Puerto Rico's top education official on Monday defended his decision to ban five books from the curriculum at public high schools across the U.S. territory because of "coarse" language.
The move drew criticism over the weekend from university professors on the Caribbean island.
Education Secretary Carlos Chardon told reporters he decided not to include the five Spanish-language books in the 11th grade curriculum this year because their use of slang made them inappropriate for schoolchildren, not because they did not have literary value.
The banned books previously were read as part of the 11th grade curriculum, but proofreaders this year alerted education officials about "coarse" slang, including references to genitalia in "Mejor te lo cuento: antologia personal," by Juan Antonio Ramos.
To illustrate his reasoning, Chardon said French works by the Marquis de Sade, whose notorious sexual excesses and erotic writing gave rise to the term "sadism," also have "great literary value" but they are not appropriate for youngsters to read in high school either.
Besides the book by Ramos, the banned books include the novel "Aura" by Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, one of Latin America's most prominent contemporary writers. The other four books are by writers from Puerto Rico, including Jose Luis Vega's compilation of essays, "Reunion de espejos."
On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno backed the Education Department's decision to ban the five books and dismissed criticism
depicting it as censorship.
The department has been criticized by many university academics in Puerto Rico since announcing the ban Friday.
Silvia Alvarez Curbelo, a communications professor at the University of Puerto Rico, said so-called bad words have to be considered in their context.
She and other professors said the ban is reminiscent of censorship imposed by the Taliban, the extremist Islamic movement whose regime in Afghanistan once banned music, movies, TV and nearly all other forms of entertainment as part of their strict interpretation of Islamic law.