Manuel Ramos Otero (July 20, 1948 – October 7, 1990) was a Puerto Rican writer. He is widely considered to be the most important openly gay twentieth-century Puerto Rican writer who wrote in Spanish, and his work was often controversial due to its sexual and political content. Ramos Otero died in San Juan, Puerto Rico, due to complications from AIDS.
Jesús Manuel Ramos Otero was born in Manatí, Puerto Rico, and spent his childhood in his home town, living in the second location of the old building of the Puerto Rican Casino of Manatí. He began his studies at the Colegio La Inmaculada in Manatí. His family then moved to San Juan when he was seven years old. He later attended the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras (1960–1965) and went on to receive a B.A. in Social Sciences (with a major in sociology and a minor in political sciences) from the University of Puerto Rico, graduating in 1969. In 1979 he received an M.A. in literature from New York University. While living in New York City, he worked as a social researcher, and later as a professor at diverse universities including Rutgers University, LaGuardia Community College, York College, and Lehman College. He also established a small publishing house, El Libro Viaje. He organized conferences and gatherings of Puerto Rican writers in the United States such as Giannina Braschi and Luis Rafael Sanchez. He is best remembered as a poet and the author of short stories, but he also wrote a novel and several essays on literary criticism.
Many but not all of Ramos Otero's works focus on autobiographical characters of gay Puerto Rican men who are writers and live in New York City.
One of Ramos Otero's most interesting stories is "La última plena que bailó Luberza" (Luberza's Last Plena Dance), which he published in 1975 in the literary journal Zona de carga y descarga alongside a story by Rosario Ferré ("Cuando las mujeres quieren a los hombres"). Ramos Otero's and Ferré's stories were based on the life of Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer (better known as Isabel la Negra), a famous madam who ran a brothel in the city of Ponce from the 1930s to the 1960s. Ramos Otero's story was later included in his book El cuento de la Mujer del Mar (The Story of the Woman of the Sea).
In his work, Ramos Otero openly defends gay viewpoints and feminist positions. For him, homosexuality represented an outsider status; he did not advocate for full integration, but rather explored the situation of marginal subjects. He also discussed his HIV status and the prejudice and discrimination faced by people affected by AIDS. Most of his production has not been translated and is only available in Spanish.
- "De la colonización a la culonización." Cupey 8, no. 1-2 (1991): 63-79.
- "La ética de la marginación en la poesía de Luis Cernuda." Cupey 5, no. 1-2 (1988): 16-29.
- "Ficción e historia: Texto y pretexto de la autobiografía." El mundo (Puerto Rico Ilustrado) [San Juan, P.R.] 14 de octubre de 1990: 20-23.
- Concierto de metal para un recuerdo y otras orgías de soledad. San Juan: Editorial Cultural, 1971.
- El cuento de la Mujer del Mar. Río Piedras: Ediciones Huracán, 1979.
- Cuentos de buena tinta. San Juan: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1992.
- La novelabingo. New York: Editorial El Libro Viaje, 1976.
- Página en blanco y staccato. 2nda ed. Madrid: Editorial Playor, 1988 .
- Invitación al polvo. Madrid: Editorial Plaza Mayor, 1991.
- El libro de la muerte. Río Piedras: Editorial Cultural; Maplewood, N.J.: Waterfront Press, 1985.
- Tálamos y tumbas: prosa y verso. Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico: Universidad de Guadalajara, 1998. ISBN 9789688958452
Numerous literary scholars have written about Ramos Otero, including Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Jossianna Arroyo, Juan G. Gelpí, and José Quiroga. Rubén Ríos Ávila has compared Ramos Otero's experiences in New York to those of the exiled Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes has written about Ramos Otero in the context of the Puerto Rican queer diaspora, comparing him to other artists such as Luz María Umpierre, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, and Erika Lopez.