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Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos

Newsletter of the Centro De Estudios Puertoriqueños * Fall 2010 * Volume I * Number 2

The New Website is Here!

Centro Website

The new beautifully designed Centro website not only presents Centro’s mission clearly, but it establishes itself as a prime resource for data on the Puerto Rican experience on the mainland. Now, students, educators, and researchers are able to gain access to the vast data on Puerto Rican studies right from home.

The website’s new e-magazine, Voices, contains literary works as well as intriguing segments looking into the history and life of our neighborhoods in the Barrios Series; a Film and Theater Corner; Letras, with stories, essays, poems, and memoirs; and Meet the Author events.

The Centro Library and Archives’ section of the website includes collections of artists, civil rights activists, educators, founders, musicians, pioneros, and writers. And since it offers visual and audio content, if it‘s a great Centro event that you happen to have missed, it is conveniently available for your viewing. Major areas of interest are sure to be the Research section and the Education section, which focuses on history, culture, and Puerto Rican studies.

Centro is especially proud of its Web Team, Jose Camacho, Jonathan Figueroa, Carol Chacón-Loza, and Amanda Bermúdez. Their diligent work and careful planning has resulted in this creative, interactive website that serves as the world’s central database for Puerto Rican studies.

The website is currently in beta version and we would like to get your feedback. Please spend some time browsing through and let us know what you think.

Centro Voices: The New E-Magazine

Centro Website

“Centro Voices” online magazine is not your average academic magazine. Voices editor Xavier Totti has constructed a creative outlet for ideas and scholarship, an e-magazine filled with a variety of exciting sections. Whether it be the youth, intellectuals, or the artistic mind, Voices has something for everyone.

Four sections of Voices are already available on our new website. Barrios looks at Puerto Rican neighborhoods in the US and analyzes their history, architecture, commerce, community organizations, art, and social movements. Barrios takes an original stance by focusing on how these neighborhoods are viewed by artists, historians, and social scientists. You may currently explore two great pieces on Puerto Ricans in Orlando, Florida and St. Croix.

Letras is the interactive section that welcomes all Puerto Rican writers to contribute. This section is home to essays, fiction, memoirs, and poems.

Meet the Author is part of the Centro Events series featuring authors of new works. Meet the Author welcomes the public to interact with writers of books or other publications pertaining to Puerto Rican studies. Past events have been filmed and are available for viewing in the Centro library, however video segments are now available for 2009-2010 Meet the Author events online.

The Film and Theater Corner is a much needed contribution to the world of Puerto Rican filmmakers and theater people. The Film and Theater Corner exhibits new films, documentaries, and theater presentations showcasing new artists and producers. We aim to educate our community through study guides and activities.

Voices is always looking for new editors. Becoming a Centro Voices editor is easy. Just send an e-mail indicating your interest. You can submit a proposal for a new section or join an existing group. All faculty affiliated with a Puerto Rican or Latino studies program, or any scholar of Puerto Rican studies, can serve as an editor of a section. Other professionals in the field of Puerto Rican studies can also partner with scholars and become co-editors of the sections of the magazine. Editors are responsible for all content development and for the review of material submitted by members and other contributors. Please go to to view the Voices section on your website.

We are in the midst of creating new sections including Music & Rhythms, The Arts Landscape, Puerto Rican/Latino Health, Pa’Las Mujeres, and Pioneros and Their Legacy. If you are interested in becoming an editor or have ideas about possible topics, don’t hesitate to contact us and help become part of history.

Contact us at

Centro Letras

Celebrating with Poetry

Centro celebrated its new website launch with Letras, an event at which well-known Puerto Rican poets, whose works currently on view on the Voices page of the Centro website, read some of their works and expressed their gratitude for Centro’s contributions to Puerto Rican studies. The highly anticipated website contains new sections like Voices, the new electronic magazine that contains information on Puerto Ricans studies, which is not usually found in a scholastic journal. Voices supplies great content like the Barrios Series, where community links are created through investigating the history of the Barrios and how people and artists view them. Letras is a series of issues that allow writers and poets to present their work to the public. The Letras event, which is a play on words literally meaning alphabetic letters, took place September 15 in the Chanin Screening Room of Hunter College.

