(Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños)
Administrative Office: 1429 Hunter East; (212) 772-5688
Director: Edwin Meléndez, Ph.D.
Centro Library and Archives
The Louis and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work
2180 Third Avenue and 119th Street, Room 121; (212) 396-7876
Associate Director of the Library and Archives: Alberto Hernández Banuchi
The Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños/Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) is a university-based research institute whose mission consists of two components. One is to collect, preserve and provide access to archival and library resources documenting the history and culture of Puerto Ricans. The other is to produce, facilitate and disseminate interdisciplinary research about the diasporic experiences of Puerto Ricans and to link this scholarly inquiry to social action and policy debates. To complement these core activities, Centro sponsors a year round program of educational and cultural activities.
History Founded in 1973 by a coalition of faculty, students and community leaders, Centro seeks to achieve its mission by working closely with a network of education, research, archival, advocacy and community-based partners. Centro has been housed at Hunter College since 1983; however, it is a CUNY-wide research center. Centro staff guide and mentor Latino and other students, assist and advise community organizations and other research institutions and serve on local, national and international committees concerned with issues of social, economic, educational and cultural policy. In addition, CUNY faculty and staff with interests in Puerto Rican and Latino studies are invited to affiliate with Centro, where they utilize its extensive resources. Centro has been a founding member of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) since 1989. The IUPLR, currently composed of 23 affiliate centers, is the most extensive consortium of Latino research centers in the United States.
Research Program As a university-based Puerto Rican research center, Centro staff and researchers are interested in a comprehensive understanding of the Puerto Rican diasporic experience in the U.S. and in relevant socioeconomic and historical aspects regarding Puerto Rico. Given its history and role within CUNY, the Centro is particularly interested in New York’s Puerto Rican and ethnic communities. The following are research areas of current interest and attention in the Centro: history and political economy, migration, race, class, gender and sexuality, education, community development, political and human rights, public policy and political participation and cultural and literary studies. This list reflects the current combination of staff strengths and expertise, as well as the academic, community and policy networks the Centro has developed. Given the changing needs in Puerto Rican communities, in academia and in the Centro’s staff, the areas of current interest are reviewed periodically.
The Centro Research Exchange program promotes institutional, faculty and student intellectual and scientific exchange with stateside academic institutions and in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Since its inception the program has focused on strengthening institutional links between the City University of New York and stateside higher education and research institutions through academic and cultural exchanges and scholarly collaboration. Centro has sponsored numerous resident scholars, including theses and dissertation, post-doctoral and junior faculty fellows. The Centro Research Exchange Program has facilitated research and other academic/cultural activities for more than three hundred faculty and students.
Library and Archives The Centro Library and Archives is devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the history and culture of Puerto Ricans. Now in its new facilities at the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman Building in East Harlem, the collections include books, newspapers, periodicals, audio and video tapes, manuscripts, photographs, prints and recorded music. The Library and Archives provides services and programs to the scholarly community as well as the general public. It facilitates access to its holdings through mail and telephone services, City University’s online public catalog CUNY+, participation in national computerized databases and through the publication of finding aids. The Llibrary and Archives promote the study of Puerto Rican history and culture through exhibitions and other public programs.
The Library and Archives collects, preserves and makes available for research unique primary materials that document the history and culture of the Puerto Rican diaspora with a concentration on New York City. The holdings include personal papers, records of organizations and institutions, photographic collections, broadsides, programs and ephemera. Among the collections are the records of civil rights organizations, the papers of activists, writers, artists, scholars, educators and elected officials. A highlight of the holdings is the extensive records of the offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the U.S. Special features of the Archives include its photographic holdings, art prints/posters by artists from New York and Puerto Rico and sound recordings of Puerto Rican popular music. Finding aids and guides are available for processed collections and are online on the Centro Web site.
Publications A major accomplishment in Centro Publications is the launch of our academic press in 2013 with the publication of two books: The Stories That I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré, The Legendary Storyteller, Children’s Author, and New York Public Librarian, by Lisa Sánchez González, and the memoirs of Gilberto Gerena Valentín, Soy Gilberto Gerena Valentín: memorias de un puertorriqueño en Nueva York. (While this first edition of the Gerena Valentín book is in Spanish, we are in the process of having it translated so as to publish it in English.) Both books are currently available for purchase directly from our office or ordered online on our website.Through Centro Publications, our mission is to expand the products that we are producing and, through wider variety and broader distribution of our publications, reach and influence a larger audience concerned with the Puerto Rican diaspora and its place in the context of society at large. Centro plans to produce readers, coffee-table books, art reproductions and other publications on the Puerto Rican experience.
The CENTRO Journal, founded in 1987, is one of the Centro’s most important links to the public. A multidisciplinary, bilingual, refereed publication that welcomes scholarly articles in the humanities and the social and natural sciences, as well as interpretive essays, interviews, fiction, reviews and art,the Journal reflects developments in the field of Puerto Rican studies. Although primarily an academic publication directed at disseminating the body of scholarship on Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, the Journal retains elements of its earlier incarnation, publishing work in a variety of formats. The journal encourages a dialogue that compares Puerto Ricans with other ethnic groups, particularly other Latinos and African Americans. The Journal is available by subscription directly from our office or it may be ordered via our website.
