Photographer Frank Espada, leader and activist of New York's Puerto Rican community in the 1960s, died in California, his son said Monday. He was 84.

His father died Sunday evening, Jason Espada said.

Frank Espada, also father of the renowned poet Martin Espada, gained nationwide fame after publishing "The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People," in which he portrayed his fellow islanders in different places doing different things all across the United States.

Born in Puntuado, Puerto Rico, in 1930, Espada was 9 years old when his family moved to New York, where the photographer recalls a childhood full of poverty and restrictions.

"We were quite poor, always struggling to make ends meet, living in apartments with no hot water or refrigerators, with no heat in the winter and rats in the hallways," he said in a short autobiography that appears on his Web site.

For years Espada had to put off his photographic ambitions to work at ordinary jobs to support his family.

He also got involved in the incipient civil rights movement in New York, and in 1967 joined the community action project dubbed The City-Wide Puerto Rican Development Program.

Finally in 1979 he won a scholarship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which enabled him to carry out his dream of making a photographic history of the Puerto Rican diaspora all across the United States.

In the three-year project, he documented more than 30 Puerto Rican communities thoughout the country and, among other aspects, caught on film the labor of Puerto Ricans in Hawaii, where more than 5,000 were recruited to work the sugarcane fields. EFE