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Miguel Algarín Papers

Identifier: MSS 253

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection span the years from 1959 to 2015 with the bulk concentrating on the years 1970 to 2010. They consist of correspondence, calendars, cds, clippings, drawings, event programs, flyers, notebooks, photographs, posters, press kits, publications, videotapes and writings. The folders are arranged alphabetically within the series and the documents are arranged chronologically. The materials are in both English and Spanish.

The core of the collection consists drafts and writings by Algarín and Algarín in collaboration with other Nuyorican poets, such as Tato Laviera and Miguel Piñero, as well as many contibutors to the Nuyorican Poet's Café. Among Algarín's work, there are several drafts and revisions to his unfinished work "Dirty Beauty".

Additionally, there are writings by several prolific poets and playrights, including, Amari Baraka, Jose Angel Figueroa, Reg. E. Gaines, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Pedro Pietri, Miguel Piñero, Ntozake Shange, among others.


  • 1959-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1970-2010


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

CENTRO holds the copyrights to the collection, with the exception of published works found in the collection. Algarín’s family holds his rights and for all other authors works within the collection, researchers are responsible for determining copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Miguel Algarín was born September 11, 1941, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. In 1951, his family moved to New York City’s Lower East Side (also known as Loisaida), settling amidst a growing Puerto Rican community. His mother, María Socorro Algarín, was a poet, composer and visual artist, who published a book of poetry (Lluvias del otoño) and had her music recorded by Puerto Rican singer Gloria Mirabal. His father, who worked as a mechanic, was a lover of classical music and opera, who gave Miguel violin lessons and took him to recitals. Algarín participated in school plays and traveled the world with his high school choir. His aunt, Carmen Ana Figueras, lived with them and helped care for Algarín and his two siblings.

Attracted since childhood to literature, Algarín obtained a BA in Romance Languages from the University of Wisconsin and an MA in English Literature from Penn State University. He also undertook doctoral studies in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, where in 1965 he began a long career as a professor in their English Department, teaching Shakespeare, creative writing and ethnic literature in the United States. This also included teaching in the Spanish Department at University College (1964-1968) and serving as the Acting Chair of the Department of Puerto Rican Studies at Livingston College (1984-1988). In addition to teaching at Rutgers, Algarín was a lecturer at Brooklyn College (1965-1967) and in 1976 he taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, founded by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. According to Algarín, his life became a mission to connect “the artist and academia” in a natural way.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Algarín immersed himself in politics, becoming involved with issues of civil and political rights. Together with other Puerto Rican poets and playwrights, like Miguel Piñero and “Lucky” Cienfuegos, Algarín also became active in a poetic movement flourishing on the Lower East Side. They became “students” of Jorge Brandon, known as “the father of Nuyorican poetry.” Through poetry recited and performed, often on the streets, the young poets sought to reach and reflect the lives of common people, particularly immigrant Puerto Ricans. They wrote in a language that often combined English and Spanish (which they called Spanglish) with themes centered on their daily lives.

Performance poetry emerged as a dynamic and vital element of urban Latino and African-American culture, and Algarín was at the forefront of the movement as a writer and promoter. In 1972, theatre impresario Joseph Papp became interested in the young writers and their development as playwrights. He helped them find space and gain entry into theaters for poetry recitals when there were no shows, such as the Delacorte Theater on Monday nights. In 1973, Algarín began using the living room of his East Village apartment as a gathering place for poets and artists. By 1974 the regular artistic gatherings outgrew Algarín’s home. Along with Piñero and other poets, including Bimbo Rivas and Pedro Pietri, they rented an Irish bar on East 6th Street and christened it the Nuyorican Poets Café. According to Algarín, while on a trip to Puerto Rico with Piñero, they overheard islanders disparagingly calling them newyoricans. They claimed an altered form of the term (nuyorican) for themselves, turning an insult into self-affirmation. They also used it to title their 1975 anthology. In 1980, due to further overflow of artists and audience, Algarín purchased a former tenement building at 236 East 3rd Street, where the Café currently resides.

From its inception, the Café championed the use of poetry, jazz, theater, hip-hop and spoken word as a means of social empowerment for minority and underprivileged artists, giving voice to those traditionally under-represented in mainstream media and culture. It became a nationally acclaimed stage for groundbreaking works of poetry, music, theater, comedy and visual arts. Allen Ginsberg called the Café “the most integrated place on the planet.” It is now a non-profit organization offering poetry slams and open mics, Latin Jazz and Hip-Hop concerts, poetry and prose readings, theatrical performances, educational programs and visual art exhibits. The theater has been awarded over 30 AUDELCO Awards and was honored with an Obie Grant for Excellence in Theater. Of the screenplays read in the theater, 40 have been turned into films.

Algarín held the status of Professor Emeritus for his more than 30 years of service to Rutgers University. He received 3 American Book Awards and the Larry Leon Hamlin Producer’s Award at the 2001 National Black Festival. Algarín retired as professor from Rutgers but continueds as the executive producer of the Nuyorican Poets Café’s theater. Algarín passed away in In New York City in November 2020.

Algarín’s published works include Song of Protest (his translation of Pablo Neruda’s Canción de Gesta, 1976), Mongo Affair: poems (1978), On Call (1980), Body bee calling from the 21st century (1982), Time’s Now/Ya Es Tiempo (1985), and Love is Hard Work: memorias de Loisaida (1997). Algarin was the editor of several anthologies: Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings (with Miguel Piñero, 1975), Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café (with Bob Holman, 1994), and Action: The Nuyorican Café Theater Festival (1997). His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies. He has written several plays, some of which have been staged in New York: Olu Clemente (Delacorte Theater, 1973), Apartment 6-D (Lincoln Center, 1974), The Murder of Pito (Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 1976) and Blue Heaven.


5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Miguel Algarín was an award-winning Puerto Rican poet, writer, professor, and cofounder of the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City’s Lower East Side. Through the Café, Algarín helped cultivate the slam poetry movement and provided a diverse venue for aspiring artists. Algarín and fellow poet Miguel Piñero are credited with initiating what is now called Nuyorican Poetry, the first affirmative Puerto Rican literary movement.


I. Biographical and Personal Information (1977-2015)

II. Nuyorican Poets Café (1990-2008)

III. Works by Algarín (circa 1990s-2000s)

IV. Works by Others (1974-2012)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Miguel Algarín.

Related Materials

Pedro Pietri Papers, Tato Laviera Papers, Nitza Tufiño / Nuyoricans Poets Café Collection, Sandra María Esteves Papers, Victor Hernández Cruz Collection, Marlis Momber Lower East Side Photographic Collection found in the CENTRO archives.

Miguel Algarín Papers
Rebecca Machado (2017), Wendy Jimenez (2021), Lindsay Wittwer (2023)
June 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processed in part with funds from the New York City Council in 2017 and 2021.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Repository

Silberman Building, Hunter College
2180 Third Ave. Rm. 122
New York New York 10065

About the Collections

Our collections consist of personal papers from prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Our largest collection, the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States (OGPRUS) Records, measures approximately 2,900 cubic feet and contains an extraordinary amount of information regarding Puerto Rican migrants and the government institutions established to assist them. The collections date from the 1890s to the present, and document Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast, Midwest, Florida, California and Hawaii.