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Centro Librarian Félix Rivera Retires After Four Decades of Service

by Aníbal Arocho


Editor's Note: The following text was read aloud during a retirement party held on May 30 in El Barrio for Centro reference librarian Félix A. Rivera. 

Félix A. Rivera (pictured above in the center, behind the Yankee-themed cake) has dedicated almost 40 years to the Centro Library and Archives. Born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His family was part of a Great Puerto Rican Migration of the mid-20th century. His life stories and memories attest to that experience.

He always speaks with great tenderness about his loving mother, who was affectionately known as “Momita.” For many years, he kept a special ritual, visiting her down in Florida. Like Félix, his hard working parents and family of siblings, nieces, and nephews have been quintessential examples of many Puerto Rican families in New York City. Indeed, Félix is very proud of his brother Johnny Rivera and uncle Adalberto Santiago, both acclaimed salsa singers, as he is proud of other family members. Needless to say, Félix a lover of Latin music and a fantastic dancer.

Félix is also a veteran. He served his country during the Vietnam War and traveled around the world as a member of the U.S. Navy. He then returned to New York to complete his studies, which is where he was first exposed to the Library world. He started working at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies in the 1970s, back when it was still housed at John Jay College. Over the course of the next four decades at Centro, Félix has served as a reference and media librarian, assisting countless patrons—always with the utmost attention and professionalism. 

Through his dedication to Centro, his love for his people and culture is obvious. It is also the reason why Félix has been acknowledged in dozens of books and publications. If you’ve read a major work in the field of Puerto Rican Studies, there is a very good chance that Félix has assisted in its creation some way or another, as he has provided reference services for multiple generations of scholars. While he is now set to retire, his presence will always be felt through the Centro Library and Archives collection that he has helped cultivate and the academic careers he has influenced.

Félix A. Rivera, pictured third from the right.

Perhaps most importantly, Félix is a genuinely funny, suave, and artistic man. He is knowledgeable Yankees fan who likes good food and who enjoys having a good time with his friends. He also makes his presence felt in subtle ways. If it was not for the long subway ride from Bay Ridge, he would probably continue to work at Centro for several more years! As a colleague and friend, and on behalf of everyone at Centro, past, present, and future, I want to wish Félix good health and many more years of writing poetry and taking beautiful photographs to share with us all.

It is increasingly rare for any individual to work at one place for the entirety of their professional career. It is a sign of commitment to service that is admirable. Centro has always been more than just a workplace for Félix and being a librarian has always been more than just a career. In Centro, Félix truly found a home, coworkers he considers family, and something that few people are ever fortunate enough to find: a true calling.

So let us honor not just the career of Félix Rivera, but celebrate his legacy with Centro and impact on the field of Puerto Rican Studies. Now is the time for rest, relaxation and travel. May your retirement be as joyful and rich as your career.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices 06 June 2019.