NEW YORK – Dolores Prida, a writer who chronicled Hispanic life on stages, on opinion pages and in advice columns until her death last week, is being remembered as a voice that illuminated a community to both outsiders and Hispanics themselves.
A memorial for Prida was scheduled for Saturday at Hunter College in New York City, after a funeral Friday. Prida, 69, died Sunday after complaining of feeling ill on the way home from an anniversary party for a Hispanic women's professional group, said Hortensia Amaro, a friend.
Perhaps best known for her longtime "Dolores Dice" — "Dolores Says" — advice column in Latina magazine, the Cuban-born Prida also was a columnist for the Daily News of New York and for El Diario/La Prensa, a Spanish-language daily in the city. She also wrote a string of plays and musicals.
Her work blended wit and commentary on Hispanics' experience in the United States, whether her writing took the form of a play about generational conflicts among Hispanic women or an answer to a reader worried about buying a home because her husband was living in the country illegally.
"With conviction, compassion, and humor, Dolores used her gifts to connect with people across the Latino community and around our country," President Barack Obama wrote in a letter Friday to her sisters, Lourdes Diharce and Maria Aristizabal. "Her words illuminated her vision for a fairer, more just America, and they helped unite others behind the future she knew was possible."
In his own letter, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Prida a leader "who thoughtfully and powerfully helped define the Hispanic American experience in New York and beyond."
Born in Caibarien, Cuba, Prida came to the United States with her family as a teenager and settled in New York, according to a profile on the website of Repertorio Espanol, a New York theater. She worked at a bakery, attended Hunter College and began working in Spanish-language journalism.
By the mid-1970s, she had become involved in theater. She went on to write several plays, often using both English and Spanish and focusing on the experience of women at a cultural crossroads.
"My intention as a writer is to explore, in many different ways, our being here," Prida said in the Repertorio Espanol, profile. "Being from a different culture. Trying to fit in or not fit in. How other people see us, how we see ourselves."
Her plays included "Casa Propia," in which buying a home spotlights the differences between a Cuban woman and her husband; "Coser y Cantar" ("To Sew and To Sing"), a bilingual comedy about the inner cultural conflicts of a Hispanic woman; and "Botanica," which traces cultural and generational divides and connections among a Puerto Rican woman and her granddaughter.
"She believed that, really, the way to engage people and kind of help them think critically and change their mind about issues was to use humor," said Amaro, a friend of Prida's since 1977. "She felt that that's really the way that you capture people's attention and engage them in social analysis."