Second cohort of 20 Puerto Rican writers recognized with $25,000 fellowship for impactful literary contributions
(NEW YORK, NY AND SAN JUAN, PR – December 6, 2022) The Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyan Foundation’s Arts Fund today announced the second cohort of Letras Boricuas Fellows, comprising twenty Puerto Rican authors whose work spans literary genres and writing styles, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s literature.
Letras Boricuas—created in 2021 to identify, elevate, and amplify the voices of emerging and established Puerto Rican writers on the archipelago and across the United States diaspora—provides writers with unrestricted grants of $25,000 each to support their practice. Now in its second year, the fellowship has awarded a total of $1 million to forty writers. In addition to the funding, fellows from the second cohort will join those from the inaugural class for a convening in Puerto Rico in the spring of 2023 to foster connection and share creative processes and fellowship experiences.
Puerto Rico’s literary heritage, though rich and diverse, has traditionally been under-resourced and underfunded both in Puerto Rico and across the United States. By providing unrestricted funds and fostering connection among its recipients, the Letras Boricuas Fellowship helps to amplify Puerto Rico’s literary legacy while highlighting the dynamism and diversity of experiences for emerging and established writers – writers who continue their practice while enduring natural disasters, political turmoil, and limited funding opportunities.
“We celebrate the brilliance of these twenty remarkable writers, and the rich tradition of Puerto Rican literature, poetry, and creative expression they are expanding,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. “We are excited to convene the two cohorts of writers in person in Puerto Rico next year, and look forward to experiencing more of their powerful words and visions together on la isla.”
“The Flamboyan Arts Fund is pleased and proud to support, together with our trusted partners at the Mellon Foundation, this group of Puerto Rican writers with this grant,” said Carlos Rodríguez Silvestre, Executive Director of the Flamboyan Foundation in Puerto Rico. “Letras Boricuas is more than a fellowship; it is a recognition of their work and the potential they have to continue contributing to the arts and humanities both in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora. Letras Boricuas exemplifies what can be accomplished through alliances and the union of common purposes. Special thanks to the Mellon Foundation for believing in our writers and being part of this wonderful process with us.”
The Letras Boricuas Fellowship is part of Mellon’s long-term commitment to sustaining and enriching Puerto Rico’s vibrant cultural, knowledge, and memory ecosystems. By the close of 2022, Mellon’s commitment to this effort will total over $50 million — including $10 million in post-Hurricane Fiona funding announced earlier this week, and additional year-end pledges.
The 2022 Letras Boricuas Fellows are:
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro
Juan López Bauzá
Hugo Ríos Cordero
Carlos Vázquez Cruz
Claudia Acevedo Quiñones
José Lee Borges
Yarisa Colón Torres
Marta Jazmín García
Joserramón “Che” Melendes
Ashley Pérez García
Poetry (Spoken Word)
Haydée Zayas Ramos
The 2022 Letras Boricuas fellows were chosen through a two-step nomination, and selection process by Committee members comprising experienced writers and literary experts including Gegman Lee, Carmen Dolores Hernández, Ernesto Quinones, Jaquira Díaz, Ruth Sáez, and Xavier Valcárcel.
About the Fellows
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro was born in October 1970 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and raised in the barrio Amelia and on the Cataño coast. She currently lives in Carolina. She is a researcher, narrator, poet, and professor. She is a Guest Lecturer and Resident Writer at EDP University. In 2007, she was chosen by the Hay Festival as part of the inaugural Bogotá39 group. She received an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP, for its Spanish initials) in 2015 and 2012 and the National Award from the Institute for Puerto Rican Literature in 2008. She is a founder and director of the Cátedra de Mujeres Negras Ancestrales. Her work includes: Las negras (2012, National Story Award from the PEN Club of Puerto Rico 2013), Animales de apariencia inofensiva (Book of the Year in 2015), and her book Ojos de luna (Book of the Year in 2007). She also published, with Editorial Egales de España, the lesbian-themed books Caparazones (2010), Violeta (2014), Lesbianas en clave caribeña (2015), and TRANScaribeñx (2017, PEN Club de Puerto Rico 2018 award). In 2016, she received the Writer of the Year in Queer Literature Award from the LGBT Community Center of Puerto Rico. In 2021, she received the PEN Club of Puerto Rico National Short Story Award and the Institute for Puerto Rican Literature National Creative Award for Calle de la Resistencia. She also received the top award from PEN International for her Afrofeministamente. She leads the educational campaigns #PeloBueno (#GoodHair), #SalasdeLecturaAntirracista (#AntiracistReadingsRooms), and #EnnegreceTuProntuario (#BlackenYourSyllabus). In 2022, she became an independent writer for ¡Listos a jugar! Storybook, from Sesame Street.
