Maine-based Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco received the National Humanities Medal from President Biden on Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House.
Blanco, who has defined himself as “born in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported into the United States,” was one of twelve people selected to receive the medal, awarded to writers, historians, educators and activists from the United States.
As an author he rose to the national scene in January 2013, when he read his poem “One Today” to the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the National Mall for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. The text was a tribute to his parents, while acknowledging American diversity.
He was the first Latino and the first openly gay man to deliver the opening poem. Blanco and his partner moved from Miami to Bethel, Maine, fifteen years ago.
He is also the author of the poem “Matters of the Sea”, which he read in 2015 during the reopening ceremony of the United States embassy in Havana.
Blanco collaborated with fellow Cuban-American writer Vanessa García in a play called Sweet Goats and Blueberry Missyespremiered at Portland Stage on January 25, his first foray into the world of theater.
Created in 1997, the National Humanities Medal honors individuals and groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened Americans’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities.