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Seva lives!: 40 years of the literary phenomenon that shook Puerto Rico

June 10, 2023

Mr. Eliezer Rios Camacho


Flash & Culture, El Nuevo Día 50 Carr. 165. Buchanan Sector

Amelia Industrial Park, Guaynabo

Dear Mr. Rios:

After careful reporting and taking the necessary steps to interview the sources required for this story, I present to you my findings related to the literary phenomenon of “It goes”.

As you can see below, it is the result of a pleasant conversation with Mr. Luis Lopez Nieves (LLN) (who first published his story in the weekly Claridad 40 years ago). López Nieves, as you can read, paid a very high price when he decided to make public, all those years ago, his writing about a lost city in the east of the island.

I am happy to inform you that López Nieves is currently in very good shape and welcomed us into his home in Río Piedras several days ago to share some thoughts on “Seva” (as well as some revelations that will no doubt be exciting for readers of his work and those of our section). His house -as it must be, without a doubt, that of any great writer- is a cozy place full of books. We talked for about an hour in the comfort of his dining room, where he talked about the threats he received, the story behind the story, and even the mysterious fate of the late Dr. Víctor Cabañas.

I am sharing, then, a transcript of our exchange, which I have arranged to present a coherent thematic picture and have cleaned up for clarity.

without more,

Victor Ramos Rosado

culture reporter

“Seva” was first published in the weekly Claridad 40 years ago. (Carlos Giusti/Staff)

What was your motivation to write “Seva”?

LLN: At that time I was studying for a doctorate and I was studying European epics like “El cantar de Roldán”. And suddenly the question came to me: “What is the Puerto Rican epic? Because we know the epic of Bolívar here in Latin America, those of San Martín, George Washington in the north, even those of Cuba, those of Santo Domingo, specific to each country. Of course, in our case, as a colonial country, Puerto Ricans are not emphasized, what is taught here, rather, is about North Americans, because here it is taught that North America is like ours. And it made me curious. And I said: “Wow, the truth is that in Puerto Rico there has to be an epic.” And in a few words, there came a moment where I said: “I am not a historian, I do not know the epic of Puerto Rico, they never taught me, I have not read it, so I am going to do one thing: since I am a writer, I am going to invent it, I am going to invent an epic”. And from there came the idea of ​​creating an epic that Puerto Ricans can read and feel proud of. I believe that I gave Puerto Rican readers a book that they could feel like the Spanish when they read “my Cid”. The history of Puerto Rico, if you think about the literature of the 30s, 40s or 50s, is very pessimistic, because Puerto Rico was going through a pessimistic period. If you think of René Márques, almost all of his characters are suicidal, literal or symbolic. And Pedro Juan Soto and Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, where the bull commits suicide. You read that and you say: “We have no hope, everything here is tragedy or disaster.” Suddenly it is observed that some Puerto Ricans stood up and put up resistance and won that first stage, there was that first attempt, and I think that was my intention, to give the reader that moment, even if it was ten minutes while reading the story or after read the story For at least ten minutes to say, “Wow, that’s cool that this happened,” even if they later realized it wasn’t real.

Tell me a little about the development of the character of Víctor Cabañas, what are his motivations?

LLN: Víctor Cabañas is the main character for me, he is the one who leads the story without a doubt, because he reflects what I wanted and what many Puerto Ricans want: to know the truth. And that is the story. “Seva” is sometimes confused, people think it has to do with Seva (the fictional place) as such. And really, if you analyze the story literally, it’s not about Seva, the story is Seva’s search, that is, the real conflict of the story is the search made by Víctor Cabañas, which he achieves. He manages to find the truth. He is a historian who needs to know what really happened in Puerto Rico. Because? Because since I was little they told me things that I couldn’t believe. They told me, when I was in high school, that the North Americans came to Puerto Rico and that we received them with applause, with ceremonies of joy, with lemonade, with maví, etc., and I couldn’t believe that.

When the story was published, Claridad had to issue a clarification shortly after letting it be known that it was a work of fiction because many people believed that it was a real finding. Why do you think many people had such strong reactions to her story?

When they read the story, many intellectuals, pro-independence and popular people suddenly saw their dream come true. They were like, “Wow, I knew the Americans had been so bad, here’s the evidence.” They exacerbated and shot up. They thought that I had mocked and quite the opposite. When people got angry and said: “This man insulted the independentistas and insulted the country, he insulted the love of the country, he made fun of it”, I was stunned because I did the opposite. Read “Seva” well. It is a celebration of Puerto Rican victory. It is an admiration. The text is what counts, what in literature we call “magic of the book”. I can, 40 years later, say yes “I don’t believe in any of that”, but it doesn’t matter. It is still written. It’s already written. Even if I change my mind, the story is there and, as they say, after one publishes the book, the author’s opinion is one more opinion. The story is there, it is a glorification of Puerto Ricanness. This Puerto Rican elite that saw it as an offense was basically because they fell for being stupid, because they felt that they had been intellectually deceived, but it was not the intention.

Would anything change 40 years later?

I don’t know if it sounds arrogant, but the evidence is there. Changing something now would be a bit absurd because it has had so much balance and has been selling like hotcakes for 40 years, as they say around there. And not only in Puerto Rico. The book is now sold in Latin America. I have arrived in Argentina and there are people who know the book. I change something would be a bit absurd. Honestly, sometimes I get, every ten years, with rereading it. And I say: “The truth is that there is nothing to change.” It’s strange because whenever I read something of my own I would change things, but with “Seva”, which curiously is my first book of five that I’ve written, I think it achieved what I wanted to do at that time.

Have you managed to finish the transcripts of the interviews with Ignacio Martínez that at some point you said would be the basis for “Seva II”?

[Ríe] At one point I considered it, but no. People demanded of me. I stopped going to bookstores because every time I went in everyone was asking me for “Seva II”. I realized it because I had endured the original story for about three years, because I understood that I needed to write. You have to go back to the theory and that is that the conflict of the story is not Seva, the conflict of the story is the search that Víctor Cabañas is doing. And he does, he does. So that was not necessary.

And what about the fate of the late Dr. Cabañas?

He writes to me from time to time and he is in good mind, very clearly, but he knows that he cannot show his face because they put him there with Julian Assange. [Ríe]

"He [Víctor Cabañas] He writes to me from time to time and he is in good mind, very clear, but he knows that he cannot show his face because they put him there with Julian Assange"said Lopez Nieves.
“He [Víctor Cabañas] He writes to me from time to time and he is in good mind, very clearly, but he knows that he cannot show his face because they put him there with Julian Assange,” said López Nieves. (Carlos Giusti/Staff)

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