Arriving in the United States in the 1920's, Belpré had grown up in Puerto Rico. When her sister was offered a position at NYPL but not allowed to take it due to her husband's refusal to have her work, Belpré took the position. Reviewing the collection, she found few tales reminiscent of her Latino childhood and those of her neighbors.
These stories, she believe, also belonged in the children's collection Belpré wrote her first Puerto Rican tale when she enrolled in the Library School of the NYPL in 1925. She shared her love of reading with the community through storytelling, puppet shows, and books. After presenting a professional paper on her work with the Spanish speaking community in the early 1940s, she became a leading influence in making folklore available to all children throughout the United States. She continued this important work until 1982!