Puerto Rican education system bans kids' books

Raph sez, "There's been a lot of debate in the Spanish-speaking community about the removal of several books by prominent Puerto Rican authors from the 11th grade curriculum in Puerto Rico, and a bunch of authors are protesting in blogs and in person in protests. Global Voices covered the story today (it's been ongoing for a week)."
The Department of Education of the government of Puerto Rico recently eliminated five books from the eleventh grade curriculum of the public school system: Antología personal, by José Luis González; El entierro de Cortijo, by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá; Mejor te lo cuento: antología personal, by Juan Antonio Ramos; Reunión de espejos, an anthology of essays edited by José Luis Vega (all Puerto Rican authors); and Aura, by Carlos Fuentes from Mexico. The public agency justified its action by saying that the books "contain unacceptable language and vocabulary, which is extremely coarse and vulgar."

The governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, supported the decision: "I think I have been very clear, and that all of the mothers and fathers out there understand perfectly that the books that an 18-year-old can read should not be read by a 12-year-old." Numerous writers and artists in Puerto Rico publicly voiced their concerns and described the government's action as censorship. The Federation of Teachers also condemned the decision and stated that it "reflects ignorance about the social reality that our students live in, and a backward-looking vision of modern literature as part of the academic curriculum." After such public pressure, the Department of Education said they had only permanently eliminated one book, but were still evaluating the rest.

Puerto Rico: Debate on Censorship (Thanks, Raph!)


  1. Ey, do you know that in Guanajuato, Mexico, the goverment remove sexual organs, both from women and men, from primary school books because they consider immoral to show it to the kids?
    Yes, they are catholic extremist and plain stupids :)

  2. I see things never change in PR. I knew the political pigheads were bad, but banning those books, which to me are quite harmless… my dear nieces will be missing out on some good reading.

  3. How exactly is removing books from a curriculum banning? I’m pretty sure those same books would still be available in public libraries for school children to read on their own if they really wanted to. It’s just not in the curriculum?

    Didn’t you just post an entry calling the “Daily Mail” sensationalist?

  4. Ok this is a very confusing article. At one point it says that these books were removed from the 11th grade curriculum. At the same time, the article says they were banned. Then, you have the governor saying that he supports this because 12 year olds shouldn’t be reading them. Unless things are much different in PR, 11th grade does not mean 12 year olds. Also, were these books replaced with any others? Are the books unavailable outside the classroom to these students? If not, that’s a key piece of information that is missing.

  5. “…books that an 18-year-old can read should not be read by a 12-year-old.”

    So does this mean that 12-year-olds shouldn’t be reading any books at all, since obviously anything a 12-year-old can read can ALSO be read by 18-year-olds…?

  6. Just for a little context, this is not the first time that “Aura” sees this side of conservatism. It was the subject of controversy in Mexico a few years ago, after Carlos Abascal, then Secretary of Labor, publicly requested that it be removed from the curriculum of his daughter’s 9th grade class, based on a paragraph he found “obscene”.

    The book was not removed, and Abascal was widely ridiculed for his request. Among other things, he was told to focus on his duty to create jobs, instead of impinging upon the Secretary of Education’s responsibilities.

  7. I don’t think it’s sensationalist… Realistically speaking, how many kids will actually -go- to the library and check out these books? Not a whole lot of them, which is why curriculums, and what they expose kids to, are important.

    Then again, it’s just another notch in a long line of grievances against freedom of speech & thought perpetrated by the Dept. of Education in PR. It wasn’t that long ago that their curriculum was English-only in a mainly Spanish-speaking population. Or that Puerto Rican history was glossed over to hide the struggles of independence seekers; the average student has no idea what the “Ley de la Mordaza” was, or the number of experiments and sterilization without consent done on Puerto Rican women, just to name a few.

    But I digress, thanks for the great post BB.

  8. Tell me, who are those 12 year olds that attend the 11th grade?

    Children in PR do not go to public libraries. Banning those books will make sure they aren’t read.

  9. I’m trying to work out the argument that what’s good for an 18 year may not be for a 12 year old. That’s very true but I’ve never met a 12 year old grade 11 student. They are 16 and 17, and in all likely hood making daily use of the language these books were taken off the curriculum for having.

    parents just don’t understand.

