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.

Esmeralda Santiago 

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

Enrique Laguerre

Novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist, critic.

Benevolent Masters

Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

Novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

Ojos de Luna (Moon Eyes)

Miguel Algarin

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.

El Heliotropo 

Luisa Capetillo

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 

Novelist.

A Decent Woman 

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Poet, novelist, essayist.

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

Rosario Ferre

Short story writer, novelist, essayist, critic.

Eccentric NeighborhoodsThe House on the Lagoon 

Miguel PiÑero

Playwright, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.

Short Eyes

Eduardo Lalo

Novelist.

Simone

Erika Lopez

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

Giannina Braschi

Poet, novelist, essayist, dramatist.

Yo-Yo Boing! 

Mayra Santos-Febres

Poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, professor of literature.

Sirena Selena 

Eugenio Maria de Hostos

Novelist, lawyer, sociologist.

La Peregrinación de Bayoán

Luz Maria Umpierre

Poet, literary critic.

The Margarita Poems

Piri Thomas 

Poet, also know for his memoir. Part of the Nuyorican movement.

Down These Mean Streets

Nicholasa Mohr 

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 

Irene Vilar 

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

Poet

Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos 

RenÉ MarquÉs

Short story writer, playwright.

The Oxcart/La Carreta 

Ricardo AlegrÍa

Cultural anthropologist, archaeologist, Puerto Rican scholar.

Discovery, Conquest and Colonization of Puerto Rico, 1493–1599

 

We have a $200 Book Outlet giftcard to give away. Go here for a chance to win, or just click the image below:
Yaika Sabat: Yaika Sabat spends her days as a library assistant in Texas. Raised by Puerto Ricans and German Shepherds, her background is as diverse as her writing. Her favorite things include comics, books, challenging the idea that comics are an inherently male space, Doctor Who, her cats, and puns. When she's not contributing to Book Riot, you can catch her at her blog, Glasses Attached. Twitter: @yikesyaika