Cortijo′s Wake / El entierro de Cortijo

Cortijo′s Wake / El entierro de Cortijo

Book Pages: 152 Illustrations: 10 photos, incl. 2 in color Published: December 2003

Caribbean Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction, Music

A bilingual edition of a renowned work of Puerto Rican literature, Cortijo’s Wake/El entierro de Cortijo is novelist Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá’s vivid description of the funeral of legendary Puerto Rican musician Rafael Cortijo. El entierro de Cortijo became an immediate bestseller following its original publication in Puerto Rico in 1983. An unparalleled Afro-Puerto Rican percussionist and bandleader, Cortijo (1928–1982) revolutionized the country’s musical culture. His band, Cortijo y Su Combo, captivated Caribbean and Latin American audiences as it emerged in the mid-1950s. Immensely popular across Puerto Rican social classes, the band both “modernized” the traditional vernacular forms of bomba and plena and forcefully reestablished their African and working-class roots. The group’s innovations have been integral to salsa since the 1960s.

Winding through the streets of working-class San Juan with Cortijo’s funeral procession, Rodríguez Juliá’s autobiographical chronicle provides a rare portrait of the impoverished society from which Cortijo’s music emerged. Along with detailed renderings of grief-stricken mourners—including Cortijo’s childhood friend and fellow musician, the celebrated singer Ismael ("Maelo") Rivera—Rodríguez Juliá records his feelings as he, a light-skinned, middle-class writer, confronts the world of poor black Puerto Ricans. The author’s masterful shifting of linguistic registers, his acute sensitivity to Puerto Rican social codes, his broad knowledge of popular music, and his sardonic ruminations on death and immortality make this one of the most widely read books of modern Puerto Rican literature. Well-known critic and cultural historian Juan Flores has provided a scrupulous translation of Rodríguez Juliá’s text and an introduction situating the book in relation to Puerto Rican music and culture and the careers of Cortijo and Rodríguez Juliá.


"Flores has provided a nuanced translation that is attentive to the inherent difficulties of making intelligible Afro-Puerto Rican working-class colloquial expressions for a non-Spanish-speaking audience. . . . I highly recommend this edition for historians who wish to explore how literary texts employ icons from popular culture to address reimaginings of the Puerto Rican nation in the late twentieth century. It will also be an invaluable teaching tool for Black studies scholars who do not speak and read Spanish but wish to incorporate Afro-Caribbean topics into their classroom." — Mark A. Hernandez , The Americas

"Stunning in its direct honesty and simplicity of style, this book is considered a contemporary classic of Puerto Rican literature. . . . This is a book you will find both informative and enjoyable reading. Cortijo's Wake is highly recommended." — Lee Prosser ,

"This autobiographical chronicle is a fundamental work for those wishing to understand more about the island’s social and cultural make-up and the key role of popular musicians . . . . For English-speaking readers who are unfamiliar with Puerto Rican music, it is to be hoped that after reading this engaging chronicle, you might be inspired to seek out recordings by some of the artists featured and discover the lively rhythms of bomba and plena which were influential in the creation of the salsa sound." — Vanessa Knights, Review of Popular Music

“A highly entertaining account of the wake and burial of Rafael Cortijo. . . . [Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá’s] book mixes first-hand descriptions of places and people with extravagant helpings of personal opinion.” — Gerald Guinness,, San Juan Star

“The editor and translator, Juan Flores, provides a very informative, contextualized introduction to the writer, the story and the musical life of Cortijo and his musical colleagues. His translation reflects well the expressive quality of the language of the original text, which is made complex by its multiple, idiosyncratic registers.” — James Hassell, National Capital Language Resource Center

“Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá’s El entierro de Cortijo is already a classic in contemporary Puerto Rican literature—challenging, entertaining, and enlightening. It is a real joy to see Juan Flores’s translation of Rodríguez Juliá’s narrative into English. Flores—sensitive to tone, sound, idiom, and meaning—has done an excellent job. Cortijo’s music echoes through the text.”— — Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá is a widely acclaimed Puerto Rican novelist. Among his many books are Sol de medianoche (1999), La noche oscura del Nino Avilés (1984), and La renuncia del héroe Baltasar (1974, translated into English in 1997 as The Renunciation). Since 1968, he has taught literature and writing at the University of Puerto Rico.

Juan Flores is Professor of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of a number of books including From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity and Divided Borders: Essays on Puerto Rican Identity.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

A Note on the Artist Rafael Ferrer viii

Introduction 1

Cortijo's Wake 15

El entierro de Cortijo 83
Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc Puerto Rico

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3216-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3203-9
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