Sancochando Ame-Rican Histories:
Shaggy’s Vernacular Poetics
After this aesthetic fiesta, the joys of reading Shaggy’s poetry, of consuming the Sancocho with la cuchara grande, a bit of critical dessert.
Sancocho is a beautifully crafted product of the aesthetics of barrio life, a poetics that came to fruition with the 1960s-70s Nuyorican Movement. As one of the first as well as one of the finest expressions of the global dissemination of Nuyorican cultural creation this book shows the conversion of Nuyorican into Ame-Rican poetry. Shaggy’s poetics is explicitly in that tradition as it revealed in the subtitle of the collection “A Book of Nuyorican Poetry.” He places himself in relationship to the now classic auteurs of our Ame-Rican poetic tribe including among others Pedro Pietri, Louis Reyes-Rivera, and Sandra Maria Esteves.
In the best expression of this lineage Jaime Flores (Shaggy) poetry is boldly political, representing a cultural practice committed with the decolonization and liberation of the Puerto Rican people. In this politically engaged poetry the nation can appear as a lived experience of racism, labor exploitation, social marginality, and internalized violence, but is also a project of emancipation that is enacted in a vast array of struggles by a variety of social movements fighting for survival, dignity, rights, and respect. The profound political vocation of Shaggy’s poetry gives it a quality as a tool for education and consciousness raising in our community.
Sancocho: A Book of Nuyorican Poetry is also a celebration of culture, desire, and the playfulness of Puerto Rican life. The poems have a narrative and dramatic edge that combine chronicles of different aspects of daily life in the barrios with scenes of love and rich expressions of erotic desire. The vivid images contrast the landscapes of hopelessness and despair that characterize colonial violence in the everyday experience of the inner city in Holyoke, with the tropical passion, dance, solidarity, and love people and life that constitute resources of hope and keep us alive in our communities.
Thus, Sancocho is literally an Ame-Rican gumbo, a collage of many of our hopes and desires but also of the hardships and disappointments that we confront here in this territory of the translocal nation that is settled in the valley of Western Massachusetts and beyond.
As Shaggy is already recognized because of his cultural activism, given his leadership as an organizer of a new Nuyorican movement in this part of Ame-Rica, Sancocho as his first book also represents a significant step forward in Puerto Rican aesthetic expressions in (and from) this corner of the transboricua nation.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
October 24, 2000