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Current CENTRO Journal Finds ‘Lost’ Literary Figures of Old New York

The “lost” literature of early Puerto Rican migrants to New York gets to shine in the contemporary spotlight through six insightful essays in the newly released CENTRO Journal, Spring 2014 edition.

The Journal features the themed literary section “Puerto Rican Literature of the Continent Recovered,” which includes stimulating essays on little-remembered Puerto Rican writers of novels, poetry and journalists who settled and worked in New York from the 19th century through 1940.

The literary section of the Journal is introduced in a piece by guest editor Nicolás Kanellos, a well-known scholar, University of Houston professor and publisher of Arte Público Press. All the authors whose works are studies in the issue were first-generation migrants, and, except for Pura Belpré, wrote in Spanish.

The “lost” writers include a Puerto Rican-Cuban poet of the 19th century; the first Puerto Rican to have a novel published in New York; another novelist who wrote about the immigrant experience; the memoirs of Joaquín Colón; the work of a columnist of La Prensa and a look at what the legendary folk story teller, writer and librarian Pura Belpré means in the fields of Latino/a studies and children’s literature.

CENTRO Journal editor Xavier Totti said the literary section “traces the development of a vibrant Puerto Rican literature written in the U.S.” He said we chose to focus on the “lost writers” because ,“Most of these authors are not well known and thus not part of the canon. But they deal with issues of historical and current interest, of migrants’ adaptation to New York; the relationship with the island; the maintenance or not of the traditional culture. This is part of the New York story and it is still relevant.”

This Journal issue also features an investigation into Puerto Rican university students’ resistance to Americanization in 1930 as well as a look into the renonwned writer Oscar Lewis and how his interpretation of the culture of poverty in Puerto Rico was lauded by pro-independece intellectuals.

The full contents include: “Lola Rodríguez de Tió o el perpetuo viaje. Apuntes patrios para una lectura de lo ‘transcaribeño” By Mabel Cuesta “Su primer amor, primera novela por autor puertorriqueño publicada en Nueva York” By Nicolás Kanellos “Discurso de origen e identidad en la narrativa de Joaquín Colón López” By Patricia Ortiz-Owens “En Babia de José I. de Diego Padró. De Nueva York a La Correspondencia de Puerto Rico” By Alberto Ameal-Pérez “Lecturas desde el margen. En torno a las cartas de María Mas Pozo en el diario La Prensa de Nueva York” By María Teresa Vera-Rojas “Pura Belpré Lights the Storyteller’s Candle: Reframing the Legacy of a Legend and What it Means for the Fields of Latino/a Studies and Children’s Literature” By Marilisa Jiménez-García “The Not-So-Docile Puerto Rican: Students resist Americanization, 1930” By Ellie Walsh La Vida en la colonia: Oscar Lewis, The Culture of Poverty, and the Struggle for the Meaning of the Puerto Rican Nation By Steven Dike.

Lovers of Puerto Rican literature and culture won’t want to miss this both edifying and interesting reading. You can buy a single copy of this edition of the Centro Journal or the 2014 subscription at the Centro Store.