The event began with the presentation of the new Beta Version website. Video clips, event updates, and a demonstration on how to obtain access to abundant research was presented by the webmaster, José Camacho. With this launch, this website will become the main source for accessing Puerto Rican research. Both professors and artists who attended the event were encouraged to submit ideas and research in order to support the website’s virtual experience and its continued growth.

The first poet, Alfredo Villanueva, delivered a powerful piece about Puerto Rican culture and its danger of becoming commercialized. Nancy Mercado opened with an explosion of descriptive and romantic words, painting a verbal picture of hardship and perseverance. Urayoán Noel, who also paid tribute to the famous Puerto Rican poet Pedro Pietri, captured the audience with humor and charisma as he compared the unemployed CEO to a homeless man sitting on el banco when he realizes that “it’s tough here in the city.” Mirna Nieves and David Cortés Cabàn also contributed two touching poems.

With the night ending with compliments and conversations, the Centro staff is pleased and looks forward to good possibilities for the website in the future.

Click Here for a slide-show of the event!

Researching Conditions of Puerto Rican Farm Workers

Ismael Garcia Colon
Ismael García Colón, a Centro research associate, and an associate professor of anthropology at the College of Staten Island, in collaboration with Centro, is heading a study of Puerto Rican farm workers in the US Northeast. The project consists of surveying over 300 Puerto Rican workers to understand the demographics and migratory patterns, and the housing, economic, and work-related conditions of these workers. Puerto Rican migrants work 80 hours, seven days a week. Most of them are seasonal workers who travel north every year, working from March through November and returning home during winter.

This study will provide in-depth data on the US agricultural political economy, the opportunity for advancement in agricultural industry, historical reasons behind migration, political and economic policies in Puerto Rico, and relations between other workers, farmers, and residents in farm communities. State regions with labor camps and Puerto Rican workers were first identified, then visited. Interviewers visited farms, camps, and homes explaining in detail the project and carrying out the survey.

The spirit of the Farm Workers Project is influenced by hope that the research will bring about change. Not only will the project raise awareness on the fact that there are still Puerto Rican migrant farm workers, but it will provide information on which political decisions regarding farm labor regulations will be based upon. This study is financed by the Ford Foundation and the Centro Research Exchange. García Colón recently published Land Reform in Puerto Rico: Modernizing the Colonial State, 1941-1969. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of political and historical anthropology, oral history, and Caribbean, Latino and Latin-American studies.
Helvetia Martell

New Staffer: Helvetia Martell

Centro would like to welcome a new staffer, Helvetia Martell, who will be working at Centro Library and Archives performing reference, catalog, and metadata duties, as well as collaborating on digitization and bibliographic endeavors. She is also in charge of the OpenCourseWare section - in conjunction with the bibliographies of the Centro Education page.

Helvetia Martell is a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico. She attended the University of Puerto Rico where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in education majoring in French, and a master’s degree in library science.

She has worked with the OAS in Washington, D.C. and Arte Público Press, where she coordinated a document digitization and indexing project involving US Latino literature. She also co-authored Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1960: a Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography, with Arte Público founder Dr. Nicolás Kanellos.

Helvetia has a long and successful career in the information science field, developing expertise in cataloging and indexing, document image management, and records management. She has many years of experience working with Hispanic and Latin American library materials and audiences. She has also been involved in training users in conducting research, processing library and archival materials for digitization endeavors, and indexing special materials. She has given numerous presentations on the subjects of periodical indexing and digitization of library materials in library and academic conferences in US and abroad.

Prior to joining the Centro library Helvetia was working with the Houston Public Library as metadata librarian. She is currently preparing for a master bibliography on Puerto Rican studies that will be available for the Internet.

CENTRO Journal

CENTRO Journal Issue on Florida Breaks New Ground

In CENTRO Journal’s Spring 2010 issue, “Puerto Rican Florida,” editors Jorge Duany and Patricia Silver have produced a major new text helping establish Florida as a significant outpost of the Puerto Rican diaspora. For many years, Puerto Rican identity has been derived mostly from the island, New York, and in a more general sense, the northeastern US But now a case can be made that the “Flori-rican” will be a major player in discussion of identity.

