“Y fui toda en mí como fue en mí la vida…” (“And I was all in me as was life in me…”). This striking line from Julia de Burgos’s poem “I Was My Own Route” epitomizes her impactful writing and her unique journey through life. She rose from nowhere and achieved great success in her writing and social reforms. She also inspired people through her poetry and showed her audiences that it does not matter where you come from, what matters is your drive to accomplish goals. Burgos also showed how important it is to never forget where you came from and to make some type of positive impact on your community.

Julia de Burgos was born on February 17, 1914 in the small town of Carolina, Puerto Rico. She was the eldest of thirteen children, but she endured so much struggle early in her life. Her family lived through poverty and she witnessed the death of six siblings because of malnutrition. Nevertheless, Burgos grew strong from these difficult times; she graduated from high school and attended the University of Puerto Rico where she earned a teaching certification. Later, Burgos served in the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration where she helped distribute food and drink to starving children, a struggle she was all too familiar with, and something she sought to change in other lives. (Rosario- Becoming Julia de Burgos)

After this time, Burgos worked as a teacher- one of the few professions that a woman could- in the rural town of Barrio Cerro Arriba in Naranjito, a region that was south of San Juan. While working as a teacher, she began her first collection of poems like Poemas exactos a mí misma (Poems to Myself) and “Yo quiero darme a ti” (I Want to Give Myself to You”), which was her first published poem and edited by the cofounder of a Puerto Rican poetic movement- Miranda Archilla. Burgos also wrote “Río Grande de Loíza which became one of her most well-known works and included in her first published collection. She started to become more well-known and met several notable writers of the time like Luis Palés Matos (created the poetic genre of Afro-Antillano), Evaristo Ribera Chevremont (Puerto Rican nationalist poet), and Francisco Matos Paoli (Puerto Rican poet who was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature). These great poets served as inspirations for what Burgos wanted to do next in her life. (Rosario- Becoming Julia de Burgos)

After working a short time as a teacher, Burgos moved to Old San Juan, where she published her work in local newspapers and magazines. She also published her poems, such as “Es nuestra la hora” (Ours is the Hour), in which Burgos cried for Puerto Rican independence. Thus, with her poetry, Burgos joined the national causes of the country and became a very powerful voice. She attended rallies and many Puerto Ricans remember her poetry as a source of motivation and bravery. Burgos was making a lot of impact in her home country, but she sought an even greater challenge of affecting the culture of New York City. (Rosario- Becoming Julia de Burgos)

When Burgos arrived in New York City, she began publishing her works for the Pueblos Hispanos. During that time, Hispanic newspapers played an important role in the development of the Puerto Rican community in New York. These newspapers allowed newcomers from Latin America to read stories back home or read something in Spanish in order to have a feeling that New York City “felt like home.” Thus, Burgos’s writings for the paper helped Puerto Ricans feel comfortable and easily assimilate into the culture of New York City, yet have some attachment to their roots. Moreover, Burgos helped organize the Puerto Rican community around political causes and equal treatment by the local government in New York City. She defended her native community and called for growth Latin institutions that helped Latin American immigrants to settle in this foreign country. She also sought to keep the Spanish-speaking community in New York tied to Latin America by publishing news occurring in their home countries. Her essays also advocated integration of Latin American descent, Caribbean people, and African-Americans living in New Yew City. Furthermore, she wanted to all cultures to become a part of New York City’s culture, but still retain their genuine identity. (Rosario- “Julia de Burgos’ Writing for Pueblos Hispanos: Journalism as Puerto Rican Cultural and Political Transnational Practice”)

Not only did Burgos serve as a voice for the immigrant community in New York City, but also for the country’s independence. In her essays and poems, she criticized the United States for failing to live up to its democratic ideals. Furthermore, she did not like the fact that the U.S. did not allow Puerto Rico to be free. Burgos had such a strong influence on her fellow Pueblos Hispanos writers and native Puerto Ricans in New York and back home. Many viewed her as a woman of great intelligence, bravery, and a rebellious spirit. Being a woman and immigrant, she was already doing unprecedented things by serving as a role model for other women and a powerful voice for her country. Through her poems and essays, Burgos shared her thoughts on social ills, justice, love for Puerto Rico and its political independence, social reforms, and better living conditions for Puerto Rican immigrants. Her essays and published works became well-known throughout the Puerto Rican community of New York City, but Burgos is even more known for her poetry. (Votaw- “Julia de Burgos”)

