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Professional, Academic Achievements, Humanitarian Advocacy

 

 

I am an internationally known poet, scholar and essayist, especially in the fields of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Latina/o Studies, Poetry and Gender Studies. I am also a Cultural Critic. My essays have been included in prestigious journals, such as Hispania, Latin American Theatre Review, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos(U.P.R.), Bilingual Review, Revista del Instituto de Cultura(Puerto Rico),  Chasqui, MELUS, Explicación de textos literarios, Chicana/Latina Studies, The Américas Review and numerous others. I was one of the founders of the journal Third Woman, recognized in 2010, as an ovarian publication in Latina Studies at a conference at C.U.N.Y. which celebrated important voices from the 1970’s in Lesbian Studies. I was asked to represent the journal by reading from my poetry. Recently, I have published essays in Internet journals such as: La acera, Diálogo Digital, Cruce, La Bloga, to mention just a few. My recently published cyber essays have dealt with day to day subject matters like: Rep. Gutierrez’s stance on police brutality in Puerto Rico; the need for solidarity among all Puerto Ricans, statewide and islanders in the LGBT community, after a public debate in 2010; the publication of the first Lesbian anthology in Puerto Rican Literature from a historic perspective; Tyler Clementi and bullying; the students’ strike at UPR; and, I have an on-going Blog called Luzma Speaks. I have also been busy writing biographical essays dealing with my perspective as a Latina/Puerto Rican woman in academia, and publishing. I would love to turn these, eventually, into a book. My Memoir on the exegesis of writing The Margarita Poems has been published as a “Poet’s Dossier” in the November, 2012 issue of Chasqui to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the publication of the collection. The essay has been nominated for several awards including the Sylvia Molloy from LASA and an award from the GLQ Caucus of the MLA. It has been said to establish a new way of writing combining Memoir and the exegesis of my ten books of poem.

 I am a prolific writer and essayist. In fact I have established a career by defending people on issues no one else would. I am currently fighting an intellectual and personal critical war with renown Feminist Ana Castillo. The issue is semi-private but I helped her found her e-Zine La tolteca. She dedicated one of her issues to my work in 2011. Afterwards in a rage, she removed the issue known as The Yepes/ Umpierre issue.  I had helped her liberate her only son from jails in Wisconsin and Arkansas. She now alleges that she has never met me. The issue had carried an interview by Monserrat Fontes and a review by Norma Elia Cantu and Monserrat Fontes lauded in Europe as one of the best reviews of my complete works till that day. Castillo had even said that the design of my book was ” smashing.”

My critical work encompasses articles on Latin American and Latina(o) scholars and writers from several generations, such as Julia de Burgos, Pedro Juan Soto, Manuel Ramos Otero, Carmen Lugo Filippi, Rosario Ferré, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Myrna Casas, Sandra María Esteves, Carlos Rodríguez, Dolores Prida, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Enrique Laguerre, Arturo Uslar-Pietri, Manuel Puig, Luisa Valenzuela, Isabel Allende, Nemir Matos and many others. I will also mention that, throughout the years, I have had essays published on Marjorie Agosín, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Esteves, Lorraine Sutton, Iris Zavala, Cherríe Moraga, Judith Ortiz Cofer among countless of others at a time when hardly anyone knew of their work, or they were being ignored. I hold two books published on literary criticism and more than a hundred articles in influential journals, and as chapters in books. For example, the renowned journal: MELUS, published one of my essays on the subject of writers and migration in 2002. That same essay dealt also with a subject for which I hold special theoretical passion: the teaching of literature and creative writing as instruments for healing trauma. It has been included in the year 2011 in an anthology of essays in honor of Isabel Allende. I am also an intellectual critic and I helped found PABE in the 1970s.

I am a poet in my own right. I have had an anthology of my works published in 2011 under the title: I’m Still Standing- 30 Years of Poetry. It has received, thus far, positive reviews from David William Foster, Larry La Fountain, Maria Di Francesco, Carmen Dolores Hernández, Cheryl Ann Keyes, Samuel Minne, among many others. I was interview on the importance of the publication of this work by Avotcja, the Nuyorican poet, in September of 2011. I had the further honor of having an extensive review of the book and my first interview on its publication done by Norma Cantú and Monserrat Fontes. The journal Chasqui has included an additional review of  I’m Still Standing by Maria Di Francesco in their May 2012 issue. And, I had the personal satisfaction of having this collection featured by Bryn Mawr College in their Alumnae Blog. I say that it is a personal gift because my first poems were written to denounce my own Alma Mater’s lack of acceptance towards cultural diversity during the 1970s. In 2009, I gave my poetry reading/performance: “I’m Still Standing” at Tennessee Tech University. An interview of me appeared in the journal Sargasso entitled: 25 Voices from the Caribbean in 2011. My newer poems have been published in Northern Liberties Review and  co-authored poem with Puerto Rican poet Mayda Colón was published in Diálogo Digital (UPR), Puerto Rico, and received rave reviews. An electronic hoja poética has appeared recently in Esta vida Boricua (UPR-Mayagüez)(it was removed by Editor herself for dubious reasons including the Castillo affair). I also gave three readings in Chicago in 2013 lauded for the originality of the readings at De Paul University and two community venues. The readings were praised by a GLQ journalist who published an essay in one of the most important GLQ newspapers in the USA. My book I’m Still Standing was presented in 2013 at SUNY Binghamton by Feminist Sociologist Gladys Jimenez Muñoz. It has been reviewed at the MALCS Journal in 2013 and by Hopkins’ Callaloo proving the worth of my poetical memoir as a Woman Feminist Lesbian of Color. An homenaje was given to me at the Summer Institute at MALCS also in 2013. I am working on a book entitled Poems to Marci/Ana.

