Rene Marques

Puerto Rico: Dance Under the Storm (Part II: Borinqueneers)

Painting depiction of the U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment's bayonet charge against a Chinese division during the Korean War, by Dominic D'Andrea, 1992. (Credit: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

Painting depiction of the U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment’s bayonet charge against a Chinese division during the Korean War, by Dominic D’Andrea, 1992. (Credit: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

The illustration pictures the (all Puerto Rican) 65th Infantry Regiment in action. In 2014, President Barack Obama presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the fabled “Borinqueneers” in recognition of their military service in Korea (the word Borinquen derives from the ancient Taíno name for the island).

In The Docile Puerto Rican and Other Essays 1953-1971, René Marqués once argued:

We are docile. If we were not, Puerto Rico would have obtained its national sovereignty in the 19th century…. Puerto Ricans can be antisocial, defiant, non-conformist occasionally and even heroic as individuals in some cases, but we are certainly docile as a people.[1]

History belies such a categorical judgment by one of Puerto Rico’s greatest playwrights. From the first Taíno insurrection by Agueybana el Bravo (the Brave) in 1511; to the repulsion of repeated British and Danish invasions under the Spanish colony; to the slave rebellions of the 19th century; to the legendary insurrection against Spanish rule in 1865 known as the “Grito de Lares”; to the Puerto Rican participation in the Cuban Wars of Independence in 1895; in all conflicts Puerto Ricans have demonstrated the same fighting spirit that animated the Borinqueneers during the Korean War. (more…)

Angel of Abraham

"The Angel of the Lord Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son Isaac" (1616) by Pieter Lastman.

“The Angel of the Lord Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son Isaac” (1616) by Pieter Lastman.

In the (Brome) Abraham and Isaac play (15th century) of the English Religious Theater, Isaac exclaims when confronted with Abraham’s purpose:

“Now I would my mother were here on this hill!

She would kneel for me on both her knees

To save my life.”

Like Iphigeneia at Aulis, Isaac eventually consents to the sacrifice. But when Abraham raises his hand to strike his son, an Angel appears and takes “the sword in his hand suddenly” (A.C. Cawley, ed., Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, 1967).  In René Marqués’ allegorical play Sacrificio en el Monte Moriah (1969), Sara (Isaac’s mother) masquerades as the Angel, tricking Abraham into believing that God wants him to substitute a ram as a burnt offering for the boy. (more…)

Isaac at The Wall

"Sacrifice of Isaac" (1635) by Rembrandt.

“Sacrifice of Isaac” (1635) by Rembrandt.

The story is briefly told in the King James Bible (Genesis 22: 1-18):  God “did tempt” Abraham by commanding him to take his only son to the Land of Moriah to be sacrificed as a burnt offering. On the third day of travel, Abraham “lifted up his eyes” and saw the mountain. He laid the wood for the pyre on Isaac’s back, and with fire in one hand and a knife in the other, he climbed up the mountain with his son. The text records only a single utterance by Isaac to his father:  “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” To which Abraham replied: “God will provide himself a lamb.”

Abraham built an altar, prepared the wood, and bound Isaac on the altar. When he reached for the sacrificial knife for the slaughter, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven:  “Lay not thy hand upon the lad.” Once again Abraham “lifted up his eyes,” and saw a ram ensnared in a thicket. He caught the ram and offered it “in the stead of his son.” God blessed Abraham: (more…)