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Juliet of the Tropics: A Bilingual Edition of Alejandro Tapia y Rivera’s La Cuart ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Juliet of  the Tropics:


My purpose in bringing out this present volume . . . [is] to acquaint the English reading public with his writings, because I believe that such literature is becoming an important link in the Americas.
Alejandro Tapia Díaz, Tapia’s son. Preface to Enardo and Rosael

In many ways, the writings of Don Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1826-1882) mark the beginning of Puerto Rican literature. Tapia’s work constitutes the beginnings of a unique Puerto Rican identity, which remains as contested as its nationhood.1 Along with the Sociedad Recolectora de Documentos Históricos de la Isla de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, he compiled the first history of the island since the chronicles of the Conquistadors,2 and he wrote the first Puerto Rican novels (La palma del cacique, 1852, La antigua sirena, 1857, both published in 1862) (Ramos-Perea, Intr. Cuarterona 49). He sought formal education from an early age, and he formed the Filarmónica, a tertulia and performance group, with like-minded youths at the age of nineteen. This was the highest level of academic pursuits available on the island until it was dismantled by the colonial government in 1849 (Ramos-Perea, “¡Calumnia!” 119). He was one of the founders, in 1876, of today’s Ateneo Puertorriqueño, the oldest, longest-running, and perhaps the most influential promoter of Western arts and culture on the island, and the highest level of education on the island until the founding of the University of Puerto Rico in 1903 (“Ateneo”). The Ateneo was a link between intellectuals of Puerto Rico and the University of Havana until 1890, uniting the two most important centers of learning in the Caribbean under Spanish rule (“Ateneo”).