Pura Belpré

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Pura Belpré
Pura belpre w-purapuppets.jpg
Born February 2, 1899
Cidra, Puerto Rico
Died July 1, 1982
New York City, NY
Occupation writer, puppeteer, librarian
Nationality Puerto Rican
Notable awards New York Mayor's Award[1]
Spouse Clarence Cameron White

Pura Belpré (1899–1982) was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.[1] She was also a writer, collector of folktales, and puppeteer.

Life[edit]

Belpré was born in Cidra, Puerto Rico.[2] There is some dispute as to the date of her birth which has been given as February 2, 1899, December 2, 1901 and February 2, 1903.[3][a] She graduated from Central High School in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1919 and enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. Soon thereafter, in 1920, she interrupted her studies in order to attend her sister Elisa's wedding in New York City, where, except for brief interludes, she remained for the rest of her life.

Librarianship[edit]

Belpré's career in the New York Public Library commenced in 1921,[4] and she pioneered the library's outreach within the Puerto Rican community.[1] However, like many of the Puerto Rican women who migrated to New York in the twentieth century, Belpré's first job was in the garment industry. Her Spanish language, community and literary skills soon earned her a position as Hispanic Assistant in a branch of the public library at 135th Street in Harlem, having been recruited and mentored by Ernestine Rose, head of the Harlem library. Belpré became the first Puerto Rican to be hired by the New York Public Library (NYPL).[1]

In 1925 she began her formal studies in the Library School of the New York Public Library.[2] In 1929, due to the increasing numbers of Puerto Ricans settling in southwest Harlem, Belpré was transferred to a branch of the NYPL at 115th Street. She quickly 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. In her outreach efforts, she attended meetings of civic organizations such as the Porto Rican Brotherhood of America and La Liga Puertorriqueña e Hispana.[5] Through Belpré's work, the 115th Street branch became an important cultural center for the Latino residents of New York, even hosting important Latin American figures such as the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Belpré continued these efforts at the 110th street (or Aguilar) branch.

Literary career[edit]

Belpré's library career is intimately tied to her literary career. The first story she wrote and published was Pérez and Martina, a love story between a cockroach and a mouse. Belpré also collected many other folktales from Puerto Rico, translated them into English and had them published as children’s literature.

In 1940, Belpré met her future husband, the African-American composer and violinist, Clarence Cameron White. They were married on December 26, 1943 and Belpré resigned her position to go on tour with her husband and to devote herself fully to writing. When her husband died in 1960, Belpré returned to part-time work in the library as the Spanish Children's Specialist, which sent her all over the city wherever there were large numbers of Latino children. In 1968, she retired from this position, but was persuaded to work with the newly established South Bronx Library Project, a community outreach program to promote library use and to provide needed services to Latino neighborhoods throughout the Bronx.

Belpré wrote the first major Juan Bobo story published in the United States, Juan Bobo and the Queen's Necklace: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale. It was published in 1962.[6]

Death[edit]

Belpré died in July 1, 1982,[3] having received the New York Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture that same year.[1] Her archives are held and maintained by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York.[2]

Legacy[edit]

The Pura Belpré Award is a children's book award presented every year, to the 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.

The Pura Belpré Award is co-sponsored by REFORMA: the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

The Northeast Chapter of REFORMA named its children's book achievement award in her honor in the 1980s.[5][7]

In the Bronx, New York Public School 64 on Walton Avenue near 170th Street has been named after her.[8]

A documentary film about the life and work of Pura Belpré was produced in 2011, and is available for viewing at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at Hunter College.[9]

Bibliography of Belpré's Works[edit]

Books in English
  • Perez and Martina: A Portorican Folktale (illustrated by Carlos Sanchez), Warne, 1932, new edition, 1961, published in Spanish, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
  • The Tiger and the Rabbit, and Other Tales (illustrated by Kay Peterson Parker), Houghton, 1946, new edition (illustrated by Tomie de Paola), Lippincott, 1965.
  • Juan Bobo and the Queen's Necklace: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale (illustrated by Christine Price), Warne, 1962.
  • Ote: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale (illustrated by Paul Galdone), Pantheon, 1969.
  • Santiago (illustrated by Symeon Shimin), Warne, 1969.
  • (With Mary K. Conwell) Libros en Espanol: An Annotated List of Children's Books in Spanish, New York Public Library, 1971.
  • Dance of the Animals: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale (illustrated by P. Galdone), Warne, 1972.
  • Once in Puerto Rico (illustrated by C. Price), Warne, 1973.
  • A Rainbow-Colored Horse (illustrated by Antonio Martorell), Warne, 1978.
  • Firefly Summer, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 1996.
  • The Stone Dog
Translations into Spanish
  • Munro Leaf, El Cuento de Ferdinand (title means "The Story of Ferdinand"), Viking, 1962.
  • Crosby N. Bonsall, Caso del Forastero Hambriento (title means "Case of the Hungry Stranger"), Harper, 1969.
  • Carla Greene, Camioneros: ¿Qué Hacen? (title means "Truck Drivers: What Do They Do?"), Harper, 1969.
  • Syd Hoff, Danielito y el Dinosauro (title means "Danny and the Dinosaur"), Harper, 1969.
  • Leonard Kessler, Aquí Viene el Ponchado (title means "Here Comes the Strikeout"), Harper, 1969.
  • Else Holmelund Minarik, Osito (title means "Little Bear"), Harper, 1969.
  • Millicent E. Selsam, Teresita y las Orugas (title means "Terry and the Caterpillas"), Harper, 1969.
  • Paul Newman, Ningún Lugar para Jugar (title means "No Place to Play"), Grosset, 1971.

See also[edit]

Additional sources[edit]

  • Susan Heller, Anderson (May 21, 1982). "6 Patrons of the Arts Receive Mayor's Awards of Honor". New York Times (New York, N.Y). p. C7. 
  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2006. [1]
  • Núñez, Victoria. Memory, History, and Latino Migrant Literary Practices and New Historical Perspectives on Puerto Rican Migrations to New York[incomplete short citation].

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A letter from Winifred O'C. Luthy dated May 5th, 1969 to Pura Belpré acknowledges Belpré's wish to have Belpré's date of birth listed as Feb. 2nd, 1903.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Hernández-Delgado, Julio L (October 1992). Harter, Stephen P., ed. "Pura Teresa Belpré, Storyteller and Pioneer Puerto Rican Librarian". The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press) 62 (4): 425–440. 
  2. ^ a b c Nuñez, Victoria (2009). "Remembering Pura Belpré's Early Career at the 135th Street New York Public Library: Interracial Cooperation and Puerto Rican Settlement During the Harlem Renaisance". Centro Journal (Estados Unidos: The City University of New York) XXI (1): 53–77. ISSN 1538-6279.  p.58.
  3. ^ a b González, Lisa Sánchez (2005). "9 Pura Belpré: The Children's Ambassor". Latina Legacies : Identity, Biography, and Community. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198035022. 
  4. ^ Nuñez, Victoria (2009). "Remembering Pura Belpré's Early Career at the 135th Street New York Public Library: Interracial Cooperation and Puerto Rican Settlement During the Harlem Renaisance". Centro Journal (Estados Unidos: The City University of New York) XXI (1): 53–77. ISSN 1538-6279. 
  5. ^ a b "Pura Belpre - Biographical Notes". Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College CUNY. 
  6. ^ Korrol, Virginia Sánchez; Ruiz, Vicki L. (2006). Latinas in the United States, set: A Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana University Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 9780253111692. 
  7. ^ "About the Pura Belpré Award". American Library Association. 
  8. ^ "P.S. 064 Pura Belpre - X064". New York City Department of Education. 
  9. ^ Pura Belpré Storyteller, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, 2011