Luis Llorens Torres and the Impossible Return: Identity, Conflict and Hope in the National Poem of Puerto Rico

Eugenio M. Rothe


Abstract: The psychodynamic exploration of the content of literary works and of the personal lives of their authors oftentimes reveals how they can be mutually reflective of the other. Such is the case of the poem, “Valle de Collores” (The Valley of Collares), considered by many to be the national poem of Puerto Rico and of the author Luis Llorens Torres (1876-1944), regarded as the “Poet Laureate of Puerto Rico.” The timelessness and wide appeal of certain literary works has been attributed, among other reasons, to the fact that they address universal inner conflicts that affect all human beings. The poem “Valle de Collores” is the narrative of a country boy who leaves home to face the larger world and, as he reaches adulthood, he looks back and expresses his impossible longing to return to the rural home of his childhood. It is a description of the universal struggles of human development and of separation-individuation, loss and mourning and a longing to return, and a wish to merge with the early parental objects of childhood. The poem also parallels the history of the Puerto Rican people, in their transition from a rural society under Spanish rule to an industrialized society as an American Commonwealth. This difficult transition resulted in a massive immigration of Puerto Ricans to the United States that continues to this day. The poem also represents the longing of many Puerto Rican immigrants to return to their island home, and to a simpler time of more fundamental values. The land that is left behind and longed for becomes a metaphor for the early maternal imago.

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