Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Manuel Ramos Otero Papers, circa 1920s-2007, bulk 1967-1992

Summary Information


Manuel Ramos Otero (1948-1990) is considered the first openly gay writer from Puerto Rico. He resided in New York City for much of his adult life. In 1990, he returned to his hometown of Manatí, Puerto Rico, where he died of complications from HIV/AIDS. The collection includes personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, notebooks and notes, reviews, photographs, and newspaper clippings. These materials range in date from Otero's infancy to his death, 1948-1990. There is also a small section of the collection that contains material related to Otero posthumously, which dates from 1990 to 2007.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1725
Bib ID 10846190 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Ramos Otero, Manuel
Title Manuel Ramos Otero Papers, circa 1920s-2007, bulk 1967-1992
Physical Description 18 linear feet (16 record cartons; 1 document box; and 1 flat box)
Language(s) English , Spanish; Castilian .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Student records and medical records in this collection are restricted for 75 years from their respective dates of creation.

Unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized.



This collection is arranged in 6 series. All series are arranged in chronological order, except the materials in Series I, which is arranged in alphabetical order by the title of the manuscript, and Series VI.4, which is arranged in alphabetical order by the author's last name.



The collection contains the papers of Manuel Ramos Otero and reflects to his careers as an author, student, and professor. The collection primarily consists of Otero's published and unpublished writing. These materials range in date from 1967-1989, and include numerous manuscripts which document his writing and editing process. The collection also includes Otero's notebooks, essays, and articles annotated by Otero as a student. There is a series of personal correspondence between Otero and his family in Puerto Rico while Otero lived in the United States. Finally, there are also smaller series of photographs, correspondence, official documents, theatrical work, and posthumous publications and tributes.

  • Series I: Manuscripts and Publishing, circa 1960-2002, undated

    Series I: Manuscripts and Publishing consists primarily of material related to articles and books written by Manuel Ramos Otero, dating from the early 1970s through 1990. This series contains material from Otero's published and unpublished written works, and highlights the many stages of his writing process. The series contains books, notebooks, manuscripts, publications, translations and unpublished poetry and short stories by Otero. A majority of the manuscripts in this collection are Otero's short stories and are annotated by Otero. These manuscripts are organized alphabetically. Very few of them are dated. Many of the manuscripts were originally published in Cupey or El Mundo. Manuscripts for theatrical pieces are located in Series V.

    The series includes extensive materials related to three of Otero's published works: Página en blanco y staccato (1987); El libro de la muerte (1985); and Invitación a polvo (1991), each of which comprises its own subseries. The collection does not include Otero's notes on his only published novel, La novelabingo. However, the collection does contain manuscripts of all of Otero's published works, including La novelabingo.

    The series also includes manuscripts of poems and essays written by prominent Puerto Rican literary figures, which can be found in Subseries I.5: Manuscripts by various authors. Some of the authors include Ana Lydia Vargas, Juan Gelpí, Rosario Ferré, Magalí García Ramis, Nicholasa Mohr, and Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá. While some of these manuscripts were sent to Otero during his lifetime, others appear to have been inserted into the collection after his death. The subseries also includes several audio recordings and one videocassette of these authors reading their works.

    Finally, this series contains clippings and full issues of newspapers, literary journals, and other publications that reproduce or reference the works of Otero and his literary circle.

  • Series II: Correspondence and Personal Materials, circa 1969-1990, undated

    Series II: Correspondence and personal materials primarily consists of letters and postcards from Otero's family, friends, and colleagues. It also contains official documentation such as government-issued identification cards, medical and financial records, and religious certificates. A few of Otero's personal belongings are located in this series as well. The series spans Otero's lifetime, 1948-1990.

    The correspondence within this series dates from 1969-1990. Some of these letters include information about Otero's writing process and the difficulties of publishing his works. Much of the correspondence deals with the financial issues that Otero faced upon arriving to the United States, from 1969 through approximately 1978.

    There is an extensive amount of letters written by Otero to his mother, Carmen Ana Otero, which date from 1969 to 1984. They discuss Otero's work and his relationship with John Anthes. There are also letters and postcards from John Anthes to Otero's mother. These letters--including the letters from Anthes to Carmen Ana Otero--were originally folded tightly and stored in a red treasure chest-shaped box. They were removed for preservation and ease of access. Many of the letters from Otero's adulthood document the financial remittances Otero sent to his family in Puerto Rico throughout the 1980s.

