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Series I: Manuscripts and Publishing, circa 1960-2002, undated
Subseries I.1: Manuscripts, 1972-1990, undated
Subseries I.2: Página en blanco y staccato, 1987, undated
Subseries I.3: El libro de la muerte, 1982-1985, undated
Subseries I.4: Invitación a polvo, 1991-1994, undated
Subseries I.5: Manuscripts and recordings by various authors, 1978-1994, undated
Subseries I.6: Publications and clippings, circa 1960-2002, undated
Series II: Correspondence and Personal Materials, circa 1969-1990, undated
Series IV: Academic Work, 1964-1990, undated
Series V: Theatre and Performances, 1975-1982, undated
Series VI: Posthumous, 1990-2007
At a Glance
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 The collection primarily consists of Otero's published and unpublished writing.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.
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.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Manuel Ramos Otero Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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
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.
2022-02-24 Links to digitized audio added. CLB
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.