Guide to the Emelí Vélez de Vando Papers
(Bulk 1940s-1970s)

Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628

© Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY. All rights reserved.
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY: Publisher

Processed by Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González, Myrna Tinoco and Noelia Urbano, March 2003.

Machine-readable finding aid derived from a MS Word document dated: 2005. Machine-readable finding aid created by Brian Stevens. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Vélez de Vando, Emelí , 1917-1999.
Title: Emelí Vélez de Vando Papers
Dates: 1919-1999, (Bulk 1940s-1970s)
Abstract: Political activist and community leader. Collection documents the history of the independence movement, especially the history of the Nationalist Party, the Partido Independentista de Puerto Rico and the Movimiento Pro Independencia. Provides insight on the role of women in the independence movement and women activists. Contains significant information about political repression and the persecution of political activists in Puerto Rico. Consists of letters, articles, photographs, police reports, audiotapes, programs and flyers.
Quantity: 5.44 cubic feet (12 boxes)
Call Phrase: 1998_06

Historical/Biographical Note

Emelí Vélez de Vando was one of the pioneers of the colonia puertorriqueña in New York. Not long after her arrival in the early 1930s from Puerto Rico, she immersed herself in the cultural and political activities of the Puerto Rican community, supporting early efforts to build organizations. Vélez took part in theatrical productions and acted in some of the first Puerto Rican plays to be presented in New York. However, she is mostly recognized for her extraordinary dedication to the cause of Puerto Rican independence, her organizational skills, and her talent for public speaking. Upon her return to Puerto Rico in the late1940s, she joined the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño and in 1960 was the Party's candidate for Mayor of San Juan. Vélez remained active in the independence movement until the end of her life, tireless in her efforts to transform Puerto Rico into a Republic.

Emelí Vélez Soto was born in the Canas barrio of Ponce on January 2, 1917 and was one of the nine children of José Dolores Vélez and Beatriz Soto Medina. She moved frequently, making it hard for her to get a formal education. Her early schooling took place in her hometown school. She then lived with her sister Genoveva in Santurce where she completed the eighth grade. Later, Veléz moved to the home of her older sister Otilia in Arecibo and was briefly employed by the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration.

At the age of seventeen, faced with economic hardships, Emelí Veléz decided to leave Puerto Rico in search of better opportunities. In 1934 she traveled on the S.S. San Jacinto to New York where she intended to live with her brother José. Once in New York she moved in with her sister Adela in Brooklyn instead. Velez' first job in the city was at the Pilsen Brothers Curtain Factory located on 23rd St. and Madison Avenue in Manhattan where she earned ten dollars per week.

On March 21, 1937 unarmed members of the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico were fired upon by the insular police as they attempted to carry out a peaceful march. Twenty people were killed and more than one hundred were wounded in what came to be known as the Ponce Massacre. When the news reached New York, Emelí Vélez was deeply saddened and worried about her younger brother Fernando, who was a member of the Nationalist Party and believed to be among the marchers. As it turned out, he was unharmed, but she was suddenly made conscious of Puerto Rico's political reality and shortly thereafter joined La Junta Nacionalista de Nueva York, an organization linked to the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. From then on she became committed to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence devoting a good deal of her time to the activities organized by the Nationalists. As she ventured out, she gained a reputation as a good public speaker and "declamadora" and was called upon to be the master of ceremony for events, often opening for the main speakers. The young Vélez honed her skills amidst a group of freedom fighters and leaders from Puerto Rico and Latin America who worked together in New York.

Emelí Vélez's enthusiasm for her new found cause created tensions within her family in Manhattan and they presented her with an ultimatum. In order to stay with them, she would have to give up her political work. She chose her political activities and the adventure of being on her own. With just small change in her pocket, Vélez decided to leave her brother's home. Although still quite young, she became part of a circle of women experienced in political organizing who formed a women's group called "El Comité Femenino del Partido Nacionalista" (Women's Committee of the Nationalist Party).

Some of the women who became Vélez' friends and mentors were closely connected to the Nationalist Party leadership. Among them was Lolín Quintana who took Vélez in, and was a goddaughter of Nationalist Party President, Pedro Albizu Campos; Rosa Collazo, wife of nationalist militant, Oscar Collazo; Consuelo Lee, wife of renowned poet and revolutionary leader, Juan Antonio Corretjer; Juanita Arocho, community activist and organizer; Laura Meneses, wife of Pedro Albizu Campos; and Julia de Burgos, considered one of the greatest poets of Puerto Rico and Latin America. Apart from these extraordinary women, some of the men she met who influenced her political thinking were the Cuban journalist and scholar, Juan Marinello, the fiery Puerto Rican nationalist leaders, Pedro Albizu Campos and Juan Antonio Corretjer, and Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, who was to become a founder and President of the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño.

