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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 824: Phon-67

Papers of Ana Livia Cordero, 1933-2008 (inclusive), 1965-1992 (bulk)


Correspondence, work files, and photographs of Puerto Rican independence activist and physician Ana Livia Cordero.


  • Creation: 1933-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1965-1992

Language of Materials

Materials in Spanish and English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Ana Livia Cordero is held by her son, Rafael A. Mayfield. At Mayfield's death, copyright will transfer to his brother, Emiliano H. Mayfield. At the death of Emiliano H. Mayfield, copyright will transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures. Digitized material may be disseminated under the terms of Creative Commons.


5.59 linear feet ((11 file boxes, 1 carton) plus 2 folio folders, 16 photograph folders, 3 folio photograph folders, 1 phonograph record, electronic records)

The papers of Ana Livia Cordero document the personal life and political work of Cordero, a Puerto Rican physician who was active in the United States and international liberation movements in the 1960s. Her personal life is primarily documented through correspondence with family members. Most of the collection documents her political work, which included using Neo-Marxist strategies to educate and radicalize impoverished Puerto Ricans. The use of popular culture and street theater in this education project is clearly documented in these materials. Cordero's attention to and involvement with the Nicaraguan independence struggle in the 1980s, as well as in general attempts to assist suffering Haitians and Nicaraguans, is also documented. Her medical work is mainly documented here through a few published articles and reports, as well as her medical bag, which (according to her son) she carried everywhere with her, in case she would be called on for her medical expertise. The papers include correspondence, passports, photographs, writings, and clippings. Records of the Proyecto Piloto (Pilot Project) include work plans, accounts, press releases, neighborhood census forms, as well as copies of Puerto Rican police surveillance files on Cordero. Also included are correspondence, reports, etc., from Cordero's work to help survivors of a hurricane in Nicaragua, and Haitian refugees (also referred to as "boat people") forcibly imprisoned in Puerto Rico. The collection includes one sound disc (a 78 record), some printed material (comic books, etc.) used in political education of Puerto Ricans, and Cordero's medical bag and instruments.

The collection contains original documents as well as printed copies of documents that were scanned and then discarded by Cordero's son Rafael Mayfield. Before sending Cordero's papers to the Schlesinger Library, Mayfield organized the collection into folders and groupings based on subject. Some documents are only available in an electronic format; these are noted with an "E" number before the title. Materials in folders #E.13 and E.14 suffered from water damage and were moldy; these were sent to the Polygon Group, which created digital images of the documents; the original documents were not retained. Mayfield's original folder titles or explanatory notes are rendered in quotation marks in the inventory below. Other folder titles were created by the archivist. Many documents are undated; the archivist either suggested a circa date or else used the term "n.d." to suggest "no date." Spanish titles for Cordero's projects have been retained in this finding aid, and Mayfield's original titles have also been rendered as they appeared, in English, Spanish, or a combination of both. Rafael Mayfield wrote explanatory notes about many of the projects Cordero worked on; these notes and background information contain much information helpful to researchers, and are included with the material they discuss.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1948-1993, 2008 (#1.1-2.22, 12.1mm, FD.1, E.1-E.5), includes Cordero's passports, identification cards, correspondence, clippings, and writings. The series also includes documents about Cordero's parents, Rafael de Jesus Cordero and Ana Livia Garces. Material relating to Cordero's medical career includes a few medical writings, some medical correspondence, and her medical bag, which she carried with her in later life while involved in political work, in case medical assistance was needed. Correspondence includes family correspondence and with friends, both from Puerto Rico and made while living in Ghana and New York City. Letters from civil rights activist James Forman describe his visits to Puerto Rico. Several folders of correspondence are between Cordero's friends, but not to or from her. The series is arranged with folders relating to Cordero's parents listed first, followed by Cordero's own material arranged alphabetically by title.

Series II, PROYECTO PILOTO DE TRABAJO CON EL PUEBLO, 1950-1993 (#2.23-9.7, E.6-E.26), contains correspondence, manifestos, popular education manuals (including comic books and sociodrama scripts), reports, census materials, financial records, and police surveillance files. This series contains documentation of Cordero's major organizing project in Puerto Rico, also called merely "el Proyecto" or, in its earliest incarnation, "Liberación." Operations for this project began in the summer of 1967. Volunteers were trained to do community organizing focused on decolonization. Proyecto volunteers were mostly young people who were trained by Cordero and others in political history and economics, to drive, to cook, to type, to engage in political analysis using a Neo-Marxist methodology, how to engage in public communication, and to be effective working in small groups. The Proyecto used guerilla theater and arts workshops to spread their pro-independence message, and held economic self-help workshops to teach community members sustainable skills. Documents have been arranged in two series based on Rafael Mayfield's description of different time periods of the Proyecto Piloto. A third series includes the Puerto Rican police files on Cordero and some of the other members of the Proyecto.

