Modern Language Association 2013: United States of Banana


Saturday, January 5, 2013 in Boston

Modern Language Association Convention             

SPECIAL EVENT!  A Dramatic Reading by Giannina Braschi, UNITED STATES OF BANANA @ 7:00–8:15 p.m., 206, Hynes Center, Boston

Hailed “The Wasteland of the 21st Century” by The Evergreen Review, Giannina Braschi’s revolutionary new work United States of Banana  is the subject of a dramatic performance and a scholarly panel at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention.   Braschi is the author of the postmodern poetry classic Empire of Dreams and the bestselling Spanglish novel Yo-Yo Boing! These titles form a mixed-genre trilogy on the subject of the American immigrant.  A 7pm performance by the author in the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Center, follows a scholarly panel earlier in the day by Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Maritza Stanchich, and Cristina Garrigós entitled Giannina Braschi’s United States of Banana: Revolutionary in Subject and Form” (12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Back Bay C, Sheraton Hotel).  Tess O’Dwyer, who translated Empire of Dreams and Yo-Yo Boing! from Spanish into English, serves as moderator.

Giannina Braschi’s United States of Banana: Revolutionary in Subject and Form”, A Scholarly Panel @ 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Back Bay C, Sheraton Hotel




“Under the Skirt of Liberty:  Giannina Braschi Rewrites Empire” by Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé (Fordham University)


For the last two decades discourses on empire have been the province of postcolonial diasporic critics.  Writing from the vantage point of exile or diaspora, postcolonial critics, such as Said, Spivak, Bhabha, and Glissant, have meditated on questions of power and resistance in the relationship between former colonies and their metropolitan imperial centers in the current postcolonial world.  More recently Hardt and Negri have extended this meditation to the contemporary global economic system.  In her latest book, United States of Banana, New York Puerto Rican writer Giannina Braschi joins this meditation on agency and resistance but not from the vantage point of postcolonial exile but from that of colonial diasporas, such as the New York Puerto Rican community.  Using 911 and the current economic crisis as a catalyst for her critique, Braschi extends her previous dialogue with high modernism in her Empire of Dreams, to discourses on postcoloniality and globalization.  In my paper I will draw out the lines of this critique of postcoloniality and globalization from the vantage point of colonial diasporic subjectivity in the center of high modernism and postmodernism:  New York.

Biographical Note:

Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé is Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Fordham University in New York.  His most recent book is Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails (Palgrave 2007), a book about the relationship between high art and Latino popular culture in the gentrifying New York of the 1980s.  He is also author of a study on the intersections of nationalism and sexuality in the prose fiction of the Cuban author, José Lezama Lima, El primitivo implorante, and coeditor, with Martin Manalansan, of Queer Globalization: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism (New York UP 2002).  He has published widely on Hispanic Caribbean and U.S. Latino literatures and cultures.  His essays have appeared in anthologies such as Entiendes? Queer Readings/Hispanic Writings (Duke 1995), Sex and Sexuality in Latin America (NYU 1997), and Queer Representations (NYU 1997), and in journals such as Revista Iberoamericana, differences, Revista de Crítica Cultural, Cuban Studies, and Centro: The Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies


“Whose English is it Anyway? Giannina Braschi Levels the Bilingual Playing Field” by Maritza Stanchich (University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras)


