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Dream Nation

Puerto Rican Culture and the Fictions of Independence

by María Acosta Cruz

Publication Year: 2014

Over the past fifty years, Puerto Rican voters have roundly rejected any calls for national independence. Yet the rhetoric and iconography of independence have been defining features of Puerto Rican literature and culture. In the provocative new book Dream Nation, María Acosta Cruz investigates the roots and effects of this profound disconnect between cultural fantasy and political reality.Bringing together texts from Puerto Rican literature, history, and popular culture, Dream Nation shows how imaginings of national independence have served many competing purposes. They have given authority to the island’s literary and artistic establishment but have also been a badge of countercultural cool. These ideas have been fueled both by nostalgia for an imagined past and by yearning for a better future. They have fostered local communities on the island, and still helped define Puerto Rican identity within U.S. Latino culture.In clear, accessible prose, Acosta Cruz takes us on a journey from the 1898 annexation of Puerto Rico to the elections of 2012, stopping at many cultural touchstones along the way, from the canonical literature of the Generación del 30 to the rap music of Tego Calderón. Dream Nation thus serves both as a testament to how stories, symbols, and heroes of independence have inspired the Puerto Rican imagination and as an urgent warning about how this culture has become detached from the everyday concerns of the island’s people.A volume in the American Literature Initiatives series

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

On a cool night in April 2010, Crime against Humanity—a play about “Puerto Rican political prisoners”—was staged at my home institution, Clark University. Written, performed, and produced by the National Boricua Human Rights Network (Chicago Chapter), it offered a hero-...

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pp. xi-xiv

I’ve wanted to write this book since I was sixteen, and it would not have been possible without the people who sustained and blessed me with their help. ¡Gracias, mi gente! My dad, Ing. Aníbal Acosta Ayala bravely read the entire manuscript in record time. The book has an introduction thanks to the impressive...

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pp. 1-45

In a world in which Chechen, Catalan, Scottish, and Sri Lankan nationalists, among others, command significant attention calling for national liberation, Puerto Ricans have perplexingly rejected political independence.1 Puerto Rican independence (through political action or by force...

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1. Literary Tradition and the Canon of Independence

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pp. 46-79

His fictional young activists listen to and are inspired by the living dreams of the real-life Juan Mari Brás, the militant pro-independence founder of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. What stands out about this section of the novel is that it crops up as a contrast to Benny, the...

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2. Breaking Tradition

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pp. 80-109

Puerto Rican national culture has been built up by the great works of its literary canon, itself shaped by institutions like universities and cultural centers, by documents like classroom syllabi and anthologies, by the media that promote culture, by activities like literary festivals, by communities of culture that award prizes, etc. The communities that produced...

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3. From the Lush Land to the Traffic Jam

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pp. 110-131

Puerto Rican culture from every era shows a deep and abiding love for the island itself, for the geographic territory (in its olden incarnation), which is more often than not referred to as La Isla; the capitalization is the mark of an exceptionalist conception of the nation. This affection for...

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4. Dream History, Dream Nation

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pp. 132-155

A satisfying and long-standing cultural mechanism for those who regret that independence never came to pass is to rewrite/reinvent Puerto Rican history in order to recycle, reimagine, and reconstitute the bits of the past that relate to (dashed) hopes for an independent nation. From these arise...

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5. Dreaming in Spanglish

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pp. 156-175

If the only Nuyorican writers you have read are the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Esmeralda Santiago—among the most popular and anthologized of Latino writers—you would think all Puerto Ricans everywhere wish for the island’s independence. Nevertheless, there is a divide between writers...

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pp. 176-178

Culture, as is evident and well-known, is most compelling when it finds stories and tropes that explore, capture, and summarize significant, shared emotions from the personal, sociopolitical, and economic stew from which it arose. The dream nation—the fiction of Puerto Rico as...

Biographical Appendix

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pp. 179-182


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pp. 183-186

Works Cited

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pp. 187-200


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pp. 201-206

About the Author

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p. 207

E-ISBN-13: 9780813565484
E-ISBN-10: 0813565480
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813565477
Print-ISBN-10: 0813565472

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 5 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 871424250
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dream Nation

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism.
  • National characteristics, Puerto Rican.
  • Puerto Rico -- Civilization.
  • Puerto Rico -- History -- Autonomy and independence movements.
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