Subseries A, First Period, 1967-1991 (inclusive), 1967-1972 (bulk) (#2.23-4.8, E.6-E.20), contains political analyses, funding applications, notes for classes on political economy, comic books, scripts of street theater productions, correspondence with Cubans, and a diary of a Proyecto member. These files document Cordero's work to organize and fund the Proyecto Piloto, as well as its first years of existence. Rafael Mayfield's explanation of the work of the first years of the Proyecto is included (#2.25). During the first period of the Proyecto, participants did sociological, historical, and demographic research within impoverished neighborhoods in or near San Juan, and wrote reports on their findings. The Proyecto also organized youth against servicio militar obligatorio (SMO), the United States army draft during the Vietnam War. Several of the popular educational materials in this series (including the comic book or paquin "Manela") discuss draft resistance. While in Puerto Rico, Cordero referred to her organizing work as "Proyecto Piloto," she also called it, specifically in material written for United States eyes, "Liberación," or the Puerto Rican Youth Movement for National Liberation. A grant application for funding (#3.9) lays out her intentions for her organizing work to potential funders in New York City. Some folders contain material that overlaps in date with Subseries B; they have been kept together as organized by Rafael Mayfield. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Subseries B, Second Period, 1981-1993 (#4.9-7.4, E.21-E.26), contains notebook, census forms, financial documents, outlines for popular education classes, lists, and political analyses by Cordero. Most of the Proyecto's work in this period consisted of taking a census of different neighborhoods in order to identify like-minded residents who might be further trained in popular education and pro-independence activism. Census forms asked residents about their background, household information, religious affiliation, educational background, etc. Some of the Proyecto's work involved exploring ways to lift Puerto Ricans out of poverty as part of the decolonization process. Thus, the Proyecto ran fishing and diving clubs for boys to teach them marketable skills; financial documentation of these clubs is in this series. Several folders contain outlines and descriptions of cursillos, methods for training others in political and economic history; several of these (#6.12) were directly written by Cordero. The "Productores Agritecnicos de Puerto Rico Inc.," was a nonprofit farm founded to generate funds for living expenses for Proyecto members, as well as to function as a model for small production cooperatives. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by type of project, and chronologically thereunder.

Subseries C, Police files, 1950-1978, 1992-1993 (#7.5.-9.7), contains files kept on Cordero and other members of the Proyecto by the Puerto Rican Police Department's Intelligence Division. Cordero was followed by Puerto Rican police (and sometimes the Federal Bureau of Investigation) for years, and these resulting files describe in great detail what she did when and with whom. In addition, Cordero's mail was intercepted, and letters are reproduced in these files. The set of files dating from 1950-1967 (#7.7-7.9) contains copies of letters Cordero received while in Ghana, including some from Juan Mari Bras, the founder of the Movimiento Pro-Independencia (MPI). Also included are MPI-generated letters and propaganda regarding the 1964 United Nations Meeting of Non-Aligned Nations in Cairo, Egypt. A lengthy letter Cordero sent to Malcolm X in 1964 discussing organizing strategies is also reproduced here. Also included are police files for Proyecto members Nicolás and Manuel Santos, Samuel Avilés, and Efrain Negron. The Police Department's Intelligence Division was disbanded in the early 1980s after Puerto Rican Senate hearings on the Cerro Maravilla murders revealed police corruption in Puerto Rico; intelligence files were handed over to the individuals in 1993. Documents in this subseries are mostly printouts of scanned images; the original documents were digitized by Rafael Mayfield and discarded. There are a few original files with photographs of Cordero and index card reports of her whereabouts. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series III, INTERNATIONAL AND OTHER POLITICAL WORK, 1963-1990 (#9.8-11.16, FD.2, E.27-E.38), contains correspondence, funding proposals, printed material, and writing documenting Cordero's international activism. Cordero and the Proyecto were involved in three projects that reached beyond the borders of Puerto Rico. The Manuel Santos Technical Brigade was a project to send Puerto Ricans to Nicaragua to assist Nicaraguans in their fight for independence (and to help them with agricultural skills). Funding was sought and secured from European countries, and several European students and Rafael Mayfield were part of the project. Cordero also organized committees to raise money for survivors of a devastating hurricane in Nicaragua, and to work on behalf of Haitian refugees held at a United States military base in Puerto Rico. In his background notes in the collection, Rafael Mayfield refers to these activities as "broad-based coalitions organized by the Proyecto." Information about Cordero's medical work in Ghana and her attendance at the TriContinental Conference in Cuba is also included here. The series is arranged into four subseries by project.