Giannina Braschi’s highly anticipated new novel The United States of Banana (2011), in line of flight from her groundbreaking quasi-novel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), marks a paradigmatic shift in the millennial poetics of witness of Whitman and Martí’s New York with a high/low transcanonical, inter and transAmerican postmodern performance that levels the playing field to bring parity to the charged terrain of English/Spanish bilingualism. In Banana, Braschi proposes simultaneously post modern and protest poetics in dizzying global/local contexts, as U.S. global hegemony declines post 9/11, as the United States has fast become the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world, and as its colony Puerto Rico faces a historic crisis only deepened under local annexationist leadership. In both works, Braschi’s vanguard bilingual performance breaks with previous theorizations of the functions of interlingualism in diasporic Puerto Rican and Chicano theory (Juan Bruce-Novoa 1990; Juan Flores and George Yúdice 1990; Frances Aparicio 1988, 1997), as well as with Puerto Rico’s insular cultural nationalist linguistic discourses. In doing so, Braschi challenges a transimperial history of global power relations between English and Spanish (Mignolo 2000) with literary language that exceeds canonical traditions. Braschi also brings to the fore a vein of avant-garde literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora, along with the distinct projects of Urayoán Noel, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, and the late Edgardo Vega Yunqué, as well as what I elsewhere call Post-Nuyorican literature, along with poets who uniquely venture into broadly comparative and international terrains, including Victor Hernández Cruz, whose most recent work explores Arabic and African linguistic influences in Spain, and Martín Espada, whose work straddles pan-Latino, trans-American literary traditions, engaging Latin American history as well as a global poetics of dissent.

Biographical Note

Maritza Stanchich, PhD, is an Academic Senator and Associate Professor of English for the College of Humanities at University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, where she teaches Caribbean, U.S., and U.S. Latina/o Literatures. Her scholarship on literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora and William Faulkner has appeared in Sargasso and Mississippi Quarterly, respectively. She has also published in Prospero’s Isles: The Presence of the Caribbean in the American Imaginary (2004), Writing Of(f) the Hyphen: New Critical Perspectives on the Literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (2008), and Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement (2010). She previously worked as an award-winning journalist in New York, Washington DC, and San Juan. Her recent columns for The Huffington Post and The New York Times have helped bring international attention to the crisis in Puerto Rico. She has also worked for academic unionization at University of California and with the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU).


“Breaking the Borders: Giannina Braschi’s United States of Banana” by Cristina Garrigós, Universidad de León, Spain


Giannina Braschi’s last novel, United States of Banana, combines characters from her previous works, such as Mariquita Samper, Giannina, and even the Statue of Liberty, that appear now interacting with Calderon’s Segismundo, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. This makes it possible to read Braschi’s oeuvre as a whole and to observe in her writing a tendency towards continuity instead of rupture that is carried out in different levels. In a literary level, besides the intertextual inner and outer references, the book conveys a fragmentary discourse, through an aesthetic that defies the boundaries of the poetic, the dramatic, and the non-fiction essay. In this sense, it would fit into what Don De Lillo calls a “counter-narrative” (“In the Ruins of the Future”). Apocalyptic and deeply philosophical, Braschi’s text offers a reflection on the role of the human being, specifically, the latino writer in a global context where political, economical, social and linguistic boundaries are also questioned and erased, as epitomized by the relationship of Puerto Rico with the United States, and the destruction of the World Trade Center.  In this sense, my paper will analyze the fluidity of borders in her text in the different aspects mentioned above.

Biographical Note

Cristina Garrigós is Associate Professor at the University of Leon in Spain. She has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Seville (1999) with a dissertation on the intertextuality in the work of John Barth, and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has taught at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Universidad de Leon, and Texas A&M International University. Her research interests include Postmodernism, Feminism, Literary and Film Theory, Bilingualism, and Borders. She wrote the book Un autor en busca de cuatro personajes: Ulises, Sherezade, Don Quijote y Huckleberry Finn en la obra de John Barth (University of Leon, Spain, 2000), and served as editor of La mujer quijote (Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote, Spanish Edition, 2004) and El 11 de Septiembre y la tradición disidente en Estados Unidos (University of Valencia, 2011). She published the interview entitled “Chicken with the Head Off: Una conversación con Giannina Braschi” (Voices of America/Voces de America. Alonso Gallo, Laura, Ed.  Cádiz: Aduana Vieja, 2004), as well as the article “Bilingues, biculturales y Postmodernas: Rosario Ferré y Giannina Braschi”  (Insula. 667-668 Las Otras Orillas del Español: Las Literaturas Hispánicas de los Estados Unidos, 2002).

