Latinx Heritage Month: Prof. Emeritus Edward Ashford Lee

I was born and grew up in Santurce, a region of San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mom was from Kentucky, my dad from Puerto Rico. My dad was a descendant of some notable Puerto Ricans, particularly the poet and playwright Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, after whom a theater in San Juan is named, Bailey K. Ashford, who founded a school of tropical medicine and after whom an avenue and a hospital are named, and Ramón Belisario López, who founded the first daily newspaper in Puerto Rico, La Correspondencia.  I am also related (through marriage) to Juan Antonio Corretjer, a notable “independentista” and suspected terrorist associated with Los Macheteros (he died when I was pretty young, so I don’t really remember him).

My dad ran a computer service bureau in San Juan that had a large room full of Univac computers in the 1960s and 70s. He sold the business when I was in college and went to law school and then started a bankruptcy law practice in Puerto Rico. Bankruptcy was (and still is, I think) a thriving business there.

This is a picture of my great, great grandfather, Ramón Belisario López. Many in my family think I look like him. His father was Marquez de Villar (which I understand is some sort of nobility post) in Asturias, Spain.  He, however, renounced his noble heritage.

My life was always bilingual, with English and Spanish interleaved continually. I was interchangeably called “Eduardo,” “Duardo,” and “Edward,” sometimes all in the same sentence…

With my last name “Lee” and my relatively light skin, I could always pass as an “incognito” Latino. People were often surprised when I would start speaking Spanish. I suspect I benefitted from my minority status, nevertheless, when applying to college and grad school.

My grandfather, Waldemar Fernando Lee, liked to write Spanglish limericks, like this one:

There was a young man from Cataño
Who slipped on the soap in his baño,
  and all the labores
  of siete doctores
Were fruitless in fixing his daño.

You can think of this as a Puerto Rican Humpty Dumpty.

Edward Lee