Ivelisse Housman was born in 1998 and has lived in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Virginia, where she currently resides. Her work draws inspiration from mixed identities as a bi-racial woman with autism. UNSEELIE, her first novel, will be published in 2023 by Inkyard Press.
Juan López Bauzá was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on July 11, 1966. He currently lives in San Juan. He has received several prestigious awards, such as the PEN Club of Puerto Rico prize for best short fiction book in 1997 for La sustituta y otros cuentos (Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1997), his first book. His most recent work includes: El Mar de Azov (LibrosAC, 2016), El Resplandor de Luzbella, (Editorial Planeta México, 2018), and Barataria, (Editorial Planeta México, 2018)
Hugo Ríos Cordero was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, on October 5, 1972, and was raised on the west coast of the island, alternating between Aguadilla and Aguada. He is a writer, professor, and singer for the punk band Siebenkäs. He returned to Puerto Rico after living in the United States for 14 years. He completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus, and obtained his Doctorate in Literature and Cinema at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He has published three books: Marcos sin retratos, for which he won the Puerto Rico PEN Club award in 2003, Al otro lado de tus párpados (2006), and A lo lejos el cielo (2010). His most recent publications include the story Plan de dientes, which was published in the Al Final de la Fila anthology (Editorial APPU, 2021), and Coloso, which was published in The Common along with his writing about Hurricane María, At Night the Wind, both in 2018.
Ivelisse Rodríguez was born on December 31, 1975 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. She was raised in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and lives in Whitsett, North Carolina. She is a writer and editor. Her short story collection, Love War Stories, was a finalist in 2019 for the PEN/Faulkner award and 2018 for Foreword Reviews INDIES. She has published fiction in the Boston Review, Obsidian, Kweli, the Bilingual Review, Aster(ix), and other publications. She is a contributing arts editor for the Boston Review. She was a senior fiction editor at Kweli and is a Kimbilio scholar, in addition to being a graduate of Las Dos Brujas and VONA/Voices. She completed a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Emerson College and a Doctorate in English Literature from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Carlos Vázquez Cruz was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, on September 28, 1971, and was raised in San Lorenzo. He currently lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a writer, professor, and musician. He has a Doctorate in Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Secondary Education at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, and his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at New York University. Accolades he has received include the New Voices Award given by the Puerto Rico Festival of the Word (2014), the Banco Santander Scholarship for Creative Writing in Spanish (NYU, 2008-2010), and PEN Club of Puerto Rico awards for three of his pieces, which were named among the best-published books in 2006, 2008, and 2012.
Claudia Acevedo-Quiñones was born on January 19, 1988, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, and was raised in Guaynabo and Río Piedras. She is a writer and a poet and has lived in Brooklyn, New York, since 2006. Her work as a writer is focused on origins, etymology, dreams, and the diaspora. She was a finalist for the Phillip Booth Poetry Award in 2019. Her poems, short fiction, and non-fiction stories have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, wildness, Ambit Magazine, Radar Poetry, among others. In 2019, she obtained a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook University, where she also taught poetry to undergraduate students. Her first book, The Hurricane Book, will be published in 2023 by Rose Metal Press. The pamphlet Bedroom Pop was published by dancing girl press in 2021.
José Lee-Borges was born on September 6, 1974, in Miami, Florida, but has lived in Puerto Rico since he was six. He was raised in Ponce, where he still lives. He is a historian, professor, investigator, and writer. He comes from a multicultural family of immigrants, the son of a Chinese father and a Cuban mother. He has a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. He has been a speaker at conferences in Mexico, Spain, Canada, the United States, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. He is the author of the book Los chinos en Puerto Rico, which has won awards from the Institute for Puerto Rican Literature and the PEN Club of Puerto Rico.
Natalie Lima was born in Miami, Florida, on June 12, 1986. She is of Puerto Rican and Cuban ancestry and was raised in Hialeah, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada. She currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is a writer and creative writing professor at Butler University in Indianapolis. Her essays and works of fiction have been published in Longreads, Guernica, Brevity, The Offing, Catapult, and in the anthologies Sex and the Single Woman (Harper Perennial, 2022) and Body Language (Catapult, 2022). She has been honored in Best Small Fictions (2020) and mentioned twice in Best American Essays (2019 and 2020). She has received scholarships from PEN America Emerging Voices, Bread Loaf, Tin House, VONA/Voices Workshop, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, in addition to doing a residency at Hedgebrook.