Related TV news videos: Interviews with the author.–giannina-braschi_20111205213641.html



Entrevista: Giannina Braschi


El Yo-Yo en los Estados Unidos de Banana

Giannina Braschi estuvo en Puerto Rico hace varias semanas para presentar su nueva obra United States of Banana. Aproveché la ocasión para entrevistarla, ya que hacía mucho tiempo que deseaba hacerlo. Braschi es una de las escritoras puertorriqueñas más exitosas a nivel internacional y sus escritos son de carácter experimental. En esta entrevista dialogamos sobre varios aspectos de su obra y su perspectiva como emigrante puertorriqueña.

BERB: Siempre te he querido preguntar sobre tu primera novela en SpanglishYo-Yo Boing!”, que es publicada en el 1998 un años después que Rosario Ferré publicara en inglés y en Puerto Rico eso fue un escándalo cuando ocurrió, sobre todo por su editorial en el New York Times. En tu caso, y tal vez mi percepción está equivocada, no ha sido tan escandaloso, ¿no?

GB: Radical, sí.  Escandaloso, no.  Rosario me preguntó lo mismo: “Giannina, por qué no te atacaron a ti y me atacaron a mi?”

BERB: Y ¿por qué crees que no?

GB: Yo vivo en Estados Unidos y para mí es casi una necesidad ir de una lengua a la otra. Si a lo mejor estuviera en Puerto Rico no lo hubiera hecho,¿entiendes? No es una cuestión de hacerlo por el mercado.  Es sobre el proceso del emigrante a través de las lenguas. 

BERB: Pero el Spanglish es muy puertorriqueño.

GB: In spite of my family and in spite of my country, I’m writing the process of the Puerto Rican mind—taking it out of context—as a native and a foreigner—expressing it through Spanish, Spanglish, and English—Independencia, Estado Libre Asociado, and Estadidad—from the position of a nation, a colony, and a state—Wishy, Wishy-Washy, and Washy—not as one political party that is parted into piddley parts and partied out.

Yo escribo en distintos géneros literarios también.  El imperio de los Sueños es poesía y ficción. Yo-Yo Boing! es una novela pero también es drama. United States of Banana es ensayo, cuento, drama, y filosofía. 

BERB: Desde el primer libro de poesía Asalto al tiempo hay experimentación con el género.

GB: Sí, siempre estoy experimentando. Y así seguiré, porque me gusta. Me gusta retarme. No voy a escribir novelas latinoamericanas a la manera de García Márquez. No me atrae.

BERB: Además de la mezcla de géneros y la mezcla del código, lo otro es que mezclas voces dentro de tu obra ¿por qué?

GB: Porque a mí me interesa coger las voces, las conciencias de los pueblos, de las multitudes.  Cuando tú escuchas mis voces son voces que no tienen identidad, que salen de las esquinas de Nueva York, no son nombres concretos, son voces anónimas del pueblo, que salen y dicen su angustia.

BERB: Pero también hay un personaje siempre presente, una voz femenina fuerte.

GB: Lo que adoro de Rembrandt es que siempre se autoretrata a través de su vida.  Desde su infancia hasta su vejez.  Y los más bellos autoretratos son de su vejez. Por eso está mi personaje Giannina desde El imperio de los sueños hasta United States of Banana. Pero hay muchos personajes que son como los coros griegos. Expresan las voces de las mayorías como las protestas en Zucotti Park donde las mayorías están empezando a decir lo que sienten y lo que piensan.

BERB: Sí, como los letreros de protesta de Occupy Wall Street, que la gente escribía mensajes que a veces eran personales y a veces generales.

GB: Exacto.

BERB: Sí, es cuestión del signo. Esa es otra cosa que trabajas en tu escritura, el signo. Y me llama la atención que no hablas siquiera de la palabra, empiezas desde la letra. ¿Por qué?

GB: Exacto, es la grafía. También es que me detengo en las letras, busco significado en las palabras. Yo estudiaba con mi abuela y ella de cada oración sacaba una pregunta. Me hacía cuestionar lo que leía.

