The hurricane and the subjectivity of Rafael, a son of Guayama

Rafael Rodríguez Cruz: The hurricane and the Antillean subjectivity

The sea of ​​the Antilles welcomes “the hurricane”. It is nature manifesting itself; it is nature in its essence, although this sounds redundant to us. That sea of ​​the Antilles endows us with identity(ies). It too is nature; ours. Our “humanistic” nature. That sea makes us Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans; sons and daughters of the Caribbean, and Antillean men and women proper. And, in turn, makes us universal beings. This “dimension” is inherent in culture; to rights. It is precisely the dimension that I was able to capture through the writing of Rafael Rodríguez Cruz; a son of Guayama. His parents, Rafael Rodríguez Pacheco and Carmen Cruz Collazo, brought him to his “homeland” when he was five years old. His maternal grandparents Juan Cruz Collazo and Eugenia Colón Cruz, both from Guayas, transmuted from corporeality –from the mid-twentieth century– to being inspiration –muses–, memories –Mnemosyne [Mnemosyne]mother of the muses– for the writer of the book that we are presenting today.

The hurricane and the Antillean subjectivity It is a play about a Caribbean town. A work that combines the regional –extended to national and transnational– with the universal. It is a book that deals with culture in its various manifestations: memory, identity, literature, music, geography, science, mythology, among others. Its author, Rafael Rodríguez Cruz, dialogues with other authors. William Shakespeare and José María Heredia meet and talk about “some storm” in this cultural space that is the book of a son of Guayama. Luis Palés Matos –the son of José Antonio Vicente Palés and Anés and Consuelo Matos Vicil–, and the son of Guayama, Rafael Aponte Ledée, exchange glances in a poor black neighborhood of Guayama. In a neighborhood like Rodríguez Cruz’s childhood. << Everything is possible >>, the author reminds us, thinking of his grandfather. The hurricane and Mrs. Genara, “the fortune teller of the neighborhood”, throw away the cards. Yes, the hurricane. An ancient character that our ancestors and ancestors decided to look at, however, from the present we resist recognizing his place. And what is his place? What is observed in those letters? Perhaps subjectivity in action?

The hurricane is well known in our sea of ​​the Antilles. Puerto Rican historiography thus documents it. A look at the Geographic, civil and natural history of the island of San Juan Bautista of Puerto Rico by Agustín Íñigo Abbad y Lasierra –a work published in 1788– and a look, in turn, at the “Notes” by José Julián de Acosta y Calbo –published in 1866– give us light on the matter. And it is precisely around “the hurricane” that Rafael, on this occasion, illuminates our Puerto Rican and Caribbean culture, as well as our understanding. The hurricane as a constitutive part of our geographical environment, that is, of our culture. The hurricane as inspiration to show us the vitality of his ingenuity; his literary creativity. His look at “the hurricane” (and arbitrarily, for my part, I have left the article “the” for “hurricane”), in the first instance, is that of a seven-year-old child, and it is precisely for this reason that this book acquires dimensions of “universality”; or at least start that dialogue. This look could be that of many boys and girls, even adults, who belong to this Caribbean cultural ecosystem, or to other environments with similar scenarios. That look is expanded with literature. The poetry of José María Heredia y Heredia (Santiago de Cuba, 1803 – México, 1839) and that of Luis Palés Matos (Guayama, 1898 – San Juan, 1959) give continuity to that universality present in the writing of Rafael Rodríguez Cruz, until reaching “the sublime”. And, in turn, both poets serve as inspiration for the writing of Rodríguez Cruz. <> (102), in the words of the author himself. The “Antillean spirituality” is present in these three writers. There are no “distances” in time. For the poet William Carlos Williams (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1883 – 1963), <> [en Antonio Monegal Brancós,  Como el aire que respiramos: El sentido de la cultura  (Barcelona: Acantilado, 2022), 155]. Rodríguez Cruz does not mention it in his book, however, I thought it necessary to share these verses with you.

The book is divided into seven parts –without counting the Bibliography– that account for the author’s “living”, fluid, and, in turn, philosophical writing. In “Satan and the storm” goes back to the year 1960. Key time for the author as far as his ingenuity is concerned. A boy barely seven years old basting in his imagination memories of him that would accompany him throughout his life. Rafael recalls the Guayama of that time and shares the names of people from the town: Macario, Doña Genara –the fortune teller–, Tutti Frutti, Eddie “El Loco”. Who from Guayama remembers any of these characters? In the same way, he introduces us to characters from his family and it is inevitable not to feel part of it. Rafael invites us, through his narrative, to spend two nights in a storm shelter, in a Guayama neighborhood, with Papá Juan and Mama Geña. It is through the voice of his grandmother that the author impresses us with his descriptive skill and transports us to another time, thirty-two years before, when Hurricane San Felipe –“El Grande”– would visit the region in 1928. Likewise, the way in which the book is structured is a staging of the author’s creativity and analytical capacity. “Satan and the storm storm”, “A gigantic heat engine”, “The eye, the double wall and the moat”, “The storm in the work of José Heredia”, “Hurricane and blackness in the poetry of Palés Matos”, “Our sea” and “The hurricane in the 21st century” are all titles that arouse emotion.

The hurricane by Rafael Rodríguez Cruz is also a political issue. The colonial issue is omnipresent in Puerto Rican society. And hurricanes don’t escape the empire’s domination and crushing power either. This reminds us of the author. He also highlights << the important link of hurricanes with general culture >> (83). Are culture and politics related? Antonio Monegal from Barcelona proposes that: <<… we can understand culture as an intrinsically political activity. It is the system through which differences, identities, stories, conflicts and forms of coexistence are built, expressed, organized and negotiated. It reconciles the imbalances between the human being and the world, modulates the horizon of the possible and invites us to enunciate utopian desires. It helps us to understand and, consequently, to change. It is the terrain where we risk everything>> (2022, 154).

With all this, Rafael Rodríguez Cruz proposes a necessary reflection through the pages of The hurricane and the Antillean subjectivity. An existential reflection. Past, present and future merge. In the words of one of my teachers, the writer Félix Córdova Iturregui: <> (2020). Historicity, the consciousness of be –that is, human existence– is present in temporality through Raphael’s writing. The objectivity of the hurricane, that is, its “thermodynamic objectivity”, rather the “objectivity” of nature and human subjectivity are in constant tension. An interaction that precisely reminds us of our spirituality. A spirituality that is confused with the “Antillean subjectivity” that Rafael tells us about. A spirituality that characterizes the writing of Rafael Rodríguez Cruz. The spirituality of which we are all part. Thank you, Rafael, for reminding us of our essence.

The author is a doctoral student in History, UPR, Río Piedras. The book is for sale at the CLARITIENDA.

*Read at the book launch The hurricane and the Antillean subjectivity (Puerto Rico: Ediciones Gran Sempié, 2022), by Rafael Rodríguez Cruz, on Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Guayama. Activity coordinated by the Museum of History and Art of Guayama, as part of its Educational Program and Cultural Agenda.

The hurricane and the subjectivity of Rafael, a son of Guayama – Clarity