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Book Review

"Isla Verde": A Novel With The Ring Of Truth

BY Mercy McCloskey

January 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

If Garry Hoyt’s novel "Isla Verde" were to become a best seller, it would surely serve as a nail in the coffin of Commonwealth status.

"Isla Verde" is Garry Hoyt’s literary foray into love, adventure, and politics. His previous two books were about sailing, his first love. "Isla Verde" reveals Hoyt’s passion for Puerto Rico.

It’s an acquired passion, founded in Hoyt’s 25-year experience in Puerto Rico as an advertising executive for Young & Rubicam. Hoyt came to the island in 1955 and married and raised two sons in the course of his time on the island.

The novel is intended for the stateside public. It’s about life in Puerto Rico, as it was for an American in the mid-fifties, through the sixties, into the seventies. It surrounds the loves and adventures of a former Marine with some journalism experience who is hired to run an English-language newspaper on the island.

While couched in adventure and romance, the novel is steeped in rhetoric over the status issue, offering an insightful view of Puerto Rico’s ambivalence towards its relationship with the U.S. And while the book is placed in history a quarter century ago, little of the politics has changed.

"Isla Verde’s" protagonist runs against acceptable social norms as an outspoken Yankee on the political landscape. Even worse, he speaks publicly and even publishes his political observations in the newspaper that is widely circulated in Washington, a move that makes him many enemies, adding a sense of impending danger to the plot.

In July 1974, he is invited to speak at the San Juan Rotary where he says, "The critical flaw in the Commonwealth status is that by its nature it’s a tactic of transition, an avoidance of the clear cut identity that any nation or region needs to shape its character or future. Commonwealth can either be a course that leads towards America in the form of statehood or away from America in the form of Independence, but it should now be honest about which direction it seeks."

The central character makes another speech when he is awarded a journalism prize. He uses the forum to discuss the insularity of Puerto Rico, or the costs to the island of "seeing the world as revolving around Puerto Rico. I do not for a moment pretend that Puerto Rico is the only place plagued by insularity—only that Puerto Rico is one of the places that can least afford it…One of the highest costs of insularity has been the orchestrated decline of English comprehension on the island…" The speaker goes on to make the point that as long as the general public is separated from instruction of English, the island stands no chance of being accepted as a state of the U.S. or part of a global economy where the common language is English.

For mainlanders who live or have lived in Puerto Rico, many of the observations on Puerto Rico politics will ring true. For Puerto Rico natives, the cold, logical observations of the facts, untainted by the feelings of belonging to something unique by birthright as a Puerto Rican, the novel may be difficult to enjoy.

But Hoyt anticipates such struggle and even addresses it within his story. The protagonist and his local friends often discuss the emotional sense of what it means to be Puerto Rican in search of a balance for a political identity that allows the island to have a viable future.

One of the striking things about Isla Verde is its timeliness. It is intended to instigate change for a colony that has been circling the issue of its identity for 50 years. It is direct in its observations and leaves few stones unturned.

In the protagonist’s speech at Rotary, for example, he attacks the "timidity and lethargy of the business community here [on the status issue], whose highest aspiration appears to be the lowest possible profile…"

Garry Hoyt came to San Juan to promote his new book in November and as a guest speaker at San Juan Rotary, he remarked about how little the political landscape had changed. He spoke on "the schizoid nature of Commonwealth" and the fact that the U.S. has created an economic dependence and thus bought the island’s willing participation. According to Hoyt, while the outside world sees this as a classic case of colonialism, they fail to grasp that Puerto Rico may be the first colony to ever economically exploit the colonizer.

For anyone with an interest in Puerto Rico status, Isla Verde is a worthwhile read. Published by Newport R&D Inc., it’s available at Bell, Book & Candle, Castle Books, The Magazine & Bookstore, Thekes, and

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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