BERB: Y tu primera obra la publicaron en Barcelona en el 80. Esa no se consigue ya.

GB: Asalto al tiempo está incluido en El imperio de los sueños.  El otro día hablé con mi primer editor Víctor Pozanco en Barcelona, y él está publicando sus memorias y me incluye a mí como uno de sus descubrimientos. Me dice, “he tenido una suerte de conseguir gente como tú, que los publiqué sin saber nada”.

Y yo le dije “sabías algo” porque otro de sus descubrimientos fue Cristina Peri Rossi.  El gusto es un principio de organización—who belongs together and how do we recognize each other.

BERB: Tú leíste en el Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

GB:  Sí, me identifico con los Nuyoricans, con los desarraigados, con los que no tienen raíces y las buscan. No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá, no tengo edad, ni porvenir, y ser feliz es mi color de identidad.

BERB: ¿Por qué?

GB: No quiero ser una raíz enterrada en la tierra.  Prefiero ser un perro que camina y tiene una voz a ser una raíz enterrada. Gertrude Stein decía que arrancas las raíces y resulta que no son tan grandes como pensabas. Prefiero ser un perro realengo, mover mi cola y cantar a la luna y orinar en las raíces y darles alimento, pero no quiero estar enterrada.

Sin embargo este último libro es bien puertorriqueño. De repente me pregunté, ¿cuál es el problema del puertorriqueño a un nivel colectivo?

BERB: Hay gente que dice que ya no es necesario discutir la identidad..

GB: Estoy de acuerdo que la identidad no es importante.  That is why I part and depart from a principle of inequality in United States of Banana.  Siempre he estado no identificándome con las cosas.  No busco  la igualdad con las cosas, sino la desigualdad. Pero cuando te preguntan constantemente de dónde eres y tú constantemente contestas: de Puerto Rico, soy puertorriqueña. No matter how many years you have been out, 25 years, 30 years, you return to your roots, and you always say, soy puertorriqueña. It is not a matter of identidad. It is a matter of origin. Nunca me he identificado con la identidad, sino con el origen. 

Originalidad quiere decir volver al origen. Originalidad nace siempre del origen y Puerto Rico es una nación que no ha tenido nacimiento. La identidad no es mi problema.  Siempre he estado identificada conmigo misma.  No creo que los puertorriqueños tengan ningún problema con la identidad. Los puertorriqueños saben quiénes son a todos los niveles. Es un problema de origen.BERB: En tu obra hay una combinación de una experimentación lingüística junto a la corporeidad, a la escatología. Ese comienzo de “Yo-Yo Boing!” de esa mujer buscándose los orificios, sus excreciones y luego a hablar de lo que hace a un buen poeta ser poeta, lo que es bueno vs. lo que es grande. ¿Cómo hilas esas dos cosas que podrían parecer discordantes pero que en tu escritura no lo son?

GB: Bueno, el principio es un Close-Up del personaje.  Empiezo por la piel, por el cuerpo y luego voy entrando en la psique. Yo-Yo Boing! es una búsqueda de la psique y es una guerra constante cultural con un americano  que se ofende por cosas que no me ofenden a mí—como señalar con mi dedo.  Y ahí había una carga cultural que no es la mía así que voy a afirmar mi carga cultural, contestándole.

Los puertorriqueños son maestros en entender, to understand, stand under the stand.  Estamos debajo, trying to understand this power structure that is on top of us.  My new book is about changing perspective from the point of view of the colonizer to the point of view of the colonized.

BERB: Ésa es la condición, uno entiende más al otro que lo que entienden a uno. 

 GB: Sí. En United States of Banana también hay una pelea entre dos yo.  El anglosajón y el latino.  “Si Segismundo siente pesar, Hamlet se inquieta” es el epígrafe que tomo de Darío. Estoy siempre en conversación con Darío y con Neruda y Vallejo.  Pero también con Shakespeare y Eliot.  Y por eso caso a Gertrudis, madre de Hamlet, con Basilio, papá de Segismundo. Y en el sótano de Lady Liberty vive Segismundo, puertorriqueño, en un calabozo, encerrado por el pecado de haber nacido.”


