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   Jack Agüeros Papers, 1914-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1961-2012]

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Jack Agüeros papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


This collection documents the life of Jack Agüeros, a Puerto Rican-American poet, community activist, translator, playwright, educator and a former director of El Museo del Barrio.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1620
Bib ID:9462077 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Agüeros, Jack, 1934-
Title:Jack Agüeros Papers, 1914-2012 [Bulk Dates: 1961-2012]
Physical description:20 linear ft. (17 record cartons and 2 document boxes)
Language(s):English, Spanish, Japanese, and French.
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.This collection has no restrictions This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



This collection has been arranged into nine series:

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Scope and Content

The Jack Agüeros Papers span the wide breath of Agüeros's life and work. Reaching as far back as his high school yearbook this collection includes his personal and professional correspondence over fifty-one years, drafts of published and unpublished work ranging from plays and novellas to a description of Agüeros's experiences riding the New York City subway's from 1987-1989. Agüeros saved and documented his research (for poems translation work and lawsuits); he framed his hate mail and carefully stored his fan mail from students and fellow poets. The Jack Agüeros Papers include artifacts from his collection of old tools and metal findings, detailed records of his submission rejections as well as copies of his accepted works, timelines and ephemera from his many readings, slides from gallery installations at El Museo del Barrio, and many of the articles that he wrote for New York newspapers.

Series I: Personal Papers, 1947-2012

This series includes legal documents, family genealogy, appearance, work and educational chronologies, magazine subscriptions, personal photographs, papers from Hunter College, a biography by Martin Espada, and a draft of Agüeros's "Testimony on the Creative Process."

Series II: El Museo Del Barrio, 1960-2003

This series is organized into two subseries: El Museo Del Barrio and Bess Myerson.

Subseries II.1: El Museo Del Barrio--General, 1960-2003

Folders contained in this subseries are related to Jack Agüeros's work in El Museo Del Barrio and include correspondence with artists, documentation for gallery set-ups, and personal or institutional artwork purchases.

Subseries II.2: Bess Myerson, 1986-1988

The folders contained in this subseries include press clippings related to Bess Myerson, the New York Commissioner of Cultural Affairs who halted funding for El Museo Del Barrio during Jack Agüeros's time as director. The folders contained in this subseries are organized chronologically by month.

Series III: Correspondence, 1978-2006

This series is organized chronologically by date, excluding the first folder which contains correspondence between Jack Agüeros and his family members. Included in this series are letters, cards and printouts of emails.

Series IV: Writing, 1961-2009

This series is organized into eight subseries: Joaquin Ruben Agüeros Poems; Non-Fiction; Poetry; Unfinished Works, Writing Exercises and Notes; Fiction; Plays and Movies; Work for Children, and Press and Publishing Papers.

Subseries IV.1: Joaquin Ruben Agüeros Poems, 1961-1967

This subseries contains works written by Jack Agüeros under the pseudonym Joaquin Ruben Agüeros. Included are two manuscripts and undated notes. Contents are arranged chronologically as Jack Agüeros had organized them in binders.

Subseries IV.2: Non-Fiction, 1962-2004

The non-fiction subseries contains papers related to government; outreach; research photographs and articles; published anthologies; original drafts and articles; essays written for Newsday; and papers related to the 1968 hunger strike and cultural programs including Agüeros's work from his time as a National Urban Fellow. The non-fiction subseries also contains the "Subways" manuscripts with typed and handwritten notes, drafts and research related to the New York City subways system.

Subseries IV.3: Poetry, 1961-2006

The poetry subseries includes audio and audio-visual recordings of Jack Agüeros's readings and related ephemera; submission correspondence; timelines and copyrights; drafts, correspondence, and published manuscripts related to Lord, is this a Psalm? ; published copies of Correspondence Between the Stonehaulers and Daily Fare ; and original drafts of published and unpublished poems including Jack Agüeros's unpublished last manuscript 'Mouthful of Words.'

Subseries IV.4: Unfinished Works, Writing Exercises and Notes, 1997-2003

This subseries contains drawings, notepads and index cards arranged chronologically by type.

Subseries IV.5: Fiction, 1991-2003

This subseries contains short stories, novels and drafts by Jack Agüeros. Materials related to the short story collection Dominoes are also included in this series. Folders are grouped by story or manuscript title.

Subseries IV.6: Plays and Movies, 1970-2005

This subseries includes play and movie scripts, recordings, playbills, correspondence, photographs and notes. Materials in this series are grouped by title and then organized chronologically.

Subseries IV.7: Work for Children, 1974-2002

School visits that Jack Agüeros participated in are organized chronologically by site. Drafts, drawings and published copies of Jack Agüeros's children's books and children's plays are organized by project.

