Jesús Colón Papers
Scope and Contents
The Jesús Colón Papers are a significant contribution to the study of Puerto Rican history and especially to the reconstruction of Puerto Rican community history in New York. They support research principally on such topics as organizational development and political participation among Puerto Ricans in New York. They also shed light on issues of employment and discrimination and Puerto Rican relationships to other groups in the city. The history of the labor movement in Puerto Rico as well as Puerto Rican involvement in labor and left organizations in New York are documented. The collection spans the years from 1901 to 1974, with the bulk of the papers dating from 1920 to 1970. There are letters, notes, drafts of published and unpublished works, reports, clippings, and photographs with a majority of the papers consisting of organizational records such as by-laws, lists, programs, and policy statements.
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-1970
- Creation: 1901-1974
- Colón, Jesús, 1901-1974 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Microfilm version available without restrictions. Parts of the physical collection may be restricted due to condition.
Biographical / Historical
Jesús Colón was born in Cayey, Puerto Rico on January 20, 1901. As a teenager, he moved to San Juan and attended Central Grammar School. There he served as director of the school journal ¡¡¡Adelante ...!!! and was the president of the Manuel Fernández Juncos literary society. As a student he became active in political movements and joined the newly established Socialist Party. In 1917, Colón arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. Carolina.
Colón's testimonial work A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches describes his experiences upon his arrival in New York and the problems he faced finding jobs and housing. Another source of information on Colón's early years in New York is the lively and romantic correspondence with his school sweetheart, Rufa Concepción Fernández (Concha) who became his wife in 1925. These letters richly comment on Colón's adjustment to his new environment and to his immediate involvement with the Puerto Rican "colonia" in New York.
Colón worked at many unskilled jobs: in factories, as a dockworker, dishwasher, waiter, and as a postal clerk. Having worked his way through night school at Boys' High from where he graduated, he attended St. John's University for a time, but never completed a college degree.
During the 1920s, the Puerto Rican population of New York City increased and settlements could be found in Brooklyn in the Navy Yard and Boro Hall sections, in East Harlem (El Barrio) and in parts of the Bronx. Jesús Colón became an active participant in Puerto Rican community affairs helping to found organizations and publications, and working as a labor organizer. In 1918, he and a number of others formed the first Puerto Rican committee of the Socialist Party in New York. He was a founding member and first secretary of the Alianza Obrera Puertorriqueña and of the Ateneo Obrero where he taught courses for workers; a founding member and director of "Sol Naciente," one of the earliest Hispanic fraternal societies; and a founding member of one of the most important civic organizations, La Liga Puertorriqueña e Hispana serving for a time as director of its Boletín.
As a full time labor organizer, he was the national head of the thirty Spanish and Portuguese speaking lodges of the International Workers Order (IWO), a multinational fraternal organization founded in 1930. Some of his work in the IWO centered on organizing children and youth into choral, dance, and drama groups, sports clubs, and other activities.
Colón, whether using his own name or the pseudonyms Miquis Tiquis and Pericles Espada, distinguished himself as a writer contributing to numerous publications. In the late 1920s and into the 1940s, he wrote for various Spanish language papers published in New York, among them Gráfico, El Nuevo Mundo, Vida Obrera, La Voz, and Liberación. In 1923, he was a regular contributor to the socialist newspaper, Justicia, published in Puerto Rico. Later, beginning in 1955 Colón also wrote a regular column in English for the Communist Party papers, the Daily Worker and the Daily World. His writing was not limited to articles and news commentary. He also wrote poetry, and short stories.
The book A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches was first published in 1961 and reprinted in 1984. The vignettes which are sometimes humorous, sometimes didactic, provide a portrait of Puerto Ricans different from the common stereotypes. It was one of the first books written in English by a Puerto Rican about the Puerto Rican experience. Some of the sketches had appeared in Spanish in the paper Pueblos Hispanos in 1943-1944 and were translated into many other languages after publication.
Throughout his life Colón was an active member of the Communist Party of the United States of America and was linked to international progressive movements, especially those in Latin America. In 1969, he ran for city comptroller on the Communist Party line. He was also a candidate for city council and for assemblyman under the banner of the American Labor Party.
Despite his international work with the Communist Party and his concern for workers everywhere, Jesús Colón is best remembered for his political commitment to the Puerto Ricans in New York and his energetic advocacy for Puerto Rican rights. He spent decades writing, lecturing, and most of all, organizing on behalf of Puerto Rican causes here.
Although he spent all of his adult life in New York, Colón maintained close ties to individuals and organizations in Puerto Rico working for the Puerto Rican independence movement and the labor movement. He was well aware that the migrant's quest for equality in the United States could not be separated from Puerto Rico's colonial condition.
Jesús Colón was a tireless community leader and a prolific writer. What he described as his "varied and colorful life" came to an end on Tuesday, May 14, 1974 in New York.
18.55 Cubic Feet
Language of Materials
The Jesús Colón Papers are a significant contribution to the study of Puerto Rican history and especially to the reconstruction of Puerto Rican community history in New York. They support research on such topics as organizational development, political participation among Puerto Ricans in New York, employment, discrimination, and the labor movement. There are letters, notes, drafts of published and unpublished works, reports, clippings, and photographs with a majority of the papers consisting of organizational records such as by-laws, minutes, membership lists, programs, and policy statements.
The collection is divided into the following series:
I. Personal and Biographical Information II. Correspondence III. Writings IV. Political Activities V. Organizational Activities VI. New York Organizations VII. Puerto Rico VIII. Subject Files IX. Photographs X. Clippings
XI. Minutes and Directory Vanguardia Puertorriqueña XII. Publications Also for series I-III, V-VI, VIII
Other Finding Aids
English/Spanish finding aid available, see External Documents.
Gift of the Communist Party of the United States of America and Benigno Giboyeaux.
Existence and Location of Copies
This collection has been microfilmed and is available on 29 reels. Researchers interested in purchasing microfilm copies should contact IDC Publishers Inc.
Approximately twenty cubic feet of published materials were removed from the collection. All items pertaining to Puerto Rican issues were added to the Centro Library collection.
Processed as part of the "Puerto Rican Archives of New York: Arrangement and Description Project," funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
- Andreu Iglesias, César, 1915-1976 (Person)
- Colón, Clara (Person)
- Colón López, Joaquín (Person)
- Muñoz Marín, Luis, 1898-1980 (Person)
- Vega, Bernardo, 1885- (Person)
- American Labor Party (Organization)
- Communist Party of the United States of America (Organization)
- Movimiento Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico (Organization)
- Partido Popular Democrático (P.R.) (Organization)
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities (Organization)
- Confederación General de Trabajadores (P.R.) (Organization)
- International Workers Order (Organization)
- Colón, Concha, 1902-1958 (Person)
- Fernandez, Rufa Concepción, ca. 1902-1958 (Person)
- Alianza Obrera Puertorriqueña (Organization)
- Club Cubano Interamericano (Organization)
- Club Obrero Español (Organization)
- Partido Comunista Puertorriqueño (Organization)
- Fraternal organizations -- New York (State) -- New York
- Organizations and Leaders
- Political participation -- United States -- Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York
- Puerto Rican Left Movement
- Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- Brooklyn
- Puerto Rico -- History -- Autonomy and independence movements
- Puerto Rico -- Politics and government
- Advertising fliers
- Authors, Puerto Rican
- Civil rights -- New York (State) -- New York
- Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
- Corporate minutes
- Labor movement -- Puerto Rico
- Political participation -- Puerto Rico
- Politics, Government, and Law
- Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York
- Radicalism -- New York (State) -- New York
- Jesús Colón Papers
- Nelly V. Cruz
- May 1991
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Processed as part of the "Puerto Rican Archives of New York: Arrangement and Description Project," funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
- 2005: Guide was revised in 2005 by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez.