Conference Schedule

Friday, April 22 


What Do We Know?

What Are Key Policies?

What Can Policies and Community Strategies Do?


10:00 a.m. Plenary Panel A: Policy Options for Fiscal Crisis

Antonio Weiss, Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

Juan González, Columnist for the New York Daily News

Dennis Rivera, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Moderator: Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts

Goal: To provide the most recent policy updates from key players in critical policy arenas, including the leading point person from the Obama administration, the most notable and influential stateside journalist and public intellectual, and the labor leader heading the health coalition in Puerto Rico. The moderator is a widely-known and respected expert on the topic who runs a blog dedicated to Puerto Rico’s policy issues from a stateside perspective.

11:15 a.m.  Concurrent Panels

Each speaker in a breakout session will make initial remarks for 4 to 5 minutes. Centro is posting in the “Learn” tab of the conference website 4- to 5-page briefs on the sessions’ topics prior to the conference. These briefs focus on the questions of “What do we know” and “What are key policies?” We expect that the speakers and the sessions’ discussions will focus on “What can policies and community strategies do?” from the perspective of the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. The focus of the discussion should be what would be the group recommendation to other conference participants in regard to strategies related to Puerto Rican-led community strategies. After the conference, Centro will publish a book with chapters corresponding to conference topics.

1.  Unfolding Humanitarian Crisis

Dr. José Caraballo Cueto, Director, Centro de Información Censal, UPR-Cayey

Ana María García Blanco, Instituto Nueva Escuela (PR)

Rev. Heriberto Martínez, Coordinator, Coalición Por la Salud (PR)

Moderator: Dr. Héctor Cordero-Guzmán, Sociologist, Baruch College

Goal: To humanize the crisis and to provide overview of the most recent developments and civic engagement efforts to mitigate the impacts on the most vulnerable sectors of the population. Speakers are active in the ecumenical coalition leading civic engagement with the health crisis, studies assessing impacts on children and families, and the impact on schools and education. The moderator is a co-author of a report on the topic published by the Hispanic Federation.


2. Energy and the Environment

Ruth Santiago, Esq., Legal Counsel, El Puente (PR)

Ingrid M. Vila Biaggi, Former Chief of Staff, Engineer, President Cambio

Dr. Efraín O'Neill-Carrillo, UPR

Moderator: Brenda Torres Barreto, Assistant Secretary for the Environment, New York State

Goal: To examine the energy and the environmental challenges posed by the fiscal crisis and the heavy burden of debt on the public company PREPA with a monopoly on energy generation and distribution. Panelists are experts on the topic and directly involved with the issue and are important leaders in civic engagement in their own rights. The moderator is a long-term expert on environmental issues in Puerto Rico and the designated liaison from the Cuomo administration to oversee this area of work.


3. Economic Development

Jorge Rodríguez, Principal, PACIV (NY, PR)

Mariela Martínez, Senior Project Manager, Global Cities Initiative, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, Board Member, Cenadores PR

Bianca M. Cabán, CEO, Taino Capital LLC (NY & PR)

Goal: To examine core industries in Puerto Rico and ongoing strategies to revitalize economic development in the private sector. Panelists are experts on the biotech industry, which accounts for over a third of Puerto Rico’s GDP, large-scale high tech incubators, and strategies for attracting investment. The moderator is an entrepreneur with holdings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.


4. Models for Diaspora Engagement with Puerto Rico

Edwin Vargas, Semillas (CA)

Ramphis Castro, ScienceVest (NY)

Dyanis de Jesús, Puerto Rico Creative Economy Initiative (PRCEI)

Moderator: Michelle Pérez Kenderish, ChicaPReneurs (NY, PR)

Goal: To examine models of diaspora engagement with Puerto Rico in the context of the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis. Panelists are experts on various initiatives that are building bridges between stateside and island communities. The moderator has been an advocate for these issues focusing on efforts in the private sector.


5. Foundations Responses to the Economic Crisis in Puerto Rico

José A. García, Program Officer, Surdna Foundation (NY)

Larry Shapiro, Associate Director for Program Development, Rockefeller Family Fund (NY)

Moderator: Karina Claudio-Betancourt, Program Officer, Open Society Foundations (NY)

Goal: To examine models of philanthropic support to Puerto Rico groups and programs in the context of the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis. Panelists are program officers of various initiatives that include economic development, sustainability, or civic engagement.


1:30 p.m.  Plenary Panel B: Local and State Perspective

Introduction: Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Senior Adviser to the President, Hunter College

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

Illinois State Senator Iris Y. Martínez

New York State Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo

Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez

Pennsylvania State Representative Angel Cruz

Moderator: Katiria Soto, News Anchor, Univision New York

Goal: To assess the impact of the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico from the perspective of stateside communities and local governments. Panelists are national leaders that influence local governments. The moderator specializes in local issues and is a leading media voice on the issue.


