Marta Aponte: The Puerto Rican writer who narrates the Caribbean beyond stereotypes
The author, who just published her latest novel, has been a reference for many Puerto Rican writers in the last 15 years
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Her name is not yet well known in the United States, but for many young Puerto Ricans who began writing in the last 15 years, Marta Aponte Alsina is a reference point.
Author of numerous novels and essays, Aponte has created a new way of rewriting the Caribbean beyond the stereotypes and clichés — that of a region excessively sexualized and far from the intellectual — in addition to giving visibility to literature that lives under the shadow of the great Latin American markets, such as Argentina and Mexico.
"My interest in the Caribbean stems from a feeling I've had for a long time, which is that of living in a kind of cage," said the author at a roundtable discussion held during the Barcelona Latin American literature festival KM América.
Aponte, who just published her latest novel, The Happy Death of William Carlos Williams (Candaya, 2022) explains that the Caribbean identity has always carried the weight of being a border region between the insular Caribbean and the continental coast, controlled by the U.S., and that is reflected in her work.
"It is perhaps that sense of confinement that leads me to other readings and fabulations about the Caribbean that I would like to write and read," she explained.
To this sense of insular isolation, there is the cultural fragmentation caused by colonialism.
In The Happy Death of William Carlos Williams the Puerto Rican author evokes the life of the enigmatic Puerto Rican painter Raquel Helena Hobeb and her son, an American poet and doctor, whom the novel's title honors.
"Many of my novels usually begin with a letter or message from a woman author whom the narrator respects very much and follows in her footsteps and answers the call," she explains.
In the novel, the reader accompanies her on a journey that will take her from Argentina, to Central America, through Ohio, to Rutherford, New Jersey, in the United States, where her son used to live.
Here, the author fuses memories of her own life with biographical material about William Carlos Williams, known for his poetic work "Paterson," to explore themes she knows well — the links of Puerto Rican culture in the U.S., the forgotten voices of women, the domestic realm, the gaze of inner exile. But also a more subjective theme — the bond that is established between a mother and her child.
"A bond that is usually problematic in one way or another, because there is a power relationship there and there can also be an excess of affection or rejection, which marks the personality and behavior of both," she explained in an interview after the talk with EFE. For this reason, she argues, "it is not as natural a relationship as it seems, at least in our society, many frictions can arise from it."
Marta Aponte Alsina is one of the most outstanding authors in Puerto Rican literature. She has published the novels Angélica furiosa (1994), El cuarto rey mago (1996), Vampiresas (2004), Sexto sueño (2007, National Novel Award of the Pen Club of Puerto Rico), El fantasma de las cosas (2009), Sobre mi cadáver (2012) and Mr. Green (2013). Green (2013); the books of short stories La casa de la loca (2001) and Fúgate (2005); and the essays "Somos islas" (2015) and "PR3 Aguirre" (2018), among many others.
She has been editor of numerous books and magazines, such as the anthology Narraciones puertorriqueñas published by Fundación Biblioteca Ayacucho. In 2014, the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the University of Puerto Rico awarded her the Nilita Vientós Gastón Chair. Cristina Rivera Garza included her in a selection of 12 essential women authors of Latin America, published in Publisher's Weekly magazine in 2018.