Rosario Ferré was born in
1938 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. In 1960 she graduated from Manhattanville
College in New York as an English major. She obtained her Masters degree
in Spanish and Latin American literature from the University of Puerto
Rico in 1985 and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 1987. She
began writing in 1970, when she edited and published a literary magazine
called Zona de carga y descarga in Puerto Rico. This magazine
published the works of young Puerto Rican writers, many of whom have later
become well-known in the literary landscape of the island. In 1976 she
published her first book of short stories, Papeles de Pandora (Mortiz,
México). That same year she received a prize at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño
and at Casa de las Américas, in Cuba, for her short stories. In 1978 she
published El medio pollito, a book of fables (Huracán, P.R.); in
1981 La mona que le pisaron la cola and Los cuentos de Juan Bobo
(Huracán, P.R.), children's stories.
From 1977 to 1980 she
wrote a column of literary criticism in the Puerto Rican newspaper, El
Mundo, called "Carga y Descarga." In 1982 she published a book of
feminist essays, Sitio a Eros (Mortiz, México), and re-edited in an
expanded version in 1985; in1984 she published her first book of poems,
Fábulas de la garza desangrada (Mortiz, México). Her novel Maldito
Amor (Mortiz), was published in 1985 and has been re-edited many
times, by editorial Hispanoamericana in Argentina, and Huracán in Puerto
Rico; in 1987 she published El acomodador, una lectura fantástica de
Felisberto Hernández (Fondo de Cultura Económica, México). A book of
critical essays about the Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, El
romántico en su observatorio, was published in 1990.
Ferré did a version
of Maldito Amor in English, and it was published as Sweet
Diamond Dust in January 1989 by Ballantine Books, N.Y.. It was
reprinted by Dutton Plume in 1996. A book of fables, Sonatinas, was
published in August 1989 by Huracán in Puerto Rico. A book of literary
essays, El árbol y sus sombras, was published in November of 1989
by Fondo de Cultura Económica, in México. Her book of essays, El
coloquio de las Perras, was published by Editorial Cultural in PR
in1991. A book of short stories, The Youngest Doll, (an English
version of Papeles de Pandora) was published in 1991 by the
University of Nebraska Press. Editorial Cultural in Puerto Rico published
her book on Julio Cortázar 's short stories, El romántico en su
In 1992 she published
Las dos Venecias, a book of poems and short stories, with Mortiz,
Mexico; as well as Memorias de Ponce, a biography of her father,
Luis A. Ferré, with Editorial Norma, in Colombia. In 1992 she received the
Liberatur Prix in Frankfurt, Germany, for her novel Kristalzucker,
a translation of Sweet Diamond Dust into German, published in
Switzerland by Rotpunkverlag. Her children's stories have also been
translated into German as Die Halbe Hunchen, and were published in
Frankfurt. In1996 she was invited to participate as an honorary guest in
the Grinzane Cavour prize in Turin, Italy, as a Puerto Rican writer. La
batalla de las vírgenes, a novella, was published in1994 by Editorial
Universitaria, in Río Piedras, P.R. Her anthology of poems, Antología
Personal, was published by Editorial Cultural that same year. In 1997
Editorial Santillana-Alfaguara has published her children's stories in
The novel, The
House on the Lagoon, came out published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux in
New York, in September,1995, and was picked as one of the five finalists
for the National Book Award in the U. S. It also received the Critic's
Choice Award and was selected for the Book of the Month Club in 1995.
The Spanish version of
this novel was published 1997 by EMECE in Spain. It was also published in
Germany, Britain, The Netherlands, France, Poland, Italy and Greece. Her
novel, Eccentric Neighborhoods, was published by Farrar, Straus
and Giroux in March, 1998, and has recently been published by Editorial
Planeta in Mexico and Vintage Español in the U.S. in Spanish. It was also
published in Germany, with Krüger Verlag, in 1999, and in Italy, Holland
Her most recent book of essays, A la sombra de tu nombre, was
published by Alfaguara and is currently on sale in Puerto Rico and the
United States. Her latest novel, Flight of the Swan, has was
published by Farrar Straus and Giroux.
