I am an anthropologist, educator, activist, songwriter and, above all else, a storyteller. I create, celebrate and share stories inspired by people and experiences I find interesting and magical. My stories about Afro-Caribbean and Latinx culture and everyday experiences invite children, and adults, to join in on adventures. They entertain, inspire an interest in reading and cultivate a desire to listen to our songs, recite our poems and learn about our histories. By weaving elements of music, poetry and movement into my picture books storytelling becomes a ‘happening’ and everyone can, and does, participate: We celebrate the story, storytelling, and ourselves.
My bilingual (English and Spanish) book, Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural (Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, 2015) inspired by the community mural, El Pueblo Cantor (South Bronx, 1983), explores the carnival trickster figure of the vejigante and Puerto Rican diasporic identity. Sofi enters into a mural, joins in on a carnival celebration and turns into a winged vejigante. And, vejigante-Sofi can, and does soar.
This first book also gave me wings. Flying all over Brooklyn, I turned children into little vejigantes, shared with them my culture and music, and let them know that they too have wings – that can take them ANYWHERE. Sofi received an ILBA Best Educational Children’s Picture Book award and I was recognized by the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and the NY League of Puerto Rican Women for promoting bilingual literature in NYC public schools. In 2018, I was invited to present my work at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Conference (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). In 2019, the Cleveland Public Library sponsored a bilingual puppet adaptation of Sofi and in 2020 I received a grant from the Cleveland Foundation to produce and record Sofi’s Magical Adventure.
Sofi Paints her Dreams (APP, 2019) celebrates Dominican merengue music, Haitian metal art, and the power of creativity. When Julia Danced bomba (APP, 2019) a Junior Library Guild Golden Selection, explores the Afro Puerto Rican music and dance of bomba that is a call to action: for us to organize, to unite, and to celebrate. Vicki and a Summer of Change! (Red Sugarcane Press, 2020) tells the tale of the 1969 Young Lords Garbage Offensive and how, together, people make change happen.
Children are the protagonist in my bilingual, bicultural stories so that they see and celebrate their creativity, bravery and valor while helping them, and adults, understand and internalize that children are never too young to make a difference, to dream, to fly and have a voice.
My books allow me to share culture, affirm Latinx pride and self-love. And, to share with my community, and others beautiful, colorful complex Latinx children in all their glory
MOSAIC 5 Star Multicultural Book Recognition – Lincoln Public Schools Library Services, September 2020
National Library Guild Golden Selection, September 2019
Special Recognition, Hispanic Heritage Month – City of Cleveland, October 2018
Second Place, Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – International Latino Book Awards, September 2016
Honorable Mention, Best Latino Focused Children’s Bilingual Picture Book– International Latino Book Awards, September 2016
Special Recognition Award – New York League of Puerto Rican Women, June 2016
Educational Leadership Award – National Puerto Rican Day Parade, May 2016
Tejas Star Reading List – February 2016
Raquel M. Ortiz is an anthropologist, educator, songwriter, storyteller, and children’s book author. She has a MA in Puerto Rican Studies from El Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe (Puerto Rico) and a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Salamanca (Spain). She has worked as a Museum Educator at The Brooklyn Museum and El Museo del Barrio and as an editor and writer for Santillana, creating textbooks and educational material for children in Puerto Rico and the U.S.A. Currently, Dr. Ortiz creates curriculum and educational materials (K-16) for the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program for the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College). She also conducts author visits, writing workshops, professional development training and family literacy programs for the NYC Department of Education, NYC’s United Federation of Teachers Union, Behind the Book, Brooklyn Public Library, Cleveland Public Library, Literacy INC, Arte Público Press and the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN).
Dr. Ortiz is the author of El Arte de la Identidad: Aproximación crítica al jibarismo puertorriqueño en la literatura, la música y las obras de arte (University of Granada, 2011) and directed the documentary, Memories on the Wall: Education and Enrichment through Community Murals (2013). Her first picture book, Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural / Sofi y el mágico mural musical (Arte Público Press, 2015), was named to the 2016 Tejas Star Reading List. She is the author/illustrator of Planting Flags on Division Street (Colores Editorial House, 2016), and author of Sofi Paints her dreams / Sofi Pinta sus Suenos (Arte Público Press, 2019) and When Julia Danced Bomba / Cuando Julia Bailaba Bomba (Arte Público Press, 2019), a Junior Library Guild Golden Selection. Vicki & a Summer of Change / Vicki y un verano de cambio (Red Sugarcane Press, 2020). Broken Butterfly Wings / Alitas Rotas will be published by Arte Público Press in October, 2021.
I work with schools, libraries and cultural centers and offer the following workshops:
Family Literacy Workshops (60- 90 mins each)
- Bring Bilingual Books to Life
- Creating Our Stories
- Stories that Show Us the World
- Music, Movement and Celebrating Our Stories
- Making Change Happen
Parents/Caregivers Workshops (60- 90 mins each)
- Cooking Up Good Readers
- Books and Breakfast
- Building Home Routines
- Diversity Through Literacy
- Daddy and Me
Residencies (6 visits, 40-50 mins each)
- Reader’s Theater: Bring a Book to Life
- Puppet Production: A Magic Adventure
- Book-Making Project: Celebrating OUR Stories
Professional Development Workshops (60-90 mins each)
- Power of Our Stories I
- Power of Our Stories II
- Bringing Books to Life: Connecting Literature to Our Communities
- Basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy I
- Basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy II
- Speak at Universities, Elementary Schools, Libraries, and Conferences
- Speak and Critique at Education Conferences, Writing Conferences, and Book Festivals
Workshops are offered in English, Spanish, or both.
Materials are included. Discounts for two or more workshops
CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO AN INTERVIEW WITH RAQUEL M. ORTIZ ABOUT HER BILINGUAL CHILDREN’S BOOK, SOFI AND THE MAGIC, MUSICAL MURAL / SOFI Y EL MÁGICO MURAL MUSICAL.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO AN INTERVIEW WITH RAQUEL M. ORTIZ ABOUT HER TWO RECENT BILINGUAL PICTURE BOOKS, SOFI PAINTS HER DREAMS AND WHEN JULIA DANCED BOMBA.
February 2020, NPR Arte Público Press Author Interview: Dr. Raquel M. Ortiz
El arte de la identidad: Aproximación crítica al Jibarismo puertorriqueño en la literatura, la música y obras de arte
University of Granada, 2011