Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore Examines Collections of Boas and Mason

Recent Releases

Rutgers University Press recently released Rafael Ocasio’s Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico. Ocasio also edited an anthology of folk narratives from Puerto Rico, which is forthcoming. Read below for descriptions of both texts

Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico
This book explores the historic research trip taken to Puerto Rico in 1915. As a component of the Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Boas intended to perform field research in the areas of anthropology and ethnography while other scientists explored the island’s natural resources. A young anthropologist working under Boas, John Alden Mason, rescued hundreds of oral folklore samples, ranging from popular songs, poetry, conundrums, sayings, and, most particularly, folktales while documenting native Puerto Rican cultural practices. Through his extensive excursions, Mason came in touch with the rural lives of Puerto Rican peasants, the jíbaros, who served as both his cultural informants and writers of the folklore samples. These stories, many of which are still part of the island’s literary traditions and collected in a bilingual companion volume by Rafael Ocasio, reflect a strong Puerto Rican identity coalescing in the face of the U.S. political intervention on the island. A fascinating slice of Puerto Rican history and culture sure to delight any reader!

Folk Stories from the Hills of Puerto Rico
This exciting new anthology gathers together Puerto Rican folktales that were passed down orally for generations before finally being transcribed beginning in 1914 by the team of famous anthropologist Franz Boas. These charming tales give readers a window into the imaginations and aspirations of Puerto Rico’s peasants, the Jíbaro. Some stories provide a distinctive Caribbean twist on classic tales including “Snow White” and “Cinderella.” Others fictionalize the lives of local historical figures, such as infamous pirate Roberto Cofresí, rendered here as a Robin Hood figure who subverts the colonial social order. The collection also introduces such beloved local characters as Cucarachita Martina, the kind cockroach who falls in love with Ratoncito Pérez, her devoted mouse husband who brings her delicious food. Including a fresh English translation of each folktale as well as the original Spanish version, the collection also contains an introduction from literary historian Rafael Ocasio that highlights the historical importance of these tales and the Jíbaro cultural values they impart. These vibrant, funny, and poignant stories will give readers unique insights into Puerto Rico’s rich cultural heritage.

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