"Now everybody loves Puerto Rican culture," says a Puerto Rican schoolteacher and festival organizer, "but that's exactly the problem." Thus begins this major examination of cultural nationalism as a political construct involving party ideologies, corporate economic goals, and grassroots cultural groups.
Author Arlene Davila focuses on the Institute for Puerto Rican Culture, the government institution charged with defining authenticated views of national identity since the 1950s, and on popular festival organizers to illuminate contestations over appropriate representations of culture in the increasingly mass-mediated context of contemporary Puerto Rico. She examines the creation of an essentialist view of nationhood based on a peasant culture and a "unifying" Hispanic heritage, and the ways in which grassroots organizations challenge and reconfigure definitions of national identity through their own activities and representations.
Davila pays particular attention to the increasing prominence of corporate sponsorship in determining what is distinguished as authentic "Puerto Rican culture" and discusses the politicization of culture as a discourse to debate and legitimize conflicting claims from selling commercial product to advocating divergent status options for the island. In so doing, Davila illuminates the prospects for cultural identities in an increasingly transnational context by showing the growth of cultural nationalism to be intrinsically connected to forms of political action directed to the realm of culture and cultural politics. This in-depth examination also makes clear that despite contemporary concerns with "authenticity," commercialism is an inescapable aspect of all cultural expression on the island.