According to the informative introductory essay by Iris Zavala, the aim of this anthology is to illustrate the “development of Puerto Rican intellectual consciousness.” That consciousness is inevitably the result of the increasing awareness of nationhood and of the frustrations attendant upon the island’s basic long-standing colonial situation. The literary manifestations of this situation—the “political essay ”—can do no other than reflect this reality, and as such be associated with a feeling of independence, whether or not accompanied by a commitment to political independence as an immediate specific goal. This results in a very sweeping definition indeed of the “political essay” and disarms almost any attempt to evaluate the present anthology in terms of “representatives.”

By any criteria, this collection is a very mixed bag. Some of the selections, particularly in the first part of the book, are so brief, trivial, or allusive to the particular moment of their composition as to be virtually impenetrable for the English reader unfamiliar with the details of Puerto Rican history or with the larger works from which they are extracted. The selections become rather more useful in the latter half of the book, however, and this leads to the discovery that there is a mode of category involved transcending the formal organization of the book (which is divided into four roughly chronological sections) and is not specifically acknowledged by the compilers.

On the one hand, there are selections that illustrate the “colonial mood”—the expression of the bitter awareness of the consequences of political inferiority. Here is the mordant satire of Nemesio Canales; the existential confusion of Luis Muñoz Rivera; the romantic hyperbole of José de Diego; the agonized cultural self-seeking of Antonio S. Pedreira; the Hispanicist moral indignation of Pedro Albizu Campos; the pleas for linguistic integrity of Nilita Vientos and Margot Arce; the call for a politically committed intelligentsia of Manuel Maldonado Denis.

Then there are the articles—by far the most meaningful, in my opinion—that are not so much examples of justified indignation as attempts at analysis. Thus Juan Mari Bras’s essay on a neo-Marxist interpretation of Albizu Campos’s role in Puerto Rico’s history; César Andreu Iglesias’s excellent and provocative essay on the relations between the independence and labor movements on the island; Pedro Juan Rúa's compactly argued analysis of recent political events on the island (the strongest and most original selection in the book); and Frank Bonilla’s sensitive paper providing a point of view from the United States branch of the Puerto Rican population.

It is these, plus a few other, analytical articles that form the substantive backbone of this book, and it is a pity there are not more of them. More such anthologies for the English-reading student are necessary, though one may hope for rather more focused and less diffuse collections than this one.