Subseries A, Ciudadanos Unidos en Apoyo al Pueblo Haitiano, 1981-1982 (#9.8-9.17, E.27), documents the work of the coalition (Citizens United in Support of Haitian People) Cordero worked with to advocate for Haitian refugees forcibly held at a United States military base in Puerto Rico. In May 1981 the United States government began a policy of detaining all Haitians who were found attempting to enter the United States by boat; 800 of these Haitian refugees were forcibly resettled to Fort Allen, a United States military base in Puerto Rico. Cordero joined with other Puerto Ricans who were outraged at this "concentration camp" in Puerto Rico. The coalition organized protests around the island, as well as a large march to and protest at the military base in 1982. Coalition members later petitioned the United Nations on behalf of the Haitians. The subseries includes press coverage, outlines of the coalition's position, planning documents for a march and press conferences, letters to United States and United Nations officials demanding justice for the Haitians, and an article Cordero wrote in English describing the situation. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Subseries B, Manuel Santos Technical Brigade, 1986-1990 (#9.18-11.1, E.28-E.32), contains correspondence, funding proposals, newsletters, a handbook, printed material, and clippings documenting the work of this small group of Puerto Rican activists who traveled to Nicaragua and New York City promoting Central American solidarity. The Manuel Santos Technical Brigade was a project to send Puerto Ricans to Nicaragua to assist Nicaraguans in their fight for independence (and to help them with agricultural skills). Funding was sought and secured from European countries, and several European students and Rafael Mayfield were part of the project. Cordero first organized a small brigade in 1987 "to provide technical assistance to peasants in the maintenance of small agricultural machinery in agricultural cooperatives... low-income people from Puerto Rico could have the opportunity to live and observe the revolutionary process." Each brigade was intended to spend one to three months in Nicaragua. The first brigade was in Nicaragua during March and April 1987; a second brigade returned in February and March 1988. In June 1988 a brigade was sent to New York City to work within the Latin community there to achieve Central American solidarity. In 1989 the Brigade helped to organize the Comite Pro Victimas del Huracan en Nicaragua. The work of the Brigade ended when the Sandinistas lost the elections in 1990. Rafael Mayfield, Samuel Alviles, and Malcolm Negron all went to Nicaragua as part of the Brigade.

Correspondence with the Nicaragua Network in the United States, which included requests for funding (#10.9-10.10), shows the ties between Cordero's work and that of United States-based activists for Central American independence. General requests for financial support from a number of United States ("Estados Unidos" or "EU") organizations show the ways Cordero and her comrades described the work they were doing to outsiders. The Brigade worked primarily with UNAG, the Union Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos or The National Union of Farmers and Ranchers of Nicaragua, a nonprofit guild that promoted self-suffiency for peasants as part of agrarian reform under the Sandinista revolution. Rafael Mayfield studied agricultural reform at the CIERA: Center for Research in Agricultural Reform in between the 1st and 2nd brigades. While not technically part of the Brigade's work, his studies were part of the Brigade planning. His application materials, several CIERA pamphlets, and his letters to Cordero and other Proyecto members, are also included in this subseries. See also Series I (#2.10) for letters Rafael Mayfield wrote to Cordero while in Nicaragua. There is some overlap between this subseries and Subseries D, since the Brigade organized the hurricane relief effort in Puerto Rico and intended to deliver the supplies themselves. Folders are arranged alphabetically by title.

Subseries C, Comite Pro Victimas del Huracan en Nicaragua, 1987-1990 (#11.2-11.11, E.33-E.35), includes correspondence, financial records, and printed material documenting the committee's response to Hurricane Joan in October 1988. The American Red Cross did not undertake a formal donor drive for victims due to political divisions between the United States and the new Nicaraguan government. This angered Puerto Ricans, and Cordero organized this fund raising group for the hurricane victims. The committee lasted about a year; it solicited individual donations, and also put on a concert to raise funds for the Nicaraguans. Vera Clemente, widow of popular Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, was involved in the fund raising efforts. Much of the funds raised was used to provide food assistance, including seeds. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Subseries D, Other political work, 1963-1988 (#11.12-11.16, FD.2, E.36-E.38), includes clippings, correspondence, and Cordero's writings on diverse political topics. This subseries, though small, contains Cordero's own words and analysis of many of the political issues with which she was involved. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIOVISUAL, 1933-1992 (#Phon-67.1, PD.1f-PD.19, E.39-E.40), includes photographs of Ana Livia Cordero from childhood until adulthood. Cordero's parents, children, other family members, and friends are also pictured. There are several studio portraits from Cordero's childhood, and a formal shot of her with Julian Mayfield and children, but most other photographs are informal snapshots. Also included is a 78 rpm phonograph recording of "Federico," a song recorded and released by the Proyecto in its early years. The series is arranged with the phonograph record followed by a chronological organization of photograph folders.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Physician and political activist, Ana Livia Cordero was born July 4, 1931, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where her parents, Ana Livia Garces (1899-1984) and Rafael de Jesus Cordero (1897-1975), were professors at the University of Puerto Rico. Cordero was a ballet dancer when a teenager, and attended the University of Puerto Rico, receiving a degree in natural sciences in 1949. Cordero married sociologist Charles Rosario. They moved to New York City for her to attend Columbia University Medical School (M.D., 1953); while there, Cordero met and socialized with civil rights activists and artists. She also organized Puerto Rican workers in meatpacking plants while a medical intern. Cordero separated from Rosario while in New York; she married actor, playwright, and African American leftist Julian Mayfield in 1954. The couple moved to Puerto Rico, where their son Rafael was born in 1957. Cordero worked in the San Juan municipal hospital and Mayfield worked as a radio and print journalist. Cordero went on to conduct a Rockefeller-funded research study investigating methods for providing adequate medical care to the rural poor, participate in a program to train midwives, and serve as the Special Assistant to the Puerto Rican Secretary of Health from 1957 to 1958.

In 1959 Ana Livia Cordero and Julian Mayfield returned to New York City, and Cordero pursued a Master's in Public Health degree at Columbia while working at Bellevue Hospital. Cordero helped to found the pro Puerto Rican independence political party Movimiento Pro-Independencia (MPI) New York chapter, and Mayfield became more publically involved with a group of radical African-American writers and activists who were embracing Black Nationalism and looking toward other countries, particularly in Africa, for lessons that would help the development of African American identity. Mayfield was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and in 1960 Cordero and Mayfield traveled to Cuba as guests of the Fidel Castro government to celebrate the first anniversary of the Cuban revolution. While there they met Robert F. Williams, a North Carolinian who advocated armed resistance against white supremacists in the American South. In 1961, Julian Mayfield went to Monroe, North Carolina, and drove Robert F. Williams out of the state after its governor had ordered him arrested. Mayfield and Cordero assisted Williams and his family as they fled to Cuba to escape prosecution, and Mayfield himself fled to Canada.

Cordero and Mayfield relocated their family to Ghana; a second son, Emiliano, was born there in November 1961. Ghana had obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1957, and President Kwame Nkrumah invited prominent African American intellectuals, including W.E.B. Du Bois, to live in the country. Nkrumah invited Ana Livia Cordero to come work with the Ghanian National Institute of Health and Medical Research. During her years in Ghana, Cordero also ran a women's health clinic, served as Du Bois's personal physician until his death in 1963, taught at Ghana's newly-established medical school, and also taught medical sociology at the University of Ghana. Julian Mayfield worked in the office of the President and as a journalist, in addition to working on his own writing. Cordero and Mayfield were part of a circle of African American expatriates living in Accra; in 1964, they hosted Malcolm X on his visit to Ghana, and helped found the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

In addition to her medical work, Cordero continued to work for the independence of Puerto Rico during her years in Ghana. She served as the official "Representative in Africa" of the Movimiento Pro-Independencia (MPI), and she was the MPI representative to the 1964 Meeting of Non-Aligned Nations in Cairo, Egypt. Cordero and Mayfield separated in 1966; Mayfield moved to the south coast of Spain shortly before Cordero was officially expelled from Ghana after the February 24, 1966, fall of President Nkrumah. Cordero traveled to Cuba as an MPI representative to the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana. She then returned to Puerto Rico with her children, where she continued her work as a doctor and activist, advocating for Puerto Rican independence.

