Juan Boria (February 17, 1906 – May 29, 1995) also known as the Negro (Black) Verse Pharaoh, was a Puerto Rican poet known for his Afro-Caribbean poetry.
Boria was born in Dorado, Puerto Rico where he studied elementary school. After that, he followed studies in the nearby town of Toa Baja. During weekends, he worked as a mason and carpenter to pay for his studies. He finished his studies in Santurce in 1923.At this time, his family moved to the town of Cataño and he started studies in the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. He received his Bachelor’s degree as a teacher of industrial arts, drawing, and carpentry. After several years working in several places, he started working as a teacher in 1937 at a school in San Germán. From there, he was transferred to another school in Canóvanas.
Starting his career
In 1938, during a show at the school in Canóvanas, he heard a colleague — Pablito Rivera — recite the Negro poem “La negra curandera.” He liked it so much that he asked him for a copy to learn and recite at his friends meetings. After some time, his friends prompted him to participate in a program at the WKAQ radio station. The poet Fortunato Vizcarrondo, considered the most important Negro poet in the island at the time, heard him and visited him. Vizcarrondo then offered him other of his poems for him to recite at the program.In 1941, he participated in a show at Loíza, where he met fellow poets Ramón Rivero (known as “Diplo”) and José Luis Torregrosa. They were so impressed with Boria’s performance that they incorporated him to his troupe called La Farándula Bohemia. He then traveled all around the island performing at several theaters both as a poet and as an actor. In 1944, he was sent to the Panama Canal to entertain the soldiers stationed there.
In 1950, he traveled to Havana, Cuba under the recommendation of “Diplo” and Luis Palés Matos. He planned to stay there for 15 days but was so sought after that he ended up staying two months. He followed with travels to the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, and Portugal, as well as New York, where he headlined at the Teatro Puerto Rico, and other cities in the United States. Afterward, he alternated his artistic activities with his job as a teacher in Río Piedras.In 1954, Boria debuted in television on the show Tribuna del Arte from Telemundo. He also performed in La Taberna India with “Diplo.” He followed with his debut in film in 1964 in the Mexican/Puerto Rican film Mientras Puerto Rico duerme, directed by Julián Soler. He also appeared in several short films produced by the Division of Community Education.From 1965 he traveled several cultural centers, schools, and public squares in Puerto Rico reciting at events sponsored by the Puerto Rican Culture Institute. He also participated at the Cultural Olympics in 1979. Boria retired from teaching in 1974. Afterward, he started his own shop in Cupey.Boria died May 29, 1995 in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico.