Dollmaker returns to Massachusetts

Ivelisse Pabon de Landron is passionate about many things in her Puerto Rican heritage. Most tangible is her making of black dolls like the ones shown here. Having learned doll making from her mother, Ivelisse went on to do extensive research on the Puerto Rican black doll, and eventually met with older doll makers in Puerto Rico. She is passionate about preserving the history of the black doll as a way of honoring Puerto Rican women of African descent and their contribution to Puerto Rican cultural history. For example, the women’s role as slaves on sugar plantations, as la comadronas (midwives) and as la jibara (country peasants.)

Born in New York, Ivelisse grew up in the barrio of the Lower East Side, where her mother was a community organizer. As an adult, Ivelisse relocated to Massachusetts, but in 2000, she was inspired to move to Puerto Rico. “I wanted to know about my heritage. I wanted to understand the culture, because my dad was black and my mom was white. Also, because there was something missing. I found out that what was missing was that I didn’t know where I came from. I wanted to know why the culture was the way it was — the music, the food, the dancing.” After doing ancestral research in old church records, Ivelisse learned that she is the great great-grandaughter of a woman who was brought to Puerto Rico in 1834 from Africa to work in the sugar plantation in Vega Alta.

After arriving in Puerto Rico, Ivelisse sought out older doll makers to learn from them. She eventually marketed her dolls at the Plaza in Old San Juan. Ivelisse has moved back to Massachusetts and is eager to share what she has learned of Puerto Rican traditional culture.

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Photos by Maggie Holtzberg

4 Responses to “Dollmaker returns to Massachusetts”

  1. aida Ramos Says:

    Great piece you deserve it,so glad you are doing your thing, Iike always your work is beautiful,
    really miss you .still doing my mosiac here in our home land Borinken
    la isla del encanto !!!!

  2. Alfredo Ocasio Says:

    Congraculations Ivelisse, I am very glad that no matter where you are have not lost your roots. I have News for you, me and my family are mooving to Boston soon, by September of this year 2009. Keep in touch, we want to see you again. God bless you. My e-mail is montezion@prtc.net

  3. Claire Connelly Says:

    Doll Story
    I had a black doll when I was child. I called it my Dina doll. I cherished it, but our dog had a litter of puppies, and as children do I left it where the puppies could get it and it was torn into pieces. No one in my household would tell me where she went. One day while visiting a neighbor, I saw the head of my doll in her sewing basket. She had copied the face and was making dolls for her church fair. She must have gone into our trash (which she often did), and took the doll’s head. I was horrified to see just the head of my doll, but too embarassed to ask if I could have it back. I always look for a doll like her whenever I can.
    Your d\dolls are wonderful and one of these days I’m going to find out how to make a doll like Dina.

  4. yolanda cintron Says:

    I took your class in the open center in 2004. Your inspire me to begin my family genology. i will be in the island in august to continue my search. Would love to met with you. i need help in my search. If you are available , please tell me and when….Gracia..Yolie

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