The MPI grew too mainstream for Cordero, who was interested in building a left wing socialist movement for Puerto Rico's independence. In the late 1960s she organized a neo-Marxist group, the Proyecto Piloto de Trabajo con el Pueblo (Pilot Project of Work with the Community), dedicated to addressing the decolonization struggle of Puerto Rico through consciousness raising in poor communities. The Proyecto undertook its political action through a highly organized political education and community organizing approach. Cordero worked with sociologists from American universities to create a methodology for instructing Puerto Ricans, particularly those without much formal schooling,in the history of capitalism, imperialism, and the need for Puerto Rico's independence from the United States. Initially she sought grants from American foundations to buy supplies, create phonograph records, and pay the young community organizers and activists who worked with the project. The Proyecto's work in the late 1960s included staging public sociodramas, or guerilla theater productions, where capitalist struggles were shown to affect the personal problems of ordinary people. Cordero and the Proyecto maintained connections with the African American radical civil rights movement in the United States, and were active in anti-draft activism in Puerto Rico during the Vietnam War.

Cordero was arrested by Puerto Rican police in 1968, and accused of fomenting revolution. As a result, she curtailed her public activism during most of the 1970s, preferring to work informally "underground" with friends and fellow activists to try to advance the issue of Puerto Rican independence. In 1978, two Puerto Rican independence activists were killed by police at a mountain called Cerra Maravilla. Cordero was outspoken in the face of the subsequent political cover-up; she worked on an investigation into the incident, and wrote a report about it in an attempt to publicize the incident and advocate for independent inquiries. The incident confirmed the reality of the political repression felt by Cordero and her Proyecto compatriots; they were convinced that their political work should continue, and developed new methods with which to engage and educate impoverished Puerto Ricans.

While working in a more clandestine manner within Puerto Rico, Cordero and the Proyecto were involved in a number of intra-Caribbean and international efforts to support Central African revolution throughout the 1980s. Cordero and the Proyecto organized coalitions to address the confinement of Haitian refugees in Puerto Rico and to aid Nicaraguan victims of Hurricane Joan in 1988. After the Sandinista government in Nicaragua instituted wide-ranging land reforms, the Proyecto organized a brigade of experienced Puerto Ricans to assist rural Nicaraguans in their agricultural reform and self-sufficient farming technologies.

Cordero lived with fellow Puerto Rican activist Samuel Aviles for many years. Cordero was in poor health throughout the 1980s, and died in Puerto Rico on February 21, 1992, of pulmonary obstructive disease.

Information in this biography is indebted to the scholarship of Sandy Placido, who steered the Cordero papers to the Schlesinger Library. Both Placido and Rafael Mayfield, Cordero's son, provided critical information about Cordero's life.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1948-1993, 2008 (#1.1-2.22, 12.1m, FD.1, E.1-E.5)
  2. Series II. Proyecto Piloto de Trabajo con el Pueblo, 1950-1993 (#2.23-9.7, E.6-E.26)
  3. ___Subseries A. First Period, 1967-1991 (inclusive), 1967-1972 (bulk) (#2.23-4.8, E.6-E.20)
  4. ___Subseries B. Second Period, 1981-1993 (#4.9-7.4, E.21-E.26)
  5. ___Subseries C. Police files, 1950-1978, 1992-1993 (#7.5.-9.7)
  6. Series III. International and other political work, 1963-1990 (#9.8-11.16, FD.2, E.27-E.38)
  7. ___Subseries A. Ciudadanos Unidos en Apoyo al Pueblo Haitiano, 1981-1982 (#9.8-9.17, E.27)
  8. ___Subseries B. Manuel Santos Technical Brigade, 1986-1990 (#9.18-11.1, E.28-E.32)
  9. ___Subseries C. Comite Pro Victimas del Huracan en Nicaragua, 1987-1990 (#11.2-11.11, E.33-E.35)
  10. ___Subseries D. Other political work, 1963-1988 (#11.12-11.16, FD.2, E.36-E.38)
  11. Series IV. Photographs and audiovisual, 1933-1992 (#PD.1f-PD.19, E.39-E.40)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2014-M114, 2016-M91

With the assistance of Sandy Placido, the papers of Ana Livia Cordero were given to the Schlesinger Library by her son, Rafael A. Mayfield, in July 2014. Several folders of water damaged material were digitally imaged by the Polygon Group in April 2016.

Processing Information

Processed: September 2015

By: Jenny Gotwals, Rafael A. Mayfield, Sandy Placido, and Henry Shull.

Cordero, Ana Livia, 1931-1992. Papers of Ana Livia Cordero, 1933-2008 (inclusive), 1965-1992 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Alice Jeannette Ward Fund and the Class of 1968 Archival Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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