puerto-rican-author

Happy birthday, Julia de Burgos!

Julia de Burgos (February 17, 1914 – July 6, 1953) is considered by many as the greatest poet born in Puerto Rico, and, along with Gabriela Mistral, one of the greatest female poets of Latin America. As an advocate of Puerto Rican independence, she served as Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. She was also an ardent civil rights activist for women and African/Afro-Caribbean writers.

Julia de Burgos (birth name: Julia Constanza de Burgos García) was born to Francisco Burgos Hans (a farmer) and Paula García de Burgos. Although her father worked for the National Guard and farmed near the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico, where she was born, the family later moved to the barrio of Santa Cruz of the same city. She was the oldest of thirteen children, and six of her youngest siblings died of malnutrition. Her family’s poverty did not keep her from developing a love for nature and her country, as noted in her first work Río Grande de Loíza. According to Burgos:

“My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.”

After she graduated from Muñoz Rivera Primary School in 1928, her family moved to Rio Piedras where she was awarded a scholarship to attend University High School. In 1931, she enrolled in University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus to become a teacher.

In 1933, Burgos graduated at the age of 19 from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in teaching. She became a teacher and worked at Feijoo Elementary School in Barrio Cedro Arriba of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. She also worked as writer for a children’s program on public radio, but was reportedly fired for her political beliefs. Her love for literature led her to write poetry. Among her early influences were Luis Lloréns TorresClara LairRafael Alberti and Pablo Neruda.

In 1934, she married Ruben Rodrigues Beauchamp and ended her teaching career to devote time to her marriage and her passion for writing. In 1936, she was a member of thePuerto Rican Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico) and elected Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, a non-partisan women’s organization which was the women’s branch of the Nationalist Party. The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was the independence party headed by Pedro Albizu Campos, a Puerto Rican Nationalist. Due to time and constraints, her activities affected her marriage, and she divorced her husband in 1937.

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Another train will come. Why rush? Why worry? Why go crazy? Another train will come. And sure enough, another train going my way was pulling into the station. My bad mood evaporated. I entered the car smiling, certain that there would be more missed trains in my life, more closed doors in my face, but there would always be another train rumbling down the tracks in my direction.

— 

― Esmeralda Santiago, The Turkish Lover: A Memoir

Happy birthday, Judith Ortiz Cofer!

Judith Ortiz Cofer (born in 1952) is a Puerto Rican author. Her work spans a range of literary genres including poetry, short stories, autobiography, essays, and Young-adult fiction.

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico on February 24, 1952. She moved to Paterson, New Jersey with her family in 1956. They often made back-and-forth trips between Paterson and Hormigueros. In 1967, her family moved to Augusta, Georgia, where she attended Butler High School. Cofer received a B.A. in English from Augusta College, and later an M.A. in English from Florida Atlantic University.

Ortiz Cofer’s work can largely be classified as creative nonfiction. Her narrative self is strongly influenced by oral storytelling, which was inspired by her grandmother, an able storyteller in the tradition of teaching through storytelling among Puerto Rican women. Cofer’s autobiographical work often focuses on her attempts at negotiating her life between two cultures, American and Puerto Rican, and how this process informs her sensibilities as a writer. Her work also explores such subjects as racism and sexism in American culture, machismo and female empowerment in Puerto Rican culture, and the challenges diasporic immigrants face in a new culture. Among Cofer’s more well known essays are “The Story of My Body” and “The Myth of the Latin Woman,” both reprinted in The Latin Deli.

In 1984, Cofer joined the faculty of the University of Georgia, where she is currently Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing. In April 2010, Ortiz Cofer was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

In 1994, she became the first Hispanic to win the O. Henry Prize for her story “The Latin Deli”. In 1996, Cofer and illustrator Susan Guevara became the first recipients of the Pura Belpre Award for Hispanic children’s literature.

Luisa Capetillo (October 28, 1879 – October 10, 1922) was one of Puerto Rico’s most famous labor organizers. She was also a writer and an anarchist who fought for workers and women’s rights.

Capetillo was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to Luis Capetillo Echevarria and Luisa Margarita Perone, a French immigrant from Corsica. In Arecibo she was raised and home schooled by her parents, who were both very liberal in regard to their philosophical and political ideologies.

In 1898, Capetillo had the first of her two children out of wedlock. She found a job as a reader in a cigar making factory in Arecibo. After the Spanish-American War, the American Tobacco Company gained control of most of the islands tobacco fields, who would hire people to read novels and current events to the workers. It was in the tobacco factory that Capetillo had her first contact with labor unions. In 1904, Capetillo began to write essays, titled “Mi Opinión” (My Opinion), about her ideas, which were published in radical and union newspapers.

During a farm workers' strike in 1905, Capetillo wrote propaganda and organized the workers in the strike. She quickly became a leader of the “FLT” (American Federation of Labor) and traveled throughout Puerto Rico educating and organizing women. Her hometown, Arecibo, became the most unionized area of the country.

In 1908, during the “FLT” convention, Capetillo asked the union to approve a policy for women’s suffrage. She insisted that all women should have the same right to vote as men. Capetillo is considered to be one of Puerto Rico’s first suffragists.

In 1912, Capetillo traveled to New York City, where she organized Cuban and Puerto Rican tobacco workers. Later on, she went to Tampa, Florida, where she also organized the workers. In Florida, she published the second edition of “Mi Opinión”. She also traveled to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where she joined the striking workers in their cause.