    Subseries II.3 consists of Otero's personal collection of literary magazines, newspapers, and clippings. The subseries also contains two books annotated by Otero. These materials do not include any of Otero's works or articles about Otero.

  • Series III: Photographs, 1925-1990

    Series III: Photographs consists of loose photographs that range in dates from Otero's infancy to his death. There are some photographs of Otero's family members circa 1920, which are located at the beginning of the series. The series also includes photographs of Otero with his two long-term romantic partners, the graphic designer John Anthes and the Puerto Rican painter Angel Rodríguez-Díaz.

  • Series IV: Academic Work, 1964-1990, undated

    Series IV: Academic Work contains material related to Manuel Ramos Otero's coursework, teaching and scholarship, dating from 1964-1990.

    The coursework in this series consists primarily of syllabi, annotated essays and notes from Otero's time as a graduate student in the Spanish departments at New York University and the City University of New York. The series also contains a small amount of coursework from Otero's time studying sociology and political science as an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras.

    The majority of Subseries IV.2: Teaching and Scholarship comprises photocopied essays that Otero utilized while teaching at Rutgers University, LaGuardia Community College, Lehman College, Hunter College and York College. Within this subseries, there are also syllabi, exams that Otero administered, and lectures.

  • Series V: Theatre and Performances, 1975-1982, undated

    Series VI: Theatre and Performances contains manuscripts, flyers, and posters related to Manuel Ramos Otero's theatrical works from 1978-1990. The series consists primarily of material related to Otero's experimental performance, Fuegos fúnebres, which comprises subseries V.1. Fuegos fúnebres was adapted from the first section of Otero's book of poetry, El libro de la muerte. Manuscripts for Fuegos fúnebres can be found in Series I.1. The material regarding Fuegos fúnebres in this series consists primarily of photographs and posters which directly reference the performance.

    Subseries V.2: Poetry Readings and Other Performances, mostly contains articles and flyers relating to Aspasguanza, the New York-based theatrical workshop that Otero founded in September 1971. There are also various flyers and posters for poetry and book readings that Otero participated in. Many of these book readings are sponsored by the publishing group founded by Otero in 1975, El libro viaje. The subseries also includes various manuscripts and posters for less well-known performances which Otero either directed or wrote, such as La araña, Historia del barrio, and other untitled plays. Finally, there are a small number of audiovisual recordings of Otero and friends reading poetry.

  • Series VI: Posthumous, 1990-2007

    Series VI: Posthumous contains material created after Manuel Ramos Otero's death in Puerto Rico on October 7, 1990. This includes obituaries, invitations to funeral services, funeral programs, homages and dedications for Otero. These materials date from 1990-1993. The series also includes materials related to posthumous publications of Otero's works and those by others in his literary circle, in anthologies and literary journals.

    The Pergones Theatre company in the Bronx adapted Otero's short story, "El locura de la locura" into the play "El bolero fue mi ruina," which the company staged in 1999 and 2002. Subseries VI.2 has materials related to the royalties from this play, along with flyers, reviews, and articles about the play.

    Subseries VI.3 contains correspondence belonging to Otero's sister, Carmen "Cambury" Beatriz Ramos Otero. These letters and memos primarily have to do with royalty fees from Otero's books that were published posthumously.

    Subseries VI.4 contains works published by writers in Otero's circle after 1990. These appear to have been added to the collection by Carmen Beatriz Ramos Otero or another of the writers who had access to Otero's papers after his death.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Conditions Governing Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Student records and medical records in this collection are restricted for 75 years from their respective dates of creation.

Unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Manuel Ramos Otero Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Rosario Ferré Papers at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. Otero and Ferré collaborated creatively with one another throughout their writing careers, and each wrote biographical essays about the other for various anthologies about Puerto Rican authors.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.


Clippings from widely available English language newspapers such as the New York Times were discarded. Routine financial documents, such as Otero's tax returns, retirement paperwork, bank statements, and welfare packets were also discarded. Finally, excess copies of the same pamphlets have been discarded. This is particularly true for Series VI, in which many duplicate funeral invitations and tributes to Otero were discarded.

Custodial History

During the period from Otero's death to the purchase of his papers by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Otero's papers were acquired by his sister, Carmen "Cambury" Beatriz Ramos Otero. Cambury's phone and medical bills, books, newspaper clippings, receipts and drawings that had nothing to do with Manuel Ramos Otero directly were mixed with the collection during this time period. These materials were discarded during processing.

