Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2004—2005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams
Assistant Professor, Hispanic and Latino Studies, Bryn Mawr College
Dream Nation: The Nationalist Visions and Dream Weavers of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement
In 1954 Lolita Lebrón and three men entered the United States House of Representatives armed with weapons. Draped in the Puerto Rican flag, Lebrón took the lead and shouted, “Freedom for Puerto Rico!” while firing four shots in protest of Puerto Rico’s occupation by the United States. She was incarcerated for twenty-five years and in her prison journals she had ample time to reflect on the dreams and mystic visions that lead her to carry out the attack; ultimately publishing selections in her book, A Message from God in the Atomic Age. The book—or word of it—converted many Puerto Ricans to the Nationalist cause; a fact stymied by various plebiscites that have not taken into account the Nationalist boycott of the plebiscite process which was initiated by one of the independence movement’s principal leaders, Pedro Albizu Campos.
Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of the Puerto Rican independence movement spearheaded by founding Nationalists such as Pedro Albizu Campos and Lebrón is the role of dreams and visions in their political program. Long ignored by a post-Enlightenment call to “reason,” these cultural and political dream weavers and visionaries have been cast outside the empirically driven economy of academic study by methodologies of the social sciences that cannot always apprehend the profound ability of mystic dreams—literal and metaphorical—to change hearts and challenge political institutions.
Dr. Lima studies these dream-weavers in the context of a highly visual public culture that emerged in the early part of the twentieth century and created a counter-public sphere (Habermas) of meaning that competed for the hearts and minds of Puerto Ricans in and out of the island. He examines the dreams, literature, photographs, visual arts, political cartoons, and speeches of Puerto Rico’s principal nationalist figures (from Pedro Albizu Campos and Lolita Lebrón to visual artists such as Antonio Martorell and the collaborative work of “Estudio 17” [which led to the creation of the Center for Puerto Rican Art]) and proposes a respectful engagement (though decidedly non-canonical) with a broader mystic tradition in Catholicism that has culminated in politically viable “dream-quests” (e.g., Latin American “Liberation Theology” being on of the most prominent).