© Rosario Ferré,
All Rights Reserved
Rosario Ferré (1938) nació en la ciudad de Ponce, Puerto Rico. Su interés
por la literatura nace a temprana edad logrando sus primeras publicaciones
en periódicos y después en la revista literaria que ella y otras
escritoras puertorriqueñas fundan: Zona de carga y descarga. Su primera
publicación, Papeles de Pandora, se publica en México en 1970. Rosario
Ferré ha trabajado el género novelesco, ensayístico, poético y cuentístico
aludiendo siempre la realidad de Puerto Rico en su situación dependiente
frente a los Estados Unidos y la vida de los puertorriqueños ante esa
imposición. Su obra, cargada de múltiples recursos literarios, ha
entrelazado la ficción y realidad para expresar aspectos visibles y no
visibles proyectando la necesidad de la independencia no tan solo física
sino psicológica de los latinoamericanos, principalmente del oprimido.
Rosario Ferré pertenece a la generación de escritores puertorriqueños que
surge en la década de los setenta. La ideología de estos escritores se
basa, primordialmente, en el acercamiento a la sociedad de una manera más
política y plantean un esquema trascendental para el pensamiento
colectivo. Rosario Ferré, por ejemplo, se ocupa del conflicto social
interno que ocasiona la fragmentación de la sociedad latinoamericana.
Entre sus principales publicaciones, varias hechas en México, se
encuentran los siguientes títulos: Sitio a Eros, La mona que le pisaron la
cola, Maldito amor, El acomodador: Una lectura fantástica de Felisberto
Hernández, El árbol y sus sombras, Sonatinas, The Youngest Doll, Memorias
de Ponce, La batalla de las vírgenes, El coloquio de las perras, Antología
Personal , The House on the Lagoon, Eccentric Neighborhoods y Vuelo de
Works by the Author
Flight of the Swan 2001.
Eccentric Neighborhoods, 1998.
La Casa de la Laguna, 1997.
The House on the Lagoon, 1995
La Batalla de las Vírgenes, 1994.
The Youngest Doll,1991
Sweet Diamond Dust and Other Stories,
Maldito Amor, 1985.
El Medio Pollito, 1981.
Papeles de Pandora, 1976.
Las Puertas del Placer, 2005
A la sombra de tu nombre. A2001.
El Acomodador: una lectura fantastica
de Felisberto Hernandez. 1986
Sitio a Eros: Trece ensayos literarios.
El Coloquio de las Perras, 1991.
El Arbol y sus Sombras:
Cortazar: El Romántico en su
Observatorio. , 1991.
Langage Duel, Duelo del lenguaje, 2003
Las dos Venecias. Poemas y cuentos.
Fabulas de la Garza Desangrada,
|Memorias de Ponce; Biografía de Don Luis A. Ferré. Cali,
Editorial Norma; (1992) |
Works about the Author
Bilbija, Ksenija. "Rosario Ferré's TheYoungest Doll: On Women,
Dolls, Golems and Cyborgs." Callaloo 17.3 (1994): 878-888.
Bost, Suzanne. "Transgressing Borders: Puerto Rican and Latin
Mestizaje." MELUS 25.2 (2000): 187-211.
Esquilin, Mary Ann Gosser. "Nanas Negras: The Silenced Women in
Rosario Ferré and Olga Nolla." Centro Journal 14.2 (2002): 48-63.
Glenn, Kathleen M. "Text and Countertext in Rosario Ferré's "Sleeping
Beauty.'" Studies in Short Fiction 33.2 (1996): 207-219.
Gutierrez, Mariella. "Images of Social Relationships within Puerto
Rico's Historical Context in "Isolda's Mirror,' a Short Story by Rosario
Ferré." Social Studies 83.1 (1992): 12-17.
Murphy, Marie. "Rosario Ferré en el Espejo: Defience and Inversions."
