|Birth name||Rita Indiana Hernández Sánchez|
|Born||11 June 1977|
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
|Associated acts||Julieta Venegas, Los Misterios, Xiomara Fortuna|
Rita Indiana Hernández Sánchez (born 11 June 1977) is a Dominican writer and singer-songwriter. In 2011, she was selected by the Spanish newspaper El País as one of the 100 most influential Latino personalities. Her novels prominently feature themes of queerness while the topics of her songs range from Dominican social issues to divergent sexuality. Rita Indiana has been highly recognized and awarded on the Caribbean literary scene, and her viral music success has made Indiana a household name in the Dominican Republic where she is popularly referred to as "La Monstra" (the monster).
Early Life and education
Born in Santo Domingo in 1977, Rita Indiana is the grand-niece of the soprano Ivonne Haza and great-great-great-granddaughter of the poet and hero of the Restoration War, Manuel Rodríguez Objío. She is also second cousin of the journalist Óscar Haza and of the politician Víctor Bisonó. She was baptized in honor of her great-grandmother Rita Indiana del Castillo y Rodríguez-Objío.
Rita Indiana attended El Colegio Calasanz in Costa Rica, where her father has established a business. After finishing her schooling in Costa Rica, Rita Indiana continued her education in the Dominican Republic at Autonomous University in her birth city of Santo Domingo where she studied Art History. However, she left this course a year after admittance. Rita Indiana then attended Altos de Chavon School of Design but once again left her schooling and decided to pursue a career in writing.
Rita Indiana admits to having a passion for reading and writing from a young age. The piece of literature to first spark her interest in literature was Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. She credits her style of writing for the marginalized youth to Mark Twain's similar subject matter.
Rita Indiana began her writing career with short stories in the mid 1990s, shortly after leaving Autonomous University. At the age of eighteen, Rita Indiana published her first short stories in the only literary magazine in the Dominican Republic at the time. After leaving Altos de Chavon School of Design, she was able to write and publish her first novel La Estrategia de Chochueca in 2000. La Estrategia de Chochueca belongs to her trilogy La trilogía de niñas locas, which also include Papi (2005), and Nombres y Animales (2013). These are peppered with Dominican slang and colloquialisms and center around exploring the social issues present in the Dominican Republic. This trilogy also introduced themes of nonconforming sexual identity not previously highlighted in Dominican Literature. Her early work is highly regarded for its authentic portrayal of Caribbean life and is now studied in literature courses across the United States and the Caribbean.
Rita Indiana later explored the genre of science fiction with her novel La mucama de Omicunlé (2017). She made this shift to science fiction after noticing the drastic differences in technological and social development across the Caribbean. Rita Indiana also finds that this genre lends itself to more critical social and political commentary that she has previously not been able to access in past pieces. La mucama de Omicunlé became the first Spanish-language work to receive the Grand Prize of the Association of Caribbean Writers. In 2019, the same book, translated to English, was published as Tentacle. Her sixth novel, Made in Saturn, will be published by And Other Stories in 2020.
Rita Indiana moved to Puerto Rico in the mid 2000s and began exploring the realm of music despite never taking music lessons or showing much interest in the music industry. Eventually, she produced the single "Altar Epandex in duo with Miti Miti" after discovering her ear for creating electro-merengue beats on music computer software. This single was very well received and was chosen by New York City's Daily News as one of the top 5 indie jewels of 2008. Rita Indiana's sound is heavily inspired by Dominican popular music, including meringue and salsa . She is often credited with reinventing merengue dancing through her compositions and interpretations of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and electric beats. In 2009, Rita Indiana banded with a group known as Los Misterios and together they went on to release several more singles along with a complete album titled El Juidero in 2010. This album married the sounds of analog and digital music and reached viral success across several online plat forms.
Rita India y Los Misterios have become popularly followed both by people in the Dominican Republic and beyond. The subject of their music frequently feature themes of culture and sexual identity as well as social issues of the Caribbean. One of their most popular singles "La hora de volvé," comments on the frequent immigration of Dominicans to the United States. The songs speaks about the hardships these individuals face in the Dominican as well as the hardships they experience in the United States. It is now seen as an anthem by Dominicans all over the world as its lyrics inspire listeners to value their roots and calls on them to return home.
At the height of their success, Rita Indiana y Los Misterios played at many sold-out venues, including Santo Domingo Hard Rock Café. The group was also nominated for the Casandra prize in the category "Revelation of the Year" in 2010. With her band, Indiana appeared at the celebrated venue SOB's in New York and NPR included her El Juidero in their list "Top 10 Latin American Albums of 2010". She was given the nickname "La Monstra," translated to "the monster." Indiana released her most latest single in 2017 called "El Castigador" after going on a hiatus for several years.
