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Arts, Art and Literature

Enrique Laguerre, Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, Luis Pales Matos, Manuel Zeno Gandia, Rosario Ferre

The most famous Puerto Rican painter of the 18th century was Jose Campeche. Francisco Oller was a painter of international renown. Oller traveled to Spain and France in the 1850s, where he was influenced by impressionist painting. In the 20th century, Ramon Frade became the islandís most famous impressionist painter. Contemporary sculptors such as Lindsay Daen, John Balossi, and Rafael Ferrer have contributed to Puerto Ricoís lively artistic life.

A persistent theme in much of the islandís literature is the quest for individual and national identity. Puerto Rican writers often focus on political and social topics. Prominent 19th-century writers include Salvador Brau and Eugenio Maria de Hostos. Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, who also wrote during the 19th century, is considered the father of Puerto Rican theater. One of the leading Puerto Rican playwrights is Rene Marques, who achieved broad international recognition during the 1950s and 1960s.

Poetry has played an important role in Puerto Ricoís cultural and social history. In his poem El Puertorriqueno (1844), and his later book El Gibaro (1849), Manuel A. Alonso helped define the Puerto Rican identity. Jose Gualberto Padilla, known as El Caribe, and Lola Rodriguez de Tio hold honored places in Puerto Ricoís pantheon of poets. The most famous Puerto Rican poet of the early 20th century is Luis Pales Matos, known for exploring the islandís African heritage.

Raised in a largely English-speaking environment, a number of Puerto Rican poets on the mainland write poetry in English but place Spanish words tellingly along the way to reveal their deep concerns about identity. Pedro Juan Pietri and Jesus ďPapoletoĒ Melendez exemplify this trend. An excellent example of this poetry is Pietriís Puerto Rican Obituary (1974).

The islandís first novelist was Manuel Zeno Gandia, whose first novel was La Charca (1894). Puerto Ricoís best-known 20th-century novelist is Enrique Laguerre, who published La Llamaradora (1935) and many other important works. Several Puerto Rican novelists who migrated to the mainland have achieved literary recognition. Among them are Pedro Juan Soto and Emilio Diaz Varcarcel. Soto lived in New York City and taught English. He is known especially for Spiks (1956), a collection of short stories, and the novel Usmail (1959). Another novelist who has gained a wide audience is Piri Thomas, who is famous for Down These Mean Streets (1967). Rosario Ferre has become an influential and widely acclaimed novelist both in Puerto Rico and the mainland United States. Her novels The House on the Lagoon (1995) and Eccentric Neighborhoods (1998) were written in English.

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