Mellon and the Flamboyan Foundation’s Arts Fund Announce Letras Boricuas - A New Fellowship Aimed at Supporting Puerto Rican Writers Across Genres

Graphic that reads "Letras Boricuas 2021 Fellowship"

Newly created fellowship provides $25,000 unrestricted grant to emerging and established writers In Puerto Rico and across the US diaspora.

(SAN JUAN, PR AND NEW YORK, NY  – May 12, 2021) The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyan Foundation’s Arts Fund today announced the establishment of the Letras Boricuas Fellowship—a fellowship aimed at supporting exemplary emerging and established Puerto Rican writers of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature, both in Puerto Rico and from across the diaspora in the United States. Created to help nurture the continuation of Puerto Rico’s rich and often under-resourced literary lineage, the fellowship will provide thirty writers with an unrestricted grant of $25,000 each. The first cohort of fifteen writers will be announced in November 2021. Fellows from both cohorts will be invited to a gathering in San Juan, Puerto Rico—tentatively scheduled for Spring 2023—to meet, share their work, and discuss their process and fellowship experiences. 

Writers interested in applying can visit www.letrasboricuas.org for more information and to submit applications in Spanish or English starting today.

Home to a rich literary tradition, Puerto Rico has produced some of today’s most celebrated writers, yet there are few dedicated platforms for the elevation and amplification of Puerto Rican literary voices, including funding to support artists in the field. In addition to providing unrestricted funds to support writers, the Letras Boricuas Fellowship will identify and connect writers from diverse backgrounds and identities who embody the vastness, diversity and complexity of Puerto Rican experiences. 

“The literature of Puerto Rico—poems, memoirs, fiction, non-fiction, and creatively mixed genres—is an open window into Puerto Rico’s rich and complex cultural lineages, on the island and in diaspora” said Mellon Foundation President, Elizabeth Alexander. “Mellon’s program initiative and funding in Puerto Rico was one of my first commitments when I came to lead the Foundation, and we are now thrilled to partner with our friends at the Flamboyan Foundation to fund the Letras Boricuas Fellowship.  This project lies close to my heart and I eagerly await the coming words.”

“At Flamboyan Foundation we can’t think of a better way to honor the rich heritage and diversity of Puerto Rican literature in the archipielago and the diaspora than creating a fellowship that lets writers do what they know how to do best. Our Flamboyan Arts Fund recognizes the existing lack of support for this particular sector and the absence of funding opportunities for them in Puerto Rico and abroad,” said Carlos Rodríguez Silvestre, Executive Director of Flamboyan Foundation Puerto Rico. “This is a first of its kind fellowship on the island and we thank the Mellon Foundation for their commitment to our writers and our literary tradition.”

“Our family celebrates the partnership between the Mellon Foundation and The Flamboyan Foundation’s Arts Fund, and the establishment of the Letras Boricuas fellowship—an important means of supporting Puerto Rican artists in their journey to tell more stories," said Lin-Manuel Miranda, Award-winning composer, lyricist, and actor. "This collaboration to amplify the work and voices of these creators, both in Puerto Rico and across the U.S. diaspora, will further enrich and enhance the literary experience for all of us."

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s work in Puerto Rico is part of its ongoing commitment to broaden and deepen the range of how and where the stories of our histories and communities are told. Since 2018 the Foundation has committed more than $11 million as part of a multi-year initiative to sustain and enrich Puerto Rico’s vibrant cultural and humanities ecosystem and ensure that the arts and humanities will continue to flourish there—especially in the wake of ongoing natural disasters and economic difficulties.

For the past two years, the Flamboyan Foundation has worked through its Flamboyan Arts Fund initiative to preserve, amplify and strengthen the arts in Puerto Rico. In response to the devastating effects of hurricanes María and Irma the Fund has committed over $10 million and has provided critical support to 541 artists and 106 arts organizations including museums, theaters, arts education programs, and concert venues to maintain the integrity of their programming, increase their visibility, and sustain their impact. 

The two foundations worked together in immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide $1M in emergency relief to 89 art organizations and 450 individual artists in 2020.  The emergency relief fund was established to help alleviate the devastating impacts of the pandemic on the arts and culture sector in Puerto Rico by providing $5,000–$20,000 grants to support staff salaries, rent and other basic needs during the emergency, as well as the creation or expansion of virtual arts programming. 

To be eligible for consideration, writers must be 21 years or older at the time of application, be a current resident of Puerto Rico or the United States, and of Puerto Rican heritage. Writers must work in poetry (including spoken word), fiction, creative nonfiction (e.g. memoir, personal essays, and related forms) and/or children’s literature, and demonstrate a history of publication. Only individual writers may apply. 

Applications will be reviewed by a Letras Boricuas Fellowship Nominations Committee, and a group of semi-finalists will be presented to the fellowship’s Selections Committee for further review.  The Selection Committee will present its recommended finalists with the Flamboyan Arts Fund’s Advisory Committee for final approval before fellows are notified.  Both the Nominations and Selections Committees—groups comprising experienced writers and literary experts—will be selected by the Mellon Foundation and the Flamboyan Arts Fund. Committee members will serve anonymously, and be named when Fellowship recipients are announced.

To learn more about the Letras Boricuas Fellowship, and to submit an application, please visit: www.letrasboricuas.org. The deadline for applications is June 20.  

###

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. 

About Flamboyan Foundation
Guided by the belief that all children deserve the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, the Flamboyan Foundation works to ensure every child in the US and Puerto Rico receives an outstanding education. In D.C., Flamboyan is accelerating student learning by helping educators and school systems transform their relationships with families. In Puerto Rico, Flamboyan is ensuring students are reading in Spanish on grade level by third grade while building a thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector, which includes arts and cultural organizations. http://www.flamboyanfoundation.org

About Flamboyan Arts Fund
The Flamboyan Arts Fund is a partnership between Flamboyan Foundation, Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family, and the Broadway musical Hamilton to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island last year, many artists and arts organizations like museums, theaters, arts education programs, and music venues are at risk of cutting back services or closing. The fund supports all facets of the arts community including music, theater, visual arts, dance, literature, and youth arts education to ensure that the arts and culture continue to flourish during the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.   
 

For more information, contact

media@mellon.org