Voices is the e-magazine of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. A web-based platform at https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/centrovoices, Voices’ goal is to disseminate scholarly contributions about the Puerto Rican experiences in the United States to a general public. It encourages interactions among academics, our community and the general public.
Education Centro’s education programs seek to develop curricula and pedagogies that motivate Hunter, CUNY and other students, as well as teachers, to become involved in Puerto Rican Studies, provide the necessary supports for success, and encourage a sense of service toward others. Centro has created several educational products to support historical preservation. To help promote these products, Centro has produced three brochures describing the exhibition materials available to groups and schools. The brochures describe the exhibits, films and posters, which are primarily to be used as instructional material. But they also can be used in semi-public spaces by local organizations to increase their visibility in their own communities. The brochures include:
Centro Traveling Exhibits This brochure is an eight pager describing nine eye-opening stand-alone exhibits that can add interest to local events. The exhibits are particularly appropriate for use by schools and Latino organizations as stand-alone exhibitions or as an engine for a roundtable or panel discussion. The displays, which are easy to set up, highlight stateside Puerto Ricans who have made a difference in the arts, government, religion and politics or to illuminate historic events or movements. The Centro Traveling Exhibits include: The Legacy of Pentecostal Minister Reverend Manuel Tomás Sanchez, a pioneer Pentecostal pastor; Carlos Arroyo: Mr. Cha Cha Taps, the life of this noted dancer; Orgullo in Organizing: Puerto Rican Workers; Their History and Legacy, 1930 -2010, traces Puerto Rican participation in organized labor; Luis Muñoz Marín: The New York Years, 1927-1928, recognizes Muñoz Marín’s work when living in the United States. Also included are two forthcoming exhibits, one on A Revolt through Letters: Clemente Soto Vélez, that explores the life of this controversial leader and the other on The National Puerto Rican Day Parade, which looks into its roots and amazing growth.
Centro Film Festival A four pager describing six documentaries that schools and organizations can combine into a create-your-own film festival or use individually to enhance other programming. They include: Pura Belpré: Storyteller about the folklorist and librarian; The Legacy of Frank Bonilla who was Centro’s founder; Martorell: De Aqui, Pa’lla on artist Antonio Martorell and his exhibit for the New-York Historical Society; A Revolt through Letters: Clemente Soto Vélez explores the life of this controversial leader; and María Dominquez, Education and Enrichment through Community Murals, which is part of Centro’s Arts in Education Outreach, looks at Dominquez’s work on a community mural with students from East Harlem. The last is Plena Is Work, Plena Is Song, an examination of this important musical tradition.
Puerto Rican Heritage Poster Series
This colorfully illustrated brochure describes each of eight posters documenting the long history of the Puerto Rican migration, from its cultural roots through contemporary times. This series is especially suited for in-school use and can easily integrated into the curriculum.
Part I. covers Puerto Rican cultural roots from 1200 to the late 1700s and the early migration the mainland, 1815 to 1897. Part II. covers the migration from 1898 to the 1930s; Part III. takes us through the Great Migrations (1940s to 1960s); Parts IV. looks into stateside struggle for equality and recognition; and Part V. covers education struggles, institution building and “new traditions.” Finally, there are three posters using maps to illustrate demographic migration patterns and population centers.
Conferences and Seminars As part of our educational initiatives, Centro regularly sponsors conferences and seminars that highlight the Puerto Rican experience. Our recent conferences and seminars have included:
Video Conference III : Digital Resources in Puerto Rico Centro presented another historic series of video conferences designed to acquaint researchers, students, teachers, other scholars and librarians with available resources – particularly digitized options – on the history of the Puerto Rican migration. This conference, produced in partnership with other academic institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico, was designed to acquaint statesiders with resources at various University of Puerto Rico campuses.
Video Conference IV. : Posters, Part Part II.: Teaching and Learning about Puerto Ricans in the United States Centro capped off its video series with a second conference highlighting our series of eight posters depicting the history of the relationship between the island and the U.S. The posters reflect some of the key struggles and accomplishments that characterize the Puerto Rican Civil Rights Movement, as well as its most prominent leaders and its expansion in alliance with African American and other human rights movements. Other posters spotlight educational struggles, the institutions Puerto Ricans built on the mainland and some of the “new traditions” inspired by the emigrants. It also includes a timeline and two maps, one reflecting the Taíno, African and Spanish roots of Puerto Ricans, the other illustrating the Puerto Rican migrations to the United States and the Caribbean.
Research Seminars I and II To highlight current Centro research, we hosted a two-part seminar examining the impact of the recession and the current state of the Puerto Rican population living in the United States. At the first seminar titled “Demographics and Social Conditions of Puerto Ricans in the United States,” researchers focused on Puerto Rican settlements in the South. The second seminar highlighted jobs and education of Puerto Ricans in the United States.
Events Centro sponsors cultural and educational activities that contribute to the study and interpretation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. We give priority to activities that support teaching and learning Puerto Rican Studies, develop and promote our archival collections, and that are useful to those in community organizations, public policy, and academia. Our speaker forums focus on scholarship in the social sciences, humanities, and performance arts.
For more information on current programs, events and other activities, please visit http://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu.