Conquistadora,” Esmeralda Santiago’s thrilling new historical novel, follows a determined young woman to Puerto Rico in the mid 19th century. Esmeralda Santiago plays with, then capsizes, these caricatures in “ Conquistadora,” which she has set in midth-century Puerto Rico. Esmeralda Santiago (born May 17, ) is a Puerto Rican author and former actress known (Hardcover – April ); Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiage (Author) ()(review, Washington Post, 30 Jy , C-1); El sueño de América.

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Jul 12, Pages Buy. Jul 12, Minutes Santuago. Jul 10, Pages. Jul 12, Pages. Jul 12, Minutes. As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de Leon. And in handsome twin brothers Ramon and Inocente—both in love with Sangiago finds a way to get there. Marrying Ramon at the age of eighteen, she travels across the ocean to Hacienda los Gemelos, a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited.

But soon the Civil War erupts in the United States, and Ana finds her livelihood, and perhaps even her life, threatened by the very people on whose backs her wealth has been built: An epic novel of love, discovery, and adventure by the author of the best-selling memoir When I Was Eemeralda Rican.

Ana faces unrelenting heat, disease and isolation, and the dangers of the untamed countryside even as she relishes the challenge of running Hacienda los Gemelos. And when at last Ana falls for a man who may be her destiny—a once-forbidden love—she will sacrifice nearly everything to keep hold of the land that has become her true home. This is a sensual, riveting tale, set in a place where human passions and cruelties collide: From the Hardcover edition. Conquistadora is a triumph.

A guided tour of the history of sugar and empire. A remarkable story for its detail, imagination, meticulous research, and wisdom, this is history written by a lion at the height of her powers. A crown jewel of Puerto Rican literature. A grand achievement from one of our finest writers.

santiabo An outstanding story, full of pathos, tropical sensuality, and violence—but it also poses uncomfortable moral questions readers are forced to consider. Conquistadora is a book-group must. Conquistadora can be enjoyed as a grand romantic adventure tale, santiao with plenty of sex and violence. But author Esmerelda Santiago. Conquistadora will seduce readers heart and soul. Conquistadora is a story of epic dimensions, one which demands to be taken seriously—and at the same time is just a tremendous amount of fun.

Hats off to Esmeralda Santiago, for a delicious novel that instructs as easily as it pleases. Alive with all their passions and flaws, here are characters so conquistadoora imagined they feel real, and in a story so transporting you can almost smell the sugar cane.

Esmeralda Santiago has given voice to a history that has eluded me. Here is a haunting, visceral epic that satisfies on every level and yet leaves you hungry for more.


Conquistadora is a sweeping story, an epic of Puerto Rico set across three decades. How did this book fifirst start for you? What esmerqlda the kernel that eventually led santiqgo Conquistadora? Soon after my first memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican, was published inI was helping coonquistadora friend pack her things in preparation for her move from a house to an apartment. Inside a closet I found a heavy, ornate sterling candelabrum with six arms. It was unlike anything else in her home, which was as sleek and modern as she was.


She said it was brought to the United States from England by her six-times-great-grandmother and had been passed down to the eldest daughter ever since. My own grandmother had died recently, and my connection to previous generations on her side had vanished with her. Over the next few days I pondered the lack of information about my family. She is fair skinned, my father much darker, and I knew that, santiag least on his side, there must have been black great-grandparents, possibly slaves.

I tried to imagine who they might have been, what life in Puerto Rico could have been like before Mami and Papi were swntiago. I began to read about the early twentieth century, and each new fact sent me to previous years until I was immersed in the Puerto Rican nineteenth century. I was es,eralda interested in what work people might have performed, what their lives might have been like. With no information about my real ancestors, I started to invent a family history based on my research.

From the first, I sensed my imaginary ancestors jostling for my attention.

Esmeralda Santiago – Wikipedia

I had to listen. The quieter I was, the louder and more loquacious they became. While researching and listening to my imaginary ancestors, I wrote three memoirs, translated two books, coedited cohquistadora anthologies, adapted one of my memoirs into a film for Masterpiece Theatrecowrote and performed a radio play, esmeralfa had essays appear in various publications and as NPR commentary.

