C is for Jesús Colón (1901-1974)

Jesús Colón was a Puerto Rican poet and journalist, and a leading figure of the Nuyorican cultural and literary movement with authors Piri Thomas, Miguel Algarin and Miguel Pinero. Born in Cayey, Puerto Rico, in 1901, Colón migrated from San Juan to New York City when he was sixteen years old. Writing both in English and Spanish, his poems and essays capture the cultural history of Puerto Ricans: their experience of migration, the racism they encountered and the transformative impact of their political organisation on communities. 

As a journalist, Colón published numerous articles in newspapers and magazines including GráficoPueblos HispanosLiberaciónThe Daily Worker and others, and had a regular column named As I See it from Here in the newspaper The Worker. Despite a prolific body of essays and journalistic writing, he only published one book, A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches (1961), during his lifetime. A Puerto Rican in New York is formally arranged in brief, poignant autobiographical episodes. 

Many memories, experiences and references to Puerto Rico appear in Colón’s essays. His piece “My First Strike” shows how his commitment to social justice and political organisation

developed early in his days as a student at the Central Grammar School in San Juan, where he organised a strike to protest a teacher’s collective punishment. His concern with social justice is central to his writing and Colón was actively involved in communist and socialist political movements and activism pro-Puerto Rican independence.

Colón left an unfinished manuscript with an outline of over 240 texts, many of which had been published in newspapers and magazines during the five decades that he lived in New York. Content from that manuscript appears in The Way it Was and Other Writings, published posthumously in 1993, retaining its original title. Edited by Edna Acosta-Belén and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, the book draws further from material available in his archive and comprises previously unpublished essays found in his papers. The Jesús Colón Papers are held at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), alongside those of his wife, the poet Clara Colón.

He is the recipient of the American Book Award.

Colón passed away in the United States in 1974.

Marta Fernández Campa

More about the author

black and white portrait of Concha Colón, in white dress with gold necklace

Colón’s Wikipedia biography highlights “Concha” Colón, community organizer and Jesús’ spouse.

portion of us customs pass including portrait of teenage Colón in suit and tie

The finding aid to the author’s papers at the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY.

photo of older Colón in suit, leaning out of window and looking into distance, with cityscape in background

Excerpts from “A hero in the junk truck” and “The story of Ana Roque,” originally published in A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches (1961).

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