Subseries IV.8: Press and Publishing Papers, 1967-2009

Press reviews range from 1969-2009 and are grouped by year. The publishing papers include correspondence with colleges and festivals regarding readings and residencies..

Series V: Work by Other Writers, 1984-2005

Included in this series are manuscripts, scripts, papers and poems by writers other than Jack Agüeros. Works are organized by writer.

Series VI: Translation Work-Plays, 1987-1998

This series contains materials related to Jack Agüeros's work as a script translator. This series includes translated and un-translated scripts, press materials, playbills and audio-visual recordings. This series is organized by project.

Series VII: Julia de Burgos, Translation Work and Research, 1914-2008

This series includes working copies, notes drafts and published copies The Song of Simple Truth, a collection of Julia de Burgos's poetry translated by Agüeros. They have been organized into binders. Research materials, photographs, government files, materials requests and correspondence related to Jack Agüeros's research of Julia de Burgos's life and work, as well as a recording of one of Julia de Burgos's readings, are also included in this series.

Series VIII: José Martí, Translation Work and Research, 1996-2006

Included in this series are books, research, correspondence, translations, drafts and notes related to Jack Agüeros's translation of José Martí's complete works entitled Come, Come-My Boiling Blood: The Complete Poems of José Martí .

Series IX: Tools, 1982-2002

Materials in this series are related to Jack Agüeros's tool collection. His collection index is organized alphabetically and issues of Fine Tool Journal are organized chronologically.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.This collection has no restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

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); Jack Agüeros papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2013 Carolyn Li-Madeo, Pratt Institute, 2014

Finding aid written February 2013 Carolyn Li-Madeo

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion. June 27, 2013 Finding aid written in English. Finding aid adheres to that presribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard.
    2013-06-27 xml document instance created by Carolyn Smith
    2015-01-06 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Agüeros, Jack, 1934-2014PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American drama--Puerto Rican authors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American fiction--Puerto Rican authors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American poetry--New York (State)--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
American poetry--Puerto Rican authors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Burgos, Julia de, 1914-1953.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Children's plays, American.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Children's theater.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Japanese drama--Translations into English.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Martí, José, 1853-1895.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Myerson, Bess.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York (N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
One-act plays, American.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Poetry, Modern.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Political plays, American.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Political poetry.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Spanish American poetry--Translations into English.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Spanish poetry--Translations into English.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Subways--New York (State)--New York.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Television scripts.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Jack Agüeros (1934-2014) is a Puerto Rican-American poet, community activist, playwright, educator and a former director of El Museo del Barrio. He is the author of a collection of short stories and three collections of poetry. Jack Agüeros's work across all mediums celebrates and highlights the complexities and struggles of the Puerto Rican American experience and more broadly the American experience. His poems typically implement traditional forms such as psalms and sonnets through which he explores subjects such as poverty, injustice and immigration. A prolific translator, during his career he translated numerous plays from Spanish to English as well as the complete works of the influential poets Julia de Burgos and Jose Marti.

Agüeros was born in East Harlem, New York to recent Puerto Rican immigrants. His father Joaquin Agüeros was a merchant marine and his mother Carmen Diaz worked as a seamstress. Jack Agüeros graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1953 and then spent four years in the Air Force where he became a guided missile instructor. After leaving the Air Force, he continued his education at Brooklyn College where he graduated with a BA in English in 1964 and later pursued a MA in Urban Studies from Occidental College, graduating 1970. Agüeros was introduced to the sonnet in high school, but it was during his time at Brooklyn College that he began to receive recognition for his playwriting and poetry. In May 2012 he received The Asan World Prize for Poetry.

As a community member and activist, Jack Agüeros is celebrated for his time spent as the director of El Museo del Barrio--which collects Latin American and Caribbean art--where he helped to build the museum's permanent collection and implemented a series of gallery expansions. He was an organizer for the Henry Street Settlement, the deputy director of the Puerto Rican Community Development Project and the deputy commissioner of New York City's Community Development Agency, where in 1968 he staged a five-day hunger strike in his office to protest the lack of Puerto Ricans in New York City government. Throughout his career Agüeros was also a regular guest poet at primary and secondary schools across the United States. As dedicated father, storyteller and educator he wrote carefully crafted picture books and plays for young people that addressed complex issues such as cultural heritage and environmentalism. Agüeros is also celebrated for his broadcasting work for Sesame Street and WNBC-TV Channel 4. Agüeros's written, visual and scholastic work encourages children to be inquisitive, thoughtful and proud of their personal identities.

Jack Agüeros died in Manhattan on May 4, 2014, from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

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