Hispanic Review 65.2 (1997): 145-157.
Olmos, Margarite Fernandez. "Luis Rafael Sanchez and Rosario Ferré:
Sexual Politics and Contemporary Puerto Rican Narrative." Hispania
70.1 (1987): 40-46.
Reyes, Veronica. "Duelo del Lenguaje/Language Duel." Criticas
2.5 (2002): 60-62.
Santos-Phillips, Eva L. "Abrogation and Appropriation in Rosario
Ferré's "Amalia.'" Studies in Short Fiction 35.2 (1998): 117-128.
Rosario Ferré wrote her first short story
in 1970, and since that time she has become one of the most prolific
female writers to represent her home country of Puerto Rico. She is also
one of the strongest feminist voices of the 21st century. Ferré
was born in Ponce on the southern cost of Puerto Rico in 1938. She comes
from an influential family that was active in both business and politics.
Her father, Luis Ferré, was a pro-statehood Governor of the Commonwealth
from 1968 to 1972. His views influenced Rosario greatly, especially while
she was receiving her education at Manhattanville College, the University
of Maryland, and the University of Puerto Rico. In school, she and other
students interested in politics and publishing founded the attention-grabbing
student literary magazine, Zona de Carga y Descarga. While working
on this magazine, Ferré, who was the publisher and editor, planted the
seeds of what would soon blossom into an illustrious career that includes
eleven novels, a Guggenheim Fellowship award, numerous essays, books of
poetry, and a biography of her father.
Much of the criticism surrounding Ferré's
work focuses on her critique of societal politics, particularly the
politics of the state and its relationship to the family. Augustus C.
Puleo states that, "the legacy of struggle against racism and sexism is a
common thread binding much of contemporary Puerto Rican literature" (Puleo
6). This idea is especially present in Ferré's writing.
Ferré "thinks of herself, above all, as a
chronicler of her own country's socio-political history" (Gutierrez 2).
The general consensus is that through her retelling of history, Ferré uses
her feminist writings as a way to undermine "the conceptual apparatus of
the dominant group" (Puleo 6). Few scholars have contested this point.
There are those, however, who take her writing to have implications
outside of feminism. Additionally, there are approaches to Ferré's work
that focus on the subjectivity of truth and how it relates to a society
that is confining to women and persons of color.
Margarite F. Olmos argues that
"social-sexual hierarchies" (Olmos 40) are the result of gender
definitions and that race and sex determine social class (42). She
believes that Ferré's writing expresses a common experience between women
deriving from "the sociosexual arrangements imposed on women in
patriarchal societies" (43). It is therefore Ferré's goal to deconstruct
patriarchal society by "undermining masculinist values" (43). Ronald D.
Morriso agrees, contending that Ferré attempts to transform the
capitalistic and patriarchal culture that surrounds her characters (Morriso
1). Ksenjija Bilbija believes that Ferré deconstructs "an everlasting
patriarchal yearning" to control females and their "reproductive function"
Marie Murphy takes a slightly different
approach to Ferré's work, suggesting that Ferré ultimately "sets out to
rewrite women's myths" (Murphy 3). However, Morriso believes that she does
not "rewrite" but rather "recovers" previous literature. Here, recovery is
described as not completely rewriting but rather "covering the same ground
again" (Morriso 2). In this way Ferré does not simply revisit and update
previous women writers but instead supplements what has gone before her,
adding to the original message and never eradicating her literary
predecessors (8). By connecting with an earlier literary tradition, she is
better able to attack patriarchal society.
Multiple perspectives also play a major
role in Ferré's work, enabling her to refute the ideas enforced by a
patriarchal society. Ferré asserts that truth is subjective and there are
many different versions of it (Ruta 28). Suzanne Ruta argues that "the
official version is often imposed by force" (Ruta 28). This idea shapes
Ferré's work. For example, in The House on the Lagoon she creates
two narrators, husband and wife, who have different versions of the same
story. This is consistent with Olmsos' belief that Ferré is concerned "with
Puerto Rican history and social reality" (Olmos 43). The technique of
creating various perspectives enables Ferré to criticize the powers that
enforce one of many truths.
