Puerto Rican New Yorkers:
Workers, Unions and Politics in the Struggle for a Better Life, 1910s-1960s
Puerto Ricans who migrated to New York joined one of the largest concentrations of urban wage workers in the world. Most migrants were already familiar with the routines and conditions of wage work while others had to adjust to the challenges of a highly developed industrial city where both exploitation as well as opportunities for better wages abounded. Work, leisure, family life and politics consumed most of their energies, but in New York the complexity of urban, class, racial and ethnic contexts could be daunting and required a myriad of adjustments. The city offered opportunities for solidarity and new forms of organization and improvement as well as unpredictable risks and new problems. This exhibit reunites a series of blogs that will introduce many of the rich contexts in which Puerto Rican New Yorkers engaged with larger movements and struggles from the 1910s to the 1970s. The mosaic represented here includes only some of the stories.
Author: Aldo Lauria Santiago, Professor, Latino and Caribbean Studies and History Departments, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
Commentator: Virginia Sanchez-Korrol, Professor Emerita, Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY
Aldo A. Lauria Santiago, Professor of Caribbean, Latin American and US Latino History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Aldo A. Lauria Santiago was born in Chicago and grew up in Puerto Rico. His mother was one of the first women from Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Ph.D. in Anthropology at Columbia and the University of Chicago. His dad came from the Italian American Bronx in the 1950s and discovered Puerto Rico; also became an anthropologist. Dr. Lauria Santiago works as a Professor in the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Department of History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. At Rutgers University, Lauria Santiago had a joint appointment between the Department of Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and the Department of History, where he spent seven years as chair where he led the reconstruction of the department of what is now the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies. He is a historian of Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latinos in the US. He specializes in peasant and working class history, revolution, ethnicity and race. He went to college at Princeton University and received his MA at NYU and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He trained as a Mexicanist at The University of Chicago but began his career as a historian of El Salvador. He has published books and articles on El Salvador and formed part of a group of historians that helped develop Central American historiography during the conflicted but revolutionary decade of the 1980s. Since 2008 he turned to do research on the Puerto Rican community in New York. With Lorrin Thomas, he published Rethinking the Struggle for Puerto Rican Rights in 2018. His research, on which the Centro essays are based, will be published in two or three books, the first of which is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press and should be published in 2022. Contact: [email protected]
Dr. Virginia Sanchez Korrol Professor Emerita, Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY
Virginia is Professor Emerita at the Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College, CUNY. Dr. Sanchez Korrol writes about the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. Among her extensive publications, she authored From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City, and co-edited Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Recipient of the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Contributions to New York History, 2020, she serves as historical consultant to media projects, government and cultural institutions. She is the co-editor of Puerto Rican Studies in CUNY: The First 50 Years (forthcoming 2021). Contact: [email protected], [email protected]
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Meet the Author:
Marilisa Jiménez García: “Side by Side: US Empire, Puerto Rico, and the Roots of American Youth Literature and Culture”
In Side by Side: US Empire, Puerto Rico, and the Roots of American Youth Literature and Culture, author Marilisa Jiménez García focuses on the contributions of the Puerto Rican community to American youth, approaching Latinx literature as a transnational space that provides a critical lens for examining the lingering consequences of US and Spanish colonialism for US communities of color.
Through analysis of texts typically outside traditional Latinx or literary studies such as young adult literature, textbooks, television programming, comics, music, curriculum, and youth movements, Side by Side represents the only comprehensive study of the contributions of Puerto Ricans to American youth literature and culture, as well as the only comprehensive study into the role of youth literature and culture in Puerto Rican literature and thought.
Considering recent debates over diversity in children’s and young adult literature and media and the strained relationship between Puerto Rico and the US, Jiménez García's timely work encourages us to question who constitutes the expert and to resist the homogenization of Latinxs, as well as other marginalized communities, that has led to the erasure of writers, scholars, and artists.
