Some of the 2021 Letras Boricuas Fellows: Top Left: Vanessa Martir / Top Right: Amina Lolita Gautier / Bottom Left: Sergio Gutiérrez Negrón / Bottom Right: Yara Liceaga-Rojas. All images courtesy of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyan Arts Fund.

In an effort to support and amplify the literary arts across the Puerto Rican diaspora, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyan Foundation’s Arts Fund announced the inaugural cohort of Letras Boricuas Fellows today, November 16. The cohort is comprised of 20 Puerto Rican writers working within genres of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. According to a press release announcing the first-of-its-kind fellowship, Letras Boricuas was created to “identify, elevate, and amplify the voices of emerging and established Puerto Rican writers on the island and across the United States diaspora.”

“Twenty vibrant Puerto Rican voices make up this remarkable initial cohort, each one resonant and powerful,” says Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, in a press release. “These are writers who convey the depth and breadth of Puerto Rico’s stories and histories across literary genre and a range of styles, and who affirm the vital significance of the word through their work.”

This represents a continuation of a multi-year commitment from the Mellon Foundation to Puerto Rican writers. Since 2018, the foundation has committed some $13 million — with an additional $10 million being committed by the end of 2021 — to an ongoing initiative that aims to sustain and enrich Puerto Rico’s cultural landscape. Each of these fellows will receive a $25,000 no-strings grant, in recognition of their previous and ongoing work in literature within the Puerto Rican diaspora. A key partnership in this effort is the Flamboyan Art Fund.

“The Letras Boricuas Fellowship exemplifies the Flamboyan Arts Fund’s goal of supporting and sustaining Puerto Rico’s vibrant humanities ecosystem,” said Carlos Rodríguez Silvestre, executive director of Flamboyan Foundation Puerto Rico. “We are proud to announce a diverse cohort of 2021 fellows… and to deepen our commitment to this work with the Mellon Foundation.”

Fellows in the fiction cohort are Amina Lolita Gautier, Cezanne Cardona, Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, Francisco Font Acevedo, Juanluís Ramos, Luis Negrón, Manolo Núñez Negrón, and Sergio Gutiérrez. In creative nonfiction, the recipients are Mercy Romero, Vanessa Mártir, Xavier Valcárcel, and Yara Liceaga Rojas. Poets Amanda Hernández, Carmen R. Marín, Francisco Félix, Jonatan María Reyes, María Teresa Fernández Rosario aka Mariposa, Martín Espada, and Mónica A. Jiménez variously represent their genre, while Mrinali Álvarez Astacio stands alone in the category of children’s literature.

These fellows write variously in English and Spanish, and were selected by a committee of acclaimed Puerto Rican writers based on the archipelago and in the United States, including Mayra Santos Febres, Eduardo Lalo, and Félix Joaquín Rivera in Puerto Rico, and Carina Del Valle Schorske, Willie Perdomo, and Aracelis Girmay, who are based in the US.

This fellowship will continue in 2022, with applications for the next class of Letras Boricuas Fellows, available in Spanish or English, will be available in spring 2022.

(From left to right) Mónica A. Jiménez, Martín Espada, Maria Teresa Fernández Rosario aka Mariposa, and Xavier Valcárcel de Jesús

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....