In 1919, she challenged the mainstream society by becoming the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear pants in public. Capetillo was sent to jail for what was then considered to be a “crime”, but, the judge later dropped the charges against her. In that same year, along with other labor activists, she helped pass a minimum-wage law in the Puerto Rican Legislature.

Capetillo died on October 10, 1922, in Puerto Rico from tuberculosis. She is buried in the Municipal Cemetery of Arecibo.

In 1990, a made for T.V. movie titled “Luisa Capetillo, pasión de justicia” (Luisa Capetillo, passion for justice) was made. It was directed by Sonia Fritz and the musical arrangements were made byZoraida Santiago. In Arecibo there is a Casa Protegida Luisa Capetillo, which is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to defend women who have been mistreated physically or mentally. TheUniversity of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus established the Luisa Capetillo Center of Documentation Hall in March 1990. The center is part of the Women Studies project started in 1986 by the university and has received financial help from the Angel Ramos Foundation.

Happy birthday, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg!

January 24th, 1874 - June 8th, 1938

Schomburg, also known as Arthur Schomburg, was a Puerto Rican historian, writer, and activist in the United States who researched and raised awareness of the great contributions that Afro-Latin Americans and Afro-Americans have made to society. He was an important intellectual figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Over the years, he collected literature, art, slave narratives, and other materials of African history, which was purchased to become the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, named in his honor, at the New York Public Library (NYPL) branch in Harlem.

Schomburg was born in the town of Santurce, Puerto Rico (now part of San Juan) to María Josefa, a freeborn black midwife from St. Croix, and Carlos Féderico Schomburg, a merchant of German heritage.

While Schomburg was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. Inspired to prove the teacher wrong, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the diaspora, including Afro-Latinos, such as Jose Campeche, and later Afro-Americans. Schomburg was educated at San Juan's Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing. At St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, he studied Negro Literature.

Schomburg immigrated to New York on April 17, 1891, and settled in the Harlem section of Manhattan. He continued his studies to untangle the African thread of history in the fabric of the Americas. After experiencing racial discrimination in the US, he began calling himself “Afroborinqueño” which means “Afro-Puerto Rican”. He became a member of the “Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico” and became an active advocate of Puerto Rico’s and Cuba‘s independence from Spain.

In 1896, Schomburg began teaching Spanish in New York. From 1901 to 1906 Schomburg was employed as messenger and clerk in the law firm of Pryor, Mellis and Harris, New York City. In 1906, he began working for theBankers Trust Company. Later, he became a supervisor of the Caribbean and Latin American Mail Section, and held that until he left in 1929.

While supporting himself and his family, Schomburg began his intellectual work of writing about Caribbean and African-American history. His first known article, “Is Hayti Decadent?”, was published in 1904 in The Unique Advertiser. In 1909 he wrote Placido, a Cuban Martyr, a short pamphlet about the poet and independence fighter Gabriel de la Concepción Valdéz.

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Miguel Piñero (December 19, 1946 – June 16, 1988) was a playwright, actor and co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café. He was a leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement.

Piñero was born on December 19, 1946 in Gurabo, Puerto Rico to Miguel Angel Gómez Ramos and Adelina Piñero. In 1950, when Miguel was four, he moved with his parents and sister Elizabeth to Loisaida (or Lower East Side) in New York. His father abandoned the family in 1954 when his mother was pregnant with their fifth child. His mother then moved into a basement and began receiving welfare. He attended four different schools, three public and one parochial. He would steal food for his family to eat. His first of what would be many criminal convictions was at the age of eleven for theft. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx and also to Otisville State Training School for Boys. He joined a street gang called “The Dragons” when he was 13, and when he was 14 he was hustling in the streets.

He would move to Brooklyn, where he and three other friends would commit robberies (according to Piñero, they did over 100), until they were caught at a jewelry store. He would be sent to Rikers Island in 1964. After this, he joined the Job Corps and was sent to Camp Kilmer for training. It turned out the opportunity was, as Piñero put it, “Dope City, Skag Town.” He returned to New York City and became affiliated with the Young Lords, similar to the Black Panthers. He was back in Rikers for drug possession not long after, and even went to Phoenix House. After his second stint at Rikers, his mother sent him to Manhattan State Hospital where he would receive his high-school equivalency diploma.

In 1972, when Piñero was 25 years old, he was incarcerated in Sing Sing prison for second-degree armed robbery. His first literary work was Black Woman with a Blonde Wig OnMarvin Felix Camillo, the director of The Family, an acting troupe made up of ex-cons, submitted the poem to a contest, which it won. The warden of Sing Sing then became concerned that “contraband” was being taken from the prison and nearly put Camillo in jail after seeing an article in the newspaper. While serving time in prison, he wrote the play Short Eyes as part of the inmates playwriting workshop. Mel Gussow came to see it, and due to his review in the New York Times, the director of the Theater at Riverside Church wanted Piñero to present it at his place.

When he left Sing Sing due to parole in 1973, he was able to present Short Eyes with The Family. The title comes from the slang for child molesting, “short heist.” Puerto Ricans could not pronounce the ‘h’ so it became “short eyes.” The play is a drama based on his experiences in prison and portrays life, love and death among prison inmates. In 1974, the play was presented at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Theater impresario Joseph Papp saw the play and was so impressed that he moved the production to Broadway. It went from Riverside Church, then to The Public Theater, eventually to Vivian Beaumont Theater. The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the “best play of the year”. The play was also a success in Europe. The play catapulted Piñero to literary fame. Short Eyes was published in book form by the editorial house Hill & Wang. It became the first play written by a Puerto Rican to be put on Broadway.

