Memoir of a City
Publication Year: 2007
In the allusive cityscape he recreates, Rodríguez Juliá invokes the ghosts of his childhood, of San Juan's elder literati, and of characters from his own novels. On the most tangible level, the city is a place of cabarets and cockfighting clubs, flâneurs and beach bums, smoke-filled bars and honking automobiles. Poised between a colonial past and a commercial future, the San Juan he portrays feels at times perilously close to the pitfalls of modernization. Tenement houses and fading mansions yield to strip malls and Tastee Freezes; asphalt hems in jacarandas and palm trees. "In Puerto Rico," he muses, "life is not simply cruel, it is also busy erasing our tracks." Through this book—available here in English for the first time—Rodríguez Juliá resists that erasure, thoughtfully etching a palimpsest that preserves images of the city where he grew up and rejoicing in the one where he still lives.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Foreword: A Dream Realized [Includes Image Plate]
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Please, let us immediately abandon the idea that in this book we are going to encounter a lyric undercurrent trilling with touristic deceit in order to exalt the beauty of an island. Edgardo Rodr�guez Juli� knows too much about Puerto Rico to succumb to such banalities. His is another road. The city and his biography become united. ...
1. Ubi Sunt
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The landscape of my childhood has disappeared and also that of my adolescence. In Puerto Rico, life is not simply cruel, it is also busy erasing our tracks, our footprints, besieging our memory. The first tyranny is part of the human condition, the second is a passion uniquely Puerto Rican. ...
2. Avenida del Progreso, My Champs Elys�es
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I can’t remember my first visit to San Juan. Memories, now, are evoked by photographs but even those fade or are lost with each successive move. I suppose that we drove to the sea in the Dodge with whitewall tires because, in one photograph, the car appears together with my elderly grandfather in front of the capitol. It was ...
3. A Long and Caribbean Street
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While the commercial center on Avenida 65 de Infantería celebrated the opening of one of the first bowling alleys in San Juan, I walked along the edge of Progress, the mile between the San José Preparatory School and my house. The frontage road we’d yearned for never arrived; my father’s absurd purchase, made on the shore of ...
4. In Search of the City of Letters
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On the street paralleling the wall of the San Jos� Preparatory School and set atop a hill, apart from the other streets in R�o Piedras, stood a house that evoked my adolescent desires. It was on the corner of Padres Capuchinos, at the end of Calle La Paz where it runs into the San Antonio School. I converted the two-story building with ...
5. Toward the Mart�n Pe�a Canal
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Hato Rey has always been a drive-through town. There, one finds little of the city’s communal memory so often present in its plazas. Perhaps it is for that reason that our minds shift toward the personal, the anecdotal, the tics and irreducible memories whose persistence leaves us perplexed. I remember the Quintana Racetrack ...
6. Santurce, Our Simulacrum of the Big City
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The Ubarri train was designed to go over the Cangrejos ridge. You have to close your eyes and visualize the sand pit on the old route between San Juan and R�o Piedras. A mythic train, it was built and managed by Count Ubarri of Santurce. Three hills on its promontory gave it a privileged topography overlooking the canals to the south, the bay to the northwest, and the Atlantic to the north. With ...
7. Road to the Bohemian Lights
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Without delay, I embarked on another San Juan experience, taking in its urban landscape from a guagua (bus); for the moment, my destination was Santurce. I avoided sitting in “the kitchen,” those seats over the rear motor, because that is where the dispossessed sat staring at the vomit of heroin addicts and drunks. I took a ...
8. La Puerta de Tierra
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At the end of the nineteenth century, it was the neighborhood of maids and servants, of the proletariat that sustained the bourgeois aspirations of the old city. Its growth made possible the creation of new types of living quarters, such as the tenement houses already common in many old quarters across the Caribbean. These houses ...
9. A Clear Space, a Vigil for Poets
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The San Antonio Bridge connected Miraflores with the so-called island because Puerto Ricans use the word “island” to mean the “interior” of the country, like when we say, “Voy para la isla!” (I’m going to the island!). The implicit meaning is that of the old settlement on the islet of San Juan and how this islet is separate from the ...
10.From Borinquen Park It Is One Step to Villa Palmeras
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However, Condado is not just a place for poets to roam amidst buildings with an Art Deco flair to more traditional structures lacking imagination; it is also a site of generic, “international” architecture that doesn’t quite resemble Miami, much less itself. Out of all the neighborhoods in the city, it is the one most identified with ...
11. The Arc of Isla Verde
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There is something about Isla Verde that captivates me. It is probably its consistent vulgarity. Isla Verde has the distinction of a woman with rollers in her hair on Sunday night who knows that on Monday morning she will wake up just as ugly. It is a place blessed by the beauty of The Contemplated, but secretly it is seen as without ...
12.The City and the Forest
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Beyond Luis Mu�oz Mar�n International Airport and the long stretch of beach that highlights the shoreline, beyond Boca de Cangrejos Bridge, from which one can see the entire coast of San Juan, you can find Pi�ones, a place of mangroves and the secret lagoons of Pi�ones and Torrecillas, which are truly the aquatic forests of the ...
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Manolo will always return to R�o Piedras and Calle de Diego, following the route from Mujer con sombrero Panam�, taking the Moscoso Bridge over the San Jos� Lagoon, turning his back on Isla Verde and Pi�ones. In the afternoon, when the water is no longer calm, when it no longer reflects the titanium light so abundant in ...
Glossary of Names
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Glossary of Terms
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Publication Year: 2007