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An Evening with Esmeralda Santiago: Las Madres

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm EDT


In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Word Up Community Bookshop and El Museo del Barrio invite you to celebrate award-winning, best-selling author Esmeralda Santiago and her new novel Las Madres (available in English & Spanish) to honor the anniversary of when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. This intimate evening, held in El Museo’s El Teatro, will feature a reading by Esmeralda Santiago, followed by a conversation with Elisabet Velasquez, author of When We Make It: A Nuyorican Novel (Paperback). An audience Q&A and book signing will follow. The conversation will be primarily in English with Spanish interpretation.


Group Sales. For group sales (organizations or schools), please contact Word Up directly at


From the award-winning, best-selling author of When I Was Puerto Rican, a powerful novel of family, race, faith, sex, and disaster that moves between Puerto Rico and the Bronx, revealing the lives and loves of five women and the secret that binds them together.  They refer to themselves as “las Madres,” a close-knit group of women who, with their daughters, have created a family based on friendship and blood ties. Their story begins in Puerto Rico in 1975 when fifteen-year-old Luz, the tallest girl in her dance academy and the only Black one in a sea of petite, light-skinned, delicate swans, is seriously injured in a car accident. Tragically, her brilliant, multilingual scientist parents are both killed in the crash. Now orphaned, Luz navigates the pressures of adolescence and copes with the aftershock of a brain injury, when two new friends enter her life, Ada and Shirley. Luz’s days are consumed with aches and pains, and her memory of the accident is wiped clean, but she suffers spells that send her mind to times and places she can’t share with others.

In 2017, in the Bronx, Luz’s adult daughter, Marysol, wishes she better understood her. But how can she when her mother barely remembers her own life? To help, Ada and Shirley’s daughter, Graciela, suggests a vacation in Puerto Rico for the extended group, as an opportunity for Luz to unearth long-buried memories and for Marysol to learn more about her mother’s early life. But despite all their careful planning, two hurricanes, back-to-back, disrupt their homecoming, and a secret is revealed that blows their lives wide open. In a voice that sings with warmth, humor, friendship, and pride, celebrated author Esmeralda Santiago unspools a story of women’s sexuality, shame, disability, and love within a community rocked by disaster.


Esmeralda Santiago is the author of the novel Conquistadora and the memoirs When I was Puerto Rican and Almost A Woman, which was adapted into a Peabody Award–winning movie for PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she lives with her husband, documentary filmmaker Frank Cantor, in New York.

Elisabet Velasquez is a Boricua writer from Brooklyn, now living in Jersey City. She is a Poets House Fellow, Dodge Poetry Fellow and New Jersey Council for the Arts Fellow. Her debut young adult novel in verse When We Make It received the Kirkus best YA Fiction Award, YALSA Best fiction for Young Adults award. It went on to be a 2021 Goodreads Readers Choice Nominee, a 2022 Gotham Prize Finalist, and was named a New York Times Young Adult Books To Watch For. When she is not writing she is living the life she hopes to write about.


El Museo’s main entrance is fully accessible via wheelchair via a ramp located on the right-side of the stairs on 5th Avenue. Accessible restrooms are available on the first floor near the café. Wheelchairs and stools are available upon request, free of charge. ASL interpretation available upon request This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm EDT


El Teatro @ El Museo
1230 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10029 United States


El Museo del Barrio
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El Museo del Barrio Logo (text only)

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