Kattia Chico was born in San José, Costa Rica, to Puerto Rican parents, on October 14, 1969. She was raised on the west coast of Puerto Rico and lives in San Germán. She is a professor and poet. She completed a Doctorate at the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, a Master’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus, and a bachelor’s degree at the Interamerican University, San Germán Campus. She published the poetry books Mala luz (Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 2017) and Efectos Secundarios (Terranova, 2004). The latter won the 2004 National Poetry Award from the PEN Club of Puerto Rico. Her poetry appears on websites, anthologies, newspapers, and magazines in Puerto Rico and abroad. She has participated in festivals, workshops, and literary encounters in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Boston, and New York. She is currently a professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.
Yarisa Colón Torres was born March 1, 1977, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was raised on the island and in New York. She lives in Queens, New York. She is a poet, educator, and creator of handmade books. She has published her poetry independently for more than two decades. She has also organized artisanal book creation workshops and collaborated with visual artists, performers, musicians, and artisans in various projects involving the written word. Among her most recent poetry books are Enredadera y Colmillo (2019) and Viento Abajo (2022). She also works as an adjunct professor at Bronx Community College, CUNY.
Marta Jazmín García is a poet, artist, and academic. She was born on February 22, 1983 in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, where she was raised, and lives in Ponce. She has three published books of poetry: Luz Fugitiva (Ediciones Callejón, San Juan, 2014), El único refugio son los párpados, (El Taller Blanco Ediciones, Colombia, 2020) and El sitio del relámpago (Ediciones Alayubia, San Juan, 2021). She is completing a Doctorate in Spanish Language and its Literature from the Complutense University in Madrid.
Joserramón “Che” Melendes was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, where he still lives, on May 12, 1952. He is a poet, critic, theoretician, editor, cultural organizer, and workshop leader. He is the author of Desimos Désimas and La Casa de la Forma, in addition to the poetry books Calaboso y Senotafio (which won an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.) Two anthologies of his published and previously unreleased poetry are currently being prepared for publishing in Puerto Rico and Mexico. He has edited the literary theory and poetic work of Juan A. Corretjer. As an editor, he has also worked on the poetry of Francisco Matos Paoli, José M. Lima, and Anjelamaría Dávila. His most recent work includes Antología Isla Escrita, edited by Néstor Rodríguez (Amargord Ediciones, 2018); Josérramón Melendes: Omenaje a Fernández Retamar (Periódico Claridad, Jul 31, 2019); the 4th edition of La Casa de las Formas (Ediciones qeAse, 2020). His poetry has been compiled in the q∫21 series, from which his first volume, El Fondo de la Máscara, received the ICP essay award. Para Delfín received the PEN Club award.
Urayoán Noel was born on April 12, 1976, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was raised in Río Piedras, and lives in The Bronx, New York. He is a professor, cultural organizer, poet, critic, translator, performer, artist, and writer. He has published eight poetry books, including Boringkén (Ediciones Callejón/La Tertulia, 2008), which was named as Book of the Year by El Nuevo Día, and Transversal (University of Arizona Press, 2021), which was recognized as Book of the Year by the New York Public Library, in addition to a critical study of poetry Nuyorican, In Visible Movement (University of Iowa Press, 2014), which was awarded the Latino Studies Award from LASA.
Mara Pastor was born in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, on March 26, 1980. A resident of Santurce, she is a poet, editor, and professor. Her published work includes Poemas para fomentar el turismo (Neutrinos, 2015; Ediciones del Flamboyán, 2022), Arcadian Boutique (UNAM, 2014), Falsa heladería (Aguadulce Ediciones, 2018), Deuda Natal (AZ Press, 2021), translated by María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong (Ambroggio Award 2020 from the Academy of American Poets), and more recently Las horas extra (La impresora, 2022). Her poems have been published in the magazines Latin American Literature, World Literature Today, Círculo de poesía, Periódico de poesía and Gatopardo, among others. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Studies from the University of Puerto Rico, a Master’s degree at the University of Notre Dame, and a Doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She also served as a post-doctoral researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She is currently an academic leader for the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Creative Writing for the School of Art, Design, and Creative Industries at Sagrado Corazón University.
