Research banner

Centro Research Exchange

Since its inception in 1986-1987 the Centro Exchange Programs has offered a broad range of scholarly projects aimed at fostering collaboration between faculty and students from CUNY,  other universities, and scientific research centers in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.  In the past, Centro provided research support through four different programs: Dissertation Fellowship Competition; Puerto Rican Diaspora Grants; General Grants; and Undergraduate Exchanges. Thus far, these CUNY-wide programs have facilitated research and other academic/cultural activities for more than three hundred faculty and students. 

In the future, we will combine and refer to these programs as the Centro Research Exchange. The program will focus on strengthening the pipeline of Puerto Rican-focused researchers by providing dissertation support, peer-review publications for junior faculty, and collaborations between senior and junior researchers at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In addition, we will give priority to research that is built on Centro’s strategic priorities and that strengthens relationships with academic departments at Hunter and CUNY.

This academic year, Centro has been able to extend five research exchange opportunities  three for individuals studying conditions related to the economic opportunity of Puerto Ricans and two to support faculty fellows. These exchange opportunities provide researchers the opportunity to study topics of importance to the Puerto Rican community as well as to support young faculty researchers interested in the projects of the Centro. To date three projects have been funded through the research exchange. These include: Asset Building Economic Opportunity for Stateside Puerto Ricans; Concrete Ceiling: Puerto Rican Managers and Executives; and Pathways into the Knowledge-Based Economy for Stateside Puerto Ricans. A full description of these projects is included above.

The Visiting Faculty Fellows Initiative seeks to provide junior faculty members course-release time to allow them to further develop a defined scholarly agenda leading to publication. Faculty who can avail themselves of the primary resources available at Centro are given priority, and—given the mentoring component built into the fellowship – are those whose research complements the work of senior faculty and research associates. Centro fellows with critical feedback by assigned mentors will produce peer- reviewed articles and book-length manuscripts-in-progress. Our objective is to create a venue to retain CUNY faculty by providing them with the resources to engage in sustained research and writing at a critical juncture in their career.  

For the 2009-10 academic year, Centro made two awards to support a survey study on Puerto Rican Workers in U.S. Farm Labor and the completion of a book project entitled Becoming Julia de Burgos: Feminism, Trans-nationalism, Diaspora. A full description of these projects is included above.

Economic Opportunity Projects

Asset Building and Economic Opportunity for Stateside Puerto Ricans

Researcher: Ramon Borges Mendez

In the U.S. the asset-building/development approach to poverty alleviation has been gaining theoretical and empirical appeal for over two decades. One of its main concerns is addressing the dramatic racial/ethnic wealth gap between Whites and other racial/ethnic groups, especially Latinos and African Americans. In 2007, Latino median household net worth was $21,000 relative to $170,400 for White households. The Latino median household net worth was higher relative to African-Americans, which stood at $17,100.  The gap is uniform for all types of assets: savings, cars, home and business ownership, home equity, retirement, college accounts, items of high value, stocks, bonds and other investment.

Little research on this area, however, gives us a more detailed analysis about the asset profile of specific Latino subgroups or relative to Whites and African Americans. This research paper will have two objectives. First, we use 2008 data from the Consumer Expenditures Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create the asset profile of Puerto Ricans relative to the groups mentioned above. We will use other data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census to complement such profile. Secondly, we will review the findings in light of discussing what  approaches to asset building/development might be better suited to address the gap between Puerto Ricans and the other groups, including a succinct discussion of the policy instruments and programs created by the public and non-profit sectors in this area. Most of these programs do not differentiate by Latino subgroup in their planning and implementation. 

Concrete Ceiling: Puerto Rican Managers and Executives

Researcher:  Evangelina  Holvino

It is by now a cliché that Latinos are the workforce of the future, yet little is known about their situation in organizations, and in particular, the similarities and differences among the Hispanic groups and how they fare in the workplace, especially at management and executive levels. Prior research on the glass ceiling and on Latina mid-level managers in organizations identifies a host of structural, organizational, and racio-ethnic factors that negatively impact Hispanics’ status and advancement in organizations. Specific data on the situation of Puerto Ricans in organizations vis-a-vis other groups is almost non-existent. This research expands on prior findings about Hispanics in organizations and attempts to shed light on the situation of Puerto Ricans in particular. Combining quantitative and qualitative data, the study seeks to: 1) Review literature, conduct interviews, and gather other data in order to identify the situation of Puerto Rican managers and executives, particularly in comparison with other “minority” Hispanic and non-Hispanic groups, also differentiating between Puerto Rican men and women. 2) Update and expand, by way of confirming or not confirming a set of hypotheses, structural, organizational, and racio-ethnic factors that impact on Puerto Ricans’ status and advancement in organizations.  3) Make recommendations for policy, organizational, and individual changes required in order to improve the status and advancement of Puerto Rican managers in organizations.

