The materials in the collection include early versions of his poems, plays and short stories; unfinished manuscripts; newspaper clippings documenting his political activities; documents and slides from his days as director of El Museo from 1977 to 1986; and videos of interviews and readings in the early 2000s. Other highlights include his research about Julia de Burgos, a great 20th century Puerto Rican poet whose poems were compiled and translated by Agüeros.
This collection marks the beginning of an initiative with Columbia's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race to collect papers and records of Latino artists and activists in New York. "New York has a very rich Latino cultural and political history,” says Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the center’s director and a professor of English and comparative literature. "Jack Agüeros was a pivotal figure of New York’s Puerto Rican cultural renaissance, a major movement in the city in the late 1960s and into the 1970s," she said. "To have these materials enriches our understanding of our present and our past."
"Documenting New York is one of the many things we do and documenting that which has not previously been documented is particularly important to us," says Michael Ryan, director of the RBML. "It's important that a collection like this live in the context of a premier academic institution."
The donation reflects the family's strong relationship with Columbia and their desire to make the collection available to a wide audience. Agüeros's daughter, Natalia Agüeros-Macario (GSAS'12), worked at Columbia's Center for Environment, Economy and Society for three years and in May received her master’s degree in sustainability management. His youngest son, Marcel Agüeros, is a 1996 graduate of the College, did his post-doctoral fellowship at Columbia and is now an assistant professor of astronomy.
"For my family, for my dad, the fact that we have this archive, that it's going to be at Columbia and that people will be able to use it for research and to know his work, is wonderful," says Marcel Agüeros.
"My father is a larger-than-life character," says Natalia Agüeros-Macario. “I hope this is the beginning of Columbia's chronicling of an important piece of the history of the city in which it is located."