El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños/The Center for Puerto Rican Studies—Library & Archives
695 Park Avenue, Room E 1429
New York, NY 10021
Tel. (212) 772-4197
Fax (212) 650-3628
Pedro Juan Hernández, Senior Archivist
Hours open to the public
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 12:00–6:00 p.m.
Hours are subject to change.
History of the Institution
Founded in 1973 as a component of The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, El Centro Library and Archives is devoted to collecting, preserving, and providing access to resources documenting the history and culture of Puerto Ricans—primarily on the mainland, but also in Puerto Rico. The mission of El Centro's Library is twofold. One part of that mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to archival and library resources documenting the history and culture of Puerto Ricans. The other is to produce, facilitate, and disseminate interdisciplinary research about the diasporic experiences of Puerto Ricans and to link scholarly inquiry to social action and policy debates.
Scope and Content
The collection includes books, periodicals, audio and video tapes, manuscripts, photographs, prints, and recorded music documenting the history and culture of Puerto Ricans who migrated to the United States and Puerto Ricans on the island.
The photographs in El Centro's collection are of particular interest as many of them are both art works and historic material documenting the Puerto Rican diaspora. El Centro's holdings in books and catalogues related to Latino visual arts production, while limited, include rare and out-of-print books, making it a valuable resource. Among those books are Peter Bloch's Puerto Rican Painting (1978) and catalogues from recent and past exhibitions of Puerto Rican artists in the island and the mainland. El Centro holds also a growing collection of artist files.
Overall holdings of archives and research material: 4,000 linear feet
Overall holdings of archives and research material on Latino art: 129 linear feet
Inclusive dates of files: 1900–present
Bulk dates: 1940–present
Languages in which records are written:
English, Spanish. Finding aids are bilingual.
Holdings: Primary Sources
Personal papers of artists, critics or art historians associated with Latino art:
Eight linear feet
These include the personal papers of writer Clemente Soto Vélez, which contain numerous materials related to art, including works on paper by Nuyorican artists such as Jorge Soto, Merián Soto and her dance company Pepatián, and Pepón Osorio, among others. El Centro also holds the personal papers of literary critic and art collector Rafael Rodríguez, which contain material related to the visual arts. El Centro holds as well the personal papers of art historian Mario César Romero, a long-time resident of El Barrio, East Harlem.
Archives of institution's history and operation related to Latino art:
42.2 linear feet
These include, among other holdings, the records generated for the symposium Assessment and Valuation of Puerto Rican, Chicano, Latino, and Hispanic-Caribbean Art, co-organized by The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, Notre Dame, and Appraisers Association of America, Inc. This event was held on May 20–21, 2005 at Hunter College. Records include as well the exhibition files generated by El Centro for the artists showcased since the inception of their gallery program in 2003.
Newsletters and magazines published in-house:
Since 1994 El Centro publishes Centro Journal, a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to the Puerto Rican diaspora. The Fall 2005 issue of this journal is titled "Puerto Rican Visual artists and the United States" and was edited by Yasmín Ramírez. The work of artists Néstor Otero, Marcos Dimas, Fernando Salicrup, and Rafael Trelles and others has appeared on the cover of this journal. El Centro recently published a two-volume CD-Rom entitled Puerto Ricans in the USA: 1898–1999. El Centro also publishes a bi-annual newsletter. The Centro Journal and the newsletter can be accessed online on El Centro's website.
Recorded interviews and performances:
These include all the interviews with personalities of art and culture conducted by Yasmín Ramírez for her doctoral dissertation on Nuyorican art. Those interviewed include: Jack Agüeros, Brenda Alejandro, Diógenes Ballester, Petra Barreras, Antonio Bechara, Marimar Benítez, Peter Bloch, Charles Biasiny Rivera, Luis Cancel, Evelyn Collazo, Papo Colo, Rafael Colón Morales, Marcos Dimas, Adrian García, Chino García, Antonio Martorell, Irving McManus, Rafael Montañez Ortíz, Isabel Nazario, Carmen Nelson, Pepón Osorio, Dylcia Pagan, Gladys Peña, Nilda Peraza, Geno Rodríguez, Federico Ruiz, Fernando Salicrup, Juan Sánchez, Nitza Tufiño, and Rafael Tufiño. El Centro holds as well a video produced for the 30 Year Portfolio of Digital Prints published by Taller Boricua, and a video by Rafael Montañez-Ortiz titled "Introspective: Selection of works from 1950–1990." These items are on VHS, mini-DV, and audiotape formats.
Slides and photographs:
25,000 items (seventy linear feet)
These include the photographs from the Office of Information of Puerto Rico, which contain images by Jack Delano, Edwin and Louise Rosskam, Charles Rotkin and others photographers who documented life in Puerto Rico in the 1940s and 1950s. The Library also holds a vast and rich collection of over 10,000 photographs by Justo A. Martí, a Cuban photojournalist who worked for El Diario La Prensa. These photos document the Puerto Rican and Latino community in New York in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In addition, some of El Centro's collections of personal papers contain photographs dating to the early part of the century. El Centro Library and Archives also holds photographs by contemporary photographers such as Adál Maldonado, Máximo Colón, Tony Vélez, and Hiram Maristany.
This represents half of the entire collection of paintings, prints, and posters at El Centro. El Centro hopes to complete digitization by June 2004, when they will have 700 digital images.