Pathways into the Knowledge-Based Economy for Stateside Puerto Ricans

Researcher:  Ramon Borges Mendez

During the last decade, despite the bursting of the "" bubble early in the decade and even the current crisis, jobs in the knowledge-based industries have shown sustained growth. More specifically, these are jobs in   life sciences, bio-tech, and high-tech, yet  increasingly spreading into other service sectors such as education, health and finance. This is mainly as result of the penetration of information technologies and biotechnologies into the production processes and service delivery of such sectors.

Reasons Puerto Ricans (and other Latinos) are not gaining access to these jobs and opportunities include: lack of education; disconnection from STEM  -- science, technology, engineering and math education programs (Practically all of these jobs require some level of higher education, which could range from an associate’s  degree to special certification to doctoral -level education, plus solid preparation in math and science); lack of information on industry dynamics; no resources to pursue a college education.

This paper has two main objectives. First, it will use data from 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy from the NCES/Dept. of Education and from the American Community Survey (2005-08) of the US Bureau of the Census to construct a national profile of the educational, occupational and sectorial characteristics of the Puerto Rican population eighteen and older. The focus of the profile will be to highlight the labor and educational characteristics of the Puerto Rican population that may hinder or promote integration into the sectors mentioned above. Secondly, the paper will discuss a variety of workforce development programs, STEM education programs, and labor market intermediaries trying to improve the access of disadvantaged workers to such sectors. The emphasis is on programs targeting jobs that require no more than associate’s degrees. Finally, it suggests policy avenues to improve the access of Puerto Ricans/Latinos into such sectors.

Visiting Faculty Fellows

A Profile of Puerto Rican Workers in U.S. Farm Labor

Researcher:  Ismael  García-Colón

The purpose of this study is to understand the living and working conditions of Puerto Rican farm workers in the United States. Centro will facilitate  the survey of 300 Puerto Rican workers. Currently, most Puerto Ricans who work in agriculture migrate every year from Puerto Rico. This project will explore the reasons for the contemporary migration flow.  The study will also identify and survey workers who reside stateside and migrate to other states.   The survey will investigate their demographics, incomes, households, migratory patterns, housing, health, and job-related activities. The investigation  also will produce the foundation for an estimate of the number of Puerto Rican workers in the Northeast agricultural industry.

The main goal of the study is to understand why Puerto Ricans continue to work in an industry characterized by low wages and intense competition from other seasonal and undocumented workers, and what can be done to improve the earnings and advancement opportunities for workers in this industry.  The study seeks to examine the role of the political economy of the U.S. agricultural industry; the opportunity for advancement within and outside the industry;  the historical reasons of this migration; the government policies and economic conditions in Puerto Rico; and relations between migrants other workers, farmers and residents of farm communities.  Upon this foundation, we seek to recommend potential public policies and strategies for community interventions.

Becoming  Julia de Burgos: Feminism, Transnationalism, Diaspora

Researcher: Vanessa Pérez Rosario

Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953) forms part of a transitional generation that helps to bridge the historical divide between Puerto Rican nationalist writers of the 1930s and the Nuyorican writers of the 1970s.  My book project, Becoming Julia de Burgos: Feminism, Trans-nationalism, Diaspora ,explores her development as a writer in Puerto Rico during the 1930s, her affiliation with the Puerto Rican nationalists, and her ultimate departure from the island.  Her story is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Puerto Rican migration as it offers a gendered perspective of this experience prior to the Great Migration of the 1950s.  Many Puerto Rican writers in New York take up the themes that de Burgos addressed in her late work, although it would be left to a later generation to express a Nuyorican sense of identity.  Julia de Burgos’ struggle to establish herself as a writer, and her Pan-American and Afro-Antillean ideas enable us to read her as a precursor to later women writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.  Her experience of migration, dissidence in relation to the nation island, and her fight for survival resonate with these communities.  While it is rare for a poet to become a cultural icon, Julia de Burgos has evoked feelings of bonding and national identification  among Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in the United States for over half a century.  De Burgos’ legacy as a cultural icon is revealed in the work of various writers, muralists, visual artists and musicians both on the island and in the States.  Because de Burgos lived on the verge of the U.S. women’s movement of the 1960s and the Puerto Rican movement of the 1970s, her life story captured the imagination of Puerto Ricans and was used as reminder of the importance of community and solidarity in popular culture.  My book project, Becoming Julia de Burgos: Feminism, Trans-nationalism, Diaspora takes a comprehensive look at de Burgos’ life, work, and legacy on the Island and in New York, exploring new dimensions of scholarship in women’s studies, trans-nationalism and the island-diaspora connection. 