But regardless of what I was working on, mi gente— my people—filled the silences between other work, other worlds, other words. What research did you do in the course of writing this novel?

I researched Conquistadora backward. Imagining what she might have read led me to earlier documents about the conquista, and the differences between how the Spanish conquered Puerto Rico as opposed to, say, Peru. The midcentury was also the apogee of King Sugar in Puerto Rico. Figueroa, and others, to get a sense of sanriago the industry developed in Puerto Rico, as well as other places like Cuba, Jamaica, and Louisiana.

Along the way, I rekindled my admiration for the work of Dr. Conquisgadora traveled to Puerto Rico frequently, to walk through miles upon miles of sugarcane in various stages of cultivation. I stepped upon the cobblestones of Trinidad, Cuba, a ninteenth century town built from sugar production, its center so well preserved that it has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

I thought I knew the island where I was born, but placing myself in a different time with my invented saantiago gave me a fuller understanding of my own history.

What new stories about the island did you discover? I was surprised by how many estadounidenses like Mr. Worthy lived there in the early and mid-nineteenth century.

I learned that the cholera epidemic between and was part of a worldwide pandemic. While they are not included in Conquistadorathe mutinies by Spanish soldiers because their salaries and stipends were chronically late or not delivered at all, fascinated me. In one of these mutinies, inthe soldiers turned the cannons designed to repel invasions in the direction of the city. Sanjuaneros panicked, and people died fleeing the soldiers who were supposed to protect them.

Does the Spanish settling of the country still echo in Puerto Rico today? And what were the diffificulties—and what was liberating—about setting the story years in the past? The Spanish influence in Puerto Rico echoes throughout the culture to this day. InPuerto Ricans were granted limited American citizenship. Today we live in a peculiar ambivalence as our culture is becoming less Spanish-centric and more estadounidense.


I needed to know everything about how my imaginary ancestors lived. What did they look like?

What did they wear? What did they eat? How did they move from one place to another?

What did they hear, see, smell, touch? Most of the original sources have disappeared, and it was hard to find the details I sought. I often appealed to the characters to help me. For example, Nena la Lavandera—the laundress in the novel—told me that the patrones used perfumed linens to wipe their bottoms. I was not sure whether this made-up detail would end up in the final version of the novel.

I was also inspired by the research itself, by the process of learning about the past and this particular time in the history of Puerto Rico and the Spanish settling of the island. When I read about the Bando Negro—a law designed to control the movements and behavior of nonwhite residents, free or enslaved—I was outraged and knew that I had to show how people were affected by those shameful laws. When I read that two-thirds of the deaths during the cholera epidemic came from the gente de color and slaves, it became clear that it had to be a crucial event in the novel.

I wanted to find out how the abolition of slaves in the United States, the subsequent Civil War, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln could have direct consequences on the people of Puerto Rico.

Ana is the driving force of the story and literally the force that brings her family to Puerto Rico. Tell us a bit about how Ana came to be. There she was, a petite, smart, feisty, courageous, ambitious girl seeking a better fate than the one before her. We both knew that the right words on a page can change a life. The more I thought about Ana, the more I admired her for refusing to be whom others expected her to be, and this resonated with my own story and with my own life.

I loved that she saw her options clearly: While Ana had more resources than I had, we both had to create our own freedom. Christopher Columbus and subsequent conquistadores were not seeking a new world. They were merchants looking for a product that would enrich them and keep them independent.

A great many of the conquistadores were the illegitimate sons of great, or at least, wealthy men whose riches would be inherited by legitimate heirs. In that sense, Ana was like them. As a woman, she could not inherit the riches her ancestors had amassed. Like the conquistadores, Ana does whatever she has to do to achieve her goals, even if it means that others suffer. One of the reasons the conquistadores were able to subdue entire populations was their force of character, their insistence that their way was the only way to do things, even if it meant erasing populations and centuries of tradition and custom.