The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP by its Spanish initials) announced today that Puerto Rican artisan Nellie Vera has just been recognized with the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Annually, artists from different disciplines are nominated for this award, which is the most important bestowed in the traditional arts.
The ICP submitted the nomination of the distinguished artisan in the discipline of "mundillo" (handmade bobbin lace, popular in Puerto Rico and Panama), who was selected this year along with 8 other artists from all over the United States.
"At 95 years old, and with a long career in the Puerto Rican arts, particularly in mundillo, Mrs. Nellie is worthy of this important award and distinction. We thank you and congratulate you for promoting this beautiful art that represents our history, culture and tradition," said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.
Moreover, ICP Executive Director Carlos Ruiz Cortés said “with this distinction to the artisan Nellie Vera, her career, commitment and dedication to the art of mundillo and Puerto Rican culture is recognized. Nellie has not only dedicated her life to developing and demonstrating her great talent, she has also been a teacher who has shared her knowledge with multiple generations, helping to keep alive the tradition of mundillo."
The National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts is the highest recognition given to excellence, trajectory, and contributions in the folk and traditional arts. This important recognition of Mrs. Nellie Vera makes her the 12th Puerto Rican to receive the prestigious award, instituted in 1982.
Nellie Vera is a renowned artisan teacher of mundillo, a native of Moca, who has received multiple awards throughout her career as Master Craftswoman (2004), Consecrated Craftswoman (2012), Patriotic Symbol (2014).
The 95-year-old "mundillera" was inducted into the Puerto Rican Handicraft Hall of Fame in 2015 and was one of the founders of the collective of "mundilleras," Borinquen Lacers, of the Mundillo Museum in Moca and of the Mocan Artisans Workshop, which came to home over 300 artisans from the town of Moca. In 2009 she received the Artisan Excellence Award from the ICP.
Doña Nellie is part of the prestigious Directory of Great Masters of Popular Art in Latin America published by Fomento Cultural Banamex in Mexico, and her art has taken her to Spain and Belgium, both countries with a great mundillo tradition.
"At the Popular Arts Program, we are committed to providing greater visibility to the artisan work of our country. Doña Nellie has been a pioneer in safeguarding the traditional art of mundillo and she is a reference for the current generations that work this beautiful Puerto Rican lace, as well as the public that enjoys it. Her career is impressive and we are proud to be part of such an important recognition of her legacy," said Jessabet Vivas Capó, director of the ICP's Popular Arts Program.
Two years ago, Nellie Vera was part of the Crónicas 90 mini-documentary series, produced by the ICP to highlight the trajectory of figures over the age of 90 whose work has contributed to the culture and history of Puerto Rico. It can be seen at https://www.archivoicp.com/cronicas-90.
Another effort that the ICP has recently made to promote and preserve the tradition of mundillo was to support the designation of the first Sunday in May as National Day of the Puerto Rican Mundillo through a proclamation from the State Department.
For more information about the National Heritage Fellowship Award you can visit https://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage.