Skip to main content

Clemente Soto Vélez and Amanda A. Vélez Papers

Identifier: MSS 60

Scope and Contents

This is a rich collection for examining the life and work of Clemente Soto Vélez, the cultural life and intellectual pursuits of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in New York and for the information it contains on literary circles and contemporary writers who were influenced by Soto Vélez such as Victor Fernández Fragoso and Martín Espada. The documents are a valuable source for research on the avant-garde Atalayismo movement and the literary history of Puerto Rico, as well as on Hispanic American literature in the United States, and various New York organizations. There is also information on the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and pro-independence politics.

Although the materials largely reflect the life and writings of Clemente Soto Vélez, there are also documents pertaining to his wife, Amanda Vélez and his son, Clemente Soto, Jr.

The types of documents included are personal letters, poetry, manuscripts, biographies, interviews, speeches, and materials about cultural and political organizations. The folders are arranged alphabetically and the documents in chronological order with some exceptions.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-1994
  • Creation: 1924-1994


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by Ana Eloísa Soto-Canino and her successors.

Biographical / Historical

Clemente Soto Vélez was a ground-breaking poet and one of the most significant and revered contemporary Puerto Rican writers. He was a mentor to many of the young artists and writers of his time. As a young man in Puerto Rico, Soto Vélez was a founding member of a vanguard literary group called “El atalaya de los dioses” (The Watchtower of the Gods) (1929). The bold, young poets calling themselves Atalayistas or “El Grupo Atalaya” transformed the literary world of the 1930s in Puerto Rico. Soto Vélez’ pro-independence views led him to membership in the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico (The Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico) and in 1936 he was imprisoned along with Pedro Albizu Campos and other militants for their political activities. After his release from prison in 1942, he settled in New York City, where he quickly became involved in diverse cultural and business organizations. Over the years he was recognized as a major figure among Puerto Rican and Latin American literary circles in New York.

Born in 1905 in Lares, a town known for its rebellious spirit, Soto Vélez was orphaned when he was seven and taken in by his godfather, Francisco Marcano. As a boy he attended a primary school in the Lares countryside and also studied painting with Ildefonso Ruiz Vélez in Arecibo. At the age of thirteen, he went to live with his sister in San Juan and enrolled in the Ramírez Commercial School where he studied electrical engineering and business administration.

San Juan afforded the youthful Soto Vélez opportunities to participate in intellectual circles and gatherings at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño and the Carnegie Library where he met poets such as Alfredo Margenat and Pedro Carrasquillo. In 1928 he worked as a journalist and as editor in chief of the newspaper El Tiempo, but was dismissed for publishing an editorial against sugar company interests. Also in 1928, along with Margenat and Carrasquillo, he formed a literary group called “El hospital de los sensitivos,” a name under which they published their new brand of poetry. They were joined by another young, talented poet Graciany Miranda Archilla and together with Fernando González Alberti, Luis Hernández Aquino, Samuel Lugo, Juan Calderón Escobar and Antonio Cruz Nieves, they founded the group “El Atalaya de los Dioses” which turned into an important literary movement known as “Atalayismo.” Their aim, as proclaimed in published manifestos, was to break with existing literary traditions and be the vanguard of a new movement. This caused a great deal of controversy among other writers and intellectuals, but also gained the group an enthusiastic following. “El Grupo Atalaya” sought to connect the poetic/literary world with political action. Their emergence coincided with the rise of the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico which advocated the overthrow of U.S. colonial rule in Puerto Rico. Subsequently, a number of the “atalayistas” were radicalized and joined the Nationalist Party.

Soto Vélez’ was among those who became a militant member of the Partido Nacionalista and worked as an organizer for the Party in Caguas. He took part in an attempt to take over the capital building in San Juan in 1932, and in 1934 was arrested and jailed for helping to instigate and participating in a sugar workers’ strike. In 1936, Soto Vélez and other Nationalist leaders were brought up on conspiracy charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. Soto Vélez was moved from La Princesa prison in San Juan to Atlanta, Georgia. He was given a conditional pardon in 1940 and returned to Puerto Rico where he was imprisoned once again for violating the conditions of his release. This time he was transferred to a prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where he served out the remaining two years of his sentence. While in prison he met Earl Browder, Secretary General of the Communist Party of the U.S.A., which Soto Vélez later joined in 1943. Soto Vélez was released in 1942, but because of the war and as a condition of his release, he was not permitted to return to Puerto Rico. Instead, he set up residence in New York City.

