The writings of the following authors from Puerto Rico offer an introduction into the Puerto Rican experience of their times. The arts, and literature especially, can reflect a country’s society and culture in a meaningful way – these accomplished writers offer entertaining, provocative and historical works for bookworms and casual readers alike.
Short story writer, critic and playwright, René Marqués wrote the well-known play “La Carreta” (“The Oxcart”). Based on a real family, the story explores what happens to a Puerto Rican family that moves from a mountain region to San Juan, and later to New York City because of economic and agricultural reasons that drove them into poverty on the island. Life doesn’t go well for the family in New York City, and with one member dead they return to Puerto Rico. Themes from the play such as closeness to land are visible in many of his works.
“The Oxcart” had a successful off-Broadway run in 1966 and had the distinction of becoming the first modern Puerto Rican play to be presented in Europe. A multiple award-winning author, Marqués studied classical and contemporary Spanish theatre at the University of Madrid.
An alum of Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College, Esmeralda Santiago’s writing often discusses themes about culture, Puerto Rican identity and immigration. Popular books from Santiago include “When I was Puerto Rican” and “Almost a Woman.” Her works are partially based on her life and her experiences moving from Puerto Rico to the United States as a teen.
Luis Rafael Sánchez
An Humacao native, Luis Rafael Sánchez is one of the biggest Puerto Rican playwrights, according to the U.S. Library of Congress. He found writing success with plays such as “La pasión según Antigona Pérez” and “Farsa del amor compradito“, novels like “La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos”, and essays including “La guagua area”, which was made into a popular movie. Sánchez worked for decades as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and other prizes for her writing, Santos-Febres is a novelist, poet, author, and literary critic. She has also worked as a college professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras and has a doctorate degree herself from Cornell University. Readers should take a look at her novels “Sirena Selena vestida de pena” and “Nuestra Señora de la Noche”.
Similar to other authors on this list, Enrique Laguerre worked in different literary genres and produced notable works in several of them. Among his novels for example, must-read books are “La Llamarada” and “El Laberinto”. The writer from Moca received multiple honors from organizations in Puerto Rico during his time. A former professor at the University of Puerto Rico and the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in Old San Juan, he almost lived to be 100.
José Luis González
Raised in Puerto Rico by a Puerto Rican father and Dominican mother, González studied in New York. An essayist and short story writer, his political views led to him being exiled in Mexico, where he earned a doctorate degree, and largely wrote from there. Themes that appear in his writings include economic inequality, experiencing poverty and emigration. Notable works that are important to read include “En este lado” and “El hombre en la calle”.