In Memoriam: Raquel Marie Albarran, 1962-2022

Raquel Albarran, an assistant professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, died on September 7. She was 60 years old.

A native of Puerto Rico, Dr. Albarran earned a bachelor’s degree in education at the Universidad de Puerto Rico. She held a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Hispanic studies from the University of Pennsylvania. After earning her doctorate, Dr. Albarran received the T. Gannon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Spanish in the department of modern languages and linguistics at Florida State University.

Dr. Albarran joined the faculty at Middlebury College in 2018. Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College, stated that “Raquel’s enthusiasm for her work and her community was infectious. She was beloved by students and inspired them to be thinkers and doers all at the same time. When you spoke with her about her research, you felt you were there with her in the archive, learning alongside her. She was building the Middlebury of the future with us. This is a tremendous loss for us and we will do everything we can to honor her legacy.”

At the time of her death, she was a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies, on a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.

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  1. Dr. Miguel Albarrán says:

    The Ritual of the Belén (Miguel Á. Albarrán, Ph.D.)

    Funeral rituals are symbolic activities that encourage the expression of grief as a positive way to heal while helping to confirm the reality of death. In the Caribbean, how people are buried on each island depends on the historical mix of the colonizer’s Christian religion and African (spiritual) rituals.

    The Funeral Ritual of Belén is a tradition for the celebration of life, to the rhythm of the Afro-Puerto Rican bomba (drums). This spiritual manifestation has traveled from Africa, Spain and part of The Americas. In the Caribbean, it has been found that the term Belén seems to be a Hispanicization of the French Creole bel air, which means melody or song. In some African languages ​​the word bélé (to pray) is found and in Martinique the bélaires (also known as bele and bélé) is a dance accompanied by the rhythm of the drum. In the United States, Congolese slaves brought to Louisiana expressed the pain of their souls with customary weeping and lamentation before jubilantly accompanying the dead to their burial sites. Mourners sing, beat the drum and dance the soul of the deceased to its new home.

    The concept of bele was Christianized in Spain, referring to the birthplace (Bethlehem) of the Child God. Currently, the Belén scene refers to two elements of folklore, a religious ritual that honors a deceased adult and the rhythm of the drum that accompanies the ceremony. In short, the Belén scene can be a ritual, a rhythm, a song or a dance. The Bomba genere uses the Belén Scene as a celebration of the life of the spirit that changed dimension.

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