Once in New York he immersed himself in political activity. He got involved with the American Labor Party and Vito Marcantonio’s political campaigns. His first job in the city was with the Spanish Grocer’s Association, Inc., whose goals inspired him to found the Puerto Rican Merchants Association, Inc. which he directed through the 1970s. He was also a founder of the Club Cultural del Bronx and Casa Borinquen. As President of the Círculo de Escritores y Poetas Iberoamericanos (CEPI-Circle of Ibero American Poets and Writers) and a member of the Instituto de Puerto Rico en Nueva York (Puerto Rican Institute of New York) he organized numerous literary and cultural events. Additionally, he pursued his interest in journalism working as an editor for Pueblos Hispanos in the 1940s and in the 1950s establishing a magazine titled La Voz de Puerto Rico en Estados Unidos.

Soto Vélez’s early writings from 1928-1935 were published in newspapers and periodicals in Puerto Rico such as El Tiempo, Puerto Rico Ilustrado, Alma Latina and Armas, which he founded and directed until 1936. He also contributed to El Nacionalista, the organ of the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico. His first book, Escalio, a philosophical essay, was written in 1937 while he was incarcerated and published by friends. It was not until 1954 that his first book of poetry Abrazo Interno was published. This was followed by Arboles (1955), Caballo de Palo (1959) and La Tierra Prometida (1979) which are all long single poems. These works continued to explore the themes of rebellion and independence expressed in the early Atalayista writings. Soto Vélez is also known for experimenting with the spelling of the Spanish language in his writings, for example, exchanging the “c” for a “k”. He was the winner of various poetry awards from the Círculo de Escritores y Poetas Iberoamericanos and its yearly competitions.

It was in New York that Soto Vélez met the Argentine, Amanda Andrea Vélez who became his second wife. A member of a well- to- do family with a father who was a Spanish anarchist, she was a political activist in Argentina and was member of the Partido Socialista (of Argentina). She came to New York in 1964. Amanda played an extraordinary role in Soto Vélez’s life, becoming deeply engaged in his work, urging him to write and promoting his work by organizing events on his behalf. She was often the sole breadwinner for the household working mostly as a housekeeper for wealthy Manhattan families. For many years their Upper East Side apartment was converted into a “salón” for the young poets, artists and intellectuals who revered Soto Vélez and sought him out for advice and inspiration. He was often invited to seminars and conferences throughout the city. During the 1980s, Soto Vélez and Amanda were frequent visitors to Puerto Rico where La Casa Aboy, run by Ramón Aboy became their headquarters. Amanda’s dream was to create an institute dedicated to Soto Vélez in Puerto Rico. Although they moved there in hopes of bringing this to pass, they did not succeed. Soto Vélez died in Puerto Rico on April 15, 1993.

Clemente Soto Vélez’s Papers are a treasure trove for literary scholars. They contain published and unpublished manuscripts, notes and drafts, and a great deal of information about literary and artistic trends among Puerto Ricans in New York and Puerto Rico. Additionally, the collection is rich in content related to proindependence topics and movements and community development.

The papers complement other collections in the Centro Archives such as the papers of fellow poet and atalayista, Graciany Miranda Archilla and author Diana Ramírez de Arellano whose papers document the Ateneo Puertorriqueño de Nueva York.

Sources / Referencias:

Costa, Marithelma and Alvin Joaquín Figueroa, 1990. Kaligrafiando: conversaciones con Clemente Soto Vélez.

Kanellos, Nicolás. 1989. Biographical Dictionary of Hispanic Literature in the United States: The Literature of Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Other Hispanic Writers. CT: Greenwood.

Olmo Olmo, José. 1986. “Klemente Soto Vélez”, P.E.N. Club de Puerto Rico-Boletín Informativo. Año IV, Num. 3 (March-April) pp. 5-9.


9.55 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Ground-breaking poet and one of the most significant contemporary Puerto Rican writers. Founding member of a vanguard literary movement called Atalayismo. Contains information about literary and artistic trends among Puerto Ricans in New York and Puerto Rico. Is rich in content related to pro-independence topics, political movements and community development. Consists of published and unpublished manuscripts, notes and drafts, letters, poetry, manuscripts, biographies, interviews, speeches, and materials about cultural and political organizations.


The collection is divided into the following series:

I. Biographical and Personal Information

II. Correspondence

III. Writings

IV. Organizations

V. Subject Files

VI. Clippings

VII. Periodicals

VIII. Photographs

IX. Art

X. Audiovisual Materials

XI. Artifacts

Other Finding Aids

English / Spanish bilingual finding aid available, see External Documents.

Processing Information

Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Clemente Soto Vélez and Amanda Vélez Papers
Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González, Thencasti Paulino, Mario H. Ramírez.
March 2003
Language of description
Script of description
Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Revision Statements

  • 2005: Guide was revised in 2005 by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez.

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.