Wednesday, March 22, 2006

When I was Puerto Rican

Last night I completed reading a delightful autobiography called When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, which was another one of Daniel’s finds in a second hand bookshop in Bali back in early January.

Santiago’s retelling of her childhood is beautifully and evocatively written and she herself is clearly a feisty character, something I admire. I also couldn’t help drawing comparisons between the tiny island nations of Puerto Rico and Timor-Leste, particularly as they are both Latin countries. Nevertheless, even in 1950s Puerto Rico, modernity had made itself known, unlike Timor, which was still living a traditional existence.

I hope that one day a Timorese woman is sufficiently literate (more than 50% of women are illiterate) to write about her childhood and experiences here.

However, the last part of the book was a bit of a let down. I felt Esmeralda hurried through events and at the end I felt most bereft at not knowing the fate of her and her family of origin. Daniel had remarked on a similar feeling of anti-climax. Later, I searched for Santiago’s name on and discovered to my delight, that she has since written two more autobiographical books, the third one only recently published in September 2005. We’ve decided to purchase them both as we thoroughly enjoyed her first instalment and feel that we’ve been prematurely cut off from her life.

I’ll have to purchase them from as they certainly aren’t available here, and Australia’s book market is small with (presumably for geographical reasons) little interest in Latin American studies (although the third instalment is available in Australia).

I highly commend When I was Puerto Rican.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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