2:45 p.m.  Concurrent Panels: Puerto Ricans


1. Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Civic Engagement

José E. López, Lecturer, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of Illinois (IL)

Jimmy Torres Velez, President, Puerto Rican Action Initiative (FL)

Yanil Terón, Executive Director, Center For Latino Progress (CT)

Moderator: Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF (NY)

Goal: To examine various aspects of stateside Puerto Ricans’ political participation and engagement, especially as they relate to the ongoing presidential season and the role that community organizations and leaders play in swing states with large number of Puerto Rican voters (OH, FL, and PA). Panelists are engaged in political mobilization at the local level and are part of broader coalitions for voter registration and mobilization.


2.  Education

Margaret Rivera, Board President, Aspira Delaware (DE)

Roberto Sanabria, Director of Equal Opportunity and Access, Northwestern University (IL)

Johanna López, Orange County Public School Teacher of the Year (FL)

Moderator: Ronald Blackburn-Moreno, President and CEO, Aspira (DC)

Goal: To examine disparities in education, issues affecting the educational pipeline, expectations about federal reform at the local level, and prospects for bilingual education.


3.  Environment and Community Development

Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NY)

Marcos Vilar, Vilar Strategy Group (FL)

Yulissa Arce, Climate Change Program Manager, Florida Institute for Reform & Empowerment 

Moderator: Luis Garden-Acosta, President, El Puente (NY)

Goal: To examine the environmental impact on health and quality of life among stateside Puerto Ricans and to assess community strategies to foster both sustainability and civic engagement on environmental issues. 


4.  Health Disparities

Melissa Fuster, PhD, Brooklyn College (NY)

José Sánchez, CEO, Norwegian-American Hospital (IL)

Josephine Mercado, Founder/Executive Director, Hispanic Health Initiatives, Inc. (FL)

Maria Idali Torres, MSPH, PhD, Director, Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts

Moderator: Raúl Russi, CEO, Acacia Network (NY)

Goal: To examine health disparities, especially in key areas such as diabetes, asthma, and its relations to nutrition, policies, and effective preventive community strategies. Of special interest are the enrollment of Puerto Ricans in health plans—especially Medicare and Medicaid, community-based health networks providing services, and cultural competency across local and state health systems.


4:15 p.m.  Plenary Panel C: National Perspective

U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL)

U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY)

U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY)

Moderator: Sandra Lilley, Managing Editor, NBC Latino

Goal: To assess the impact of the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico from the perspective of stateside communities and the role of Congress. Panelists are national leaders playing a critical role in the ongoing legislative process. The moderator specializes in national issues and is a leading media voice on Puerto Rico.


5:30 p.m. CUNY Reception


Saturday, April 23 

E N G A G E M E N T  

What Can We Do?

Who Is Going To Do It?

What Can Centro Do?


10:00 a.m. Action Fair

A diaspora networking and community-building event. Bring your organization information packets, meet and greet community leaders from around the country, exchange ideas about affecting social change for our people, and dream a better future for 8.6 million Puerto Ricans.

Library & Archives Open House

The Centro Library and Archives will be hosting an Open House, providing a brief history of the library, along with the opportunity to view a selection of key archival collections and learn more about the resources and services available to the public. 


12:45 p.m.  Plenary Keynote Address

Speaker: Monsignor Roberto González Nieves, O.F.M., Archbishop of San Juan (PR)


1:15 p.m. Concurrent Panels 

Goals: Saturday breakout sessions promote active and deliberative engagement of multiple stakeholders in the solution of urgent social problems and the development of community and policy strategies. In this conference, we seek to realign Centro’s research, preservation, and outreach programs toward this historical moment and toward the concerns and interests of the Puerto Rican people and other stakeholders. Centro’s main goal as an organization is to cultivate relations with a broad constituency, which is understood to be essential to carrying our mission.

The breakout sessions are organized by groups that represent the existing organizational structure of the Puerto Rican community. In some cases, this will be a continuation of already existing national organizations and the discussion will focus on how to mobilize or further develop civic engagement in this particular sector of the community. In other cases, this will be the first time that regional or state level groups come together to articulate a national agenda. And in a few cases, this will be the first step toward conceptualizing a national network and a mobilization strategy for a sector where relatively no Puerto Rican-focused institutional infrastructure exists.

Given the diverse and complex reality of our community, what can Centro do to respond to such a historical juncture? Can we build a shared understanding of the many challenges and opportunities that we face from the perspective of the Puerto Rican community in the U.S.?

The common questions posed to breakout sessions are:

  • What can we do? The groups will be asked to evaluate the potential for research and advocacy to have an impact on the definition and understanding of social, economic, and policy problems; the window of opportunity opened to policy and community leaders concerned with the implementation of solutions to the problem; and the likelihood of affecting public policies and mediating social institutions that influence outcomes for stateside Puerto Rican communities.
  • Who is going to do it? The conference will help produce an inventory of resources, a directory of individuals and organizations that can collaborate in the near future (within the next year after the conference) to support projects that would result in relevant research, promote the utilization of that research by stakeholders, and assess discernable impact on social outcomes.
  • What can Centro do? The Puerto Rican diaspora has engaged in a solidarity movement with Puerto Rico unprecedented in our history. This awakening in turn has motivated the stateside community to engage in a broad range of issues and strategies all with the common goal of strengthening a national voice in issues of concern to 8.6 million Puerto Ricans. Centro could play a unique role as a convener and network builder, as a think tank and source of reliable information, and as a documentarian of the process.

