Guide to the Petra Santiago Papers
1945-1994
(Bulk 1970s-1980s)



Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628
E-mail: dhernand@hunter.cuny.edu

© Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY. All rights reserved.
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY: Publisher

Processed by Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González, and Yosenex Orengo, March 2003


Machine-readable finding aid derived from a MS Word document dated: 2005. Machine-readable finding aid created by Brian Stevens. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Santiago, Petra, 1911-1994
Title: Petra Santiago Papers
Dates: 1935-1994, (Bulk 1970s-1980s)
Abstract: Activist and community organizer. A resource for research in grass-roots organizing, community activism, and the history of Puerto Ricans on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Documents the history of numerous organizations. Includes letters, autobiographical information, memoranda, publications, photographs, and programs.
Quantity: 4.06 cubic feet (9 boxes)
Call Phrase: 1997-01

Historical/Biographical Note

For over forty years Petra Santiago was an activist and a well-known community organizer in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (Loisaida). Renowned journalist Luisa Quintero of el diario/La Prensa referred to her as the "first woman mayor of the Lower East Side" (October 21, 1963). Santiago mobilized people for community participation, founded key grass-roots organizations such as the United Organization of Suffolk Street and was also deeply committed to working with youth, particularly in promoting recreational programs such as Little League Baseball teams. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Harrison E. Salisbury recognized her work as a youth worker in his book The Shook-Up Generation (Harper Brothers, 1965)

Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico on May 31, 1911, she was the daughter of Arturo Figueroa Miranda and Brígida Hernández. Santiago spent her early youth in her native town where her father was an organizer for the Socialist Party founded by Santiago Iglesias Pantín and also represented the party in the assembly. From an early age, Petra participated in her father's political activities, accompanying him to meetings and working on campaigns. She attended Ponce De Leon High School and in 1930 matriculated at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, completing an associate degree in teaching.

After graduating from the university in 1933, she traveled to New York where she stayed for six months. Returning to Puerto Rico, Santiago found employment with a New Deal agency, the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration (PRRA) and was soon assigned to work in the countryside distributing food to needy families. She also worked as an enumerator for a census of the area Candelaria Arriba in Humacao, carried out by the PRRA in 1935. Her final job with the PRRA was as a social worker in the urban center of Humacao. Once her employment with the PRRA ended, Santiago took over her father's grocery store.

In December 1938 after separating from her first husband, Santiago returned to New York on the steamship San Jacinto. She arrived on New Year's

Day and went to live with a cousin on E.114 St. and Fifth Avenue. Her first job was in a factory that manufactured handbags. On June 14, 1941, she married Manual Santiago, and they moved to 65 E. 102 St., between Park and Madison Avenues in East Harlem.

Santiago stopped working outside the home after her first child, Emanuel, was born in 1942. Her second child, Arturo, was born in 1943. In 1945, she traveled to Puerto Rico with her children aboard the S.S. George Washington to care for her ailing father. She stayed ten months and wanted to remain there, but her husband insisted upon her return to New York. Upon her arrival, the family settled in Lower Manhattan on Norfolk St.

Santiago's interest in community work began as a result of her participation in parents' meetings at her children's school, where she served as an interpreter for Latino parents who did not speak English. Soon she was active in political campaigns and in organizing the Latino community in her neighborhood. She was a founder and secretary (1961-1963) of the Council of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Organizations of the Lower East Side, the first major Latino organization in that area. Its objective was to improve the conditions for Latinos in housing, education, employment, medical care and recreation. Worry for her own young boys and other children led Santiago to form baseball leagues for youth between the ages of 14 and 17. She was one of the organizers of the Independent Juvenile Baseball League which she directed (1950-1962) and the Nativity Mission Center Baseball Team (1945-1963).

Volunteer work played an important role in Santiago's life. From 1959-1963 she volunteered for the Lower East Side Neighborhood Association. During the years 1962-1967 she was employed as a social worker by Mobilization for Youth, Inc., a federally funded agency that was dedicated to the prevention and elimination of youth gangs. The agency provided training and classes in various areas including sewing, typing, and photography. It sponsored trips and voter registration programs. As part of her work with this agency, Santiago organized a group called Mobilization for Mothers. Among the key organizations she helped establish was the United Organization of Suffolk Street (1967-1976), which provided day care, English language classes and other social services. Santiago was also active in tenants' rights and worked for the Coalition for Decent Housing that she helped create. Throughout her life she remained involved in electoral politics and was a member of the New Jíbaro Democratic Club of which her son Arturo Santiago was a co-founder. He was a Democratic District leader in Lower Manhattan and ran for State Assembly.

Santiago was on the Board of Directors of numerous organizations including the United Child Day Care Council (1968-1975), where she served as treasurer. She was a member of the steering committee of a group that founded the Community Corporation of the Lower East Side, was named to the Anti-Poverty Council, and was elected to Community Board Number 3.

For her many contributions to improving the life of others, she received numerous awards and tributes. She was honored with the Lena Award for her service to the Lower East Side community (1963, 1964), by the Department of Parks (1965), by Mobilization for Youth (1967), and by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1989 at an event recognizing the "Pioneros," the first Puerto Rican migrants.