In the 1970s, Piñero co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Café with a group of artists, one of which, Miguel Algarín, would become one of his best friends. The Café is a place for performance of poetry about the experience of being a Nuyorican or Puerto Rican in New York.

In 1977, Piñero’s play Short Eyes was turned into a film directed by Robert M. Young. In the film Piñero played the part of “Go-Go,” a prisoner. While on set, he and Tito Goya were arrested for armed robbery and were arraigned in the same building where they were filming. The charges were dropped, but some people thought Piñero had a “need” to go back to prison. He would land supporting roles in such films as The Jericho Mile (1978), Times Square (1980), Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), Breathless (1983), Deal of the Century (1983), and Alphabet City (1984). Piñero was considered a talented writer who described the evils of society, even though he continued to be a drug addict. Piñero wrote the Baretta TV episode The Gadjo in 1978 and acted in the episode Por Nada in 1977. He played the part of drug lord Esteban Calderone in several episodes of TV series Miami Vice in 1984, as well as writing the episode “Smuggler’s Blues” in the same year. He also wrote the screenplay for the 1977 film Short Eyes.

His next play, Sideshow (1974), which would be a shorter version of Playland Blues (1980), and follows street kids as they decide to put on their own play about a social worker placing difficult teenagers in various living situations and their attempts to adapt.

He followed that with a one-act play titled The Guntower, premiered at the 1976 New York Shakespeare Festival. Instead of following prisoners, like in Short Eyes, this one is about two guards in the watchtower. In that same year was The Sun Always Shines for the Cool (1976) which follows the lives of players, operators, drug dealers, and thieves as they come together in a bar owned by a man named Justice.

In 1975, he moved to Philadelphia to star in Bruce Jay Friedman's Steambath as God. Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief (1977) was set in his new hometown. It regards a small time thief who does not really know his place in the world and thinks he can manipulate it to his liking.

He wrote two one-act plays, Paper Toilet and Cold Beer, around 1979. The former is set in a subway men’s room and involves a series of events framed by the voice of a man asking for toilet paper from inside a stall. The latter examines the role of the dramatist and writer through an alter-ego protagonist.

Piñero played an important role in acquainting his partner and at times lover, the Chinese-American gay artist Martin Wong, with the Lower East Side, becoming a benefactor at a time when Wong found it difficult to meet his rent. Several of Wong’s paintings are illustrations of poems given to him by Piñero. “The Annunciation According to Mikey Piñero (Cupcake and Paco)” (1984) pictures a scene from Short Eyes.

Miguel Piñero died on June 16, 1988, in New York City from cirrhosis. Piñero’s ashes were scattered across the Lower East Side of Manhattan, as he asked in his 1985 “Lower East Side Poem”. The homage to his beloved neighborhood concluded:

Just once before I die

I want to climb up on a
tenement sky
to dream my lungs out till
I cry
then scatter my ashes thru

the Lower East Side….

Leading up to his death, he was working with Papp for a new play to premiere at the New York Shakespeare FestivalEvery Form of Refuge Has Its Price his unfinished piece, is set in an intensive-care unit. He also had another unfinished play, The Cinderella Ballroom.

Typescripts for Miguel Piñero's The Guntower and All Junkies are in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Dr. Maria Cadilla de Martinez (December 21, 1884-August 23, 1951), was a writereducator, women’s rights activist and one the first women in Puerto Rico to earn a doctoral degree.

Cadilla lived with her parents in the northwestern town of AreciboPuerto Rico where she was born. There she received her primary and secondary education. As a child she became interested in writing stories which she shared with her classmates. In 1902, she graduated from high school and enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico.

In 1906, Cadilla earned her Bachelors Degree in Arts and Education. She taught school in some of the towns surrounding the San Juan metropolitan area. After a short period of time, Cadilla went to the United States where she earned her teachers degree. She attended the Academy of Francisco Oller and took classes in plastic arts, after she returned to the island. The Atheneum of Puerto Rico awarded her a prize for one of her works in 1914. Cadilla earned her Masters Degree from the University of Puerto Rico . She went to Spain where she attended the Central University of Madrid. Among her professors were the Spanish writer Americo Castro and poet Damaso Alonso. She earned her Doctorates Degree in 1933 with the thesis “La Poesia Popular de Puerto Rico” (The Popular Poetry of Puerto Rico).

When Cadilla returned to Puerto Rico, she was hired by her Alma Mater where she taught history and literature. She was also named principal of a local school in her hometown which required that she often travel to Arecibo. Cadilla dedicated many hours of her spare time investigating Puerto Rico's folklore.

The following are some of Cadilla’s written works:

  • Cuentos a Lilliam (1925)
  • Cazadera en el Alba (1933)
  • La Poesia Popular de Puerto Rico (1933) (The Popular Poetry of Puerto Rico)
  • La Campesina de Puerto Rico (1937) (The farmwomen of Puerto Rico)
  • Costumbres y tradiciones de mi tierra (1938) (Customs and traditions of my land)
  • Cuentos y Juegos infantiles de Puerto Rico (1940) (Children’s Stories and games from Puerto Rico)
  • Alturas Paralelas (1941)
  • Hitos de la Raza (1945), This book won an award from the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture.
  • Rememorando el Pasado Historico (1946)

Cadilla was also a women’s rights activist. She belonged to the Civic League of Puerto Rico and the Association of Women Voters. As a member of these organizations, she fought for the women’s right to vote.

