Robbins Library has announced its schedule of events for the annual Arlington Reads Together, based this year around the theme of Puerto Rico.

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Featured events

Esmeralda Santiago: Writing a Life

• 3 p.m. March 8.

• Arlington Town Hall.

Esmeralda Santiago, author of 2020 Arlington Reads Together pick “When I Was Puerto Rican,” kicks off a month of Puerto Rico themed programs and events when she presents “Esmeralda Santiago: Writing a Life.” Books will be available for purchase and signing after the event, courtesy of The Book Rack. The program is presented by the Arlington Libraries Foundation.

Santiago was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States when she was 13-years-old. She is the author of three memoirs, two novels, a children’s book and has co-edited two anthologies of Latino literature. Her transcultural experiences growing up in a rural barrio, poor and disenfranchised, inspire much of her work and her books have been translated into 15 languages.

Upon publication of the memoir “When I Was Puerto Rican,” Santiago was hailed by the Washington Post Book World as “a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority.” Her first novel, “America’s Dream,” was made into a movie by executive producer Edward James Olmos. Her second memoir, “Almost a Woman,” is a George Foster Peabody-award winning film for PBS Masterpiece Theatre’s “American Collection.” She is the only living author in this prestigious series that includes James Agee, Willa Cather, Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty and Henry James.

Esmeralda Santiago is passionate about the need to encourage and support the artistic development of young people with storytelling and media literacy. She is a spokesperson on behalf of public libraries and has travelled extensively as a cultural ambassador for the State Department. Her essays and opinion pieces have been published widely and she is a frequent guest commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition,” “LatinoUSA” and “The TakeAway.” Santiago graduated from Harvard University, earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and has honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Pace University, Metropolitan College/NYC, and University of Puerto Rico/ Mayagüez. She has served on the boards of The Jacob Burns Film Center, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and PEN American Center. The mother of two adult children, she lives in New York with her husband, award-winning documentary filmmaker, Frank Cantor.

Fabiola Mendez Trio

• 3 p.m. March 29.

• Arlington Town Hall.

The Fabiola Mendez Trio wraps up a full month of Arlington Reads Together events and discussions with the music of Puerto Rico. Fabiola Mendez is a Puerto Rican musician who studied at the Humacao Musical Institute, the Antonio Paoli School of Music in Caguas, and the Conservatorio de Artes del Caribe. In 2018, she received her Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, becoming the first student to graduate with the Puerto Rican cuatro as principal instrument. This concert is presented by the Friends of Robbins Library.

Fabiola has participated in several cuatro competitions winning prizes in all of them, including being selected as the winner of the “National Cuatro Player Competition” in 2011 by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture. Fabiola has collaborated with artists such as: the Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra, Totó la Momposina, Pedro Capó, Victoria Sanabria, Cucco Peña, Eddie Palmieri, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Danny Rivera, Edwin Colón Zayas, Los Rayos Gamma, among others. She has also had the privilege of receiving acknowledgements such as the dedication of the Mapeye Festival 2011, the Quincy Jones Award 2016, ambassador at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC 2018, and a commendation from the PR House of Representatives for being the first Puerto Rican cuatro player to graduate from Berklee.

Additional programs

Wayfarer Film Series presents: The Last Colony - Puerto Rico’s Unique Relationship With The United States: 6-8 p.m. March 5. Travel the world and experience international cinema with the Wayfarer Film Series. Catch a glimpse from beyond the continent, snack on fresh popcorn from the library’s new popcorn machine, and enjoy a variety of films you might have missed at your local theater. In March, the series will screen “The Last Colony.” Filmmaker Juan Agustin Marquez examines Puerto Rico’s political situation and relations with the United States. The documentary is in Spanish and English with English subtitles. This film is unrated with a runtime of 92 minutes.

ART Cookbook Club: 6:30-8 p.m. March 9, Robbins Library Community Room. Join in for a special Puerto Rico themed Cookbook Club. Participants will be cooking from the El Boricua website: Choose a recipe to make, and register by emailing your recipe choice to Linda Dyndiuk at by March 4. See additional information about Cookbook Club at

Robbins Library Queer Book Group/Social Listens To Puerto Rican Podcasts: 7-8:30 p.m. March 11, Robbins Library Conference Room. QBG will be listening to some podcasts about queer Puerto Ricans. The group will listen to an episode of “Se Ve Se Escucha” (Seen and Heard), about three Boricuas using language justice to create bridges between folks in the diaspora and folks in Puerto Rico, and an episode of “Queering Left,” interviewing two activists from the Puerto Rican community. Feel free to bring any quiet crafting, knitting, etc. to work on while you listen —the library will provide some coloring books!

Solo el Pueblo Salva al Pueblo: Puerto Rico Amidst Austerity, Natural Disasters and Political Revolt: 7 p.m. March 19, Robbins Library Community Room. Patricia Alvarez Astacio, assistant professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, discusses the complex threads of Puerto Rico’s recent history to understand how natural disasters in an economically depressed U.S. territory reinforce colonial policies, sustain corruption at the national and federal levels, and also serve as a catalyst for Puerto Ricans to reclaim their voice.

PLUGGED iN PRESENTS: Equitable Resilience to Climate Change: Lessons from Puerto Rico: 7 p.m. March 24, Robbins Library Community Room. Presenter Ramón Bueno’s work focuses on how different dimensions of resilience and vulnerabilities interact with equity in development and technology. Ramón was born in Cuba then later grew up in Puerto Rico. He studied aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in systems modeling and optimization at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His interests in the Caribbean region extended to his climate-related work, starting in 2008 with “The Caribbean and Climate Change: The Costs of Inaction,” with colleagues at the Climate Economics Group. He has participated in presentations, dialogues and lectures at universities in Puerto Rico, and with others such as the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council and the Center for Investigative Journalism. Following the devastation by the 2017 hurricanes, he has been engaged in dialogues fostering connections and collaborations between colleagues in the Island and universities and professionals in the Boston area.

For children and families

Parrot Art Project: 2-4 p.m. March 11. Using “Parrots over Puerto Rico” as a model, explore the unique book illustrations and create some artwork — in the same style!

Fun at Fox ART edition: 10-11 a.m. March 7, Fox Branch Library. The group will read “Parrots over Puerto Rico” and a few other stories about Puerto Rico followed by a craft.

Book groups and discussions

When I Was Puerto Rican and Puerto Rico Strong: noon-1 p.m. March 13, Robbins Library Conference Room. Discuss questions relating to each title, and how they speak to each other.

Three Books, One Topic: 10 a.m. March 14, Robbins Library Conference Room. At this discussion, the group will discuss all three community read books and talk about how all three titles work together to paint a picture of Puerto Rico.

Not-So-Young-Adult Book Group Reads ‘When I Was Puerto Rican’ by Esmeralda Santiago: 7-8 p.m. March 23, Robbins Library Conference Room. The group will be discussing “When I Was Puerto Rican,” by Esmeralda Santiago. This is a book group for adults, but members read books written for teens. Newcomers welcome.

Tertulia Literaria de la Biblioteca Robbins discute ‘Cuando era puertorriqueña’ de la autora Esmeralda Santiago: 3-4 p.m. 25 de marzo, Robbins Library Conference Room. Ven a Robbins a discutir en español la autobiografía de la escritora puertorriqueña Esmeralda Santiago. Puedes conseguir copias del libro en el escritorio de circulación.