Petra Santiago was a dynamic leader who remained active in the affairs of the community of the Lower East Side until she was eighty years old. She died on January 13, 1994 after a brief illness. Her papers offer insight into the development of the Puerto Rican community of Lower Manhattan and document the history of numerous organizations.


Scope and Content Note

This collection is an important resource for research in grass- roots organizing, community activism, and the history of Puerto Ricans on the Lower East Side. The materials document organizations in which Santiago was active, among them the Community Corporation of the Lower East Side, United Organization of Suffolk Street, Council of Puerto Rican Organizations, and the Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc. There is also information about the Community Area Policy Board. The photographic series is extremely valuable for the visual history it provides of Puerto Ricans in Lower Manhattan.

The bulk of the documents are from the 1970s-1980s.


Arrangement

The folders are organized alphabetically and the materials are in chronological order. Types of documents include letters, memoranda, publications, and programs.
The collection is divided into the following series:
I. Biographical and Personal Information
II. Correspondence
III. United Organization of Suffolk Street
IV. Organizations
V. Subject Files
VI. Publications
VII. Photographs
VIII. Plaques
IX. Posters
X. Artifacts


Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Open for research without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the:
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Phone: (212) 772-5151
Fax: (212) 650-3628
E-mail: dhernand@hunter.cuny.edu


Access Points

Subject Names:
Betanzos, Amalia.
Koch, Ed. (Edward Irving) 1924-
Lindsay, John V. (John Vliet) 1921-2000.
Santiago, Arturo.
Subject Organizations:
Council of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Organizations of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Inc.
Independent Juvenile Baseball League.
Mobilization for Youth.
Nativity Mission Center Baseball Team.
New Jibaro Democrats.
United Organization of Suffolk Street.
Subject Topics:
Baseball for children -- New York.
Community development, Urban -- New York (State) -- New York -- Citizen participation.
Community organization -- New York (State) -- New York.
Gangs -- New York (State) -- New York.
Housing -- New York (State) -- New York.
Juvenile delinquency -- New York (State) -- New York -- Prevention.
Little League baseball -- New York.
Puerto Rican youth -- New York (State) -- New York.
Puerto Rican youth -- Social conditions.
Puerto Ricans in New York (City)
Puerto Ricans -- New York (State) -- New York.
Social work with youth -- New York (State) -- New York.
Subject Places:
Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.)
Lower East Side (New York, N.Y.) -- Social conditions.
Lower Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.) -- Social conditions.
Document Types:
Clippings.
Correspondence.
Photographs.


Administrative Information

Provenance

Gift of Emanuel Santiago

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); The Petra Santiago Papers; 1997-01; box number; folder number;
Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Archives, Hunter College, CUNY

Processing Information

"Processed with a grant from theNational Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services."


Other Finding Aid

Guide to the Petra Santiago papers available in Spanish: Spanish Version


Container List

[The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.]

 

Series I: Biographical and Personal Information (1935-1995)

Scope and Content:

The documents in this series include biographies, an autobiography, congratulatory notes, identification cards, obituaries, financial statements, information about Santiago's sons, awards and tributes. Notable among the papers is an autobiographical sketch that recounts her life and work experiences as well as details of her arrival in New York and her youth in Puerto Rico. There are also materials related to her son Arturo's campaign for State Assembly.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Awards undated, 1963-1967
1 2 Biographical Information undated
1 3 Business Cards, F-W undated
1 4 Drawing 1972
1 5 Financial Statements 1979-1983
1 6 Greeting Cards ca.1994-1995
1 7 Identifications undated, 1967-1994
1 8 Job Related Information 1935-1993
1 9 Obituaries 1994
1 10 Personal Information 1973-1990
1 11 Santiago, Arturo undated, 1969-1978
1 12 Santiago, Manuel 1982
1 13 Santiago, Ruth 1979-1980
1 14 Tributes to Petra Santiago 1967-1994
Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_I 1 Drawing undated

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Series II: Correspondence (1947-1986)

Scope and Content:

This series contains two folders with outgoing and incoming correspondence from 1947-1986. Of interest is a letter from the Lower East Side Hispanic Committee that named her one of the leading personalities of the Hispanic community. Also worth highlighting is a letter she wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt asking for her intervention on behalf of the Puerto Rican people during the Depression.

Box Folder Title Date
1 15 Incoming 1967-1986
1 16 Outgoing 1947

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Series III: United Organization of Suffolk Street (1966-1981)

Scope and Content:

The United Organization of Suffolk Street served as an umbrella organization for various neighborhood groups in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The series consists of budgets and account books and information about some of the programs Santiago helped establish.

