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Puerto Rico 1965-1990: A Quarter Century of Highlights, Hope, Status and Stasis

Through his own newspaper articles and recollections of the time, Robert Friedman shows readers in this vivid and nostalgic memoir what it was like living in Puerto Rico from the mid-1960s through the 1970s and 1980s, the years he spent there as a journalist for the San Juan Star.

The book is far from an encompassing history, but rather a personal timeline of the era, a journalist’s-eye view of life in the U.S. quasi-colony, whose island-born residents are U.S. citizens but who do not have the rights of fellow citizens living in the States.

Friedman gives readers an understanding of the humane, colorful and difficult life lived by the island’s residents, as it was when he was there, and which, from all accounts, remains the same today.

Readers interested in history and the Latin-American-U.S. relations that bring Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics to the U.S. mainland in search of a better life, are sure to enjoy this memoir, as will the more than 5 million U.S. mainland residents of Puerto Rican descent and the 3.2 million living on the island. 

I highly recommend Robert Friedman’s new book “Puerto Rico 1965 -1990: A Quarter Century of Highlights, Hope, Status and Stasis.”

It is a fun trip down memory lane for those who lived on the Island during that time, and also provides Bob’s customary clear-eyed and insightful analysis of events on and off the Island including in New York, Washington, DC, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

This new book by the veteran author and longtime reporter and Washington correspondent for The San Juan Star also contains stories based on his interviews with Leonard Bernstein, Jackie Kennedy, Cary Grant, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

The reader learns interesting nuggets from historical events and figures in a concise and entertaining manner, a writing style typical of a seasoned author and journalist who’s used to informing and entertaining with precise and punchy prose.

Bob also includes more personal experiences in his book, including a beautiful passage about the birth of his first child, his daughter Maddy Friedman.

This fun and interesting book is both a nostalgic memoir and a way to revisit or learn about events and figures of importance to Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican diaspora, and beyond.

Flavio Cumpiano, Former director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration

The Puerto Rico Trilogy

Ulysses in San Juan, The concluding novel follows the relationship between Wolf, a concentration camp survivor who has come to Puerto Rico to try to build a new life, and Carmen, a drug addict. Set in 1980, the novel takes the reader on a trip into the San Juan underworld, as well as to other island sites, to meet crooked and upright and deeply human characters. The survival theme is extended to Stevie Diaz, a young Newyorican who has recently returned to the island and is searching, through his writing, to find out where he is truly at.

An editor’s note: The first two books in the Trilogy were published earlier, then rewritten somewhat and had its titles changed. The Odyssey of Pablo Camino was called Shadow of the Fathers, and The Definig Sea was titled The Surrounding Sea

“A wonderful novel that gives you an inside look at what life was like in Puerto Rico for people who were born there, who returned there or who tried to make it their home. . .  A memorable story of the hard-won compassion that comes with being a survivor.”

Michele Orwin, Author of Waiting For Next Week

The Defining Sea, book two of the Puerto Rico Trilogy, is a coming-of-age novel that follows the misadventures of Richie Perez, a 20-year-old University of Puerto Rico student. Richie’s girlfriend is killed by police during a campus protest against the Navy for its decades-long bombing exercises on the offshore Puerto Rico island of Vieques. In order to raise money for a scholarship in her name, Richie becomes a drug runner between the island and the states, learning hard truths along the way about life, love and loss.

“Grabs us on the very first page and takes us on an exciting journey. This is a gripping account of lost love, the temptation of the drug trade, the island’s complex relationship with the United States, the dual world of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora and the struggle to survive in a difficult world. A truly memorable, touching story.”

Kal Wagenheim, author, playwright, editor of The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History      

“A crackling tale of contemporary Caribbean colonialism that cuts like a switchblade between tragic political expose, tense crime thriller and rollicking epic quest.”

Hispanic Link News Service

In the first book, The Odyssey of Pablo Camino, a well-known Puerto Rican artist goes on a search for the truth of the possible murderous past of his dead father, Cornelius Rhodes, an Americano doctor sent to the island for research. The doctor claimed in a letter that he purposely killed eight of his patients because of his disdain for the “natives.”  Personal obsessions and public events collide as the novel’s characters grapple with lies, false identities, puzzling connections, U.S. wars and colonialism.

“Robert Friedman has managed to blend the mystery tale and a politically charged event to create a masterful literary novel that addresses contemporary issues of global human significance.”

Edgardo Vega Yunqué, PEN award-winning Puerto Rican author

“Friedman meticulously and faithfully creates the Puerto Rican setting. . . . In this book, a Puerto Rican theme translates into a North American novel that recognizes Puerto Rico’s  complex reality, both the internal struggles and those that come with colonial relations, and does so without the usual clichés.”

Carmen Dolores Hernández, El Nuevo Dia

“This is such an engrossing story that it’s easy to imagine it being made into an exciting and serious film.”                                                                    

(Denver) Rocky Mountain News

Other Books

Caribbean Dreams (British-American Publishing, Latham, NY) Set on the fictitious Caribbean island of Colón, a U.S. colony that strongly resembles Puerto Rico, the serio-satirical novel revolves around the “kidnapping” of Yanqui entrepreneur Barry Noble’s historic Packard—FDR rode in it—by anti-American supporters of the island’s independence. In a more serious vein, the plot also involves the investigation by newspaper reporter Mickey Melendez into the killing of two leaders of poor, homeless families who have squatted on land owned by foreign developers.

“A vastly entertaining work. . . . Humor and excitement blend superbly here.

Brad Hooper, Booklist

Island Wildlife: Exiles, Expats and Exotic Others (Savant Books and Publications, Honolulu, HI)   The book is composed of interconnected stories about denizens of a beachfront guesthouse in Puerto Rico. The mostly off-beat characters are struggling to straighten out off-kilter lives that have become filled with fear, sadness and, for the reader, much dark humor.

Under a Dark Sun (Floricanto Press Mountain View, CA) The novel, also set in Colón, features New York-raised Sara Vazquez, a photographer, who returns to the island of her birth, looking for a place she can truly call home. Sara witnesses a murder and is soon caught up in the underside of life on the island. She turns to Nick Ortiz, a reporter, and together they go up against the conspiracies and deceit that increasingly menace Sara’s life.  

"An excellent yarn. Friedman’s reporter’s eye and intimate knowledge of . . . Puerto Rican realities make Under a Dark Sun a very plausible and enjoyable book."

Rafael Matos, San Juan Star

Upcoming Events

June 2022

Washinton D.C. Metro Area

Robert is happy to participate in virtual events and discussions about Puerto Rico and its history. Please get in touch with him through the email below.

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