Listen to My Latest Podcast Episode
Listen Here
By Age Range

31 Days of Women’s History: Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Today, I want to shine the spotlight on someone whose impact on literature and culture is nothing short of legendary: Pura Belpré. Born in Cidra, Puerto Rico, in 1899, Pura’s journey began in a place rich with vibrant culture and storytelling traditions. As a young girl, she was captivated by the tales spun by her grandmother, filling her imagination with wonders of the past and dreams of the future.

Now, let’s fast forward a bit to Pura’s arrival in New York City in the 1920s. Can you imagine stepping off a boat into the bustling streets of the Big Apple, armed only with a passion for storytelling and a desire to share the rich heritage of your homeland? Well, that’s exactly what Pura did. Despite facing language barriers and cultural differences, Pura’s determination never wavered. She became the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York Public Library system, where she found a platform to introduce the magic of Latin American folktales to a whole new audience.

Pura wanted to empower her community through literature. So, she began writing her own children’s books, becoming one of the first Latina authors to break into the mainstream publishing world. Her most famous work, Pérez and Martina: A Puerto Rican Tale, combined her love for storytelling with her dedication to preserving Puerto Rican culture. Through her books, she showed young readers that their voices and experiences mattered, paving the way for future generations of diverse authors and illustrators.

But Pura’s impact didn’t stop there. She also played a crucial role in advocating for bilingual education and multicultural representation in libraries and schools. Her tireless efforts helped bridge gaps and foster understanding across communities, making her a true champion of diversity and inclusion.

Sadly, Pura passed away in 1982, but her legacy lives on in the countless lives she touched and the doors she opened for aspiring creators of all backgrounds. So, the next time you pick up a children’s book that celebrates diversity or promotes cultural awareness, take a moment to thank Pura Belpré for her pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to making the world a better place, one story at a time.

Join the Conversation