It is this type of social criticism that
Gutierrez says moves Ferré's work beyond feminism. Instead of believing
Ferré to be an "angry" writer who, as Kathleen Glenn says, indicts "those
who impose confining roles" (Glenn 7), Gutierrez argues that there is a
connection between Ferré's portrayal of women and the implications of her
work for the politics of Puerto Rico. Gutierrez pushes the commonly held
beliefs of Ferré scholars to another level. He argues that the women in
her work live "dependent, fragmented lives in a patriarchal state" (Gutierrez
2) that is akin to Puerto Rico's political climate. For example, in
Sweet Diamond Dust, Ferré intertwines the theme of love with politics.
Ferré has said that, in every household, half the family is fanatically
pro-statehood while the other half is equally fervent about obtaining
political autonomy. Therefore, the struggle between individuals and their
desire to create social change is a reflection of Puerto Rico's national
identity crisis (3).
The way in which Ferré's work critiques
society is debated among scholars. Most would agree, however, that Ferré's
work is ultimately polemical, whether she is criticizing patriarchy or
nationalist politics, commenting on identity, or fighting for a version of
the truth. Her characters attempt to break free from the social strictures
created by male dominated, capitalist society. However, her work has a
more far-reaching effect – "it fosters new ways of thinking and beckons
all to help achieve full equality in society" (Gutierrez 6).
Ferré's use of multiple perspectives gives
her a unique avenue for criticizing the colonialism of her native Puerto
Rico. Through the use of multiple characters and perspectives, Ferré is
able to highlight the various effects colonialism has had on Puerto Rico
and its inhabitants. Her works, Sweet Diamond Dust, The Youngest Doll,
and The House on the Lagoon best illustrate this point.
In Sweet Diamond Dust, Don Julio is
a money-driven creator and owner, or "hacendado," of the "Diamond Dust"
sugar mill. He is extremely successful, leading the family into great
wealth and power. However, he becomes "more and more absorbed by the tasks
of the sugar mill," even as his success continues to grow (14). He loses
sight of the simpler things in life and soon begins to dedicate his entire
existence because he is "visited by a host of troubles" concerning sugar
production and the threat of American conglomerates (26). With vividness
typical of Ferré's work we learn that, "a number of powerful banks from
the north had recently opened branches in Gamaní, and their red granite
palaces flanked by white stucco lions were the new sensation in town"
(26). The banks "found no difficulty in financing the new sugar
corporations that had recently arrived in town" (26). The new financing of
huge sugar corporations eventually runs Don Julio's business into the
ground. Through the eyes of Don Julio, we are able to see the horrible
repercussions of the powerful American corporations and banks moving into
the country. Thus, through the use of vivid imagery and the perspective of
a money-loving madman who is true to his country, Ferré is able to
In contrast to the perceptions of Don
Julio, Ferré shows us the struggles of Titina, the poor, sweet, caring
maid of the De La Valle family. Ferré allows readers to experience another
view of the De La Valle family and their mill by creating a down-trodden
yet ever-optimistic female character whose only concern is for her family
and the De La Valles. Titina is privy to the secrets of a successful
family. She is told, "you know Dona Laura's story better than I do, how
many times she was betrayed by her husband. And it wasn't just his sordid
love affairs that made her suffer, but his just as sordid political
affairs, which had rent her family asunder for decades" (83). Through
Titina's "quiet, ever watchful eyes," readers see the clear connection
between domestic life and politics. Her situation is a metaphor for
imposed power, and readers sympathize with Titina, who ends up with
nothing. Yet through it all, she represents Puerto Rico -- strong,
faithful, and solid.
Ferré's The House on the Lagoon may
be the best of Ferré's illustration of what can be accomplished by using
multiple narrative voices. In this novel, Ferré once again comments on the
struggle of domesticity versus politics and, consequently, the Puerto
Rican reaction to colonialization in establishing a national identity.
