Updated September 21, 2022, with memorial service information.
Updated October 3, 2022, with date and cause of death.
Dear Middlebury Community,
As we mourn the tragic loss of our teacher, friend, and colleague, Assistant Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies Raquel Albarrán, we write today to share more about Raquel’s life and contributions to Middlebury. Raquel died on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, due to natural causes.
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.
A scholar of colonial Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean, Raquel joined Middlebury on a tenure-track appointment in 2018, following a two-year postdoctoral appointment with Florida State University’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics.
When we spoke with Raquel’s father, Miguel Albarrán, he shared that Raquel’s passion for the extension of “new knowledge” in her academic work was a result of so many diverse interests that she pursued throughout her lifetime, including yoga, Afro-American dance, learning guitar, and reading about current events—as she energetically conveyed to her father and others. Her father described her as a “traveling teacher.”
Carlos Vélez-Blasini, dean of international programs and professor of psychology, described Raquel as a dear friend and colleague. “She was passionate about life and work, and about her beautiful home island of Puerto Rico. Raquel was instrumental in the creation of the new Middlebury School in Puerto Rico, which will receive its first students this spring. The establishment of this school will now forever serve as a tribute to her work and impact.”
Enrique García, chair of the Luso-Hispanic Studies Department, says the loss of his colleague and friend will be felt across the community. “Raquel was a great scholar, BIPOC and LGBTQ community leader, and friend. She was also a loving daughter who took care of her mother while she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. During the pandemic, Raquel overcame the difficulties brought by her mother’s health and still taught great classes, published, won prestigious national grants, and made time to build community with Middlebury faculty and BIPOC students. As Raquel had experienced prejudices based on race, gender, and sexuality, she always made sure her students understood their voice is valid in higher education.”
Raquel earned her PhD and MA in Hispanic studies from the University of Pennsylvania and her BA in education from Universidad de Puerto Rico. 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. Her scholarship appears in the 2020 edition of The Routledge Hispanic Studies Companion to Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean (1492–1898) in a chapter she contributed, “Material Encounters: Columbus’s Diario del primer viaje and the objects of colonial Latin American and Hispanic Caribbean studies.”
At Middlebury, she taught all levels of language, literature, and culture courses, including Spanish, XICANXRIBEÑXS: Our Stories, Our Worlds; Whose “New World”?: Early Latin America after Eurocentrism; #CaribeDIY: DIY Aesthetics and Alternative Markets in the Hispanic Caribbean; and Colonial Objects: Materiality and the Invention of the New World.
Raquel was a dedicated member of our community, serving as an advisory board member for the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and was on the steering committee for the Black Studies program. She was advisor to the student club Alianza Latinoaméricana Y Caribeña, a cultural organization dedicated to learning more and sharing knowledge about Latinx, Hispanic, and Caribbean cultures. She also served on the Voter Hall committee to facilitate and oversee the Department of Luso-Hispanic Studies’ move to the second floor, to make it a welcoming space.
Daniel Silva, associate professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies and director of the Black Studies program, worked closely with Raquel and offered the following reflections:
“Professor Albarrán meant so much to us, especially those who had the chance to work closely with her, laugh with her, and be in community with her. She was a generous and thoughtful friend. A life-changing professor to her students. A life-changing person (period). Knowing her made me a better scholar, a better professor, a better person. She was an example I turned to for professional and personal inspiration, someone who shined so bright despite the rainstorms that she confronted. We shared professional interests as well as personal ones. We could nerd-out about decolonial theory while reciting Reggaeton lyrics. She would blow my mind intellectually as easily as she would make me crack up in public. I am grateful to have known her and to have been so positively impacted by her over the last few years. I am forever indebted to her.”
A service of remembrance and celebration of life for Raquel will be held on Friday, September 30, at 2:45 p.m. in Middlebury Chapel, with a reception to follow the service in the Redfield Proctor Room, just behind the chapel on the upper level of Proctor Hall. Raquel’s family has suggested that memorial gifts in her honor may be made to Open Door Clinic in Middlebury.
This news comes as a shock to all of us, and we encourage you to seek out trusted friends, classmates, and colleagues to support one another through this profound loss. Our residential life team, deans, counseling staff, and chaplains at the Scott Center are ready to provide support for any student. Students may contact the Scott Center at 802-443-5626, the Counseling Center at 802-443-5141, or MiddTelehealth 24/7. The Employee and Family Assistance Program, 800-828-6025 (company code: Middlebury College), is available for faculty and staff and their immediate family members, and those residing in their homes. The Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) can be reached at 802-388-7641 or 802-388-6751.
Yours in sorrow,
Interim Executive Vice President and Provost