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Luis Sánchez

Personal information
Surname: Sánchez
First name: Luis
Middle names: Rafael
Born: 1936, Humacao, Puerto Rico

Luis Rafael Sánchez was born in 1936 in the small town of Humacao, Puerto Rico, and moved to San Juan as a young man.  He is perhaps most well known internationally as a novelist.  His critically-acclaimed novel, La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976) was translated into English by Gregory Rabassa in 1983.  However, Sánchez is also considered to be the leading Puerto Rican playwright of the modern era.

Sánchez’s first play, La espera (The Wait) (1959) was premiered in 1959.  The following year he completed a degree specialising in theatre and began working as a teacher at the University of Puerto Rico.  Several of his plays were performed at theatre festivals organised by the Puerto Rican Cultural Institute.  His two works Cucarachita viudita (1959) and La farsa del amor compadrito (1960) were also staged in the Experimental Theatre of the Puerto Rican Athenaeum.

Sánchez has lived and worked as a theatre practitioner, writer and scholar in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the United States.  He has held the post of  Professor Emeritus at both the University of Puerto Rico and the City University of New York.


The racial and cultural identity of Puerto Rico and its relationship to the United States is a central and enduring theme in Luis Rafael Sánchez’s work.    He is also interested  in the subject of theatre and theatricality itself; in works such as The Passion According to Antígona Pérez, he  uses classical texts to explore local situations, as well as drawing on traditional theatrical languages such as the  baroque and carnivalesque.


In the prologue to Quintuplets, Luis Rafael Sánchez ironises his status as the author of the play and instead, by insinuation, invites the director and actors staging the play to disregard his authority and deviate from his lengthy and prescriptive stage directions.  Here he breaks with real or naturalistic theatre, laying bare the artifice of the play.  Sánchez is not concerned with characterisation or the development of a plot or theme.  Quintuplets is a series of rhythmic and colourfully vocal performances which explore various levels of unmasking.  First of all the characters abandon their script, then the two actors abandon their characters and speak directly to the audience, meditating on the substance of theatre itself.  But throughout the play, the audience is invited to interact with the performance.This is one of the ways in which Quintuplets draws on many popular theatre forms: vaudeville, music hall theatre and the Hispanic tradition of the sainete.   Here, as Brecht advocated, the intention is to stir the audience’s conscience through the signalling of artifice and a refusal to create an illusory theatre.

Plays in the database
Useful reading and websites
  • Colón Zayas, Eliseo. 1985. El Teatro de Luis Rafael Sánchez: Códigos, ideología y lenguaje. San Juan, Puerto Rico, Editorial Playor, Biblioteca de Autores de Puerto Rico (in Spanish)

  • Morell, Hortensia, R. 1994. ‘Quíntuples y el vertigo del teatro autorreflexivo de Luis Rafael Sánchez’, Latin American Theatre Review, 39 - 51 (in Spanish)

  • Stevens, Camilla. 2002. ‘Travelling Troupes: The Performance of Puerto Rican Identity in Plays by Luis Rafael Sánchez and Myrna Casas’, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, 85, 2, 240-9

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 6 May 2011.

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