Ashley Pérez García was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, on November 3, 1993, and was raised in Toa Baja. She is a writer, short film creator, and teacher. She obtained a Master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. Her poetry book La divisa was published by La Impresora in 2021. Her short film, Hexegete 1: Prólogo, written by Yamil Maldonado Pérez, was an official selection at the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival and the Third Horizon Film Festival 2022. Her work has been published by Periódico Claridad, 80grados, and Bright Wall/Dark Room.
Margarita Pintado was born on January 16, 1981, in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. She was raised in this municipality’s barrios of Cerro Gordo and Braulio Dueño. She currently lives in San Diego, California. She is a professor of languages and literature, a poet, and an essayist. She studied journalism at the University of Puerto Rico and completed her Doctorate in Spanish at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a professor of language and literature at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. Her published books include Ficción de venado (2012), Una muchacha que se parece a mí (2016), for which she received the Poetry Award in a contest held by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in 2015, Proyecto inacabado de la ruina, (2017) and Simultánea, la marea (2022). She wrote, together with Cuban poet Lorenzo García Vega, the experimental novel Ping-Pong Zuihitsu (pending publication with Rialta). She edited the bilingual (Spanish-Portuguese) anthology of García Vega poems, Palabras que repito (Ed. Lumme, 2017). Her poems have been published in multiple anthologies and magazines. She is a reviewer for the blog El Roommate and co-director of a poetry space called Distrópika.
Gisselle Yepes was born September 16, 1998, in Queens, New York, and was raised in The Bronx. They currently live in Bloomington, Indiana, while they pursue their Master’s degree in Poetry at the University of Indiana. Gisselle is a poet, writer, photographer, professor, cinematographer, editor, and student. Their most recent achievements and publications include: “Con sus Aguas”, “On her Waters Summoning us to Drown”, the December magazine’s Curt Johnson award for creative non-fiction, Fall 2022, “en cual lengua amas?” Gulf Coast, winter/spring 2022, “Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Islas, Nuestras Aguas Recordando” poets.org 2021, and the Vera Meyer Strube Poetry Award, 2021.
Poetry (Spoken Word)
Bonafide Rojas was born in New York on October 8, 1977. He was raised in The Bronx, where he still lives, although he spent part of his childhood in Levittown, Puerto Rico. He is a poet, musician, artist, performer, and teacher. He is the author of four poetry collections: Notes On The Return To The Island (2017), Renovatio (2014), When The City Sleeps (2012) , and Pelo Bueno (2004). He received the 2018 BRIO award for poetry from The Bronx Council on the Arts. He also participated in HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. His work has been published in the Kweli Journal: Poets For Puerto Rico (2019), Anamoly Press #25 (2017), Manteca (Arte Publico Press, 2017), Chorus: A Literary Mixtape (MTV Books, 2012), Learn Then Burn Pt’s 1 & 2 (Write Bloody, 2010, 2015), The Acentos Review (2008), The Hostos Review (2005), The Calabash Journal (2003), Role Call (Third World Press, 2002), Bum Rush The Page (Three Rivers Press, 2001) and The Centro Journal (2000).
Haydée Zayas-Ramos was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, on September 3, 1962. She is a writer, reading advocate, educator, and creator of the project Vivo del Cuento. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Interamerican University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. She is working on a thesis about children’s literature to obtain a Doctorate in the Literature of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean at the Center for Advanced Studies. She received a silver medal in the International Latino Book Awards 2022 for La jirafa que no cabía en su cuento (Editorial Destellos). Her most recent publications include Burbujas de chicle and Los Tres Reyes y sus calzoncillos de colores, which is scheduled to be published in Christmas 2022.
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About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.
About Flamboyan Foundation
Guided by the belief that all children deserve the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, the Flamboyan Foundation works to ensure every child in the US and Puerto Rico receives an outstanding education. In Washington, DC, Flamboyan is accelerating student learning by helping educators and school systems transform their relationships with families. In Puerto Rico, Flamboyan is ensuring students are reading in Spanish on grade level by third grade while building a thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector, which includes arts and cultural organizations. http://www.flamboyanfoundation.org
About Flamboyan Arts Fund
The Flamboyan Arts Fund is a partnership between Flamboyan Foundation, Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family, and the Broadway musical Hamilton to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane María devastated the island last year, many artists and arts organizations like museums, theaters, arts education programs, and music venues are at risk of cutting back services or closing. The fund supports all facets of the arts community including music, theater, visual arts, dance, literature, and youth arts education to ensure that the arts and culture continue to flourish during the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.