Ed Vega’s full name is
Edgardo Vega Yunqué. He is one of the most prolific Puerto Rican
writers in the United States. Vega was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in
1936 and he grew up in Cidra, a small northern town on the island. His
family moved to the United States in 1949 when his father became the
Baptist minister of a Hispanic congregation in the South Bronx. They
moved from the Bronx to El Barrio in 1952 and when he graduated from
high school he joined the United States Air Force in 1954. His family
encouraged education and artistic expression and he began reading many
of the great American authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck and
Fitzgerald upon returning home from the Air Force on leave.
Vega published his
first piece of writing, a short story called “Wild horses,” in 1977.
He has taught at Hostos University, Hunter College, and the State
University of New York in Old Westbury. He has also worked in
community projects such as Addiction Service Agency and Aspira. Since
1972 Ed Vega has devoted himself almost exclusively to writing and
also teaching creative writing at the Institute for Latin American
Writers. He was founder and president of the Clemente Soto Vélez
Cultural and Educational Center in New York City.
He has written short
story collections such as Mendoza’s Dreams (1987) and
Casualty Reports (1991) but he has mainly published novels like
The Comeback (1985), No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or
Pay the Rent You Blew it Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home
Again (2003), The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the
Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle (2004), and more recently Blood
Ed Vega writes mainly
in English, his language of education, although he has also been very
much influenced by Latin American writers like Gabriel García Márquez,
Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges. He
departs from ghetto literature avoiding stereotyping about Latinos and
Puerto Ricans and sometimes his stories are impregnated by a “magical
reality” which serves to portray the difference in the experience of
Puerto Ricans in the United States. The irony, subtlety and satire
given to the literary discourse, helps Ed Vega to portray in his works
the Puerto Rican experience in the United States in all its complexity
together with a recurrent use of multiple voices and perspectives. He
also explores racial relations with a critical perspective but also
with distinctly comic effects as in his first novel The Comeback
about a gipsy Eskimo Puerto Rican hockey player who becomes
a revolutionary. In Mendoza’s Dreams he constructs different
representations of Barrio life and Puerto Rican versions of the
success story. The main character, a writer called Mendoza, writes
about Puerto Rican dreams coming from the Barrio and about overcoming
the Barrio’s negative reality through new hopes for a better future.
In the story “Mercury Gómez” a small Puerto Rican black man who had
always been “invisible” for Anglo Americans and who would never fit
the image of the successful American, becomes a powerful rich man who
builds an empire of media companies from a messenger service. He
organizes a group of small black men who carry the packages very
quickly making the customer believe that it was only one black man who
did the deliveries. Merc’s success emerges from his own marginality
and his story symbolizes the subversion of the system by benefiting
from his own social invisibility.
His more recent novels
similarly present a very ironic and biting vision on intercultural
relations in the United States. In No
Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew it Cauze
Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again
Vidamía Farrel, half Puerto Rican, half Irish,
searches for a father she has never known through a story accompanied
by jazz and music and a full orchestra of characters who help Vidamía
discover about her roots and about her own ethnic identity. The
Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida
Jungle explores the complex issue of race in America through the
use of a colourful number of characters and a series of incredible
situations. The novel is a protest against ethnocentrism and
xenophobia and also a political commentary on the United States’
contemporary history and on cultural stereotypes. Omaha Bigelow, a
punk rocker, meets Maruquita Salsipuedes, a nuyorican girl with
magical powers who can help him solve his small penis problem. Their
love affair is explored through passages of magical realism, political
digressions and a protest against cultural stereotypes and American
patronizing attitudes. His last novel Blood Fugues is a tale
of action and mystery which narrates how family ties and secrets come
back to the present in the stories of the two characters Kenny Romero
and Claudia and their Puerto Rican and Irish families.
The Comeback. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985.
Arte Público Press, 1987.
Casualty Report. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1991.
Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew it
Cause Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again: A Symphonic Novel.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
Lamentable Journey of
Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle.
and New York: The Overlook Press, 2004.
Blood Fugues. New York: Rayo, Harper Colllins, 2005.
Wolfgang. “Interview: Ed Vega.”
American Contradictions: Interviews with Nine American Writers.
Eds. Wolfgang Binder and Helmbrecht Breining.
Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press, University Press of
New England, 1995, 125-142.
---. “A Hispanic Voice of Satire: Ed Vega’s Portrait of the Puerto
Voix et Langages aux Etats-Unis.
Tome I. Ed. Serge Ricard.
Aix-en-Provence: Univ. de Provence, 1993, 229-243.
Hernández, Carmen Dolores. “Ed Vega.” Puerto Rican Voices in
English: Interview with Writers. Wesport: Praeger, 1997,
Pérez, Richard. “Literary
Pre/occupations: An Interview with Puerto Rican Author Edgardo Vega
University of Huelva,