Storyteller, essayist, poet and professor who was part of the 1945 Generation. She specialized in writing short stories and poems for children and was the author of essays and speeches on children’s literature.
She was born in Aguadilla on December 9, 1917. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico Normal School at the Río Piedras campus in 1938. She pursued graduate studies at the same university and completed a master’s degree in Arts in 1959 after defending her thesis, which was titled Antonio Pérez Pierret: su vida y su obra. In 1970, she earned her Ph.D. at the same university. Her dissertation, Juana de Ibarbourou: Oficio de Poesía, was published in 1981.
Early in her career, she worked as a teacher at various public and private schools in Puerto Rico and wrote Spanish textbooks for the Higher Education Council. She also worked with the organization of school libraries. Later, she served as a faculty member in the Humanities Department of the University of Puerto Rico, where she retired for health reasons in 1983.
She published her first poems in the magazine Ambito, which was edited by writer Enrique Laguerre. Later, she published her own work, Nanas (1945), a book of children’s verses that included five sets of lyrics with music, three of which were set to music by composer Rafael Hernández. She later published Nanas de Navidad (1959) and Nanas de la adolescencia (1963), which included poems and stories as well as songs. The illustrations for these two books were done by Spanish artist Carlos Marichal.
Other books of poetry she wrote are Nanas segundas (1970), illustrated in color by the artist William Clegg, with a prologue by essayist Margot Arce de Vázquez and excerpted in Horn Book Magazine in 1978; Ala y Ritmo (1980); Ronda del Mar (1981), which won first prize and a gold medal at the Third Pan-American Literary Contest; Ilán-Ilán (1985); Romancero de la conquista (1986) and the posthumous publication Islamar (1988).
Her stories touched on topics from Puerto Rican traditions, as well as those of the indigenous and Spanish communities in the early years of the conquest. In 1951, she published a book of stories and poems titled Arco Iris with finger paintings by artist Andrés Bueso for illustrations, and in 1957 she published Coquí, which also included poems. Sinfonía de Puerto Rico (1968) presents a series of myths and legends derived from primitive history and oral traditions, reworked in the form of children’s stories, thereby creating new Puerto Rican legends. This book received an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. In 1968, she presented Cajita de música, a book with a more didactic bent, which was illustrated by artist Manuel Espiñeira.
She also published short stories in various periodicals, magazines and anthologies, including the stories “La mancha de plátano,” “Sollozos de baquiné,” “Por amor de su nombre,” “Pajuncia,” “Pegoche,” “Reflejos del salitral,” “Neblinares de jagüeyes” and “La maldición del cemento.”
She also wrote essays on children’s literature and others on social and political criticism. In the book Voz de la tierra mía (1956), she included traditional illustrations and essays that touched on topics such as the island landscape, the contrast between rural life and city slums, Christian sentiments, and others.
She received a variety of honors in her literary career. Among the most outstanding were the first prize for poetry from the Union of American Women in 1962 and the prize for excellence in children’s literature at the Third Conference of the International Association of Youth and Children’s Literature held in Tucson, Arizona in 1981. In 1983, the Puerto Rico chapter of the Union of American Women selected her as Woman of the Year and the University of Puerto Rico granted her the title of professor emeritus.
She died on December 30, 1987.
By the PROE Editorial Group
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
This post is also available in: Español