Cadilla was a member of the Academy of History of Puerto Rico and of the Dominican Republic; the folklore societies of Mexico and Uruguay and of the Academy of History of France. She received awards and recognitions from Puerto Rico, Argentina, The United States and India. Maria Cadilla died on August 23, 1951 in her hometown Arecibo.

Arecibo honored her memory by naming a school and an avenue after her. Ohio State University Library dedicated December 21, 2002 to Maria Cadilla in its Universal Human Rights Month.

Happy birthday, Caridad de la Luz! [also known as La Bruja]

De la Luz is a poet, actress, and activist.

De la Luz, whose parents moved to New York City from Puerto Rico, was born and raised in the South Bronx. There she also received her primary and secondary education. As a child she was always surrounded by the sounds of salsa music since she lived in a section which is also known as “El Condado de la Salsa” (Salsa County). De la Luz would often prepare shows for her family, imitating her favorite salsa singers Celia Cruz and Celina Gonzalez. She also enjoyed writing, especially poetry. She graduated with honors from Murry Bergtraum High School’s secretarial studies major.

De la Luz made her debut as an artist in 1996 when she made her presentation at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. The Cafe is known as a place where many poets got their first start in front of a live audience. Among those who have performed there are: Miguel PiñeroPedro Pietri and Edwin Torres. Her one-woman show “Boogie Rican Blvd.” is traces the life of the Puerto Rican persona from the Bronx to Puerto Rico. She blends characters, poetry, photography and music. Her show was a success and it was not long before she was touring presenting her show in different cities of the United States, Europe and Latin America.[1]

In 1998, she participated in an uncredited role as a dancer in the movie Dance with Me, starring Vanessa L. Williams and Chayanne. In 2000, De la Luz made her featured movie debut as “Cuca” in Spike Lee’s film Bamboozed.

On October 2001, “Boogie Rican Blvd.” made its Off-Broadway debut at The Producers Club and later at La Téa Theater. Among the other theater productions in which she has performed are: “Ubu Unchained”, “El Spanglish language Sandwich” by Pedro Pietri and “Women Like This” a Hip Hop festival held in Switzerland.[1]

In 2002, De la Luz gave a reading entitled “WTC” (World Trade Center) simply by utilizing the three letters of the historic acronym which reminded the audience in HBO’s Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam, how complex the events of 9-11 are and will continue to be. That same year she also participated in HBO’s Hip Hop Hope. Her poems have been published in magazines such as Shout, Vibe, Source, AWOL, Urban and Stress Magazines, El Vocero and in El Centro journal for Hunter College.

De la Luz who is a mother of two children, taught a workshop called “How can I change the World” for the East Harlem Tutorial Program and is currently teaching a writing workshop called Write Your Way representing Voices UnBroken (an organization of which she is a board member), YAFFA, and her own organization, Latinas 4 Life. During her spare time she enjoys singing, dancing and traveling to Puerto Rico. She appears as a spokes model for Levis Jean’s in a nationwide print campaign that runs in GlamourEntertainment WeeklyUs Weekly and Marie Claire magazines. In 2005 De la Luz was selected by the New York Spanish language newspaper El Diario/La Prensa as one of the 50 most distinguished Latinas in the United States.

Happy birthday, Giannina Braschi!

Braschi (born February 5, 1953, San Juan, Puerto Rico) is a Puerto Rican writer. She is credited with writing the first Spanglish novel YO-YO BOING! (1998), the postmodern poetry trilogy Empire of Dreams (Yale, 1994), and the explosive new work of philosophical fiction United States of Banana, (AmazonCrossing, 2011), which chronicles the Latin American immigrant’s experiences in the United States. “For decades, Dominican and Puerto Rican authors have carried out a linguistic revolution,” noted The Boston Globe, and “Giannina Braschi, especially in her novel YO-YO BOING!, testify to it.”[1] Her work has been described as a “synergetic fusion that marks in a determinant fashion the lived experiences of U. S. Hispanics.”[2] Written in three languages, English, Spanglish, and Spanish, Braschi’s work captures the cultural experience of nearly 50 million Hispanic Americans and also seeks to explore the three political options of Puerto Rico: Nation, Colony, or Statehood. On the subject of the Island’s lack of sovereignty, Braschi stated, “Liberty is not an option (to be voted upon)—it is a human right.”

In the 1980s, Giannina Braschi burst onto the downtown Nuyorican poetry scene with spoken word performances of rhythmic intensity, humorous gusto, and anti-imperialistic politics. Her prose poems were written, recited, and published entirely in Spanish during this period. Her first collection of Spanish prose poetryAsalto al tiempo, debuted in Barcelona in 1980 and was followed by La Comedia profana in 1985 and El imperio de los sueños in 1988. New York is the site and subject of much of her work. In a climatic episode of “Pastoral or the Inquisition of Memories”, shepherds invade 5th Avenue on the Puerto Rican Day Parade and take over the City of New York; the shepherds ring the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and seize the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Poet and feminist scholar Alicia Ostriker has praised Braschi’s work, which features gender role-playing and transvestism, for having “sheer erotic energy that defies definition and dogma." "Those three award winning books were published together as the inaugural volume of the Yale Library of Literature in Translation.” (Braschi 1998: Yo-Yo Boing!: 13)

In the 1990s, Giannina Braschi began writing dramatic dialogues in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Her bilingual experimental novel YO-YO BOING! (AmazonCrossing) is experimental in format and radical in its defiance of English-only laws, ethnic cleansing campaigns, and the corporate imposition of sameness.

