CIE Researcher of Distinction, September 2013
Ruben’s interest in literature began through his exposure to Puerto Rican literature while growing up. Much of this work focuses on the themes of colonialism, racism, and the U.S. rule of Puerto Rico. He was drawn to the idea that while Puerto Ricans are born as U.S. citizens, they are not culturally “Americans.” His experiences in the United States Marine Corps made this notion even more salient, as he faced racism in the Corps, while being part of war waged against a marginalized people. The convergence of these ideas and experiences inspired him to research the roots and causes of racism and war through the prism of literature.
In his spare time, Ruben enjoys going to the beach, which is one of things he misses most about Puerto Rico. He is also an avid fan of basketball, both as a participant and a spectator. He also enjoys riding his bicycle through the streets of New York City and doing mechanic work with his brother, which became an interest of his while he was in the Marines.
In my talk “On the Coloniality of Being in Jacques Viau Renaud’s poem ‘Permanencia del llanto’” I explore the lived experienced of colonized/ racialized subjects as portrayed in the poem. The coloniality of being is a complex concept developed mainly by Nelson Maldonado-Torres. He’s central argument is that modernity as we know it (and one that start in the sixteenth century with the Conquest of the Americas) has a darker side: the exploitation and annihilation of racialized subjects. I believed that in the Third World, or so is called, where the subaltern knowledge is silenced by Western epistemology, intellectuals have to use whatever means possible to communicate their theory of liberation from the oppression; to included literature.
Are there any other projects that you are currently working on?
I am currently working on my dissertation titled: De la colonialidad del ser en la literatura bélica hispano-caribeña de mediados de siglo veinte (On the Coloniality of Being in the Mid 20th Century Spanish Caribbean War Literature). In this project I engage war literature written by soldiers in Puerto Rico (Korean War 1950-53), the Dominican Republic (mainly Civil War, April 1965), and Cuba (Revolution, 1959 and prior, Bay of Pigs/Giron Beach and Escambray Bandits, 1961-63). I explored how these texts reflect the lived experience of colonized/racialized subjects and how can we approach these text from our 21st century perspective.
What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?
Mainly the Turner Fellowship, since there are no similar programs in Puerto Rico to attend graduate school. I had also considered the prestige of the University as a whole and the one of the Hispanic Languages & Literature Department in particular. Our department has a well-known faculty in the field and is research oriented. (Please see the mini-workshop talk attachment).
What are your future goals?
In today’s corporate university jobs in the humanities are scarce, so it is challenging enough to obtain a teaching position. As Walter Mignolo argues, we are living in a transnational world, but humanities still anchored in national languages and literatures. Spanish is studied as “foreign” language in the U.S., but a language spoken by nearly 40 million people in U.S. households is really foreign? I specialize in Spanish, and I have a good sense of Spanish and Latin American literature, but I also have lived in between cultures (American/Puerto Rican-Hispanic) and in between languages long enough. I hope to be able to contribute to higher education by re-coursing my teaching towards “translation of culture,” as Mignolo puts it.
I also have fifteen short stories written in Spanish on diverse topics, but mainly about war experiences, several of which have obtained prizes at literary contests in Puerto Rico. I will start looking for an editor soon.
What do you enjoy most about research?
Some of the things I enjoyed the most is rescuing forgotten texts and make them interesting for the 21st century reader by suggesting new perspectives. In a world in which everything is geared towards “practical” knowledge to conform the capitalist-neoliberal nation-state project, rescuing texts which oppose such logic is paramount. The Western epistemology has condemn Earth and hence Humanity (with see this in Third World hunger and global warming). I believe the texts I research are alternative sources of knowledge. Subaltern knowledge, as Mignolo argues, nonetheless silenced by Western brutality.