Author: Marilisa Jiménez García, assistant professor of English and Latino Studies at Lehigh University
Commentator: Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Marilisa Jiménez García is an assistant professor of English and Latino Studies at Lehigh University. She is also the founding director and principle investigator at the Institute of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (https://wordpress.lehigh.edu/cres/). Jiménez García’s research on Latinx literature have appeared in Latino Studies, CENTRO: A Journal of Puerto Rican Studies, The Lion and the Unicorn, and Children’s Literature. Her new book, Side by Side: US Empire, Puerto Rico and the Roots of American Youth Literature and Culture (University Press of Mississippi, March 2021) examines the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico through an analysis of youth literature and culture both in the archipelago and the diaspora. Jiménez Garcia has worked on projects with Teaching for Change, The Children’s Defense Fund, and Sesame Street.
Contact: [email protected]
Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Sonia Nieto’s research has focused on multicultural education and the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with an emphasis on [email protected] students. She has written or edited 13 books and has received dozens of awards for her scholarly work, teaching, activism, and advocacy, including 9 honorary doctorates.
Contact: [email protected] Webpage: sonianieto.com
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About the Book
The topic of this book may seem unusual to some since there may be those who believe that Puerto Rican women may not have entered the jazz milieu during its early history. Nevertheless, an aim of the book is to dispel this and other false generalizations. The contents of this volume documents how Puerto Rican women were not only present in early jazz but how they played trailblazing and innovative roles and contributed to the emergence of the genre in the States and abroad. This work presents information that is confirmable through a variety of sources.
The book may not be the definitive work on the subject but serves as a starting point to:
- document the success and achievement of several Puerto Rican women from the jazz age
- consider the different strategies used for success in jazz and film by women
- illustrate the evolution of various careers
- consider the different personal circumstances under which success was achieved
- consider how women in contemporary jazz and film can learn from their predecessors
- provide women: older, young, and youthful, examples of success with documentary evidence on how to achieve Book Organization
The book is organized into sections that cover a brief history of significant Puerto Rican women in music and the performing arts followed by biographical descriptions of pioneering women in jazz and film. Throughout the text there is commentary on the situations facing women, especially, male chauvinism, colonialism, racism, and anti-women prejudice in jazz.
Every effort was made to include only facts that are easily confirmable. Unsupported tales or questionable events are avoided to ensure that the material contained in the volume can be used for teaching purposes and for curriculum development when credit is given to this work. In the process of developing the central theme of this volume, special effort was made to document those experiences where Puerto Rican women collaborate with members of the African American community to confirm how the cross-cultural collaboration resulted beneficial to both ethnic peoples.
The book details the many instances where members of the African American community assisted the fledgling Puerto Rican artists achieve success and stardom. Figures such as Helen Elise Smith, David J. Martin, Will Marion Cook, Ada 'Bricktop' Smith, Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones, and other distinguished African Americans are described.
Author: Basilio Serrano, Prof. Emeritus of SUNY College at Old Westbury
Commentator: Tomas Peña, Editor-in-Chief, Jazzdelapena.com; Journalist and Contributor
About the Author
Basilio Serrano was born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico. He moved to Brooklyn, New York as a child, where he began attending school and subsequently relocated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his family (where he spent most of his youth). He attended City College (CCNY – City University of New York) where he completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and went on to receive a PhD from New York University. Dr. Serrano is a professor emeritus and former chair of the Childhood Education Department of the State University of New York – College at Old Westbury.
In addition to educating teachers, Professor Serrano has served as a curriculum writer specializing in Latin American Studies (LAS). His extensive work in the LAS field has led him to research many facets of the Latin American experience in the United States, in particular, the Puerto Rican Diaspora and the Boricuas’ wide range of experiences in the States.
In recent years, Dr. Serrano has conducted in-depth investigations into the role of the Puerto Rican in the development of popular music and jazz. The result of this research has been documented in his seminal book on Juan Tizol, and an assortment of other related articles and writings. Moreover, he has written articles on the history of the Puerto Rican community in the United States as well as biographical essays on musicians in the world of jazz. His publications appear in academic journals and magazines published in the United States and Puerto Rico.
About the Commentator
Tomas Peña will serve as commentator for this event. Tomas is Editor-in-Chief, journalist, and contributing writer at Jazzdelapena.com. A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on the Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.
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