It was through the activities of the Junta Nacionalista that she met her husband, Erasmo Vando. He was an activist, an actor and a playwright who became captivated with her beauty and invited her to join his acting troupe. Vando was in fact the first to present Puerto Rican theater in New York. The productions, which included some of his own plays and those of writers like Gonzalo O'Neill, were usually fundraisers for political events. Emelí Vélez became one of Vando's favorite actresses and soon his wife. They were married on June 11, 1942 and from then on pursued their numerous political and artistic interests together. For example, they helped create La Asociación de Escritores y Periodistas (Association of Writers and Journalists) and the Asociación Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico en la Ciudad de Nueva York (The Pro Independence Association for Puerto Rico in New York City). Together they also participated in the political campaigns of Vito Marcantonio in East Harlem.

In the midst of WWII, in 1944, Vélez de Vando left New York with her two young children, Bertha Borinquen and Gabriel, to visit her ailing parents in Puerto Rico. In 1945, ErasmoVando joined her there. However, she had to return to New York for medical reasons, but was back in Puerto Rico by 1948. In 1949, she had her third child, Emelí Luz. Vélez was briefly employed as a host for a radio program on station WPRP in Ponce, but she resumed her political work and, with her husband, participated in the founding of the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP). Distinguishing herself as a leader of the PIP for more than twelve years, she became the Party's candidate for Mayor of San Juan in 1960.

Years later disenchanted with the PIP, Vélez played a role in the founding of the Movimiento Pro Independencia (MPI) where she served as the Secretary of Acción Femenina, the women's division of the organization. She was also the coordinator of public events for the MPI and organized major activities such as the celebration of Pedro Albizu Campos' 75th birthday, as well as demonstrations against the Vietnam War. The MPI became the Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño in 1971 and Emelí and Erasmo Vando continued as active members. Their home in Santurce, Puerto Rico served as a central meeting place for many of the Party's members including its leader, Juan Mari Brás. Additionally, Emelí Vélez de Vando represented her political organizations and the case for Puerto Rico's independence in international forums such as at the United Nations Decolonization Committee. In the 1970s, she organized tours to the Soviet Union and Cuba.

She died in Puerto Rico on November 10, 1999. Her collection is an excellent resource for Puerto Rican political history and the development of the Puerto Rican community in New York. Above all, it has a strong focus on women leaders in political movements. The Erasmo Vando, Juanita Arocho and Jesús Colón Papers in the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora are complementary collections.

Scope and Content Note

This collection is valuable for examining the history of the independence movement, especially the history of the Nationalist Party, the Partido Independentista de Puerto Rico and Movimiento Pro Independencia. It is of particular importance for the insight it offers on the role of women in the independence movement and of women activists. The collection also contains significant information about political repression and the persecution of political activists in Puerto Rico. Like many other pro-independence sympathizers Emelí Vélez de Vando was subjected to years of police surveillance. Among her papers is a voluminous carpeta, the secret file on her compiled by the Police of Puerto Rico. In it are detailed accounts of all her activities including her speeches at different forums and demonstrations.

The collection consists primarily of letters, articles, photographs, police reports, audiotapes, programs, and flyers. The folders are arranged alphabetically and the documents in chronological order.


The folders are arranged alphabetically and the documents in chronological order.
The collection is divided into 9 series:
I. Biographical and Personal Information
II. Carpetas
III. Correspondence
IV. Writings
V. Organizations
VI. Subject Files
VII. Clippings
VIII. Photographs
IX. Audiovisual Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628

