Luis Rafael Sánchez Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Renowned in Puerto Rico as a dramatist, Luis Rafael Sánchez is better known on the American mainland as a novelist. His first novel, La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976; Macho Camacho’s Beat, 1980), brought him immediate recognition on the mainland. Through the novel’s characters—Senator Vicente Reinosa, a sleazy politician in league with mainland business interests; his wife, Graciela, who is frigid and grossly materialistic; his mulatto mistress, China Hereje, and her retarded son, the Nene; and his son Benny, who cares about little but the Ferrari sports car that he uses as a sexual object in which to masturbate—Sánchez projects a jaundiced gaze at the Puerto Rico of the 1970’s. His depiction is unvarnished and realistic, but his manner of telling his story, rather than its content, is what distinguishes it. Sánchez eschews conventional notions of narration and plot development, preferring instead to present fragmented glimpses of each character, darting from character to character and back again. This novel has been compared stylistically to James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925). His second novel, La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1988; the importance of being Daniel Santos), again stresses the political tensions rife in Puerto Rico.

Sánchez has produced a volume of short stories, En cuerpo de camisa: Cuentos (1966, rev. 1971; shirt sleeves unbuttoned), which has gone into several expanded editions. His nonfictional Fabulación e ideología en la cuentística de Emilio S. Belavel (1979) deals with problems unique to Puerto Rico and its relationship both to its Spanish heritage and to U.S. domination.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Luis Rafael Sánchez gained recognition while still a student at the University of Puerto Rico. His play La espera, written for an undergraduate playwriting class, received an honorable mention from the Puerto Rican Ateneo in 1958 and was performed the following year. In 1959, he received a prize for his children’s play “Cuento de cucarahita viudita.” The university granted him a fellowship that enabled him to attend Columbia University in New York City to study theater arts and creative writing for a year.

Following the publication of Macho Camacho’s Beat, Sánchez’s literary fortunes improved markedly. In 1979, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1983, he was a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. In 1985, he spent a year as a guest writer in Berlin thanks to a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austrauschdienst-Berliner Kunstler Programm. He also served as a visiting professor at the City University of New York in 1988 and at The Johns Hopkins University in 1989.

Sánchez also held a distinguished professorship at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. Upon retirement, he was granted emeritus status by both the University of Puerto Rico and the City University of New York.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Flores, Angel, ed. Spanish American Writers: The Twentieth Century. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1992. This brief overview of Sánchez’s work will be helpful to the beginner. It touches on most of the author’s major writing, although it does not discuss it in depth.

Guinness, Gerald. “Is Macho Camacho’s Beat a Good Translation of La guaracha del Macho Camacho?” In Images and Identities: The Puerto Rican in Two World Contexts, edited by Asela Rodriguez de Laguna. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1987. Explores the techniques of Gregory Rabassa’s translation of the novel, with some alternative renderings.

Luis, William. Dance Between Two Cultures: Latino Caribbean Literature Written in the United States. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1997. Contains a section on Puerto Rican literature written in the United States and compares Sánchez’s work with that of Cuban novelists Oscar Hijuelos and Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

Melendez, Priscilla. “Towards a Characterization of Latin American Farce.” Siglo XX 11 (1993). Discusses Macho Camacho’s Beat as parody.

Perivolaris, John Dimitri. Puerto Rican Cultural Identity and the Work of Luis Rafael Sánchez. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. Perivolaris is fundamentally concerned with the sociopolitical aspects of Sánchez’s writing. He offers perceptive readings of some of the more important prose fiction Sánchez has produced, but he has much less to say about the plays, save for his illuminating chapter on Quintuplets.

Quintana, Hilda E. “Myth and Reality in Luis Rafael Sánchez’s La pasión según Antígona Pérez.” Revista/Review interamericana 19, nos. 3/4 (1989). Focuses on the use of myth in the novel.

Zamora, Lois Parkinson. “Clichés and Defamiliarization in the Fiction of Manuel Puig and Luis Rafael Sánchez.” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism 41, no. 4 (June, 1983): 421. Examines the use of cliché and defamiliarization in the works of the two writers.