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Jesus Colon

Jesus Colon (1901-1974) born in Cayey, Puerto Rico is considered by many to be the "Father of the Nuyorican Movement".

Colon was born after the "Spanish-American War (1898)" when the "American Tobacco Co. gained control of most of the tobacco producing land in Puerto Rico. His father was a baker and his family was very poor. His home was located behind the town's cigar factory. The cigar factory would hire "readers" who would read stories and current events to the employees while they worked . This was done to keep the workers happy. As a child, Colon would visit the factory and listen to these stories. He was exposed to the writings of Karl Marx and Emil Zola. From these ideas he formed a personal socialist ideology and also an interest in both the spoken and written word.

In 1917, when Colon was 16 years old, he boarded the S.S.Carolina as a stowaway and landed in Brooklyn, New York. There he worked in various unskilled jobs and was able to observe the deplorable conditions of the working class of the time.

Colon had been discriminated against because of the color of his skin (he was black) and because of his difficulty in speaking the English language. He wrote about his experiences as well as those of other immigrants, however, he was the first Puerto Rican to do so in English. His best known work "A Puerto Rican in New York" set the stage for the literary movement which is known as the "Nuyorican Movement". Other writers, such as Piri Thomas, Esmeralda Santiago, Nicholasa Mohr, Pedro Pietri and others were inspired by Colon.

Colon began a Spanish language newspaper and in 1955, he wrote a regular column for the Daily Worker a publication of the Communist Party in New York. Colon was also the president of "Hispanic Publications" which published history books, political information pamphlets in Spanish and literary books.

In the 1950's, during the McCarthy period, Colon was called to testify in front of the "House of Un-American Activities Committee" in Washington, D.C.. He outraged the Committee when he stated "I will not cooperate with this committee in its aim to destroy the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional rights of the people".

In 1969, Colon ran for the "Office of Comtroller of the City of New York", running with Rasheed Storey, candidate for mayor on the Communist Party ticket. Needless to say, they did not win.

Jesus Colon died in New York City in 1974. In accordance with his wishes, his body was cremated, returned to Puerto Rico and scattered over his hometown Cayey.

Edna Acosta-Belen, a professor of "Latin-American and Caribbean Studies" at the University of Albany and Virginia Sanchez Korrol, an associate professor and Chair of the "Department of Puerto Rican Studies" at Brooklyn College, managed to put a booklet together of Colon's writings called "The Way it was and Other Writings".

See also

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