Newsletter of the Centro De Estudios Puertoriqueños * Fall 2010 * Volume I * Number 1
Vanessa Pérez Rosario, PhD, Centro Collaborator
On Julia de Burgos
Dr. Vanessa Pérez Rosario, currently working on a book about Julia de Burgos, describes this celebrated Puerto Rican poet as “a transnational figure who has become an icon for both the stateside Puerto Rican community and on the island.” The book, Becoming Julia de Burgos: Feminism, Transnationalism, Diaspora, will examine de Burgos’s involvement in Puerto Rican nationalism, her passion for gender equality, her Afro-Caribbean identity, and her embrace of New York and its migrant Puerto Rican community.
Pérez Rosario, who began her association with Centro in 2003 while researching her Ph. D. dissertation on the poet, and who most recently was a 2010 post-doctoral fellow, noted, “Julia also had a big influence on Nuyorican writers, like Sandra María Esteves and Mariposa.” The professor’s research reveals that like Jesús Colón, de Burgos wrote increasingly in English to acknowledge that future generations would feel more comfortable with what would become their native tongue.
This spring Pérez Rosario, who is also editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement, to be published in September by Palgrave Macmillan, consulted with the U.S. Postal Service on a new commemorative stamp featuring de Burgos’ image. But while she is excited about the unveiling of the stamp in Puerto Rico, she has reservations about the image itself. “I think they made her look too light-skinned,” she said, acknowledging de Burgos’s well-known self-identification with Africanidad.
Cultural Competence Initiative Conference
Centro believes that we cannot take for granted that we are living in an increasingly diverse society--there is a strong need to acknowledge and nurture it through the educational process. As part of its Cultural Competence Initiative, last May Centro held a conference called “Developing Culturally Competent Professionals: Meeting the Needs of Puerto Rican/Latin@ Communities.”
Centro Director Dr. Edwin Meléndez, Ph.D., framed the conference by describing Hunter’s initiative to support experiential learning, student recruitment and support networks. He stressed the need for a cultural competency curriculum to prepare all graduate students, whether in education, social work, public health, urban planning, or nursing, to work with Puerto Rican, Latino and other communities of color. Centro’s initiative seeks to help Hunter faculty and students to acquire cultural knowledge, value diversity, and learn to facilitate and manage the dynamics of difference.
Dr. J. Emilio Carrillo, Vice President of Community Health Development at New York-Presbyterian Hospital made the keynote presentation on “Cultural Competency: A Comprehensive Framework.” Dr. Carrillo made clear that Cultural Competence’s reach applies to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities; and that it is an ongoing process requiring a multi-level approach on organizational, group, community, and individual levels.
Dr. Meléndez indicated at the closing of the conference that Centro would follow up with more programmatic work and would seek ongoing financial support for the Cultural Competence Initiative. He reiterated Centro’s commitment to looking at area studies and Puerto Rican studies as something that is relevant to the education of undergraduate and graduate students and of professionals as well.
New Researcher Patricia Silver
Co-editor of the Spring Centro Journal, “Puerto Rican Florida,” Patricia Silver, PhD, is a new addition to Centro’s research staff. Her current mission is to expand her study of Puerto Rican community formation in Central Florida. She is carrying this out through ethnographic research on the articulation of personal memory, local histories, cultural meaning and political action in the Orlando-Kissimmee area.
Silver’s article in the current issue, entitled, “Culture Is More Than Bingo and Salsa: Puertorriqueñidad in Central Florida,” is based on a 2008-9 oral history project that traces historical trajectories of Puerto Ricans in an attempt to explain their impact and development in the region.
Having received a Ph.D. from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and a B.A. from Princeton, Silver did much of her early work examining the relations between public school teachers, their decisions and their impact on the dynamics of state formation in Puerto Rico. At Centro, she will also be working with the center’s Historic Preservation Initiative to establish a La Florida collection in the Library and Archives as well as a segment in the Barrios section of the online journal, Voices.
New Website Progress
The revamped Centro website, scheduled to launch this September, is about seventy-five percent complete. The new website and design has as its goal to make clear Centro’s mission as well as to be a prime resource for educators and researchers for information on the Puerto Rican experience and history on the mainland.
The site will feature over 100 collections of writers, artists, musicians, educators, founders, pioneros and civil rights advocates from the Centro Library & Archives.
Taking advantage of the web’s unique ability to present visual and audio content, the collections feature photos, documents, oral histories and videos vital to providing an empirical basis for interpreting the Puerto Rican experience.
The Voices section will post newly produced literary and other artistic content from established writers as well as from new voices that have never before been published. The website will also include an Education section covering history, culture and Puerto Rican studies, and a Research section spotlighting important new findings.
Remembering Loisaida to be Featured at PRSA
Last year’s Centro-sponsored conference, Remembering Loisaida, will be spotlighted in October in a panel discussion at the PRSA conference in Hartford, CT. The material covered in the conference will also be posted in the Barrios sub-section under the Voices tab on the newly revamped Centro online site.
According to Libertad Guerra, point person for the PRSA panel, the online presence aims to make accessible much of the debate and chronicles developed at the original conference, as well as to serve as a research/interpretive tool for accessing pertinent special collections at the Centro library.
Developed by Guerra and Centro researcher Yasmín Ramírez, Remembering Loisaida aimed at assembling a coherent narrative of the Puerto Rican art community and cultural activism in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood known as Loisaida. The website will include a timeline that illustrates this history, as well as placing Puerto Rican artists in the center of the narrative of the downtown arts scene of the 1980s and 1990s. It also will feature a web gallery of posters and images drawn from Centro’s holdings.
Please join us at our Open House!
The schedule for this fall’s open house, to be held on Wednesday, September 15 is as follows:
~4:00-5:00pm Student reception, Centro Library
• Introduction of Centro & Programs, internships, volunteer
• Meet & greet students & Centro staff
• Library & Archives tour
• Centro offices tour, 14th Floor
~4:30-5:45pm Puerto Rican Faculty Reception, Conference Room E1442
• Welcome –Dr. Edwin Melendez
• Roundtable –research & education projects from Centro collaborators (faculty & researchers)
~6:00 – 8:00pm Letras event, Chanin Center, West Building, level B
• Showcase of our new website including our new section Voices
• Brief reading from Letras contributors:
David Cortés, Pedro López Adorno, Marithelma Costa, Juan Manuel Rivera, Myrna Nieves, Bronco Castro, José Angel Figueroa, Carmen Valle, Alfredo Villanueva, Lourdes Vázquez, Yvonne Dines Rosario, Nancy Mercado, Urayoán Noel, Yvan Silén.
• Network & reception