Access Points

Subject Names:
Albizu Campos, Pedro 1891-1965.
Arocho, Juanita, 1910-1998.
Burgos, Julia de, 1917-1953.
Collazo, Oscar 1914-1994.
Collazo, Rosa.
Corretjer, Juan Antonio, 1908-1985.
Lee, Consuelo.
Marcantonio, Vito, 1902-1954.
Marinello, Juan, 1898-1977.
Meneses de Albizu Campos, Laura, 1894-1973.
Quintana, Lolin, 1912-1968.
Vando, Erasmo, 1896-1988.
Vega, Bernardo, 1885-
Mari Brás, Juan, 1926-
Subject Organizations:
Asociacion de Escritores y Periodistas.
Asociacion Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico en la Ciudad de Nueva York.
Junta Nacionalista.
Movimiento Pro Independencia.
Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño.
Partido Nacionalista (Puerto Rico)
Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño.
Puerto Rico Independence Party.
Comité Femenino del Partido Nacionalista.
Subject Topics:
Nationalism -- Puerto Rico.
Police patrol -- Surveillance operations.
Political persecution -- Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican -- Politics and government.
Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York.
Women political activists -- Puerto Rico.
Women political activists -- United States.
Puerto Ricans in New York (City)
Subject Places:
Puerto Rico -- Politics and government -- 1952-
Document Types:

Administrative Information


Gift of Emelí Vélez de Vando

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); The Emelí Vélez de Vando Papers; 1998_06; box number; folder number;
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Archives, Hunter College, CUNY

Processing Information

Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Other Finding Aid

Guide to the Emelí Vélez de Vando papers available in Spanish: Spanish Version

Container List

[The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.]


Series I: Biographical and Personal Information (1934-1996)

Scope and Content:

This series contains personal documents, biography, certificates, financial records and two autograph books. There are some materials about her mayoral campaign in 1960.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Art work undated
1 2 Autograph Books 1934-1947
1 3 Biographical Information undated
1 4 Business Cards undated
1 5 Candidacy for San Juan Mayoral Office undated
1 6 Certificates 1956
1 7 Credentials and Memberships undated, 1960-1961
1 8 Ephemera undated, 1947-1974
1 9 Financial Statements undated, 1941-1988
1 10 Health Related Information 1967-1969
1 11 Identifications undated, 1937-1973
1 12 Marriage License- Vando, Erasmo 1941
1 13 Stationary undated
1 14 Tributes to Emelí Vélez de Vando 1996
1 15 Vando, Emelí Luz - Daughter 1949-1992
1 16 Vando, Gabriel - Son undated, 1942-1951
Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_I 1 Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño/Para Alcaldesa de San Juan undated

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Series II: Carpetas (1948-1992)

Scope and Content:

The carpetas are secret files compiled by the Intelligence Division of the Police Department of Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Special Investigations of the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico. All those considered subversives were subject to this type of persecution. Included were prominent leaders of the independence movement, socialists, communists, and others expressing dissent with the government of the U.S. or Puerto Rico and their policies. This series contains five large volumes of surveillance records that provide a detailed accounting of Emelí Vélez‘s activities and her whereabouts for more than four decades. Included is information about meetings she attended, and organizations and individuals she worked with. There are copies of her speeches, surveillance reports, clippings, and numerous other items. The carpetas are evidence of the repressive tactics used by the Puerto Rican government against its citizens and document the flagrant violation of their civil rights.

Box Folder Title Date
1 17 General undated, 1962-1992
1 18 Volumen #1 /000001-000130 Jun 1962-Aug 1961
1 19 Volumen #1 /000131-000289 Jul 1961-Jan 1948
1 20 Volumen #2 /000290-000536 Jul 1962-Dec 1963
Box Folder Title Date
2 1 Volumen #3 /000537-000722 Sep 1965-Jan 1964
2 2 Volumen #4 /000723-000889 Nov 1979Dec 1971
2 3 Volumen #4 /000890-000964 Oct 1971-Jan 1969
2 4 Volumen #5 /000965-001129, Nov 1968-Feb 1967
2 5 Volumen #5 /001130-001274 Feb 1967-Sep 1965

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Series III: Correspondence (1919-1999)

Scope and Content:

The correspondence is divided into incoming and outgoing, greeting cards, invitations and telegrams. The bulk of the correspondence is from 1950-1970 during the period that Emelí Vélez de Vando was a member of the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño. Notable correspondents include Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, Juan Mari Brás, J. Antonio Alvarado, José Emilio González and Bernardo Vega. Additionally, there are a series of letters between her and husband Erasmo Vando which provide some insight into their relationship and their experiences in New York and Puerto Rico.