To mention a few of the intriguing articles in the Florida issue, there is Patricia Silver’s “Culture is More than Bingo and Salsa,” and Diana Ariza’s “Puerto Rican Youth in Central Florida.” Jacqueline Villarrubia-Mendoza’s article “Characteristics of Puerto Rican Homeowners in Florida and their Likelihood of Homeownership” explores the progress and shortcomings of Puerto Ricans owning their own homes. “The Orlando Ricans: Overlapping Identity Discourses among Middle-Class Puerto Rican Immigrants” is an excellent piece by Jorge Duany analyzing the impact of well-educated Puerto Ricans and how they define themselves in the census and relate to other Latinos.

While much of the journal features quantitative-based analysis, there is enough gut-level “identity discourse” to paint a living portrait of a community that is beginning to make itself heard. In addition, myths like the idea that the Puerto Rican presence in Orlando is for the most part the result of a “brain drain” of highly skilled professionals from the island are explored.

This issue of CENTRO will be an invaluable resource for sociologists, and also will help political science scholars in evaluating what role Puerto Ricans may play in hotly contested statewide elections.

Puerto Rican Florida Brochure


Open House: Find Out What We’re About

Centro Open House
Because Centro is a research Institute and not an academic department of Hunter College, many students are unaware of the opportunities and important work that is being done on the 14th floor of the East Building. Students who have studied in the Hunter library have walked past the Centro library within, without realizing what it is.

To help remedy this, on September 15 Centro held an open house event for students. The Centro Library and Archives was filled with brownies, students, and opportunity. Not only were students informed of what Centro is all about, but they were provided with internship and scholarship opportunities. Rosalie Román, the Events Coordinator already is being assisted by a new intern thanks to the open house, and research associate Luis Reyes connected with a new intern from the Macaulay Honors Program, CUNY-Hunter who will assist with research on education.

Centro is an organization dedicated to the study and interpretation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States and is staffed by professionals who specialize in everything from sociology, anthropology, and political science to urban planning, web design, art history, and psychology. If you missed this last open house, be sure to stay tuned to our next one, or just explore more of this exciting new website.

Click Here for a slide-show of the event!

Florida Day

Floriday day

To commemorate Centro’s research on Puerto Rican’s living in Florida, a former mayor of Miami, Maurice A. Ferre shared his experiences as the first Puerto Rican mayor in the US During a recent interview conducted by Carlos Vargas-Ramos the mayor provided an intriguing behind-the- scenes look at that state’s racial politics. The interview was part of a day-long look at Florida in conjunction with the release of the current CENTRO Journal Central Florida issue. Centro’s Florida Day continued with a meet-and-greet with the former mayor and concluded with an exhibit on the Puerto Ricans in Central Florida in the Centro Library and Archives.

Maurice Ferre served as the Democratic mayor of Miami from 1973-1985, during which he battled and helped better the Miami police department, which many claimed was racially biased, by appointing the first Black chief of police. He headed Miami in the direction of investment banking in Latin America, and openly defined Puerto Rico as a colony of the US Recently, Ferre ran and lost a Senate race; however he has left his mark on politics and culture in Miami. He noted, “There have been two Latino and three Cuban American senators, no Puerto Ricans” He wanted to be the first Puerto Rican senator. Ferre believes that if Puerto Rico was offered a plebiscite that simply asked if they wanted statehood, yes or no, they would vote yes.

Ferre thanked Centro and Patricia Silver, who has done massive research on Puerto Ricans in Central Florida and co-edited the journal on that topic, for all her hard work on Florida and the Puerto Rican community. He added, “I think that cultural anthropology is really where the answers are.” Silver was the curator for the exhibit, called “Puerto Ricans in Central Florida 1940’s-1980s: A History”.

The exhibit included a film on the lives of the Puerto Rican migrants in Central Florida and placards explaining the demographics and transition of Puerto Ricans in this area. Unlike other Puerto Rican neighborhoods on the mainland, the Puerto Ricans in Central Florida cover a vast geographical area. Tourism and aviation offered jobs while Spanish groceries offered centers for social networking. The military portion was especially interesting because it explained the cause and effect of Puerto Ricans being sent to serve in bases in Central Florida, and vice versa.

Ferre also thank CENTRO editor Xavier Totti along with Silver for their wonderful contribution and urged people to pick up the Florida Centro Journal, which is brim full of long awaited articles.

Click Here to view "La Florida" in Voices

Click Here for a slide-show of the event!

Click Here for a video of "A Conversation with Maurice A. Ferre"

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