Puerto Rican Writers, Poets, and Essayists
As most know, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, September 20, 2017. It was the worst storm the island has seen in 89 years. Words like catastrophic and apocalyptic work well to describe the aftermath. There was damage to the entire electrical grid, and there are still very limited communications. This is along with flooding, ridiculous amounts of wind and water damage, and agriculture being wiped out. It would be an understatement to say it will take a long while to recover.
I’m Puerto Rican. On the island are family members and a lot of people I care about. The island is a place I love. I have not lived there since before third grade, but it doesn’t just leave you. It lingers, and in some ways it will always be home. I’m devastated about the state of Puerto Rico, and about the way everything has been handled after this disaster.
To counteract my immense sadness, I’m remembering the beautiful aspects that make up Puerto Rico and its people. This has made me realize that I hardly ever see anything about Puerto Rican writers. I mean, I rarely see news about anyone from Puerto Rico unless it’s a tiny group of celebrities.
The intellectual and creative culture of the island isn’t something a lot of people get to learn about. But it’s rich, and there is a deep history of people using their minds and words to spread ideas, and create stories. I want to try and spread some Puerto Rican culture. Plus, I want to try to show that we are more than the fiery personalities or ample curves that are so often highlighted in media depictions.
Puerto Ricans are complex people, defined by a complicated history. There is no singular Puerto Rican viewpoint, perspective, or character. We’re artists, we’re farmers, we’re musicians, we’re revolutionaries, we’re storytellers, we’re survivors, and we’re a million other things.
Puerto Rican Writers
One of the best ways to show the life of a culture is through reading its writings. So, I’ve compiled a list of some Puerto Rican writers.
This is by no means an official, complete list, but it might help you find an author whose writing you want to check out. I’ve tried to include writers of different formats and genres, so hopefully there is someone for everyone. I think it can’t hurt to expand your reading horizons, especially when it leads to a better understanding of other cultures.
Novelist, also known for her memoirs.
When I Was Puerto Rican
Victor Hernandez Cruz
Poet. Part of the Nuyorican Movement.
Snaps, The Mountain Sea: Poems
Quiara Alegria Hudes
Playwright and composer.
Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue
Novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist, critic.
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro
Novelist, short story writer, and essayist.
Ojos de Luna (Moon Eyes)
Poet. Co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.
Time’s Now/Ya Es Tiempo
Manuel Zeno Gandia
Novelist, also a medical doctor.
The Pond (generally acknowledged as the first major Puerto Rican novel)
Alejandro Tapia y Rivera
Novelist, poet, playwright, essayist.
Feminist, labor organizer, anarchist, writer. Interesting fact: known as the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear trousers. She was actually arrested for wearing trousers when she went to Cuba.
A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out; Mi Opinion Sobres Las Libertades, Derechos y Deberes de la Mujer
Maria Bibiana Benitez
First female poet of Puerto Rico. Also a playwright.
La Ninfa de Puerto Rico, La Cruz del Morro
Eleanor Parker Sapia
A Decent Woman
Judith Ortiz Cofer
Poet, novelist, essayist.
Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
Short story writer, novelist, essayist, critic.
Eccentric Neighborhoods, The House on the Lagoon
Playwright, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.
Novelist, cartoonist, performance artist.
Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing
Zoe Jimenez Corretjer
Poet, short story writer, novelist, academic essayist.
Cantigos del Lago
Poet, novelist, essayist, dramatist.
Poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, professor of literature.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos
Novelist, lawyer, sociologist.
La Peregrinación de Bayoán
Luz Maria Umpierre
Poet, literary critic.
The Margarita Poems
Poet, also know for his memoir. Part of the Nuyorican movement.
Down These Mean Streets
Novelist, children’s book author, playwright, short story writer. First Hispanic woman to have her work published by the major publishing houses in modern times.
El Bronx Remembered
Marta Moreno Vega
Memoirist. Founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.
When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio
Memoirist, often writes about generational trauma and reproductive rights.
The Ladies’ Gallery: A Memoir of Family Secrets
Jose de Diego
Journalist, poet, lawyer.
Cantos de Rebeldía
Julia de Burgos
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos
Short story writer, playwright.
The Oxcart/La Carreta
Cultural anthropologist, archaeologist, Puerto Rican scholar.
Discovery, Conquest and Colonization of Puerto Rico, 1493–1599