Special for CLARITY
I met Carmen Miranda (1922-1969) in the early 1960s in New York City. Her life was short, 47 years, but her legacy has been immeasurable. She was born on December 7, 1922 in Bayamón, and died on January 16, 1969 in New York. She died in the height of her civic and political activity; she died exercising patriotism.
She was the daughter of the tobacconist Rafael Miranda García and Mrs. María Concepción Quiñones Santiago, who survived her for more than a decade. She studied her primary and secondary degrees at the Colegio Santa Rosa and the Escuela Superior de Bayamón, graduating in 1938. She continued her studies in education obtaining a diploma from the Normal School in 1941, completing her bachelor’s degree in education in 1943, from the University from Puerto Rico. She moves to New York City with her family to pursue studies at Columbia University, leading to a master’s degree, but her plans are delayed by the death of her father. She is left in charge of the care of her mother “Conchita”, but that is not an obstacle to finishing her master’s degree.
He will then undertake an indefatigable fight to get an occupation that allows him to work for his community and for the oppressed in general. She will find her in the city’s Department of Public Welfare, but she will soon understand that her job is only to offer a palliative, and that there must be other, more dignified ways to achieve progress in her community.
She will turn her eyes towards education, to achieve those objectives, in which she stands out as a precursor of Puerto Rican Studies in New York City. She returns to the classroom and concentrates her efforts on the education of the youth; as a way that they know their culture and its history, and that they love the language of their parents as a way of strengthening their spirit and identity. In her private record, her efforts will focus on fighting colonialism and fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico. Without pauses, without concessions.
She will be a community leader who will attend to the needs of the youth, she will create organizations like the “Yunque” and the “Yunquecitos”, which encourage social and Puerto Rican action. she collaborates with VACUUM At its foundation, this association was projected to promote and monitor the educational and social development of Puerto Rican youth in the American “ghettos”. He also writes a history of Puerto Rico in English to be used as a textbook at the elementary levels. She had also managed to be appointed by the New York Board of Education to prepare the first Puerto Rican History curriculum to be used in the city’s elementary schools.
The Carmen that I knew was the revolutionary, completely devoted to the struggle in Puerto Rico and to the support of the incipient Cuban Revolution. She was president and founder of the Vito Marcoantonio mission of the Pro-Independence Movement together with Ada Morales, Panchita Santos, Raquel Dixie, El Profe. J. Gonzales, among others. We would meet in Harlem, at Ada Morales’ house, or in the Bronx, at Carmen Miranda’s house. In the latter, to listen by short wave to the young Fidel Castro, maximum leader of the Cuban Revolution. Occasions when Doña Conchita fed us with a succulent rice and beans, and some other companion. Late at night, we would leave for our homes in distant Brooklyn, or Lower Manhattan, always with the blessings of Carmen and Dona Conchita.
Through an introductory note from Carmen, years later I was able to meet Jorge Icaza, the notable Ecuadorian writer, writer of huasipungo, a masterful work of Latin American literature, and one of the precursors, from the indigenism of the literary movement known as “Magic Realism”. I met him at the National Library of Ecuador and we talked extensively about Carmen, its library and her extensive knowledge of Spanish-American literature; library that Carmen donated to the young university students of Rio Piedras and that attests to her concerns for that youth that she raised. I do not know if the library that she arranged to move from the United States and that Doña Conchita had to lovingly administer during the last years of her life still exists in the Santa Rita urbanization, in Rio Piedras.
Remembering Carmen is remembering those difficult days of dedication to the independence struggle from the diaspora is remembering the welcome and accompaniment, to Juan Mari Brás and the delegation that accompanied him when he attended the Committee of 24 of the United Nations. It is also to remember Carmen’s concern on multiple occasions, especially for the safety of Juan and his delegation, even making sure that he had the resources for day to day.
Carmen Miranda is a patriot who fought for independence in the harsh reality of the diaspora. It is our duty to know her exploits, and above all to remember her. This is how homeland is made too.