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Front Cover, Ana Roqué de Duprey’s Botánica Antillana

The twentieth century saw the growing legitimization of women within the Latin American intellectual community. A suffragist and teacher, Ana Roqué de Duprey was to play a central role in the empowerment of women within Puerto Rico’s academic circles. In 1894 she founded the magazine La Mujer, which became the first Puerto Rican magazine to have a woman as an editor. In 1917 she also founded the Liga Femínea Puertorriqueña, the first organization with the aim of protecting women’s rights in the island. Author of a novel published in 1903 under the title Luz y Sombra, Roqué de Duprey was trained by the famous scientist Agustín Stahl in fields as diverse as botany, zoology, astronomy, geology and metereology. It is in this context that we must position her recently discovered unpublished text, Botánica Antillana, the almanac in which she sets out to document, classify and describe the island’s flora. Long thought to have been lost, the manuscript was recently discovered by a group of researchers including Eliván Martínez and Jorge Carlos Trejo. In Botánica Antillana, Roqué de Duprey, following the tradition of natural historians like Alexander Von Humboldt and Linnaeus, classifies the island’s flora in an attempt to portray its biodiversity. The manuscript, however, is not merely a scientific document. In it we find Roqué de Dupray’s scientific concerns combined with her literary leanings. The manuscript contains a mixture of poems and drawings, as well as aphorisms from the leading authors of the time. This double perspective is already evident from the descriptive subtitle of the manuscript: ‘More than 6,000 species studied alongside their medical properties and industrial applications. Chemical compositions. Poems and history of the plants’. A valuable scientific document as well as a literary one, after Roqué de Duprey’s death in 1933 the book remained unpublished due to disagreements with the director of the Experimental Agricultural Station of Río Piedras, scientist Carlos E. Chardón.

Text: Carlos Fonseca

Front Cover
Ana Roqué de Duprey
Botánica Antillana (unpublished manuscript, 1933)
Photo by Juan Costa, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Puerto Rico