Autora busca la libertad en la palabra

“United States of Banana”, lo nuevo y controversial de la boricua Giannina Braschi

November 24, 2011|Por Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie, Especial para El Sentinel

El término vanguardia le sienta muy bien a la escritora, poeta y académica Giannina Braschi. Porque tan polifacética ha sido en su manera de escribir como variada su vida.


Braschi, nacida y criada en el seno de una familia de abolengo en Puerto Rico, de jovencita cantó en el Coro de Niños de San Juan, fue campeona de tenis, y luego modelo. En 1970, cursó estudios en literatura comparativa en Europa, y en 1974 se mudó a Nueva York, donde completó un doctorado en letras hispánicas.

Desde entonces, Nueva York ha sido el hogar de esta escritora puertorriqueña que uno pensaría se hubiera dedicado a oscuros análisis literarios. Por el contrario. En 1998, sorprendió con un libro de corte experimental escrito en español, ingles y Spanglish, llamado Yo-Yo Boing! El nombre hacía referencia a un famoso comediante de Puerto Rico apodado igual. Nada aparentemente más lejano a los trabajos que Braschi hizo en los 80 sobre Cervantes, Bécquer, García Lorca y otros gigantes de la literatura en español.

El sello editorial Amazon Crossing (de la compañía Amazon), ha reeditado ese libro, otro libro anterior, y sacado su más reciente, United States of Banana, en inglés, publicado a principios de noviembre.

“Es un híbrido, una mezcla de géneros”, dice sobre el nuevo texto, dividido en dos secciones, y cuya segunda estudia la relación entre Estados Unidos, Puerto Rico, y Latinoamérica, o el norte y el sur. “La primera parte se llama Ground Zero, pero en realidad, es como una continuación de Yo-Yo Boing! Todo esto es como una épica, en la que un libro empieza donde el otro acaba. Ground Zero es lo que pasó antes, para llegar a United States of Banana“.

La primera sección surge de que Braschi vivía en el bajo Manhattan, a dos cuadras de donde tuvieron lugar los ataques terroristas del 11 de septiembre en las Torres Gemelas. “Yo vi toda la destrucción”, recuerda.

La destrucción de lo que aconteció en Nueva York le hizo ver la realidad del mundo de otra manera, por lo que el libro refleja corrientes de acción y pensamiento que hoy se están viendo manifestadas en las protestas del movimiento Occupy Wall Street y su repudio hacia la avaricia y los bancos. Pero para Braschi, hay también formándose un nuevo esquema político mundial.

“Me di cuenta que los poderes estaban cambiando, que se están abriendo nuevos caminos”, considera. “Sentí lo que estaba pasando en las calles, mucha gente caminando que no tenían voces, que nunca se expresaban, y esas palabras se están expresando ahora poco a poco”.

Esas palabras las expresa Braschi a través de sus personajes en las páginas de este libro a veces humorístico y a veces denso, en el que hace pronunciamientos que pueden resultar controversiales, hasta incendiarios, para algunos. Como que el imperio está cayendo, o que la revolución ya era hora que se manifestara, que el nativo se está convirtiendo en extranjero, y que la Estatua de la Libertad se convirtió en criminal de guerra.

“Es un análisis, pero también un manifiesto político estético”, explica. “Los personajes han nacido dentro de mí”, prosigue. “Son Zaratustra el filósofo, porque tengo a un filósofo por dentro. Tengo a un actor y poeta que es Hamlet; yo, porque es mi propia historia la que estoy contando; y Segismundo, que es el que va a manifestar la voz de las masas”.

Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inspiration for Poetry

New Yorker Giannina Braschi finds inspiration in the Puerto Rican Day Parade on 5th Avenue, one of the largest parades in New York City with nearly 3 million spectators annually. The parade is the subject of Braschi’s classic poetry collection “El imperio de los sueños”, which was recently re-released by AmazonCrossing for World Literature in Translation in Spanish and English editions, in paperback and Kindle.

In this postmodern trilogy of the late 1980s, shepherds from the countryside invade, conquer, and colonize New York City on the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ringing the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and overtaking the top floor of the Empire State Building where they sing and dance. This comic bucolic revolution evokes the longstanding Spanish tradition of pastoral poetry while conjuring the modern day images of New York City with all its energy and euphoria on the day of the parade.

In Braschi’s latest book, “United States of Banana”, that same revolutionary energy explodes in the resorts of San Juan, Puerto Rico–the author’s hometown–and runs south throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Braschi first published “El imperio de los sueños” in Spanish in 1988, the tour de force novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” in Spanglish in the 1998, and the dramatic new work of fiction “United States of Banana” in English in 2011. With these three books in three languages, the poet explores the linguistic and cultural journey of 50 million Hispanic-Americans living in the United States and debates the three political options of Puerto Rico—nation, colony, or state—as wishy, wishy-washy, or washy.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrates the cultural heritage of 4 million Puerto Rican islanders and millions more on the mainland. In “United States of Banana”, Braschi discusses what it means to be a Puerto Rican writer: “Soy boricua. In spite of my family and in spite of my country, I’m writing the process of the Puerto Rican mind—taking it out of context—as a native and a foreigner—expressing it through Spanish, Spanglish, and English—Independencia, Estado Libre Asociado, and Estadidad—from the position of a nation, a colony, and a state—Wishy, Wishy-Washy, and Washy—not as one political party that is parted into piddley parts and partied out…”

Giannina Braschi’s titles are available from AmazonCrossing which makes award-winning and bestselling foreign languages authors accessible to English language readers for the first time. President of the Nobel committee for literature, Per Wästberg stated, “I have seen how recent laureates–Elfriede Jelinek…Le Clézio, Herta Müller–were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and the U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English… AmazonCrossing deserves praise. Such translation and distribution of good literature…can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons.” AmazoncCrossing assesses awards, reviews, customer sales data, and other information from amazon sites around the world to identify, then acquire the rights, commission translations, and introduce compelling voices to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the amazon books store, amazon kindle store, and other national and independent booksellers. Giannina Braschi is the first Puerto Rican author to be launched globally by Amazon.

A poem from “Pastoral; or the Inquisition of Memories” in “Empire of Dreams”

Translation by Tess O’Dwyer

On the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers—the New York Times, in headlines, and the Daily News—call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.



Helena Eriksson, Giannina Braschi, Hanna Nordenhok at a Poetry Reading in Paris, 2010.



  • Emory University Presents Giannina Braschi’s United States of Banana, Wednesday, April 18, 2011 at 4:30pm.  More information forthcoming.


  •  PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature 2012  (Monday, April 30th through Sunday, May 6th, 2012 New York City). Giannina Braschi @ the PEN Festival of Dreams 2012, organized by Laszlo Jakab Orsos & Salman Rushdie of PEN American Center. For exact time and location contact:      


  • AMERICAN LITERATURE ASSOCIATION, 23nd Annual Conference, May 24-27, 2012.  Reading from United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi and book signing. Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, CA. Conference Director: abendixen@tamu.eduNew York State Writers Institute to be held on Friday, October 26


  • PUERTO RICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION 2012 CONFERENCE, 20th Anniversary, New York State Writers Institute, Albany, Friday, October 26, 2012.


  • AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION 2012 CONFERENCE. Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Past, Present, and Future. November 15-18, 2012, San Juan, Puerto Rico @ The Caribe Hilton.   [Since the publication of Donald Pease and Amy Kaplan’s Cultures of United States Imperialism in 1994, empire has come to hold a central place in American Studies scholarship, resulting in a rich and varied literature devoted to the topic in direct, unblinking, and sophisticated ways. Consider the vast spectrum of political and cultural practices running from colonial administration and military occupation; to tourism; to the history of sugar or rum or baseball; to the power dynamics either fostered or legitimated by educational practices and institutions — in places like Puerto Rico, for instance — or by “knowledge” and the disciplines themselves; to the quotidian imperialist slanders carried in US popular culture — and equally, the constant articulations of dissent; to metaphorical usages, like “media empire,” which are nonetheless embedded in histories of empire proper; to the transnational logic of a canonical “national treasure” like Moby-Dick; to the thick traces of the imperial past and the anti-imperialist present in a text like Empire of Dreams, by Puerto Rican poet Giannina Braschi.]


  • Monday, November 21, 2011, 7:00pm @ Biblioteca Nacional de Puerto Rico [Avenida Ponce de Leon #500, San Juan, Puerto Rico].  Welcoming remarks by Professor Maria M. Carrion of Emory University.  Dramatic reading and book signing by Giannina Braschi. Cocktail reception and viewing of an archival exhibition on the life and works of Giannina Braschi.


  • Thursday, December 1, 2011, 6:30pm  @ Instituto Cervantes [211 East 49th Street, off 2nd Avenue, New York, New York].  Welcoming remarks by Professor Cristina Garrigos of Texas A&M. Short film by Michael Somoroff on United States of Banana, followed by a reading and book signing by Giannina Braschi. 


  • Friday, December 2, 7:00 pm @ Poets House [10 River Terrace, Battery Park City, downtown New York].  Remarks by poet D. Nurske, author of The Fall.  Reading and book signing by Giannina Braschi. 

    Dennis Nurkse

  • Thursday, February 16, 2012, 6pm.  Giannina Braschi‘s United States of Banana.   XXVIII Biennial Louisiana Conference on Hispanic Languages &Literatures:    Independence in Latin America, 1812-2012.  Lousiana State University, Baton Rouge.  For info, contact

Reading in Sweden

Reading from UNITED STATES OF BANANA in Sweden

Related News:–giannina-braschi_20111205213641.html (Orgullo Boricua, WAPATV, Channel 4 News)

New York Times ~ Giannina Braschi





May 7, 2012, 10:09 am

Rushdie Brings PEN Festival to Close By


The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature ended Sunday night on a traditional note, with a lecture by the Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, the target of an ayatollah’s fatwa in 1989, about the freedom to write. In recent years the festival has experimented with offerings that blur the distinction between literature and other forms of art or entertainment, and this year was no exception: the 37 scheduled events included one on Wednesday at the Metropolitan Museum in which three writers recited texts over a live musical performance by the Kronos Quartet and another on Saturday night that had five authors giving a thematic reading called “Messiah in Brooklyn” as they stood amid an installation at a gallery called the Invisible Dog Art Center. But since its founding 90 years ago, PEN America has aimed to be simultaneously a literary and a human rights group, with a focus on defending the rights of both writers and readers around the world, and Mr. Rushdie’s talk managed to address both sets of issues. “Originality is dangerous,” he said, a statement as much political as esthetic. And there was this, to conclude his remarks after pointed observations critical of limitations on thought and expression not just in China but also in the United States: “Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.” Not that there weren’t also moments of levity. In the question and answer period that followed the main address, the novelist Gary Shteyngart, born in what was then Leningrad and raised in New York, began his task as interlocutor with a jocular query. “An Indian and a Russian walk into a bar. Which one is inherently more free?” Mr. Rushdie wasn’t sure how to answer that one, but in response to other questions, he lamented both a certain human tendency to value material well-being over intellectual freedom, China perhaps being the prime example, and the headlong flight of post-Communist societies to intellectual pap. “It’s not inevitable that right will triumph,” he said after Mr. Shteyngart told of his recent trip to Beijing, in which one Chinese contact acknowledged limitations on his freedom of expression but pointed out that he owned a Buick Skylark and Mr Shteyngart didn’t. Earlier in the festival, a pair of panels had attempted to confront some of the same tensions.

