Alternative Title: Carlitos’ Library
Today, I will continue my reflections by writing about two more Puerto Rican legal scholars and friends who played a pivotal role in my intellectual development: Daniel Nina and the late Carlitos del Valle, both of whom I met during the second half of my tenure at the law school of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico (PUCPR). At that time, both Daniel and Carlitos were affiliated with the now-defunct Eugenio María de Hostos Law School in Mayagüez, P.R. Every spring, the Hostos Law School held an annual academic conference whose unorthodox motto was “Ni una vida mas para el derecho.” (In English, this motto translates to “Not one more life to law.”) I had been invited to attend this unconventional scholarly conference in the spring of 2007, which is where I met Daniel and Carlitos for the first time.
The general theme of the 2007 Hostos conference was the dystopian world depicted in the original “Blade Runner” film. Daniel had not only organized this remarkable international conference, which featured academics from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal; he also served as its indefatigable moderator. His comments were always original, thoughtful, and politically incorrect when necessary, and his sharp wit as well as his mischievous sense of humor were a refreshing antidote to all those dull and boring academics who tend to take themselves and their work too seriously. In addition, Daniel had arranged to screen one of the many versions of Ridley Scott’s cult classic (the “director’s cut,” if I recall correctly) in the Old World colonial courtyard of the Hostos Law School on the second night of the conference.
For my part, I have to confess that I had never seen any version of the movie “Blade Runner” until that magical evening in the spring of 2007, but that fateful screening would represent another unexpected “turning point” in my academic and intellectual life. To begin with, the film would inspire me to contribute a book chapter (in Spanish) about the Immortal Game depicted in Blade Runner for an anthology of essays edited by Daniel himself–his beautiful book, the cover of which is pictured below, is available here–as well as a full-length law review article on “Clones and the Coase Theorem.” (Also, I would henceforth become a huge fan of the “Film Noir” genre that was popular in the 1940s and 50s.) More importantly, Daniel’s screening of “Blade Runner” would further inspire me to explore other possible connections between law, ethics, and popular culture generally–something I now devote time and effort to in every one of my lectures.
But Daniel’s most significant contribution to my intellectual life was introducing me to Carlitos del Valle. In fact, thanks to Daniel’s good efforts and Carlitos’ generosity, I had ended up staying in the basement of Carlitos’ split-level tropical home in the hills of Mayagüez for the duration of the Blade Runner conference. Ironically, however, I did not see much of my gracious host on the first night of my stay, as he was holed up in his living quarters on the upper level of his home, putting the finishing touches on the paper he was scheduled to present the next day (“Soñando con ovejas eléctricas” or “Dreaming of electric sheep”). Nevertheless, I immediately sensed that Carlitos and I were kindred spirits the moment I had walked through the door of his abode. The walls were lined with bookshelves, and the bookshelves were filled with books. There were books in the living room, books in the dining room, books in the bedrooms. Like Ernest Hemingway’s tropical Finca Vigía on the outskirts of Havana, Carlitos’ home was one big Borgesian library overflowing with well-worn books of all shapes and sizes.
Suffice it to say, both Daniel and Carlitos were not only truth-seeking scholars but also open-minded bon vivants and fellow lovers of art. Beginning with that fateful Blade Runner conference, I would often visit Daniel and Carlitos in Mayagüez or in San Juan or wherever and exchange ideas with them at every opportunity. Alas, while this intellectual friendship was flourishing, I was about to hit rock bottom in my private life; my beautiful world was beginning to unravel …