Box Folder Title Date
1 17 Adult Basic Education 1969-1971
1 18 Bank Account 1968
1 19 Board Meetings 1972-1976
1 20 Budget undated, 1969-1979
Box Folder Title Date
2 1 Budget, Year G 1970
2 2 C.A.P. Project, Year F 1970-1971
2 3 Checks undated, 1967-1971
2 4-5 Day Care Center undated, 1966-1981
2 6 Day Care Center-Audit Report 1976
2 7 Day Care Center-Board Meeting 1976
2 8 Day Care Center-Monthly Reports 1977-1978
2 9 General Information undated, 1967-1976
2 10-11 Ledger 1967-1970
Box Folder Title Date
3 1-2 Ledger 1971-1973

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Series IV: Organizations (1958-1992)

Scope and Content:

The contents of this series are concerned with the various organizations in which Santiago was active. These organizations were devoted to improving the conditions of life for the children, youth and adults of the Latino community on the Lower East Side. Notable is the Independent Juvenile Baseball League, dedicated to promoting recreational activities for youth through the formation of little league baseball teams.

Box Folder Title Date
3 3 Association of Community Services Centers, Inc. 1974-1980
3 4 Association of Community Services Centers, Inc. 1977
3 5 Association of Puerto Rican Executive Directors undated
3 6 Coalition for Human Housing undated, 1972
3 7 Community Area Policy Board #3-General Information undated, 1971-1985
3 8 Community Area Policy Board #3-Internal Problems 1980
3 9 Community Corporation of the Lower East Side 1967-1975
3 10 Community Corporation of the Lower East Side-Certificate of Incorporation 1967
3 11 Community Corporation of the Lower East Side-Constitution and By Laws 1967
Box Folder Title Date
4 1 Community Corporation of the Lower East Side-Legal Cases 1970-1975
4 2 Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc. 1958-1968
4 3 Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc.-Financial Statements 1967-1968
4 4 Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc.- Score Book 1967
4 5 Lower East Side Community Corporation-Employee Records, A-Z 1972-1975
4 6 Lower East Side Community Corporation-Memorandum 1969
4 7 Lower East Side Economic Development Association for Cooperatives, Inc. 1972
4 8 Lower East Side Neighborhood Coalition 1974
4 9 New Jíbaro Democrats 1976-1992
4 10 People of Loisaida/Action Now 1979-1980
4 11 United Civic League of the Lower East Side 1977
4 12 We Care Committee 1988-1991
4 13 Young New Yorkers of the Lower East Side 1968-1970
4 14 Youth Services Agencies-Summer Neighborhood Youth Corps 1973

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Series V: Subject Files (1961-1992)

Scope and Content:

Here are included the following materials: programs of various events and of art exhibits, invitations, directories and information about politicians, and documents about cultural affairs among Puerto Ricans.

Box Folder Title Date
5 1 Art Exhibit 1974-1979
5 2 Event Programs 1980-1987
5 3 Flyers 1977-1988
5 4 Friends of Szold Plaza Park 1978
5 5 Housing Issues undated
5 6 Invitations 1978-1981
5 7 Koch, Edward I. undated, 1988
5 8 Loisaida Business Directory 1988
5 9 Newspaper Clippings undated, 1961-1992
5 10 Poetry undated, 1977-1990
5 11 Puerto Rican Child: His Culture and His Language undated
5 12 Puerto Rican Health:Cultural Aspects undated
5 13 Velázquez, Nydia M.-United States Congresswoman undated, 1989-1992

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Series VI: Publications (1978-1994)

Scope and Content:

Consisting of ephemeral local newspapers, magazines and articles, this series is significant because it offers insights into the life of Latinos in Lower Manhattan, a community also known as Loisaida.

Box Folder Title Date
5 14 El Sonido 1994
5 15 Latin Village Press 1994
5 16 Neighborhood: The Journal for City Preservation 1983
5 17 New York 1984
5 18 Portrait of Loisaida 1978
5 19 Quality of Life in Loisaida 1980-1990
5 20 The Other Paper 1980

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Series VII: Photographs (1941-1958)

Scope and Content:

The photographs are organized into the following categories: personal and family, community events, her son Arturo, and the Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc.

Box Folder Title Date
6 1-2 Community, Part I-II undated
6 3 Independent Juvenile Baseball League, Inc. 1958
6 4-5 Personal, Part I-II undated
Box Folder Title Date
7 1 Personal, Part III undated
7 2 Puerto Rico undated, 1945-1951
7 3 Santiago, Arturo undated
7 4 Santiago, Petra undated
7 5 Slide undated

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Series VIII: Plaques (1986)

Scope and Content:

There are two plaques given to her for her service to two community organizations.

Box Item Title Date
8 1 Lower East Side Hispanic Committee-Hispanic Heritage Day Sep 6, 1986
8 2 Viva Loisaida Award for Life Long Development Jun 6, 1986

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Series IX: Posters (undated)

Scope and Content:

The posters focus on the Latino community in Lower Manhattan and the political campaigns of her son, Arturo.

Box Folder Title Date
Oversize_IX 1 Loisaida undated
Oversize_IX 2 Arturo Santiago undated
Oversize_IX 3 Szold Plaza Park undated

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Series X: Artifacts (1983)

Scope and Content:

Here are included a rubber stamp of the United Organization of Suffolk Street and a "capia," a typical Puerto Rican memento of a wedding anniversary.

Box Item Title Date
9 1 Golden Wedding Anniversary Ribbon of Tino and María C. 1983
9 2 United Organization of Suffolk Street (Rubber Stamp) undated

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