In 2011, Giannina Braschi debuted “United States of Banana,” her first work written entirely in English; it is a postmodern dramatic novel about the powers of the world shifting after September 11. "United States of Banana,” takes as a springboard the collapse of the World Trade Center, the event which displaced her from the Battery Park neighborhood that became known as the Ground Zero vicinity. Braschi writes about the death of the businessman, the end of democracy, and the delusion that all men are created equal. “Revolutionary in subject and form, “United States of Banana” is a beautifully written declaration of personal independence,” declared the late publisher Barney Rosset former owner of Grove Press of ”Evergreen Review.”

Happy birthday, Manuel Ramos Otero!

Manuel Ramos Otero (July 20, 1948 - October 7, 1990) was a Puerto Rican writer. He is widely considered to be the most important openly gay twentieth-century Puerto Rican writer who wrote in Spanish, and his work was often controversial due to its sexual and political content. Ramos Otero died in San JuanPuerto Rico, due to complications from AIDS.

Jesús Manuel Ramos Otero was born in ManatíPuerto Rico, and spent his childhood in his home town, living in the second location of the old building of the Puerto Rican Casino of Manatí. He began his studies at the Colegio La Inmaculada in Manatí. His family then moved to San Juan when he was seven years old. He later attended the University of Puerto Rico High School in Río Piedras (1960–1965) and went on to receive a B.A. in Social Sciences (with a major in sociology and a minor in political sciences) from the University of Puerto Rico, graduating in 1969. In 1979 he received an M.A. in literature from New York University. While living in New York, he worked as a social researcher, and later as a professor at diverse universities including Rutgers UniversityLaGuardia Community CollegeYork College, and Lehman College. He also established a small publishing house, El Libro Viaje. He organized conferences and gatherings of Puerto Rican writers in the United States such as Giannina Braschi and Luis Rafael Sanchez. He is best remembered as a poet and the author of short stories, but he also wrote a novel and several essays on literary criticism.

Many but not all of Ramos Otero’s works focus on autobiographical characters of gay Puerto Rican men who are writers and live in New York City.

One of Ramos Otero’s most interesting stories is “La última plena que bailó Luberza” (Luberza’s Last Plena Dance), which he published in 1975 in the literary journal Zona de carga y descarga alongside a story by Rosario Ferré (“Cuando las mujeres quieren a los hombres”). Ramos Otero’s and Ferré’s stories were based on the life of Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer (better known as Isabel la Negra), a famous madam who ran a brothel in the city of Ponce from the 1930s to the 1960s. Ramos Otero’s story was later included in his book El cuento de la Mujer del Mar (The Story of the Woman of the Sea).

In his work, Ramos Otero openly defends gay viewpoints and feminist positions. For him, homosexuality represented an outsider status; he did not advocate for full integration, but rather explored the situation of marginal subjects. He also discussed his HIV status and the prejudice and discrimination faced by people affected by AIDS. Most of his production has not been translated and is only available in Spanish.

Numerous literary scholars have written about Ramos Otero, including Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Jossianna Arroyo, Juan G. Gelpí, and José Quiroga. Rubén Ríos Ávila has compared Ramos Otero’s experiences in New York to those of the exiled Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes has written about Ramos Otero in the context of the Puerto Rican queer diaspora, comparing him to other artists such as Luz María UmpierreFrances Negrón-Muntaner, and Erika Lopez.

Happy birthday, Esmeralda Santiago!

Esmeralda Santiago (born May 17, 1948) is a Puerto Rican author and former actress known for her novels and memoirs.

Santiago was born on May 17 1948 in the San Juan district of Villa Palmeras, SanturcePuerto Rico. During her early life her family moved from the city, to the countryside, and vice versa. During those times they dealt with poverty. In 1961, she came to the United States when she was thirteen years old and the eldest in a family that included eleven children. Santiago attended a junior high school in Brooklyn, and went on to attend New York City‘s Performing Arts High School. She graduated from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College. She eventually met Frank Cantor and married him. The couple founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company, which has won numerous awards for excellence in documentaries. Santiago currently lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband.

Her writing career evolved from her work as a writer of documentary and educational films. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in national newspapers including theNew York Times and the Boston Globe, and on mass market magazines like House & GardenMetropolitan Home, and Good Housekeeping.

Upon publication of her first book, the memoir When I was Puerto Rican, Ms. Santiago was hailed as “a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority,” by the Washington Post Book World.

Her first novel, America’s Dream, has been published in six languages, and was an Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild. “Thrilling and page turning, the fabulous story of América Gonzalez is laid out masterfully,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received numerous “Best of Year” mentions, in addition to an Alex Award from the American Library Association. It has recently been adapted into a film for Exxon Mobil Masterpiece Theatre, which premiered nationally on PBS on September 14, 2002.

With Joie Davidow, Ms. Santiago is coeditor of the anthologies, Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories and Las Mamis: Favorite Latino Authors Remember their Mothers both published byKnopf.

Her 2004 memoir, The Turkish Lover, describes her life from the time she left New York in 1969 at age 21 until her graduation from Harvard in 1976, and focuses on her relationship with Turkish filmmaker Ulvi Dogan.

While still in high school, she was cast in a small role in the 1967 film version of Bel Kaufman’s novel, Up the Down Staircase where she portrayed a student named Esmeralda.

In addition to her literary endeavors, Ms. Santiago is an active volunteer. She is a spokesperson on behalf of public libraries. She has designed and developed community-based programs for adolescents, and was a founder of a shelter for battered women and their children. She serves on the boards of organizations devoted to the arts and to literature, and speaks vehemently about the need to encourage and support the artistic development of young people.

