Mainland Passage” and “Out of the Mainland,” examine closely the prose and poetry, of the Latina and Nuyorican writers in the U.S. mainland.  Nuyorican poetry tells us the unknown history of the mainland passage from the perspective of those communities that were formed in the urban areas of metropolitan New York City.  Boricua politics, their invention, provides us with an account of the development and perseverance of a Puerto Rican identity in the diaspora.  For this purpose, I examine previously overlooked publications by urban political writers that provide us with detailed accounts of those political changes in the Nuyorican enclaves of New York.

Chapter Three, “Escaping Colonialism,” scrutinizes Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth Constitution and elucidates the political strategies behind its institutionalization in 1951.