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Aesthetics of exile: The construction of Nuyorican identity in the art of El Taller Boricua

Journal: Centro Journal
ISSN 1538-6279

Volume: XVII;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2005;
Original page

In his 1983 essay Reflexions on Exile, the cultural critic Edward Said defines exiles in the broadest sense as people who are prevented from returning to their land. He also argues that the displacement experienced by exiles in the foreign land calls for a reconstruction of their historical past as a way to find a common ground where they can identify as a group, overcoming their solitude. Although Puerto Ricans in the United States are émigrés rather than ostracized people, several conditions, such as the massiveness of the Diaspora launched with Operation Bootstrap, and the social and racial discrimination faced by Puerto Ricans in the metropolis made of this experience one marked by the trauma of social displacement. This article examines the Nuyorican artistic movement of the sixties and seventies as an attempt to reconstruct that fragmented history that Said identifies as intrinsic to the exile. I will argue that some common elements that surface in the art-production of El Taller Boricua, and the Nuyorican Poets, such as the use of Taíno and African imagery, the critique of the Spanish colonization in Puerto Rico, the reference to social displacement, and the subversion of artistic conventions function together to create an “aesthetics of the Puerto Rican exile.”
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