The Puerto Rican Mind
To the Editor:
I should like to comment on the Kazin “Controversy” on Puerto Rico that appeared in the May COMMENTARY.
I am sure that there is some truth in what Mr. Kazin said. I, a Puerto Rican, also react negatively to noises, whether caused by the North American-made vehicle that sells ice cream or by the many other apparatuses which technology brings. I, too, dislike the garbage-strewn lots of any underprivileged area whether the city is Rio Piedras, New York, Philadelphia, or Austin. . . . But what I resent most in Mr. Kazin’s comments are their truculent air and their ignorance of the whole of Puerto Rican society. . . . The many subcultural groups which constitute modern Puerto Rican society cannot be dismissed with generalized observations which have been limited to a narrow segment of the academic world and have been couched in terms of North American middle-class values.
It must have been hard for Mr. Kazin, innocent as he is of the language of the Puerto Ricans, to elicit any worthwhile comment in matters, ideological and spiritual. A people, any people, best express the intimate and affective areas of their ethos through the language in which they were raised.
The deep sense of dignidad that Margaret Mead so well understood in her studies of Latin American cultures seems to Mr. Kazin to be “sensitiveness without pride” or bovine passivity. The fact escapes him that his position as teacher and lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico gave him a respected place in Puerto Rican society and that students do not openly disagree with their professors unless they have had training in North American universities or spoken with North American friends. . . . If Mr. Kazin had aired his views in the discussion groups which are part and parcel of certain segments of the Puerto Rican society, he would have found another modality of the Puerto Rican mind and psychological structure. . . .
Sylvia Viera De Jeffrey