  10. How exactly is removing books from a curriculum banning? I’m pretty sure those same books would still be available in public libraries for school children to read on their own if they really wanted to. It’s just not in the curriculum?

    That is actually the very definition of banning a book. There’s a common misperception that as long as a book is available somewhere, it’s not banned. Banning books is about restricting access. No book is ever banned into oblivion. Those who know about a book and are determined to find and read it will always be able to do so (in a nominally free society anyway). But banning restricts access to these works. Many students who would benefit from these works won’t even know they exist, due to their removal from the classroom.

    Banned Books Week kicks off in just a few days. I highly recommend ALA’s website for more information:


  11. @Zantony

    By that “very definition of banning a book” logic, every book that is not in the school curriculum is banned.

    Are you seriously making this argument? A school library let alone a curriculum hardly has room for every book ever written.

  12. Wow. My grade 11 English class teacher showed us the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. That would be the version with 16-year-old naked breasts. If a teacher did that in Puerto Rico, would the heads of the people banning these books explode?

  13. No, banning occurs when the book was in the curriculum but is removed because it is found objectionable. No school or library on earth is expected to contain or teach all works. The problem occurs when a book that educators believe has educational merit is removed from curriculums because moralistic crusaders consider the work to be objectionable.

    Seriously, I’m not crafting this definition on my own. And it’s not a particularly radical definition either.

  14. I just think that’s a very loose definition of banning. I think the title is sensationalist by saying the books were “banned” when “pulled from curriculum” is much more accurate. Though that doesn’t have as strong of an effect as the word “ban” does, even if technically it’s not really banning. So that’s why I’m saying it’s sensationalist.

  15. The whole book banning thing is ridiculous. In 11th grade kids are 16-17, which mean they are old enough to read those books… besides here in PR not half of those kids enter the class rooms. My mother-in-law is a teacher at a public school, she says her classes consist mostly of three or four students because the rest skip class.

    Anyway, here Puerto Rican literature has no importance, ask a young person to talk to you about our literature and they won’t be able to talk about much.
    This island is slowly sinking with mediocrity and it makes me sad, angry and embarrassed.

  16. If that’s not banning, what exactly is your definition of book banning? I am using the functional definition of book banning as used by the American Library Association (who, along with teachers, are the people on the front lines when book challenges occur). It’s actually not a loose definition at all.

    A challenged book is a book that a person or organization attempts to have removed from a library or curriculum. A banned book is a book that is challenged and subsequently removed from the library or curriculum.

    That’s fine if you disagree with that definition. But I know of at least 65,000 librarians (who deal with these issues professionally) would beg to differ.

    Now, it’s true that “banned books” packs more oomph than the phrase “challenged books”. That’s why it’s called “Banned Books Week” instead of “Challenged Books Week” even though the vast majority of challenges do not result in bans. (Because, hey, even librarians are not immune to the lure of good marketing.)

    But in this case, it’s actually textbook definition of a banning. (At least according to a few textbooks on my shelves.)

  17. Okay, leaving aside the debate over the definition of “banned” (although I will point out that it matches the one used by the American Library Association for “Banned Books Week” and other such events), I have to take issue with the use of the word “kids” in the headline of this entry.

    There’s no indication that any of the books in question are children’s books, in fact they sound like the same kind of “adult” literature that is read in English language classes in the US at that grade level. Are Hamlet and The Red Badge of Courage and Cat’s Cradle now “kids’ books” as well, just because they’re read in high school classes? Just generally, referring to 11th graders with the same term you’d use to describe five-year-olds strikes me as extremely sloppy description, and an attempt to begin to create some form of sympathy or bias in mind of the reader.

  18. I don’t disagree with this action. The modern view of so-called censorship as on par with abuse is ridiculous from my point of view. Children need to be protected. Not brain-washed, but protected. My parents controlled what I read from a young age, loosening up their policy inline with my maturing, so that by about 15 or 16 they let me choose entirely for myself. I thank them that I wasn’t exposed to certain things before I was ready.

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