Dressed in a black kimono with his face painted white, Manuel Ramos Otero performed in a high-pitched voice for a rapt crowd. Holding a Japanese umbrella in his hands, he enacted a character named Tsuchigumo, a spider that appears in Noh drama, Japanese mythology, and comic forms of Japanese performance during "Fuegos funebres," a flamboyant low-budget performance held on two nights of 1980 in Old San Juan. Ramos Otero is known as the most important openly gay Puerto Rican writer of the twentieth century to give voice to an out gay experience. His work has been studied and championed by queer scholars and literary critics, and today, it is regarded as pioneering, helping blaze the path of contemporary literature with its forceful voice. He was emboldened by political and artistic developments that helped him define himself personally and aesthetically: expressed with intricate imagery and blunt action, his work featured complex characters who navigated the queer underworld. At summer's end of 1990, Ramos Otero went home to die. He died in Puerto Rico of AIDS-related causes, at a time when nobody knew how to deal with the disease's ravages. Nowadays, many Puerto Rican gay writers consider themselves Ramos Otero's heirs. This article-shaped by primary sources like Ramos Otero's archive in Columbia University and 20 interviews-examines Ramos Otero's life in New York, what theatricality has to do with his work and his impact in Puerto Rican sexualities through literature. [Key words: Manuel Ramos Otero, gay, Puerto Rico, New York, literature, theater, identity, gender, sexuality, homosexuality]
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