Luis Rafael Sánchez on Rosario Ferré: “From Temptation to Reason”


Today, on the island of Puerto Rico and beyond, the world of arts and letters is in mourning, following today’s wake for the highly-esteemed, vanguard feminist writer Rosario Ferré. There has been an outpouring of tributes and remembrances by her readers and fellow writers far and wide, such as Elena Poniatowska and Magali García Ramis (see links below). Another Puerto Rican great, playwright Luis Rafael Sánchez, honors her memory in the following obituary essay in El Nuevo Día. [Many thanks to María I. Acosta for sharing the original article and to César Salgado for reminding me of one of my favorite Francisco Rodón paintings, “Andrómeda,” which depicts a young Rosario Ferré. Also see previous post Rosario Ferré Passes Away.]

“From Temptation to Reason”

It was friendship at first sight in the glowing heat of the countercultural astonishment triggered by the emergence of the journal Zona de carga y descarga. A journal that made its pages available to the then emerging and groundbreaking literary talent. Iván Silén and Olga Nolla, Vanesa Droz and Tomás López Ramírez, Áurea María Sotomayor and Manuel Ramos Otero. Carmelo Rodríguez Torres and Juan Antonio Ramos.

I honored this friendship-at-first-sight, invincible in the face of distance, through a text, “Residencia en el adiós” [Residence in the Farewell]. Previously, I felt privileged to present her first book, Papeles de Pandora [Pandora’s Papers] at Librería Hispanoamericana.

Regardless of the weight of her last name—a last name that was perhaps too influential in her life, for better or worse—Rosario Ferré’s work received much-deserved praise and recognition from the public and critics. Her work—which includes fiction, essays and poetry—displays the sustaining air of the passionate defense of women and their rights; continually trampled rights, or barely tolerated, by a patriarchal society that is irritated by all women with brains firmly in place.

As a backdrop to her work, Rosario Ferré chose the controversial events of a country unfamiliar with a political experience other than the colonial experience. A doubly humbling experience. On the one hand, subjection to the metropolis. On the other, the happy consent to that subjection by a large majority of Puerto Ricans.

Along with the backdrop, there emerged the challenge of welcoming a vocabulary of a marginal nature, as in the story “Cuando las mujeres quieren a los hombres” [When women love men]. Also the decision to write a novel in English, The House on the Lagoon.

This decision vindicates her freedom to write in the language of the “extraña nación” [foreign/strange nation], in the words of Noel Estrada [a reference to the emblematic song, “En mi Viejo San Juan”/ “In My Old San Juan”]. A legitimate decision. Nevertheless, this showed that her most flavorful literary work was the one that ran to the wilds, full of the hues and colors and the arbitrariness of the customary language of the “pedacito de patria” [little piece of homeland], according to Noel Estrada; this language also glows in Papeles de Pandora. This language moves us in Fábulas de la garza desangrada [Fables of the Wounded Heron].

Anxiety, dissatisfaction that becomes fertility, the battle between the disenchantment and hope, stand out as some of the muses that guard those who allow themselves to be tempted by art. When literature became a temptation for her, Rosario Ferré turned this temptation into her raison d’être. Now it is up to us, the readers, to encounter, or to re-encounter, the flowers begotten by such a divided reason. Ciao, Rosario.

[Translated by Ivette Romero.]

For original article, see

For Elena Poniatowska on Rosario Ferré, see

For Magali García Ramis on Rosario Ferré, see

For more on Francisco Rodón’s artwork (shown above), see

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