Sánchez, Luis Rafael (1936–)

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Sánchez, Luis Rafael (1936–)

Luis Rafael Sánchez (b. 1936), Puerto Rican playwright, story writer, essayist, and novelist. Born in Humacao and educated at the University of Puerto Rico (B.A., 1960), Columbia University (M.A., 1963), and the Central University of Mexico (Ph.D., 1966), Sánchez was recognized as a talented young actor and playwright in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He emerged shortly thereafter, the first major voice of a new literary generation, as an equally inventive and critically probing fictional observer of contemporary Puerto Rican life and experience. Beginning with La espera (1958; The Wait), Los ángeles se han fatigado (1960; The Angels Have Become Weary), La hiel nuestra de cada día (1962; Our Daily Bile), and more recently, with Quintuples (1985), he examines the insular and more broadly Hispanic American predicament of a dependent society confronted by an often fraudulent and lethal "modernity" as well as the delusions, poses, moral complicity, and uncertain personas assumed by different participants in a poignant national drama. His most widely celebrated play, La pasión según Antigona Pérez: Crónica americana en dos actos (1968), reimagines the classical Greek heroine as a twenty five year old mestiza condemned to death by the dictator of a paradigmatic Latin American republic for her dissenting ideas and identification with "those of us growing up in a harsh America, a bitter America, a captured America" (La pasión según Antigona Pérez [1973], p. 14).

Sánchez's first collection of stories, En cuerpo de camisa (1966), demonstrates his singularly keen ear and eye for the various inflections and social and psychological textures of island life. He especially captures the furtive, taboo worlds of the delinquent, socially alienated, sexually outcast, misfit, and derelict that are produced by a still-colonial society, its failed social policies, clash of classes, prudishness, crude machismo, and pretentious mimicry. La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976) and La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1989), his only published novels to date, confirm their author's analytical acuity, thematic daring, and linguistic and formal virtuosity. Powerful repositories of his characters' universe of meaning and an irrepressible popular ethos, language and music ultimately emerge as organizing metaphors for a miscegenated, culturally syncretic creole sensibility of stubborn ubiquity and resilience, despite both internal and external assault. Empathetic recognition of this defining resilience in the "commuting" experience and shifting spaces of Puerto Rican (im)migrants to (and from) the United States is more evident in his later than in his earlier essays and short fiction.

A member of the faculty of the University of Puerto Rico and the most celebrated Puerto Rican writer of his generation, Sánchez has produced many other works, including the plays Farsa del amor compradito (1960), Sol 13, interior (1961), and O casi el alma (1969); the popular short story "La guagua aérea," (1983) (made into an equally popular film in the early 1990s); Ventana interior, an unpublished book of verse; the monograph Fabulación e ideología en la cuentística de Emilio S. Belaval (1979); and a collection of selected essays, commentaries, and reviews also entitled La guagua aérea (1994). He is a professor emeritus at the University of Puerto Rico and at the City University of New York. Sánchez has also been politically active. In January 2006, along with other internationally known Latin Americans, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Eduardo Galeano, and Pablo Milanés, he demanded sovereignty for Puerto Rico by signing the Proclamation for the Independence of Puerto Rico.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America; Theater.


Barradas, Efraín. Para leer en puertorriqueño: Acercamiento a la obra de Luis Rafael Sánchez (1981).

Colón Zayas, Eliseo R. El teatro de Luis Rafael Sánchez (1985).

Figueroa, Alvin Joaqúin. La prosa de Rafael Sánchez: Texto y contexto. New York: P. Lang, 1989.

Hernández Vargas, Nélida, and Daisy Caraballo Abréu. Luis Rafael Sánchez, crítica y bibliografía. Río Piedras: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1985.

Nouhaud, Dorita. Luis Rafael Sánchez: Dramaturge, romancier, et essayiste porto-ricain. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2001.

Perivolaris, John Dimitri. Puerto Rican Cultural Identity and the Work of Luis Rafael Sanchez. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Department of Romance Languages, 2000.

                                      Roberto MÁrquez

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Sánchez, Luis Rafael (1936–)

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