The collection also passed through Juan Gelpí and Vanessa Droz, who were Otero's close friends and creative collaborators. Gelpí annotated much of the collection and imposed an organizational scheme, which was later dismantled when the collection passed through different people. He also inserted various articles and transcripts that had no immediate connection to Ramos Otero.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library purchased the collection from Felipe Eduardo Sanchez Ortiz in 2014.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.

Preliminary collection inventory created by Renee Pappous in September 2015. Restrictions were placed on medical and student records during collection re-boxing by Celeste Brewer in October 2016. Loose materials were placed in folders, and oversize materials were moved to flat boxes. Assessment performed September 14, 2018 by Celeste Brewer as part of Hidden Collections. Financial, medical, and student records identified by Renee Pappous were moved into a separate box.

This collection was processed by Lindsey Cienfuegos. Finding aid written by Lindsey Cienfuegos and Celeste Brewer in July-August 2019.

The Otero Papers arrived at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2014. The collection was contaminated with mold, and was cleaned by Polygon in Fall 2014. Materials stored in transfiles were rehoused in record cartons in October 2016.

The arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a clear original order. Existing folders were in poor condition, and many materials were loose. All folders were replaced during processing. Objects, published books and journals, and audiovisual materials were also physically separated from the papers in the collection and stored together for preservation reasons.

The collection's complicated provenance and lack of original order meant that it was not always possible to determine whether materials were originally owned and used by Manuel Ramos Otero, or added to the collection after his death by his family members or friends. Some items were retained in the collection despite their unclear provenance in order to document--or to avoid erasing--these individuals' secondary uses of the collection.

Revision Description

2022-02-24 Links to digitized audio added. CLB

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Audiotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Personal correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Videotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Gay men -- Poetry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gay men's writings, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Puerto Rican literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Puerto Rican poetry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ramos Otero, Manuel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Jesús Manuel "Chu" Ramos Otero was born in Manatí, Puerto Rico in 1948. In 1968, he moved to New York City to pursue his career as a writer. He is now considered one of the first openly out homosexual writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Otero's writing is often considered controversial because of its unabashedly political, feminist and homoerotic subject matter. He wrote primarily semi-autobiographical pieces that dealt with themes of exile and rejection. The feeling of being exiled was twofold for Otero, who felt exiled from Puerto Rico for having left to the United States, and rejected in the United States because his writing did not deal with issues of race and class status that had become expected of Latino writers. The practice of writing for Otero thus became closely linked to his sex life because both writing and sexual acts were victimized by migration. As a result, much of Otero's writing deconstructs traditional gender categories in order to imagine a more liberated narrative form that might then translate to everyday life.

Otero studied Spanish literature at New York University, where he received a Master of Arts degree (MA) in 1979. He went on to teach Caribbean literature at Lehman College, York College, and LaGuardia Community College while pursuing a Ph.D. in Spanish literature at the City University of New York (CUNY).

In September of 1971, Otero founded Aspasguanza, a theatrical workshop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Four years later, in 1975, Otero founded the publishing group El libro viaje, which was devoted to getting as many Puerto Rican authors published as American. During this decade, Otero traveled and collaborated creatively with his live-in partner, John Anthes, who died circa 1979. After Anthes' death, Otero began a relationship with the Puerto Rican painter Angel Rodríguez-Díaz. While little is known of John Anthes, Otero dedicated two of his works, "Ritos cancelados" and "Ceremonia de bienes y raices," to him after his death. Much of Otero's semi-autobiographical writing highlights his relationship with Anthes. Throughout his life, Otero harnessed close friendships with other influential Puerto Rican authors, and often collaborated with them. These people include Rosario Ferré, Ana Lydia Vega, and Magalí García Ramis.

In 1990, Otero returned to Puerto Rico to live out his final days. He died on October 7th of that year of complications from HIV/AIDS. His posthumously-published work, Invitación a polvo, which Otero defined as "completely untranslatable," directly addresses topics around the AIDS crisis.

In 1998, the Guadalajara International Book Fair published Tálamos y tumbas prosa y verso de Manuel Ramos Otero, which includes numerous short stories and the book of poetry, El libro de la muerte. In 1999, and again in 2002, the Pergones Theatre company in the Bronx adapted Otero's short story, "El locura de la locura" to stage the play "El bolero fue mi ruina." It was then adapted to an off-Broadway show in 2002 and staged by the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture.