Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages


Elena Martinez

Subject Categories

Latin American Literature


Diaspora, Dominican literature, merengue, popular music, transnational


Many critics agree that merengue, the cultural symbol of Dominican identity, has been linked to national identity since its beginnings when it emerged during the battles for independence from Haití­ in 1844. Hence, it is not surprising that the intertexual dialogue between Dominican literature and Dominican popular music could be traced back to the 19th century, a moment where cultural elements and practices were fundamental to the consolidation of a national identity. In the best cases, merengue was used to underline the social customs of the times in a few decimononical obras costumbristas from the 19th century. However, it was also demonized and portrayed as a backwards tradition in the works of Eurocentric intellectuals from the island. Fast-forwarding to the late 20th century, one can appreciate the rise of a literary sub-genre that relies on popular music. A significant number of Dominican writers cultivate a sub-genre that was gaining momentum in the Hispanic Caribbean: the musical narrative. In the late 1990's and throughout the first decade of the new millennium the intertextual dialogue between popular music and Dominican letters reached its peak. Today, there is a considerable corpus of novels, short stories and performance texts that celebrate the interaction between literature and popular music in the Island and its Diaspora in New York.

In my dissertation I argue that the cultural, political, and socio-economic changes in the Dominican Republic contributed to the proliferation of this trend. Most importantly, I underline the role of transnational dominicanidad in the growth of literary texts that underscores hybridity through the use of various popular genres. Finally, I propose that the tendency to narrate the nation in musical terms derives from the initial ties between merengue and national identity. Nonetheless, I show that although these texts recognize the linkage between national identity and popular genre of merengue, they propose alternative discourses that defy the uniform construction of identity and the political ties to the Trujillo regime embedded in its historical past. The final objective of this research project is to demonstrate that given the constant interchange between the two islands, writers from aquí y allá approach popular music as a tool of resistance against hegemonic discourses on Dominican identity.