Caribbean Without Borders, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras – 2008
This paper addresses the interpenetrability of three sets of disparate worlds in Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle (2004). The first and most literal penetration is physical: characters in the Lower East Side of New York City go through doors or into an apartment and find themselves physically transported to El Yunque forest in Puerto Rico. In this novel, the Caribbean is truly without borders—it exists simultaneously in its customary geographic location, and also wherever it is invoked. Nuclear families are the second set of worlds to mix, meld, and reconstitute themselves. Omaha Bigelow explores how sexual desire both motivates group identification through family creation and also makes those groups interpenetrable. Through his desire for Maruquita, and hers for him, Omaha Bigelow is drawn into the Salsipuedes family, in spite of the onomastic warning inherent in their family name, but his attraction to other women in the text makes his status in the family constantly questionable. The last form of interpenetration is structural, in the diegetic levels of Vega’s narrative. Vega wreaks havoc with the intra/extradiegetic divide when author/ narrator/ character Ed Vega Yunqué enters, causing the other characters to “break character” and converse with him like actors to a director, questioning his decisions about their character development, and the unfolding of the plot. Vega’s postmodern aesthetic and invocation of indigenous Puerto Rican spiritual traditions, along with his simultaneous rejection of “ethnic literature” make him one of the most experimental and controversial anglophone Puerto Rican writers. This paper discusses how Vega’s disruption of boundaries and borders engages issues of colonialism, sexuality, and narrative structure to destabilize and reconsider how and why these borders function.