In The House on the Lagoon, Ferré
uses two distinct narrative voices. The reader is not aware of this
structure until a few chapters into the book where italicized print breaks
the retelling of history and describes Quintín Mendizabal discovery of a
novel that his wife, Isabel, is writing. It turns out that this novel is
entitled The House on the Lagoon, the very text we have been
reading. In addition to the narrative voice Isabel uses when writing her
novel, the book also switches narrations between Quintín and Isabel,
highlighting their respective views on their current marital dispute
(Quintín is determined to prevent Isabel from publishing the novel, which
he feels disgraces his family).
Quintín is of Spanish decent. He is part
of a long line of Mendizabals, who combine the racial pickiness of Spanish
culture with the every-man-for-himself attitude of American capitalists.
He is also the inheritor of a violent patriarchal tradition. Ferré is not
shy about bringing this to the forefront immediately. The story begins
with a pledge made between Isabel and her husband, though it might better
be called a reconciliation, as Quintín must apologize for a violent
outburst. As Isabel sits on her porch, a young boy with an innocent crush
serenades her with his guitar. Quintín, who is at this point Isabel's
fiancé, enters a jealous rage and beats the boy with his belt. The image
is made even worse because the "boy went on sitting on the ground singing:
/Love me always/sweet love of my life/until he fell unconscious on the
sidewalk" (4). It is this kind of imagery that gives us a clear picture of
who the characters are. Scenes like this illustrate Quintín's desire for
power over his wife, and this is similar to the American presence in
The dual-narrative allows us to follow the
story-in-progress, discovering it alongside Quintín, and allowing us to
hear his condescending comments and Isabel's reactions. But it is not long
before we are thrown back into the stories that begin to fill in the
details of Isabel and Quintín's conflict. The two versions of reality
begin to emerge, animating the conflict and giving it depth with the back
and forth "he said/she said" arguments that frame the story.
The structure of the novel also
illustrates the nature of truth. Quintín has a history degree from
Columbia, and, consequently, "there was true and a false, a right and a
wrong in his mind" (106). He is angry when he first reads Isabel's
manuscript, embarrassed by the way she portrays his family and irked by
her historical sloppiness and misrepresentation of the facts. However, we
learn that, to Isabel, this is not the point of the book. One of her
favorite sayings is "Nothing is true, nothing is false, everything is the
color of the glass you're looking through" (106). She is writing a novel
embellishing aspects of the stories to make a literary rather than an
historical point. Ferré is in agreement with Isabel. Her book, with its
back and forth narratives, constantly casts doubt on the possibility of
objective truth. As we read Isabel's novel and then reread it with
Quintín, we see the existence of as many truths as there are perspectives.
Ultimately, the book is concerned with the
nature of truth and the social conflicts that are mirrored in domestic
life, such as Puerto Rico's debate over whether to be independent or to
become a U.S. state. By doing so, she is able to argue against the truth
imposed by the dominant powers in Puerto Rican society.
The dual-narrative is, therefore, a
metaphor for colonialization. Quintín is the American government that
overpowers Puerto Rican culture. Conversely, Isabel represents Puerto
Rico. Through her use of multiple perspective, she, like the country, is
on a quest for identity. Therefore, Ferré's use of multiple perspectives
emphasizes Puerto Rico's constant struggle against colonialization and its
desire to ultimately obtain a national identity.
Ferré believes that Puerto Rico deserves
its own identity. Unlike the nuns who teach Quintín's grandfather,
Aristídes, that the island has no history, the goal of the Independistas
is to maintain their unique sense of identity. Yet there is no doubt that
the conveniences of American citizenship are very appealing. Isabel's
grandmother, an unwavering Independista, would sit with the family and
look at the Sears catalogue, showing that, whether you are for statehood
or not, having a General Electric refrigerator is a good thing. The
struggle to obtain a national identity is most powerfully present in the
stories of the individuals.
Multiple perspective also plays a major
role in "Sleeping Beauty," a short story that is part of a collection
titled The Youngest Doll. Here, Ferré juxtaposes correspondence and
news articles to give the reader a myriad of views of a young woman in
crisis. She comments on the society that entraps a young ballerina and
bride of a business tycoon by writing from the perspective of the woman,
of her father, and of a Reverend mother of the church.
We are introduced to this style of
narrative with the first letter by the protagonist, written from the
perspective of an anonymous "friend and admirer" and sent to her own
husband to confess her feelings of entrapment by the society that defines
her. The woman, like Ferré herself, uses the third person voice to express
her frustrations and her hope for change.
The story continues with articles from
local columns published in the paper, El Mundo. In the articles,
the ballerina, Maria de los Angeles Fernandez, is described, along with
the "beautiful people" who attend her performances. We are immediately
given a sense of the beliefs and values of the articles' authors and
audience as we learn the details of the wardrobe and hair styles of the
audience. The articles also drop the names of American celebrities in
attendance before their brief critiques of the ballet itself. Here, again,
we are introduced to the powerful effects of American influence on Puerto
Rican culture. The El Mundo articles show an extreme view, often
highlighting the shallow and materialistic aspects of American culture.
Later, we meet Maria's father by way of
his correspondence with the Reverend Mother of the Catholic school she
attends. Through letters concerning Maria's future, Ferré reveals the
oppressive forces of religious dogma and patriarchy. Both the father and
the Reverend Mother write about Maria as if she has no choices of her own.
They discuss their concern for her desire to pursue a career in dance. The
Reverend Mother asks, "Are you prepared to see your daughter become a part
of a world so full of dangers for the body and soul? What good would it do
her if, to gain fame in the world of entertainment, she lost her soul?"
(94). We see no evidence of her father or Reverend Mother talking with
Maria about the convent, marriage, or her love of dance. Therefore, Maria
can be seen as the archetype of oppressed women; there is no room for her
voice in a world dominated by men and oppressive religion. Stories such as
that of Maria give a personal account of what is reflected in a society
that is debating the fate of Puerto Rico without serious consultation of
Ultimately Maria submits to the dream
others have for her by marrying a local business tycoon. She becomes
pregnant and delivers a baby boy. Maria subsequently dies in an "accident,"
with the implication that she is actually killed by her husband. After her
death, the father writes the Reverend mother regarding their relief and
joy that she had a boy and explains, "we buried Maria de los Angeles in
her Jay Thorpe bridal gown" (117). This is a clear example of the male
tendency to see women as inferior. After the loss of a daughter, the
father finds comfort in the fact that he has a new grandson. Maria's life
is reduced to the price of her designer gown. However, Maria's death is
more than a physical death. It symbolizes the potential death of an entire
gender if Puerto Rican society resists progression.
This problem is made more extreme by
Maria's acceptance of her father's religion. She repeatedly invokes God
and looks towards Heaven, saying, "This world is a veil of tears it's the
next one that counts." She has internalized the teachings of her father
and her church, and one could argue that this contributes to her downfall.
Ferré's imagery expertly ties together these shocking versions of reality
to show Maria's struggle to be free of religious forces, materialism, and
A discussion of three of Ferré's more
popular novels does not do justice to the depth with which she explores
the many aspects of Puerto Rican culture. She is an author who uses so
many characters that she often puts family trees at the beginning of her
novels, and each character represents a different aspect or problem within
society. Her ability to combine so many issues into a meaningful whole is
quite remarkable. We have seen that Ferré uses the particular experiences
of her characters to point us towards a bigger picture – whether it is
colonialization, gender issues, or issues of the family. The above
discussion not only illustrates the ways in which she comments on Puerto
Rican society, but also the possibility of interpreting her work in ways
that transcend any particular social argument.
Ferré is married to Agustín Costa, has
three children from a previous marriage, and currently resides in San
Juan. She is a professor of Latin American Literature and has taught at
the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, Rutgers
University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Puerto Rico,