Round Table Format: Each speaker in a panel will make initial remarks for 4 to 5 minutes. The moderator may ask additional follow up questions and/or open public questions to panelists. We expect questions from attendees to the session to be specific and comments limited to no more than one or two minutes.  The idea is to engage participants in a discussion of policy and strategies. The moderator will report on recommendations from the group at the closing plenary session.


1. Faith-Based Communities

Bishop Ángel Marcial, PhD, Iglesia de Dios (FL)

Reverend Roberto Luis Lugo (PA)

Pastor Omar Medina, President, Hispanic Pastor's Association (OH)

Reverend Eunice Santana, Iglesia Discípulos de Cristo, (PR)

Moderator: Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera (NY)


2. Cultural Activism and Historical Preservation

Lorraine A. Cortés-Vázquez, Chairperson, National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. (NY)

Dr. Alberto Hernández, Associate Director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies (NY)

Federico Pérez, Former President, Puerto Rican Day Parade (NY)

Teresa Santiago, Comité Noviembre (NY)

Moderator: Juan J. González, Esq., President, Parada San Juan Bautista, Inc. (NJ)


3. Youth

Alejandro Manzanares, Stand UP for Puerto Rico (MA)

Jessie Fuentes, Community School Representative, RCCA (IL)

Isabel Rullán, ConPRmetidos/Puerto Rico Global (PR)

Moderator: Christy Marrero, Editorial Vice President, Hola! USA (NY)


4. Legal System and Puerto Ricans (Bar Associations)

Mark Anthony Bimbela, Esq., President, Colegio de Abogados (PR)

Anthony Suárez, Esq., President, Puerto Rican Bar Association of Orlando (FL)

Moderator: Betty Lugo, Esq., President, Puerto Rican Bar Association (NY)


5. Veterans

Captain Frank Medina, U.S. Army Veteran, Congressional Gold Medal Alliance (FL)

Lieutenant Colonel Lesbia Nieves, Connecticut National Guard

Luis Vazquez-Contes, National Vice-Commander, American GI Forum of the United States (CO)

Moderator: Dr. Harry Franqui-Rivera, Researcher, Centro


6. Women/NACOPRW

Amaris Hernández, Vice-President, NACOPRW Philadelphia (PA)

Sara Meléndez, NACOPRW (DC)

Michelle Centeno, President, NACOPRW (NY)

Moderator: Deborah López, NACOPRW (IL)


7. Visual Artists and Art Institutions

Billy Ocasio, CEO, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (IL)

Prof. Juan Sánchez, Hunter College (NY)

Nitza Tufiño, Visual Artist (NY)

Adrián 'Viajero' Román, Visual Artist (NY)

Moderator: Miguel Luciano, Artist (NY)


8.  Race/Afro Boricuas

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, CEO, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (NY)

Rebecca Dailey-Wooley, Boriqua Chicks (IL)

Moderator: Elizabeth Yeampierre, Esq, UPROSE (NY)



Dr. Luis Aponte-Parés, Community Planning, UMass-Boston (MA)

Dr. Erika Gisela Abad Merced, Oral Historian, Center for Puerto Rican Studies (IL)

Dr. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, American Culture Department, University of Michigan

Nelson Rafael Román, Holyoke Ward 2 City Councilor (MA)

Moderator: Pedro Julio Serrano, Puerto Rico Para [email protected] (NY)


10. Social Media

Natascha Otero-Santiago, ParrandaPR (FL)

Gabe González, Univision/Flama (NY): 

Xavier Burgos, La Respuesta (IL)

Alejandro Molina, National Boricua Human Rights Network (IL)

Moderator: Marlena Fitzpatrick, Latino Rebels (NY)


11. Puerto Rican Academics

Dr. Juanita Díaz-Cotto, Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY (NY)

Dr. Belinda Reyes, Director, Cesar E. Chavez Institute (CA)

Co-Moderators: Prof. Xavier Totti and Dr. Teresita Levy, Lehman College (NY)


3:30 p.m.

Wrap-Up Plenary: What Have We Learned, Where Do We Go From Here?

In this session, moderators of each breakout session present a brief summary of conference participants’ view on “What can Centro do?” to support growing interest on Puerto Rico’s economic and unfolding humanitarian crisis and stateside Puerto Rican communities. What would be Centro’s priorities as a convener and network builder, as a think tank and source of reliable information, and as a documentarian of the process? How do these roles benefit specific community groups given the state of their sector institutions and priorities as a social movement?


4:30 p.m.  Adjourn

No panel s yet.


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