The Lazarus Effect: El SIDA/AIDS and Belated Mourning in Puerto Rican Theatre

  • Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez


AIDS plays have made a comeback on Broadway with the recent opening of revivals like The Normal Heart and Falsettos. This testimonio questions the politics of nostalgia on Broadway now that the AIDS crisis is assumed to have ended. The author introduces the term ‘NostalgiAIDS’ to apply to the recycling of plays showcasing gay White men’s experiences of AIDS. In order to contrast the hegemony of the Anglo American narrative and drama of AIDS, the focus shifts to Puerto Rican theatre. He presents a close reading of Luis Negrón’s musical El Jardín, which was the first Puerto Rican theatrical production, although three decades late, staging the gay master narrative of AIDS. Such a time lag brings with it the predicament of belated mourning. To approach and understand the physical corporealisation and visual embodiment of AIDS within the Puerto Rican cultural imaginary further, the author introduces ‘The Lazarus Effect’ concept. The figure of the Saint in the musical plays a major cultural trope framing people with AIDS as Saint Lazarus coming back from the dead and/or surviving precariously as the undead.



I am not alone. I am thankful to friends, contacts and colleagues who helped with my research: Moisés Agosto, Luis Aponte-Parés, Max Chárriez, Eileen Collins, Jane Crosthwaite, Carole De Santi, Luis Felipe Díaz/Lizza Fernanda, Joaquín Octavio Gónzalez Ríos, Bibi Hayakawa, Arnaldo López, Rosa Luisa Márquez, Lydia Pérez, Roberto Alexander Pérez, Rafael Rojas, and Waleska Santiago. My cousins for their support, Laurita, Keco, and Matías. To Mami who always worries about my health. To Hallie Twiss for her careful reading. To Luis Negrón for providing me all the materials and for finding time for my phone calls. And to Alyson Campbell and Dirk Gindt for inviting me to participate in this project and for their paciencia.


  1. Adhiyaman, V., Adhiyaman, S., & Sundaram, R. (2007). The Lazarus Phenomenon. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 100(12), 552–557. Accessed 9 June 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aids Doctor Gets 5 Years in Scandal. (2000, July 12). Orlando Sentinel. Accessed 21 May 2017.
  3. Aponte-Parés, L., et al. (2007). Puerto Rican Queer Sexualities: Introduction. Centro: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, 19(1), 4–24.Google Scholar
  4. Arroyo, J. (2016, August 17). ‘De mi Placard Sale a la Luz’, Fundación Nacional Para La Cultura Popular. Accessed 21 May 2017.
  5. Boym, S. (2001). The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basis Books.Google Scholar
  6. Derrida, J. (1995). Points… Interviews, 1974–1994. (E. Weber, Ed.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gordon, A. F. (1997). Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  8. Holy Bible. Accessed 26 December 2017.
  9. Kramer, L. (1983). 1,112 and Counting. New York Native, (59), 14–27.Google Scholar
  10. Lambert, B. (1990, June 15). AIDS Travels New York-Puerto Rico ‘Air Bridge’. New York Times.Google Scholar
  11. Lane, C. (2001). When Plagues Don’t End. The Gay and Lesbian Review, 8(1), 30–32.Google Scholar
  12. Laureano, J. E. (2016). San Juan Gay: Conquista de un espacio urbano de 1948–1991. San Juan: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueño.Google Scholar
  13. Lazarus of Belthany. Wikipedia. Accessed 9 June 2017.
  14. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister Outsider. Freedom: The Crossing Press.Google Scholar
  15. Manrique, J. (1999). Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  16. Moraga, C. (1983). Giving Up the Ghost. Los Angeles: West End Press.Google Scholar
  17. Moraga, C., & Anzaldúa, G. (Eds.). (1983). This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.Google Scholar
  18. Negrón, L. (2010). Mundo Cruel. Río Piedras: La Secta de los Perros.Google Scholar
  19. Negrón, L. (2016). El Jardín: Un Pequeño Musical Para Tres Personajes y Un Jardín de Trinitarias. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  20. Negrón, L. (2016, May 10). Phone Call to Author.Google Scholar
  21. Puerto Rico AIDS Surveillance Summary Cumulative HIV/AIDS Cases Diagnosed as of March 31, 2017. (2017). Departamento de Salud, Gobierno de Puerto Rico. Accessed 9 June 2017.
  22. Rodríguez, D. J. (2015, April 9). Certamen Promueve Prevención Contra VIH/SIDA. Primera Hora. Accessed 9 June 2017.
  23. Rodríguez Matos, C. (Ed.). (1995). POESídA: An Anthology of AIDS Poetry from the United States, Latin America and Spain. New York: Ollantay Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rodríguez Milán, Y. (2013, December 17). Salud, San Lázaro. OnCuba. Accessed 9 June 2017.
  25. Román, D. (1998). Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Sandoval-Sánchez, A. (1999). José, Can You See? Latinos On and Off Broadway. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  27. Sandoval-Sánchez, A., & Román, D. (1997). Caught in the Web: Latinidad, AIDS, and Allegory in Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Musical. In C. F. Delgado & J. E. José Esteban Muñoz (Eds.), Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America (pp. 255–287). Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Santos-Febres, M. (2016). El Jardín o Primera Obra de Teatro Sobre la Historia de Cómo Se Sobrevivió y Vivió en SIDA en Puerto Rico. Facebook 9 October. Accessed 9 June 2017.
  29. Siplon, P. (2002). AIDS and the Policy Struggle in the United States. Washington: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Sullivan, A. (1996, November 10). When Plagues End. The New York Times.
  31. Watney, S. (1989). Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez
    • 1
  1. 1.Mount Holyoke CollegeSouth HadleyUSA

Personalised recommendations