Jesus Colon’s writing was almost always directly linked to activism, generally in favor of dignity and rights for working people, the poor, and immigrants. He made his career writing for radical publications and belonged to political parties that advocated for socialism, for Puerto Rican independence, and for civil rights in the U.S.
A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches was published in 1961, in the midst of Colon’s participation in the U.S. civil rights movement. The preface to the sketches shows Colon contrasting how Puerto Ricans appear in “statistical studies and dramatic presentations” on Broadway as a “problem” (9) with his own attempts to “throw a little light on how Puerto Ricans in this city really feel, think, work, and live” (10). Colon thus envisions writing as a way to combat stereotypes and change societal views of an embattled minority group.
The history of the Puerto Rican independence movement and its relationship to socialism are key contexts for Colon’s writing. “My First Strike,” from A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches, represents the Colon’s struggle as a Puerto Rican for independence from his American history teacher, as an allegory for the island’s own political situation.
Colon, Jesus. A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches. New York: International Publishers, 1961.
James, Winston. Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth Century America. New York: Verso, 1998.