The Prince of Los Cocuyos
By Elizabeth Marshall
Poet Richard Blanco’s memoir, The Prince of Los Cocuyos, is at once captivating; laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreakingly poignant. It is the story of a man who was “made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States,” to quote the author, who spent much of his life trying to figure out who and what he was. Growing up in Miami as part of an exiled Cuban family from Havana, he was confused as to his identity-was he Cuban? American? Gay? Heterosexual?
This is a man’s reminiscences of the conflicted feelings with which he grew up, of his search for his place in this world. In The Prince of Los Cocuyos, Richard Blanco shares his journey with us via vignettes and written snapshots of his years in Miami.
Descriptions of his loving but domineering grandmother, his abuela, are hysterically funny and so spot on that we can actually see the action, hear her words, and feel Richard’s anguish of perhaps not being quite good enough, of not being a real man. Descriptions of his mother’s strong lungs and her style of dress are equally funny and touching.
The operative description would be that this poet brings to life in prose all the love he has for his family, their Cuban quirkiness, and the tragedy of not quite knowing where he belonged.
BookPage’s review of The Prince of Los Cocuyos praises the book, saying, “Blanco’s touching reminiscence has a deep emotional truth.” Kirkus Reviews reported that it is “A warm, emotionally intimate memoir.”
I can only echo the praise. The Prince of Los Cocuyos is amusing, heart-warming, honest, and moving. I highly recommend this book as a “sit in a cozy chair” read.
Strong in his center, Richard grew up and received a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.F.A. in creative writing. The professional highlight of his life so far is the distinction of being the fifth Inaugural Poet of the United States. He is also distinguished as the youngest, the first Latino, the first immigrant, and the first gay person to be so honored.