Her first published poem appeared in 1937 as a private edition- Poemas Exactos A Mi Misma (Exact Poems to Myself). The following year she published Poema en Veinte Surcos (Poem in Twenty Furrows), and in 1939, she published Canción de la Verdad Sencilla (Song of the Simple Truth), a poem that celebrated love and even won an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. As a poet, de Burgos deserved to be ranked with such major contemporary poets as the Uruguayan Juana de Ibarburu (popular poet of Spanish America). Her works were strongly influenced by Luis Llorens Torres, perhaps the most famous Puerto Rican poet. Yet, her poetry carried a style that she alone can convey. Her poems featured symbolic and powerful lyrics that either showed vulnerability or determination. She also used poetry to question the limitations placed on women by a society that was meant to give equal opportunity to everyone. Burgos believed poetry allowed one to discover their true selves and proclaim their views on life. Not only that, she believed poetry can be used as a “weapon against the dead forms of the past, a weapon of revolution.” Moreover, Burgos used poetry to call for social changes that benefitted immigrants, women, and those less fortunate. (Rosario- Becoming Julia De Burgos)

De Burgos was an active social reformer and advocate of Latin American culture in New York. However, in her later years, she became very ill and unfortunately died tragically in East Harlem El Barrio home. She was buried in the home country of Puerto Rico near the Río Grande de Loíza. But her impact was felt greatly in her home and in New York.

Throughout Puerto Rico and New York, there are many paintings, statues, and murals dedicated to Julia de Burgos and her influence Puerto Rico and Latin American culture in New York. Many Puerto Ricans hold processions in front of her murals in honor of her life and contributions to social reform. Near her old home in East Harlem, there is a boulevard named after her which shows how strong of an impact she had on that community. There are Julia de Burgos cultural centers that promote Puerto Rican and Latin American culture by holding festivals and parades as well teaching Latino art and culture. There is even one here in New York City, located on Lexington Ave., that seeks to “promote and enhance the quality of life in East Harlem.” So today, Latino Americans are inspired by Burgos to have a positive impact on their communities. (jdbpacnyc.org)

Ultimately, after researching the life and contributions of Julia de Burgos, it really makes me appreciate what she did. She overcame obstacles like poverty, losing loved ones, fears of an unknown country, and restrictions placed on women. Nevertheless, this did not stop her from pursuing her dreams while also retaining her roots and a sense of where she came from. Not only did she succeed in Puerto Rico and New York, but Burgos also sought to help her native people by writing numerous essays and poems that fought for Puerto Rican independence. Burgos’ social reforms was exceptional and her rebellious spirit show how she wore her heart upon her sleeve. Her life was an inspiration and example not only Latin American people, but for all. No matter what circumstance you are in, you can rise above it and make something out of nothing. And people should never forget where they came from. Having a strong impact on your community speaks volumes as to what type of a person you are. Success is not always about your own accomplishments, but how one uses their success to help and inspire the less fortunate.


Rosario, Vanessa Pérez. Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon.

University of Illinois Press, 2014.

Rosario, Vanessa Pérez. “Julia de Burgos’ Writing for Pueblos Hispanos: Journalism as

Puerto Rican Cultural and Political Transnational Practice.” Centro Journal. Volume XXV, Number II, Fall 2013, p4-27. PDF.

Votaw, Carmen Delgado. “BURGOS, Julia de.” Notable American Women, The Modern Period:

A Biographical Dictionary (Vo. 4); 1980, p122-124, 3p. Article from CSI library.

Julia de Burgos Performance & Arts Center (JdBPAC). www.jdbpacnyc.org/

Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center: Established in 1989.


Burgos, Julia de. “Yo Misma Fui Mi Ruta” (“I Was My Own Route”). Exhibit in Leeway

Foundation. www.leeway.org/images/blog/Yo_Misma_Guide.pdf

Authors of Poetry Foundation. “Julia de Burgos.” Poetry Foundation.