Thursday, March 3, 2011

March is Women's History Month ~ Notable Puerto Ricans

March is Women's History Month. In honor of  Women's History Month I would like to share a list of notable Puerto Rican women. I highly encourage you to read their works. They are some of my favorites.

I'm going to see In the Heights next month.  I'm so excited I can't wait.

Quiara Alegría Hudes - Playwright
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Hudes’s mother, a Puerto Rican spiritual leader in the Santeria and Buddhist traditions, encouraged her to become a writer, as did her Jewish father, a carpenter and artisan, and Puerto Rican stepfather, an entrepreneur.

Her work for musical theater includes Broadway’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical In the Heights. Tony Nomination for her book, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Circle Award.
Her plays include Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue (Pulitzer Prize finalist), 26 Miles, Yemaya’s Belly (The Clauder Prize), and Water By the Spoonful.

You can learn more on her website HERE:

I recently revisited her works and am always inspired by her folktales.

Pura Belpré (died 1982) was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. She was also a writer, collector of folktales, and puppeteer.

She became an active advocate for the Spanish-speaking community by instituting bilingual story hours, buying Spanish language books, and implementing programs based on traditional holidays like the celebration of Three Kings Day.

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. You can learn more about it  HERE .
I love to read and while searching for Puerto Rican works to add to my reading list I was taken aback at what I found.  First it is so strange that Colon landed in Puerto Rico in the 1400's but no significant writings were produced until hundreds of years later in the 1800's.  Then I learned people of the island were not allowed to write and were purposefully kept illiterate.  For this reason we must always continue to stand up for the right to speak and the right to an education or be obliterated from history.  This lesson serves as my inspiration for writing and sharing important works of others. 


María Bibiana Benítez Constanza (December 10, 1783 – April 18, 1873)was born into a middle class family in the town of Aguadilla. Her father Jose Benitez, was a lieutenant in the Spanish Army who on April 28, 1797 defended "La Puntilla" against an English invasion. He was married to Juana Bautista Benitez. Her family loved literature and owned a private library which contained a collection of the best books available at the time.

Her poem, La ninfa de Puerto Rico, which was inspired by the inauguration of the Real Audiencia Territorial del País, established her as the first Puerto Rican female poet. This poem was published in La Gaceta de Puerto Rico, the first newspaper published on the island (1806-1902).

She also became the first Puerto Rican woman to write a dramatic play when she wrote La Cruz del Morro. The play was based on the attack of the city of San Juan by the Dutch with the intention of invading Puerto Rico in 1625 and the heroic defense by the islanders. This was the first dramatic play written in Puerto Rico dealing with a local historical event.

La Ninfa de Puerto Rico

¡Salud, Santa Justicia, yo te adoro,
tu bella luz derrama
sobre este suelo de oro,
que con solemne voto te proclama
su tutelar consejo y su tesoro!

Del invicto monarca que te envía
yo soy la predilecta,
que sola presidía
en el ameno campo do reflecta
de eterna primavera claro día.

Pero el grande Fernando, cuyo pecho
en tu sagrado templo,
en lágrimas deshecho
dijo desde el alcázar:
Te contemplo lejana,
Puerto Rico, de mi lecho.


 I feel I must include one of the greatest and well known poets.

Julia Constancia Burgos García (February 17, 1914 – July 6, 1953) was born in Carolina, raised in a poor section of Carolina called Barrio Santa Cruz. Her family's poverty did not keep her from developing a love for nature and her country as noted in one of her most famous works Río Grande de Loíza. You can read it HERE :

Among Julia de Burgos' most famous works are:

* "El Rio Grande de Loiza",
* "Poema para mi Muerte" (My Death Poem),
* "Yo Misma Fui Mi Ruta" (I Was My Own Path),
* "Alba de Mi Silencio", and
* "Alta Mar y Gaviota".

Reading her novels is like being taken away back in time to a familiar place. La casa de la Laguna is among my favorite novels.

Dr. Rosario Ferré Ramírez de Arellano born September 28, 1938 in Ponce, Puerto Rico into one of Puerto Rico's wealthiest families, is a well known Puerto Rican writer, poet and essayist.

Ferré began writing professionally at age 14, publishing articles in Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Día newspaper.

A few of her works include:
  •  El Vuelo del Cisne, 2001; Spanish version: Flight of the Swan, 2002
  •  La extraña muerte del Capitancito Candelario, 2002.
  •  Vecindarios excentricos,1998; Spanish version: Eccentric Neighborhoods, 1999
  •  La casa de la laguna, 1995; Spanish version: The House on the Lagoon, 1997
  •  La Batalla de Las Vírgenes, 1994
  •  The Youngest Doll, 1991 (an English version of Papeles de Pandora)
  •  Sonatinas. Cuentos de niños., 1991

Since my time is limited these are merely a handful of wonderful works from important Puerto Rican woman.  I hope you will peruse their works and share it with others as well as be inspired to read and research more.



Medeia Sharif said...

This is a lovely tribute to these women and all they accomplished.

ruzanne said...

Indeed! An awesome poke to the women who often forget because they're all-out working hard on their passions and careers. But just the same, having them here speaks for a great appreciation to the path they blazed with glory and goodness.


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