Indiana's primary focus is on her literary career than creating music. She admitted that she disliked the "pop fame," and she wanted to walk the streets without being recognized everywhere she goes. Rita Indiana also appreciated the autonomy and independence of writing whereas producing music required extensive collaboration. She has stated that she feels comfortable with her decision to leave the pop music industry where her career felt as if it happened somewhat by accident. However, she continued to produce music for other artists and musicians.
Personal life and influence
At the 2010 Cassandra Awards in 2010, Rita Indiana attended the prestigious event with her partner Noelia Quintero, whom she held hands with and kissed throughout that evening. Rita Indiana was met with public backlash and criticism. Many media outlets expressed disapproval of the pair's public display of affection and labeled this event as Indiana's official public outing. However, Rita Indiana's musical and literary career seemed to be unaffected by the controversies and she continued to discuss both her sexuality and her relationship openly with the public. Through her work and her interviews, Indiana has established her stance against the social norms surrounding sexual and gender identity in the Caribbean. Aware of the ambiguity of her appearance, the writer rejects the notion of labels and expresses her discomfort with the pressure of these norms and says, "Labels exist because they have a function. . . I’ve been dealing with labels all my life: Tomboy, headbanger, weirdo or lesbian, underground, celebrity. Labels are caricatures." Because of her vocal ideas on queerness, Rita Indiana has become a key advocate of the queer community in the Caribbean and continues to use her work to create a space in which a heterogeneous, multiple and complex Caribbean reality is reflected. Though Indiana is not publicly involved in queer politics, by representing the queer community in her work, Indiana uses her musical and literary influence to act as a cultural counter-strategy against homophobia and gender oppression seen in the Caribbean.
Awards and nominations
- Nominated for her novel "La mucama de Omicunlé" from the Premio Bienal de Novela Mario Vargas Llosa
- Award for her novel "La mucama de Omicunlé" from the Grand Prix Littéraire Région Guadeloupe
- Rumiantes, Riann, Santo Domingo, 1998.
- Ciencia Succión, Amigo del Hogar, 2001.
- Cuentos y poemas (1998-2003), Ediciones Cielonaranja, Santo Domingo, 2017.
- La estrategia de Chochueca, Riann, 2000
- Papi, Vértigo, 2005; Periférica, 2011
- Nombres y Animales, Periférica, 2013
- La mucama de Omicunlé, Periférica, 2015
- Tentacle (English translation of La mucama de Omicunlé), And Other Stories, 2019
- Made in Saturn, And Other Stories, 2020 (forthcoming)
- El Juidero (2010)
- Mandinga Times (2020)
- "Altar Epandex in duo with Miti Miti"
- "El Blu del Ping Pong"
- "La Hora de Volve"
- "El Juidero"
- "Oigo Voces"
- "Flores de Fuego"
- "Da Pa Lo Do"
- "Como un ladrón en la noche"
- "Bajito a selva*"
- "Maldito Feisbu"
- "El Castigador"
- Vizcaino, Patria (10 October 2013). "Periódico El País publica artículo de Rita Indiana sobre dominicanos hijos de haitianos" [Newspaper El País publishes article by Rita Indiana on Dominican children of Haitians]. El Día (in Spanish). Santo Domingo. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- "Rita Indiana". mayimbamusic.com. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- "Rita Indiana: Taking Caribbean Music and Literature to New Heights". Public Radio International. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
- Interview with Rita Indiana. Writer and music | Videos | CCCB, retrieved 20 October 2019
- Horn, Maja (Fall 2010). "Bringing Sex Close to Home: Teaching Latin American/Caribbean Gender and Sexualities". GenderWatch. 21: 156–162, 177–178.
- Desk, TV News. "Dominican Artist Rita Indiana Releases First New Single in Nearly 7 Years". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Alamo, Hector Luis (22 December 2013). "Interview: Rita Indiana Hernández". Gozamos. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
- Alamo, Hector Luis (2013-12-22). "Interview: Rita Indiana Hernández". Gozamos. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
- Hutchinson, Sydney. "Listening Sideways: The Transgenre Work of Rita Indiana." Tigers of a Different Stripe: Performing Gender in Dominican Music. : University of Chicago Press, May 18, 2017. University Press Scholarship Online. Date Accessed 4 Oct. 2019
- "This Rita Indiana Novel Is First Spanish-Language Book to Win This Prize Honoring Caribbean Works". Remezcla. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Jones, Ellen (13 December 2018). "Little Book with Big Ambitions: Rita Indiana's 'Tentacle'". Los Angeles Review of Books.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rita Indiana.|
- Corral, Wilfrido H; Birns, Nicholas; De Castro, Juan E, eds. (2013). The contemporary Spanish-American novel: Bolaño and after (First edition. ed.). New York: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 156–159. ISBN 9781441140395.