Box Folder Title Date
3 1 Greeting Cards undated, 1937-1999
3 2-6 Incoming 1919-1999
3 7 Invitations undated, 1938-1994
3 8 Memoranda-Incoming 1956-1961
Box Folder Title Date
4 1-2 Outgoing undated, 1938-1992
4 3 Telegrams-Incoming undated, 1946-1982
4 4 Telegrams-Outgoing 1938-1950

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Series IV: Writings (1920-1995)

Scope and Content:

This series contains notes and manuscripts. There are poems written by Vélez de Vando such as “Es Navidad” (December1993) and “A Gilbertito” (1994), a poem dedicated to salsa singer, Gilberto Santa Rosa. Radio scripts from her program “Melodias españolas” broadcast on WPRP from 1951 are also included. Several plays, probably written by Erasmo Vando, are also in this series. They are: Drama del cañaveral, Drama de dos enamorados and Luto en el bohío. These plays were performed during benefits for the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño.

Box Folder Title Date
4 5 Drama de Dos Enamorados undated
4 6 Drama del Cañaveral undated
4 7 El Entierro del Nene undated
4 8 Luto en el Bohío undated
4 9 Notepad undated
4 10-11 Notes undated, 1933-1999
4 12 Poems undated, 1963-1995
Box Folder Title Date
5 1 Radio Scripts undated, 1951
5 2 Statements and Speeches undated, 1952-1960
5 3 Various Authors undated, 1920-1965

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Series V: Organizations (1930-1987)

Scope and Content:

Emelí Vélez de Vando participated in numerous organizations in Puerto Rico and New York. She was a dedicated, hard-working member of political organizations such as the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, the Movimiento Pro Independencia and Las Damas Independentistas. She was also active in several organizations dedicated to health issues such as the Asociación Puertorriqueña Para Combatir las Enfermedades del Corazón and the Club Corazones, which she founded.

Box Folder Title Date
5 4 Alma Hispana Club 1945
5 5 Anti Colonialist Committee undated
5 6 Asociación Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico undated, 1942
5 7 Asociación Puertorriqueña Para Combatir las Enfermedades del Corazón 1958
5 8 Club Corazones undated, 1957-1962
5 9 Club de Español las Nereidas undated, 1966
5 10 Comité Alvelo Pro Defensa de la Juventud Puertorriqueña undated, 1963-1969
5 11 Comité de Mujeres por la Libertad de Blanca Canales undated, 1966
5 12 Comité Puerto Rico en la ONU (PRONU) 1987
5 13 Damas Independentistas undated, 1948-1962
5 14 Federación de las Mujeres Cubanas 1986
5 15 Federación Universitarios Pro Independencia (F.U.P.I.) undated, 1960-1964
5 16 Fundación Carmen Rivera Alvarado y J. Antonio Alvarado undated, 1978
5 17 Juventud Comunista undated, 1970-1979
5 18 La Casa de la Amistad undated, 1971-1973
5 19-20 Movimiento Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico undated, 1959-1970
Box Folder Title Date
6 1 Movimiento Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico-Secretaría de Acción Femenina undated, 1946-1967
6 2 Partido Acción Cristiana undated
6 3 Partido Comunista Puertorriqueño undated
6 4 Partido Estadista Puertorriqueño undated
6 5-8 Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño undated, 1937-1975
6 9 Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico undated, 1930-1983
6 10 Partido Popular Democrático 1945
6 11 Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño undated
6 12 Partido Unión Republicana Progresista undated
6 13 Prensa Latina 1961
6 14 Sindicato Obrero Insular undated
Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_V 1 Congreso Puertorriqueño Anticolonialista - Poster 1963
Oversize_V 2 Movimiento Pro Independencia de Puerto Rico - Posters undated, 1963-1969
Oversize_V 3 Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño - Posters 1956
Oversize_V 4 Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico - Poster 1969

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Series VI: Subject Files (1924-1996)

Scope and Content:

