There’s no blurb for this one but whilst attempting to hunt one out on Amazon.com, I noticed that the one used paperback copy was going for $35 dollars. Not bad considering I got mine for $4 whilst using Letizia’s fun method of poetry buying – which can be found here – and seeing where the journey takes you.
Return to the Sea sets both Spanish and its English translation side by side on the page, which I find fascinating and although this is nothing unique in the world of poetry books my eyes were drawn over to the Spanish side frequently through curiosity many more time than my Rilke books ever have, perhaps because the language is easier on the eye and more familiar.
It is clear from the start that Rivera is fiercely strong in her patriotism and her writings are shot through with calls for independence and self determinism of the country she so clearly evokes with passion through the text. The love shines through in many way from reminiscences to the impassioned defence of her people.
There is fury at the legacy left by the US military, after testing chemical and nuclear weapons on the island of Vieques (nicknamed La Isla Nena, usually translated as Little Girl Island, which somehow makes it worse) left thousands with serious health issues including Cancer. Not only does Rivera demand justice but also exhibits a diligent need to cleanse the people and their land.
As you would expect island life gives rise to some familiar themes, the most obvious is the sea motif as giver, purifier and inspiration. There is also the innate banding together in isolation and the mistrust of foreign intervention as it inevitably destroys the community and the paradise the island once upon a time was.
Flicking through the book again as I wrote this review, I thought some of the writing about the destruction wrought by the US bombs was a bit heavy-handed but then I took the time to properly research the whole affair and I see now why there is so much outrage and horror at those events. Armed with a little more knowledge, I found the book to be an effective draw not only to highlighting the modern-day horrors subjected to a nation – which incidentally was not involved in any of the wars the weapons were being perfected for – but also for the nature and humanity lost, now and throughout the ages of Puerto Rico.