In addition to literary and community service awards, Ms. Santiago has earned a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Trinity College, from Pace University and from University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.

Happy birthday, Luis Pales Matos!

Luis Palés Matos (March 20, 1898-February 23, 1959) was a Puerto Rican poet who is credited with creating the poetry genre known as Afro-Antillano. He is also credited with writing the screenplay for the “Romance Tropical”, the first Puerto Rican film with sound.

Palés Matos was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico into a family of well-known poets which included both his parents, Vicente Palés Anés and Consuelo Matos Vicil and his brothers and sisters, Vicente, Gustavo, Consuelo and Josefa. His family was instrumental in his poetic development and is reflected when at the age of 17 he wrote and published his first book of poetry titled “Azaleas”, a collection of his poems. In high school he became the editor of the school’s monthly publication “Mehr Licht”. His family’s financial situation wasn’t a good one and he was forced to drop out of high school and earn a living working in various jobs.

In 1918, he moved to the town of Fajardo where he worked for El Pueblo, the town’s local newspaper. There he met a young lady by the name of Natividad Suliveres and soon married her. Natividad gave birth to a baby boy, but within a year she died. Palés Matos was devastated and expressed his grief in the poem “El palacio en sombras” (The palace in shadows). He moved to San Juan and worked for the daily newspapers, El Mundo and El Imparcial. In San Juan he met and befriended Jose T. de Diego Padró, a fellow poet and together they created a literary movement known as “Diepalismo”, a name derived from the combination of their surnames.

In 1926, a local newspaper La Democracia published “Pueblo negro” (Black village), the first known Afro-Antillano poem. This marked the start of a new genre in Latin American literature which blended words from the Afro-Caribbean culture into the Spanish verse of Puerto Rico. These poems were immediately and vitriolically criticized by white, mainstream Puerto Rican intellectuals who viewed black issues as not being noteworthy or appropriate topics for high literature.

In 1934, Palés Matos wrote the screenplay for “Romance Tropical”, the first Puerto Rican movie with sound and the second Spanish movie with sound in the world. The movie, which was produced and directed by Juan Emilio Viguié, dealt with the romance between a poor boy and a rich girl. “Romance Tropical”, which was distributed in theaters throughout Puerto Rico and New York by MGM, was an astounding success. The film promised to give the Puerto Rican film industry international recognition, however the development of the industry was affected when a dispute over the copyrights between the Canino family (investors) and Viguié became punlic knowledge.

In 1937, Palés Matos published Tuntún de pasa y grifería (Drumbeats of Kinkiness and Blackness). This collection of poems received an award of recognition from the Puerto Rican Institute of Literature. Palés Matos gained fame with his literary work but, the experience was bittersweet. Though Palés Matos is considered, together with the Afro-Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, the father of the “Negrismo” movement, he was also criticized by members of the black Puerto Rican community, who considered it an insult to their race that Palés Matos, a white (light-skinned) man, was becoming famous on their account. Nevertheless, black Puerto Rican performers such as Sylvia del Villard and Juan Boria recited Palés Matos’s poetry.

In 1957, his written work, “Poesías” was acclaimed by the Academy of the Spanish language. Palés Matos was selected by the faculty of the University of Puerto Rico as their conference representative. Palés Matos died of heart failure in San Juan on February 23, 1959.

There is a public school in Puerto Rico named after Palés Matos, in the town of Bayamón and a public housing complex in Guayama.

The Spanglish comic novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” by Nuyorican poet Giannina Braschi pays tribute to the Afro-Antillano poems of Luis Palés Matos who is the subject of debate among several characters in the novel.

Singer/songwriter Roy Brown formed a group in the late 70s called Aires Bucaneros, which is the title of one of Palés Matos poems. The group released an eponymous album in 1979, featuring a song based on the poem. After that, Brown has wrote several songs based on Palés Matos poems.

Happy birthday, Pedro Juan Soto!

Pedro Juan Soto (July 11, 1928 - November 7, 2002) was a Puerto Rican writer.

Pedro Juan Soto was born in Cataño, Puerto Rico, and went to primary and secondary school in Bayamón. At the age of eighteen, he moved to New York and attended Long Island University. He initially studied to become a doctor, but after being influenced by the works of Ernest Hemingway, he decided to dedicate his life to the study of literature.

After graduating from Long Island with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he served in the United States Army for a year, and then went to Columbia University to obtain a Master of Artsdegree. It is around this time that Soto began to publish his first works, Garabatos and Los inocentes, for which he won awards. He also published stories in Revista Asomante, a Hispanic magazine.

In 1955, Soto moved back to Puerto Rico, where he continued to write novels and short stories, as well as a few dramas, and he later became a professor at the University of Puerto Rico.

Among Soto’s most famous works are Spiks, which deals with the struggles he and many other Puerto Ricans faced in New York, and Usmaíl, a story set in the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in the early 20th century. Soto was a supporter of the Puerto Rican independence movement, a theme that often shows up in his books.

On July 25, 1978, one of his sons, Carlos Soto Arriví, was killed by police officers in the Cerro Maravilla Incident. Soto sued the commonwealth government and United States federal authorities for what he called “outright assassination”.

Happy birthday, Enrique Arturo Laguerre Velez!

Enrique Arturo Laguerre Vélez (May 3, 1906 – June 16, 2005) was a teacher and critic from Moca, Puerto Rico. His works include novelsplays and a writing newspaper columns for El Vocero newspaper.

