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Puerto Rican Writer Dies

July 22, 1999

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Abelardo Diaz Alfaro, whose short stories gave voice to Puerto Ricans’ search for identity, died today. He was 82.

Diaz died in his San Juan home from complications caused by repeated strokes, said his wife, Gladys Meaux de Diaz Alfaro.

Diaz published thousands of short stories and scripts, first winning international acclaim with his 1947 collection ``Terrazo,″ (Terrace).

In the most famous tale, ``El Josco″ (The Swarthy One), two neighbors pit a Puerto Rican bull against an American bull in a fight. The showdown dramatized the U.S. territory’s often painful relationship with the United States, which invaded it in 1898.

Other stories examined the dilemma with humor. In ``Santa Clo’ va a la Cuchilla″ (Santa Claus comes to Cuchilla), a teacher at a rural Puerto Rican school decides to introduce his students to American Christmas traditions. When he appears dressed in red and bellowing ``Ho! Ho!″ the children run screaming, believing he is the devil.

Many of Diaz’s stories are required reading in Puerto Rican schools, and ``Terrazo″ has been translated into 10 languages.

Diaz was born in 1916 in Caguas. He flunked out of two grade schools before graduating from a third, and the teasing he received from children cultivated a rebellious nature, Diaz told biographers.

During 37 years, he wrote thousands of skits and stories for Puerto Rico’s government radio and television. His ``Stories of Don Abelardo″ television show won many awards.

Besides his wife, Diaz is survived by two daughters, Dalia and Nannette, and a son, Abelardo.

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