"Celestina Cordero Molina (1787-1862) is one of the first free black women to have played a role in the development of Puerto Rico’s education system. She fought for Puerto Rican girls of all racial backgrounds to have the right to an education. Along with her sister Gregoria, she was one of maestro Rafael Cordero’s (1790-1868) older siblings.
The Cordero siblings dedicated their lives to education. As such, they converted their home on Calle Luna in San Juan into a school where girls and boys of all backgrounds went to learn. Rafael was in charge of teaching the boys and Celestina was in charge of the girls. Today, however, Rafael is the better known of the two in Puerto Rico.
Unlike her brother Rafael, Celestina is largely unknown today in Puerto Rico. No schools are named after her, nor has an image of her survived into posterity. Women in colonial Puerto Rico during the 19th century were confined to the home, which is why there aren’t references to her students, nor a record available in the present-day of their names. It was very difficult, moreover, for women during this period to reach the public sphere as was the case for her brother’s students. Yet unlike him, her work as a teacher is documented in the Actas del Cabildo, or the documents in which the official decisions of the colonial government were recorded. There are about twelve documents about Celestina Cordero, the majority of them related to her requests to officially be recognized as a schoolteacher and to receive for funding for her school.
Celestina was a pioneer in Puerto Rican education, her achievements documented, yet unfairly ignored by history."
Source: Centro Hunter NY
In this portrait the artist reimagines Celestina Cordero as a strong young woman.