Most of the materials in this series concern pro-independence movements, political figures, and civil rights. For example, there is information on Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos and political prisoners such as Oscar Collazo and Lolita Lebrón. There are also some documents concerning Vélez de Vando’s tours to Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Box Folder Title Date
7 1 Albizu Campos, Pedro undated, 1961-1996
7 2 Almanaques Puertorriqueños undated, 1965-1970
7 3 Ayala, María Eugenia-Pro Independence Follower undated
7 4 The Back Porch undated
7 5 Benítez, Rexach F. - Talk at the University of Puerto Rico 1943
7 6 Bracetti, Mariana undated
7 7 Canales, Blanca-Political Prisoner undated
7 8 Collazo López, Oscar 1994
7 9 Colón, Jesús undated
7 10 Comité de Derechos Civiles 1958
7 11 Comité Pro Defensa Hudo Ricci undated, 1972
7 12 Concepción de Gracia, Gilberto 1968
7 13 Conmemorando el Natalicio de los Próceres Nacionales undated
7 14 Corretjer, Juan Antonio 1970
7 15 Creative Writing undated, 1966
7 16 De Burgos, Julia undated
7 17 De Diego, José 1955
7 18 Elections undated, 1964
7 19 Espionage Reports 1970
7 20 Event Programs and Flyers undated, 1924-1985
7 21 Event Tickets undated, 1938-1968
7 22 Fernández Vega, Manuel-Pro Independence Activist undated
7 23 Festival de Navidad-Notebook 1967
7 24 The Governor Goes Professor: Glaring Story of Rexford Guy Tugwell Puerto Rico's Reign of Expert Experimentation 1946
7 25 Grito de Lares 1968
7 26 Homenaje a la Memoria de Don Antonio R. Barceló undated
Box Folder Title Date
8 1 Junta Estatal de Elecciones 1952-1956
8 2 Labor Movement undated, 1963
8 3 Lebrón, Lolita undated, 1972
8 4 Mailing Lists and Directories undated, 1973
8 5 Muñoz Marín, Luis 1945
8 6 Nana's Baby Ballet 1957
8 7 Newsletters undated, 1950
8 8 No más puertorriqueños en Vietnam undated
8 9 Pérez Bautista, Juan 1983
8 10 Picotazos - L.A. Cacho undated
8 11 Poems undated, 1952-1961
8 12 Political Writings undated, 1960-1968
8 13 Puerto Rican Migrants in New York 1948
8 14 Rivera de Alvarado, Carmen 1983
8 15 Rivera de Rios, Trina 1994
8 16 Segunda Declaración de Lares undated
8 17 A la sombra de Broadway-Problemas puertorriqueños undated
8 18 Travel from Puerto Rico to Cuba and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) undated, 1973-1974
8 19 Trip to Moscow undated, 1946-1971
8 20 Under the Trees 1986-1987
8 21 United Nations 1967
8 22 Vega, Bernardo undated
8 23 Vélez Mercado, José D. -Memorial Service 1947
8 24 Voter Registration Forms 1956-1960
Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_VI 1 Cox, Mario- Poesía Negroide undated
Oversize_VI 2 Guajana - Gráfica y Poesía 1979
Oversize_VI 3 Papeleta electoral - Modelo 1960
Oversize_VI 4 Personas que recibieron el mayor número de votos para los cuales figuraron como candidatos… 1940

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Series VII: Clippings (1929-1994)

Scope and Content:

The clippings deal for the most part with events in which Vélez participated and the independence movement.

Box Folder Title Date
8 25 De Vando, Emelí Vélez undated, 1960-1981
8 26-27 General undated, 1929-1994
8 28 Vando, Erasmo 1985-1993

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Series VIII: Photographs (1934-1999)

Scope and Content:

The photographs document Vélez’s public and private life. There are some images related to Erasmo Vando’s death and tributes to him, as well as some photos of friends and family members such as Juanita Arocho and Homero Rosado.

Box Folder Title Date
9 1 Cena en honor al Licenciado Jorge Luna Yépez undated
9 2 Centenario y presentación 1996
9 3 Club Corazones undated, 1959-1960
9 4 Despedida de duelo 1988
9 5 Funeral 1999
9 6 Homenaje a Don Erasmo Vando 1985-1986
9 7 Movimiento Pro Independencia undated
9 8 Negatives - Club Corazones undated
9 9 Negatives - General undated
9 10 Negatives - Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño undated
9 11 Negatives - Vando Family undated
9 12-13 Personal undated
Box Folder Title Date
10 1-5 Personal undated, 1934-1991
10 6 Primera Excusión a la Unión Soviética undated, 1969-1970
10 7 Rosado, Homero, Arocho, Juanita and unidentified family and friends undated, 1964-1970
Box Folder Title Date
11 1 Rosario cantado - Novenario 1999
11 2 Slides undated
11 3 Under the Trees Restaurant and Unidentified Chile undated
11 4 Vando, Erasmo - Exequias de su funeral 1988
11 5 Visita de José Oropeza - Diputado venezolano undated

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Series IX: Audiovisual Materials (1996-1999)

Scope and Content:

This series contains a videotaped interview with Emelí Vélez de Vando from 1996 and two audiocassettes of her memorial service in 1999. The videotape is a lively account of some of the highlights of her life, particularly in New York.

Box Folder Title Date
12 1 Entrevista: Emelí Vélez de Vando - Video 1996
12 2-3 Memorial Services: Emelí Vélez de Vando - 2 cassette tapes 1999

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