Art objects and artifacts available for research:
El Centro has 8.5 linear feet of flat files, which include silk-screens produced for the DIVEDCO films by masters of the "50s Generation" like Rafael Tufiño and Lorenzo Homar. Other renowned Puerto Rican and Nuyorican artists in the collection include Julio Rosado del Valle, Nestor Sambolín, Epifanio Irizarry, Antonio Martorell, Jorge Soto, Fernando Salicrup, Marcos Dimas, Gilberto Hernández, Elizam Escobar, Manuel Vega, Juan Sánchez, and Hiram Maristany. El Centro's collection includes five paintings and twenty-five drawings. In 2003 El Centro started commissioning limited editions of prints by Puerto Rican artists to be sold. This initiative is a way to promote artists while fundraising for other art projects organized by El Centro. Miriam Hernández was the first artist to create a print for El Centro. Forthcoming in 2006 is a new edition by Miguel Luciano.
Films by or about Latinos:
El Centro holds numerous films by Puerto Rican directors and producers which deal with aspects of Puerto Rican culture in the island and the mainland. These include Miguel Piñero Reading at magic Gallery (1964); Myrna Baez: Los Espejos de Silencio/Mirrors of Silence (1989); Nine Artists of Puerto Rico (1970); The Oxcart (1970), among many others. A complete list with descriptions is available on their website. El Centro also owns the films produced by the Division of Community Education (DIVEDCO) in Puerto Rico from the 1930s to the 1950s, in which visual artists collaborated with filmmakers to create films of educational value.
Exhibition catalogues, books and periodicals related to Latino art:
Eleven linear feet
El Centro regularly receives Aztlán, a Chicano Studies journal that often includes articles on visual arts. El Centro has various art journals in microfilm published between 1923 and 1969 such as Artistas Hispanos, New York, 1948; Cine Variedades, New York, 1953–1954; La Voz del Artista, New York, 1960; and Artes y Letras, New York, 1933–1935 and 1936–1939.
Vertical file materials related to Latino art: artist files, brochures, pamphlets, clippings:
Six linear feet
El Centro has a growing collection of vertical files of Puerto Rican and Latino artists, including: Manuel Acevedo, John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Elia Alba, José Alicea, Cándida Alvarez, Myrna Báez, Diógenes Ballester, Tony Bechara, Charles Biasiny-Rivera, Héctor Méndez Caratini, Wilfredo Chiesa, Papo Colo, Máximo Colón, María Cortijo, Marcos Dimas, Jack and Irene Delano, Perla De León, James de la Vega, María Dominguez, Elizam Escobar, Rafael Ferrer, Adrian García, Anaida Hernández, Luis Hernández Cruz, Miriam Hernández, Yasmín Hernández, Lorenzo Homar, Carlos Irizarry, Miguel Luciano, Adál Maldonado, Antonio Martorell, Malaquías Montoya, Arnaldo Morales, José Morales, Rafael Colón Morales, Wanda Ortiz, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Pepón Osorio, Miguel Pou, Arnaldo Roche, Geno Rodríguez, Gloria Rodríguez, Freddy Rodríguez, Charlie Rosario, Ray Rosario, Julio Rosado del Valle, Fernando Salicrup, Juan Sánchez, Scherezade García, Elaine Soto, Jorge Soto, Rigoberto Torres, Tanya Torres, Miguel Trelles, Nitza Tufiño, Rafael Tufiño, ,Julio Valdez, Jorge Vargas, Manuel Vega, Tony Vélez, Pedro Villarini,and Joe Wippler (Ezo).
El Centro Library has twenty-five full finding aids for its collection of personal papers, along with a number of incomplete finding aids. El Centro's finding aids are all bilingual. All books and exhibition catalogues in its collection can be found through the database of CUNY libraries (CUNY+). El Centro is preparing an inventory of the art in its flat files, which will be made available on its Web site. Additionally, El Centro will be cataloging these items, making them accessible through CUNY+. El Centro has a list of the films in their collection available online. El Centro Journal is reproduced on El Centro's website.
The Center for Puerto Rican Studies is an academic research center. Materials are catalogued and well preserved. Appointments are required to use archival materials, but the library is open to the general public without appointment.
El Centro restricts access to selected records, some of which are confidential. El Centro is a non-circulating library. Please note that the Library and Archives are open to the general public and no academic ID is required. In the interests of better serving researchers with the limited staff available, the Archives are available by appointment only.
Although El Centro Library and Archives is best known for its holdings in history, literature, sociology, and cultural anthropology, its holdings in Puerto Rican visual arts are of comparable strength. El Centro is one of the few research centers in New York where this material is catalogued, making it easier for the general public to find the materials they seek.
The Centro Library and Archives is committed to making its resources available to a wide audience. For this reason, El Centro allows the public to examine its holdings closely, even allowing researchers to handle works of art under staff supervision.
Relations to other Latino and Latin American organizations:
El Centro has had collaborative relationships with many of the major Puerto Rican and Latino organizations in New York City. For example, El Diario/la prensa, ASPIRA, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, and El Museo del Barrio, among others.
El Centro had a close relationship with visual artists in New York when it was founded in 1973. This relationship has, however, become less prominent over the last two decades. Many of El Centro's early publications contain reproductions of rarely seen works by Nuyorican artists such as Jorge Soto and Manuel Neco Otero. Artist Néstor Otero has maintained a collaborative relationship with El Centro Journal. In 2003 El Centro began a program of monthly exhibitions, displaying works from their permanent collection as well as works by invited artists.