The premise of a Thursday evening discussion called “The New Censorship” was that “as corporations move to the forefront in the quest for control over information and its flow, the battle over censorship has changed, and its newest champions are found not in the statehouse, but in the boardroom.” But the contradictions embodied in that thesis and the situation it describes, perhaps inherent, soon became apparent.

The Puerto Rican writer Giannina Braschi, the panel’s first speaker, offered a critique of 21st century capitalism in which she condemned “corporate censorship” and control. “Nobody owns a work of art, not even the artist,” she maintained, adding that “I write my thing and it belongs to the people.” But it was also noted that her latest novel, “United States of Banana,” was published by AmazonCrossing, which offers translations of foreign-language books but comes from the online book-selling giant that traditional publishers and some writers see as wanting to dictate and control the financial terms of the book trade and destroy competition. She didn’t see it that way, saying that without Amazon, her book may not have been published at all.

In fact, some of the most compelling personal testimonies during the festival came from three writers who have spent much of their careers battling long-established forms of state-sanctioned censorship: Gabriela Adamesteanu in Romania; Mahmoud Dowlatabadi in Iran; and Ludmila Ulitskaya in both the Soviet Union and today’s Russia. On Thursday Mr. Dowlatabadi, for example, told a story of being jailed by the Shah’s secret police in 1974; on inquiring of his captors what offense he had committed, he was told none, but that because many opponents of the regime had been arrested with his novels in their possession, that automatically made him a dangerous element. A Saturday afternoon panel called “Life in the Panopticon: Thoughts on Freedom in an Era of Pervasive Surveillance” also seemed to promise a different look at contemporary problems of self-expression and the free circulation of ideas. The original panopticon was conceived of by the 18th century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham as a device that would allow a hidden observer to monitor all the members of any closed system without himself being detected — an apt comparison for our age of data mining for both national security and commercial purposes. The panel’s moderator was Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute, a libertarian advocacy organization whose donors include some of the country’s biggest corporations. His opening remarks and subsequent questions focused on the emergence of “the surveillance state,” largely glossing over the role that corporations play in the creation and maintenance of schemes of surveillance, and so it fell to other participants, like Catherine Crump of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Scottish science fiction novelist Ken MacLeod and Ms. Adamesteanu, to bring corporations into the discussion. But Mr. Sanchez also noted that discussion of the politics of surveillance often resorts to “a language borrowed from fiction,” notably the adjectives Orwellian and Kafkaesque. Because “we are in the grip of the Orwell metaphor” of Big Brother watching us — and as Mr. MacLeod added, us watching Big Brother on reality television—we tend to think of surveillance as something palpable and centralized, rather than the amorphous system it has become. Because “technology has torn down the walls of the Panopticon,” the time is right for a new, perhaps even more ominous metaphor, he suggested.

El imperio de los sueños

cover art for AmazonCrossingEn el último piso del Empire State se ha parado un pastor a cantar y a bailar. Qué cosa más grande. Que la ciudad de Nueva York haya sido invadida por tantos pastores. Que ya no se trabaja y que sólo se canta y se baila. Y que los periódicos, el New York Times, en titulares, y el Daily News griten: Nueva York. Nueva York. Nueva York. Escúchenlo. Óiganlo en la radio. Y en la televisión. Escuchen el altoparlante. Escúchenlo. Ya han muerto los fantoches. Y el soldadito de plomo. Los pastores han invadido a Nueva York. Han conquistado a Nueva York. Han colonizado a Nueva York. El especial del día en el restaurante más caro de Nueva York es bellota de oro. Es huevo. Es manzana. Es pájaro. Pescado. Melodía. Poesía. Y epigrama. Ya sólo se canta. Ya sólo se baila. Ya sólo se hace lo que nos da la real gana. Lo que nos da la real gana. Lo que nos da la realísma gana.









Translation by Tess O'DwyerOn the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers—the New York Times, in headlines, and the Daily News—call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.