Laguerre studied at various universities, obtaining degrees in arts from the University of Puerto Rico and Columbia University.

In 1924, he took courses on teaching in rural areas in the town of Aguadilla. The courses where taught by Carmen Gómez Tejera. After this he taught from 1924 to 1988, both at the elementary school and university levels.

Laguerre was known to use the pen-names of Tristan RondaLuis UrayoanMotial and Alberto Prado, among others. Married for many years to the well-respected writer Luz V. Romero Garcia, he also worked in many Puerto Rican publications before joining the staff of El Vocero.

In 1998, his peers as well as former governors Rafael Hernández Colón and Luis A. Ferré, advocated for Laguerre to be considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature.Rossello, Hernandez Colon, Ferre Urge Nobel Prize in Literature for Enrique Laguerre. Despite their efforts, Laguerre was not awarded the prestigious award.

Laguerre was an emeritus member of the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

Enrique Laguerre died on June 16, 2005, at the age of 99. His body was buried on the grounds of the Palacete Los Moreau, an old “hacienda” restored as a museum, in his native town of Moca.

Laguerre was one of the most prolific novelist of Puerto Rico. Following the steps of Manuel Zeno Gandía, Laguerre most influential work focus on the problems of the colonized society.Colonialism and narrative in Puerto Rico. Victor C. Simpson. Caribbean Studies (Peter Lang Publishing), 14 Volume 14 of Caribbean studies His novel La Llamarada offers a compressive view of rural Puerto Rico during the Great Depression. Most of his novels are essential reading of Puerto Rican literature courses.

Happy birthday, Jose Gualberto Padilla!

Dr. José Gualberto Padilla (July 12, 1829 – May 26, 1896), also known as El Caribe, was a physician, poet, journalist, politician, and advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence. He suffered imprisonment and constant persecution by the Spanish Crown in Puerto Rico because his patriotic verses, social criticism and political ideals were considered a threat to Spanish Colonial rule of the island.

Padilla was born in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico to José María Padilla Córdova and Trinidad Alfonso Ramírez, a native of Venezuela. The family moved to the town of Añasco, where Padilla’s father practiced law. There he received his primary education, and continued his secondary education in Santiago de CompostelaSpain to study medicine.

While studying in Spain, Padilla and a group of Puerto Ricans founded the newspaper La Esperanza, which criticized the political and social abuses in Puerto Rico. In 1845 he moved to Barcelona where he earned his medical degree, wrote for various newspapers, and published a satiric political poem titled Zoopoligrafía.

Padilla, together with Román Baldorioty de Castro, founded the Puerto Rican chapter of the Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País (the Economic Friends of Puerto Rico). This group was founded by the Spanish intelligentsia, with chapters in various cities throughout Enlightenment Spain and, to a lesser degree, in some of her colonies.

In 1857, Padilla returned to Puerto Rico and settled in the town of Vega Baja. There he purchased an hacienda, a sugar plantation called Hacienda La Monserrate. The hacienda generated enough income, which permitted him to establish a clinic and practice medicine in the town.

If a patient was poor or indigent, Padilla treated them free of charge. He also served two terms as mayor of Vega Baja, and abolished slavery in his own hacienda.

Padilla helped organize the uprising against Spanish Colonial rule known as El Grito de Lares, which was the first major revolt against Spanish rule and call for independence in Puerto Rico. The short-lived revolt, planned by Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis and carried out by various revolutionary cells in Puerto Rico, occurred on September 23, 1868, and began in the town of Lares, Puerto Rico.

Upon the failure of the revolt some 475 rebels - amongst them Padilla, Manuel Rojas and Mariana Bracetti - were imprisoned in Arecibo, where they were tortured and humiliated. Padilla continued to write poems during his confinement in prison. On November 17, a military court imposed the death penalty, for treason and sedition, on all the prisoners. Meanwhile in Madrid, Eugenio María de Hostos and other prominent Puerto Ricans managed to intercede with President Francisco Serrano, who had himself just led a revolution against the monarchy in Spain.

In an effort to appease the already tense atmosphere on the island, the incoming governor José Laureano Sanz, announced a general amnesty early in 1869, and all the prisoners were released. Padilla returned to his home but Betances, Rojas and many other prisoners were not released to their Puerto Rican homeland. They were sent into exile.

Padilla retired in 1888 and lived the remaining years of his life at his estate in Vega Baja. He died on May 26, 1896, while working on his last poem Canto a Puerto Rico. before his death. This poem is considered Padilla’smagnum opus. It has been said that, had he not died prematurely, Padilla's Canto a Puerto Rico would have rivaled the Cantar de Mio Cid for literary and historical significance.

Various towns in Puerto Rico have schools named after Padilla. The towns with schools named José Gualberto Padilla are CayeyArecibo, and Vega Baja.

His daughter, Trinidad Padilla de Sanz (1864-1957), was a poet who assumed the pseudonym, La Hija del Caribe (“Daughter of El Caribe”). In 1912, she collected most of Padilla’s poetic works and published them in two books: En el Combate (“In Combat”) and Rosas de Pasión (“Roses of Passion”) through Librería Paul Ollendorff in Paris.

Happy brthday, Juan Manuel Garcia-Passalacqua!

Juan Manuel Garcia-Passalacqua (February 22, 1937 – July 2, 2010) was a well known lawyer, writer and political analyst from Puerto Rico.

