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Celebrating 45 Years: A Guide to Centro

by Carlos Vargas-Ramos


A lot has happened in the 45 years since the founding of the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños. Building upon the advent of ethnic studies programs throughout the United States and the struggle for open admissions to the public university system in New York City, Centro has evolved into an unparalleled resource for the Puerto Rican diaspora. This became evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria when an online initiative called Rebuild Puerto Rico was launched to provide the general public with information hub covering almost every facet of the recovery: from the kind of data briefs that form the basis of public policy to a civic sector directory of all the different organizations working with Puerto Rican communities on and off the island. The storm was, of course, a new chapter for the Puerto Rican diaspora. Yet in a way, it was another example of the commitment Centro has kept for the past four and a half decades: to understand, to preserve, and to share the Puerto Rican experience in the United States.

“Centro’s founding and growth testify to the efforts to produce, store, and share the narratives of a people who refuse to be overlooked, marginalized, or neglected,” says Centro Director Dr. Edwin Melendez.

In an effort to condense this history in an accessible format, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies has issued A Guide to Centro. Available in both print format and PDF download, the 15-page guide covers the entire trajectory of Centro. Pages 4 and 5, for example, include a timeline of milestones from 1973 to present. There, you can read about many of the Centro’s groundbreaking projects, such as the oral history project Puerto Ricans in New York: Voices of the Migration to the creation of the Centro Archives and subsequent acquisition of invaluable personal collections of writings, films, photos, and so on.

More recently, Centro has evolved into a leading think-tank and scholarly incubator. Researchers at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies have collectively published five books, four edited volumes, thirty-three articles in peer-reviewed outlets, eighteen book chapters, and six major policy reports in just the past decade. Moreover, since 2012, the Data Center has released upwards of twenty-five research briefs, population maps, and data sheets. This, in turn, has garnered substantial news coverage, in addition to providing policymakers with relevant information on particular issues facing the Puerto Rican community.

“At Centro, we are striving to do what we do best: gather information and share the data, provide readily accessible information, and help pave the way for policy makers, academics, researchers, educators, students, and the public,” asserts Dr. Melendez.

This wide intersection of people has come together at the Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans series of diaspora summits that Centro has been organizing since 2016, in cities like New York, Washington D.C., Holyoke, and San Juan. Over time, the summits have coalesced into a nationwide solidarity movement among stakeholders interested in resolving Puerto Rico’s ongoing debt crisis. In response to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans and the Rebuild Puerto Rico initiative now encompass the recovery and reconstruction effort.

A Guide to Centro also highlights the abundance of educational tools and programs that Centro has launched in recent years. That includes, among other things, the Puerto Rican Heritage Cultural Ambassadors Program and the Pioneros Documentary series, both of which can be found online. The availability of these educational resources is increasingly important as Centro adapts to the digital age. For this reason, a full two pages are dedicated to the Centro website. There, users will find digital humanities exhibits via the Centro e-Journal, digital archival collection, and the aforementioned Rebuild Puerto Rico initiative.

Centro also continues to be a hub for creative content, which includes the award-winning television series Puerto Rican Voices, feature-length documentaries such as AmeRican Poet: Tato Laviera, and art exhibits. In addition, the Centro Press, launched in 2013, has published over a dozen titles to date, with many more forthcoming. The CENTRO Journal, meanwhile, has been the leading peer-reviewed publication for Puerto Rican Studies for the past two decades.

Overall, the guide is a celebration of Centro, its history and its mission, as well as yet another resource for the Puerto Rican community.

To access A Guide to Centro, click here

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices 13 November 2018.