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CARIBE by Evangeline Blanco


by Evangeline Blanco

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48650-2
Publisher: Doubleday

 Puerto Ricanborn Blanco debuts with an ambitious but sketchy tale of her native island that ultimately seems more a collection of incidents than a narrative in full flow. The story begins in the late 1800s as the embittered Dr. Rodriguez travels across Puerto Rico. Visiting cities and remote villages, he not only heals the poor but seduces those women he's chosen to bear his children--children who, he hopes, will eventually lead the fight for Puerto Rico's independence. Which is certainly an original (if long-term) form of policy planning. Puerto Rican nationalism, as well as racism (the doctor is black, and those in power are white), are major themes that preoccupy many of the people here as the years pass. The doctor himself is a sinister figure, who often chloroforms his women; he's also arrogant, and as the putatively literal father of his country doesn't inspire much admiration or respect. Other characters, usually poor or black, meet, fall in love, or become comrades in the struggle for equality. We hear about Felix, a lawyer, whose father was a revolutionary and died poor, which means that Felix spends his life getting rich and making safe political choices; Rafaela, a fiery, spirited young woman in love with Felix (who desires her but finds her behavior and politics extreme); Juan, a devout spiritualist, who unwittingly commits incest when he marries his sister; Luis, a paraplegic, who gets money to send his brother in the States by blackmailing adulterers; liberal Dr. Figueroa and his black American wife Josie, both of whom try to help those in trouble; and Edelmira, Rafaela's ward, who can marry only after she's cured of the nightmares a childhood accident provoked. An epilogue, set in the present-day US, suggests that the causes of Puerto Rican independence and racial equality are alive and in good hands. More a provocative concept than the finished tale of injustice and prejudice in an island nation that it means to be.