Garcia Passalacqua, who was born in the Hato Rey district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, showed interest in studying from a very young age, and he held degrees from TuftsTulane and Harvard universities. His father was a professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico and his uncle was a candidate for governor for the Puerto Rican Independence Party. After obtaining his law degree, he went on to work as aide to governors Luis Muñoz Marín and Roberto Sanchez Vilella, both of the PPD. He was a member of a reformist group, known in Puerto Rico as The 22.

Garcia-Passalacqua later showed discontent with the PPD, eventually leaving the party. He became a television producer in Puerto Rico; one of his most important shows was Cara a Cara Ante el País (Face to Face). During the 1980s, Garcia-Passalacqua became one of the most sought after political analysts by other television producers. He became a common figure on Puerto Rican television during election years.

He wrote more than 20 books, in both Spanish and English, mostly on Caribbean affairs and politics. In 1982, he was invited to become a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a member of the Ambassadors Circle of the Carter Center in Atlanta. As part of his duties with the Carter Center, he served as an impartial election observer in more than a dozen countries around the world.

He taught classes as a visiting professor at colleges ranging from Yale University to the Center for Advanced Studies in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in San Juan. For many years he served as legal counsel for the Ana G. Mendez Foundation. In his role as a political analyst in Puerto Rico, Garcia-Passalacqua was known to give his opinion or criticism of Puerto Rican parties without particularly lining up with or against any of the three major parties there. Over the years, he consistently proposed an associated republic political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States since he wrote his masters thesis on the topic in 1957 for Professor Carl Friedrich at Harvard University. He wrote columns for such newspapers as El Nuevo Dia (The New Day), El Vocero (The Spokesperson) and The San Juan Star. In 2006, he returned to Puerto Rico’s most respected news radio station, WKAQ, as an on-air political commentator.

Juan Ma”, as he was referred by some, participated in a televised program called Medio Día Puerto Rico (Midday Puerto Rico), during the lunchtime hours on Televicentro Puerto Rico in a segment called “La Escuelita” (The Small Schoolhouse). After an incident in which he apparently made mention of the daughter of Aníbal Acevedo Vilá (governor of Puerto Rico at the time), he was fired from the show and did not visit the TV station again, only talking via phone from outside when several people, such as La Comay or news reporters, called him for political analysis.

I believe every child is born a poet and every poet is born a child. I believe that every child is 360 degrees of the circle of creativity. I believe that every child is born of earth and universe, so how can any child be considered unimportant dehumanized, relegated to being a minority, a less than?
—  Piri Thomas, Puerto Rican Poet/Authour

Dr. Manuel A. Alonso (October 6, 1822 – November 4, 1889) was a writer, poet and journalist. He is considered to be the first Puerto Rican writer of notable importance.

Alonso was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He received his primary education in Caguas and in the Lidefonso Seminary in San Juan. Alonso then went to the City of BarcelonaSpain where he enrolled in the University of Barcelona to study medicine. He finished his medical studies in 1844 and practiced his profession in Barcelona. In 1845, he published a book called “Gibaro” (which now is spelled “Jíbaro”). “El Gibaro” was a collection of verses whose main themes were the poor Puerto Rican country farmer and the customs of Puerto Rico.

In 1848, Alonso returned to Puerto Rico and set up his medical office in the City of Caguas. He also became the director of the House of Benefit of San Juan, until the day of his death. In collaboration with other notable writers of the day, he published the “Album Puertorriqueño” (Puerto Rican Album), which was the second anthology of poems to be published in the island.

As a writer, poet and journalist he derived his inspiration from anything that had to do with love and his country. Alonso cultivated his verses and gave them a touch festivality. Alonso was also, a member of the Liberal Reform movement in Puerto Rico and directed that organizations publication, “El Agente” (The Agent). Among his works are: “El Baile de Garabato” and “Puertorriqueño”. Dr. Manuel A. Alonso died in the City of San Juan on November 4, 1889.

Puerto Rico has honored his memory by naming schools and public buildings after him.

Nemir Matos-Cintrón is a Puerto Rican author who resides in Florida. She has published several books of poetry and parts of a novel. She has openly thematized her lesbianism in much of her work.

Matos-Cintrón was born on November 19, 1949, in SanturcePuerto Rico. She received her B.A. in Humanities from the University of Puerto Rico and later her Master’s of Science from the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. During the 1980s, Matos-Cintrón taught television production courses at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico. She also worked as television producer for the all news Channel 24. At the same time she collaborated as scriptwriter for the miniseries Color de Piel, dealing with racial tensions in Puerto Rican contemporary society. Her television writing led her to the creation and scripting of Insólito, a dramatic anthology series dealing with supernatural phenomena in the Caribbean. In the 90’s, she returned to academia, as Lecturer at City University of New York. Her passion for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, and Multimedia Technology culminated with the research, production and publication of the multimedia CD-ROM Puerto Ricans in the USA: A Hundred Years. In 2001, she moved to Orlando, Florida where she works as an Instructional Designer. She is working on her doctoral dissertation on mobile learning.

In 1981, Matos-Cintrón published her first two poetry books: Las mujeres no hablan así (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Atabex, 1981) and A través del aire y del fuego pero no del cristal (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Atabex, 1981). Las mujeres no hablan así is the first openly lesbian poetry collection in Puerto Rican literature. A fragment of her first novel El amordio de Amanda dealing with growing up in the 60’s in urban Puerto Rico, was included in the LGBT Puerto Rican literary anthology Los Otros Cuerpos (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Tiempo Nuevo, 2007). “El arte de morir” published in 2010, is an homage to friends who died from AIDS. Aliens in NYC deals with the subject of migration (2012, Atabex).