My entire professional studies have been interdisciplinary in nature and have strong components in Literature, Social Sciences, History and Language. I hold a Post Doctoral diploma in the field of Higher Education Administration, specializing in the recruitment and retention of Minorities, sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center in New Jersey. In order to strengthen my humanitarian work, I pursued studies in Management and Policy in Health Care Administration at the Milano School of the New School of Social Work and Social Research. My Ph.D. adds to the vein of the interdisciplinary since it is both in Peninsular Spanish and Spanish American Literatures and Cultures from Bryn Mawr College. My dissertation was the first doctoral dissertation defended on the subject of Puerto Rican Literature and Cultural History at Bryn Mawr College. The dissertation itself was on both 19th and 20th Centuries and dealt with the aspects of Puerto Rican determination-history that make our writers have what I called a “commitment in literature.” I have also done Post Doctoral work in Literary Theory under the guidance of noted scholars Andrew Debicki and John Brushwood at the Center for Humanistic Studies of the University of Kansas.

To that interdisciplinary education, I add extensive experience in the area of multidisciplinary interactions, especially on issues of race, culture and ethnicity both as a professor and as an administrator. I have been a department head at two institutions of Higher Education. At Western Kentucky, I chaired a faculty of more than 25 individuals. The Department of Multicultural Studies included African American Studies, Latin American Studies, American Studies, and a renowned graduate program in Folklore. In that position, I recruited the first African American student in the 20-year history of the program in Folklore. I was also responsible for the hire of the first African American faculty member and the first Latina in my department. I have also been in the faculty of various institutions of higher learning, most recently at Bates College. There I instituted six new courses in two years dealing with Latina Literature and Culture, Latin America, Creative Writing and Popular Culture. I was also in the faculty of Women Studies. Over the years, I have taught courses in departments of English, Latin American Studies, Caribbean and Puerto Rican Studies, Creative Writing, Folklore, Bilingual Education among many others. I was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Association for Bilingual Education. For 11 years I was a Professor at Immaculata College’s Bilingual/ Bicultural Graduate Studies Program, one of a very few in the nation at the time.

I have worked at length in curriculum development in Latin American Studies and Latina (o) Studies where I have done ground-breaking work in the teaching of “alternate texts” in the curriculum. I have taught courses on culture, ethnicity, race, and gender countless of times at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Many of these courses had never been included as part of the curriculum before I instituted them. I humbly state that I taught the very first graduate level course on Colonial Latin American Literature at Rutgers University. I used my theory of reading (Homocriticism) to approach the works of Sor Juana.

I created the first courses on Caribbean Literature and Culture at Rutgers University, and one of the first courses on Latinas in the U.S.A. to be taught in the nation at Rutgers also. Most importantly, in my esteem, I included Lesbian and Gay writers in the curriculum of departments of modern languages at a time when they were lesser included or taught at universities on the East coast of this nation. I have directed undergraduate honor projects and doctoral dissertations in these fields.

My interest in community work is extensive. My credentials include awards received for my work as a mentor of students of all races and backgrounds, including the “Woman of the Year Award” from Western Kentucky University. Furthermore, I am a Human Rights Advocate and have received awards for this humanitarian work. I was nominated for the 2010 inclusion to the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. I had the honor of being included in a U.S. Congress proclamation (2002) as a woman who has made a difference in the life of others in Maine. As part of my humanitarian work, I have become interested in the subject of culture and health care and have followed courses directed to enhance this aspect of my research. I have worked recently on issues related to health care among migrant workers in Maine, most of Latino/a origin. My open letter, on the need of health-care reform for women of color, was published in a leading Maine newspaper and was addressed to Olympia Snowe, a key vote in the Senate’s passage of the bill. My lifelong interests have taken me to work at hospitals and with Minority youths at detention facilities in the country. During the Katrina Disaster, I worked closely with the Red Cross to find those missing. In Syracuse, New York, I was nominated twice for the Jefferson Award for my work with Bilingual Children. I have received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from all LGBT organizations in the state of New Jersey for my advocacy toward individuals inflicted by AIDS as well as for my poetry. In 2012, I received the Michael Lynch Award from the GLBT Caucus of the M.L.A. for my Activism and Advocacy. I have been nominated for an international award for my Human Rights Activism in South Korea, being the only Puerto Rican Lesbian having been nominated(the decision is expected in May, 2014). The nomination is, in part, due for having defended Marcelo Castillo(aka Marcel R. Herrera) the son of Ana Castillo and helping her re-establish her career; and also for my advocacy in academia.