Everywhere and Nowhere: The Historical Erasure of the Transnational Activist Ana Livia Cordero

Friday, January 8, 2016: 3:30 PM
Room 303 (Hilton Atlanta)
Sandy Placido, Harvard University
Ana Livia Cordero was a physician and Puerto Rican liberation activist whose travels and relationships placed her at the intersection of various social movements from the 1940s to the 1980s. After graduating from Columbia University medical school in 1953, Dr. Ana Livia Cordero married Julian Mayfield, the African American actor, writer, and activist. Cordero and Mayfield lived in Puerto Rico for several years, toured Cuba in 1960 with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and eventually became expatriates in Ghana. While in Ghana, Cordero was appointed by President Nkrumah to run a public health clinic in Accra, and she also developed relationships with W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois, Maya Angelou, and Malcolm X. Cordero was deported from Ghana after Nkrumah was overthrown, but she remained a radical organizer in Puerto Rico, working on campaigns related to Puerto Rico’s colonial condition.

This paper reconstructs and closely examines Cordero’s life in order to draw attention to the influential role of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, and women in the movement to build solidarity between leftists fighting against racism, colonialism, and imperialism in Africa, the United States, and Latin America. This paper will also pay close attention to Cordero's racial identification. As a white-presenting individual, Cordero passionately advocated for Puerto Ricans to embrace their Black heritage, and she also worked to include the case of Puerto Rico on the agendas of various movements. Cordero was an embodied link between some of the most prominent African American and Puerto Rican intellectuals and activists of her time, but she is largely absent from academic literature. The paper will interrogate how race and gender operated in Cordero's life, making her both visible and invisible to the people she worked with, as well as the scholars who have written about the time period during which she lived.

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