Eric Velasquez: Discovering the connection between Pura Belpré and Arturo Schomburg

Award-winning author and illustrator Eric Velasquez recalls a conversation that led him to research the connection between Pura Belpré and her mentor, Arturo Schomburg. You can see the full interview with Eric in our Meet the Author section.


Later I found out that Arturo Schomburg was Pura Belpré’s mentor at the library, and that Pura Belpré worked at the Schomburg library under Arturo. And that I found out because at one of my book signings, an elderly woman showed up and she had known Pura Belpré and told me quite a bit about her, and then told me her impressions of Arturo Schomburg. And then this was at the time where I was still working on the project, so it's kind of in the research stage. So I guess it's that part where, “What are you working on now?” And I said, “I'm putting together a book on our Arturo Schomburg with Carol Boston Weatherford,” and that's like, “Wait, I know something that might be helpful to you.” And she said how the stuff that you might not find on it in any of the reading material, that he was a man that didn't laugh much, that he was very serious and very dedicated.

So it was just fascinating that both Pura Belpré and Arturo Schomburg actually knew each other, worked together for a time, and then she becomes the first Latina librarian in the United States and in a very different manner than Arturo. She, she liked the puppets and she was more theatrical, but one, it's also this giant in terms of being a librarian and service to the community.