1. Jose Amador, Assistant Professor, Latin American Studies, Miami University: “Mapping Migration: Public Health, Racial Boundaries, and the Puerto Rican Diaspora in Early 20th Century Cuba.”

2. Patricia Silver, Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Central Florida: “Historical Perspectives on Puerto Ricans in Central Florida.”

3. Aurora Morales, Writer, California: “Oral History Transcription for OtheRicans; Voices of the Greater Puerto Rican Diaspora.”

4. Carmen Rivera, Senior Associate, Community Impact, LLC and Pedro Reyes, Teacher, Middle School 244, “Despierta Boricua-Preserving History Project.”

5. Jorge Duany, Professor, Anthropology, University of Puerto Rico: “The Transnational Origins of the Puerto Rican Diaspora: Revisiting the Farmworkers’ Program, 1947-1977.”

6. Josue Colon Rosado, Artist/ freelance photographer and Video Producer, Puerto Rico: “Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Musicians in New York City: Research and visual documentation for the community.”

7. Maria Teresa Vera Rojas, Graduate Master's Degree Student, L’Institut Interuniversitari d’ Estudis de Dones, Spain, “Porque el género es también un asunto de mujeres: recuperación de los discursos femenino y feminista de las mujeres puertorriqueñas en La Prensa de Nueva York (1920-1940).”

8. Myrna G. Calderon, Assistant Professor, Languages, Literature and Linguistics, Syracuse University, “Geographies of Memory in Contemporary Hispanic Caribbean Literature and Culture.”

9. Jason Irizarry, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut: “Project FUERTE (Future Urban Educators conducting Research to transform Teacher Education).”

10. Francisco Sastre, Ph. D Student, Sociology/Anthropology, Florida International University: “Living Positive: Life in Community among PR Men living w/ HIV/AIDS in Boston.”

11. Mirelsie Velasquez, Ph.D Student, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana: “Brincamos El Charo y Ahora Que? Education of PR in Chicago,”  67-87.


1. Vladimir Ovtchrenko, Ph.D ,Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences, Hostos Community: “Biodiversity of Spiders of Dominican Republic.”

2. Juan Valdez, Ph.D Candidate, Historic Linguistics, CUNY Graduate Center: “Language, Race, and History in Pedro Henriquez Urena’s Linguistic Oeuvre.”

3. Debora Upegui-Hernandez, Ph.D Candidate, Social/Personality Psychology, The Graduate Center: “Colombian and Dominican 2nd Generation immigrants negotiating multiple identities: A multiple methods secondary analysis.”


Priscilla Renta, Ph.D. Candidate, Performance Studies, Northwestern University: “Salsa Dancing Practices and resistance in the U.S. and the Caribbean.”                           

Mario Pérez Miranda, Ph.D. Candidate, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico,  “Muna Lee y Luis Muñoz Marín: una historia no contada, mitos y realidades.”



1.Mirerza González, Ph.D., Associate Professor, English and Nadjah Ríos, Assistant Professor, Humanities, University of Puerto Rico: “Oral accounts of bilingual education teachers of the Puerto Rican Diaspora in St. Croix: exploring the usefulness of cultural capital in the classroom.”

2. Iris Lopez, Associate Professor, Sociology, City College and David Forbes, Associate Professor, Education, Brooklyn College: “Voices from the Puerto Rican Diaspora in Hawai’i.”

3. Yasmin Hernández, Independent Visual Artist: “Archivos Subversivos.”

4. Michelle Joan Wilkinson, Independent Scholar:  “Towards a ’Thick Description’ or Ways of Reading a Juan Sanchez Painting.”

5. Ismael García Colón, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, College of Staten Island: “Puerto Rican Migrant farm Labor in New York and New Jersey.”

6. Luziris Pineda Turi, Ph.D. Candidato, Modern and Classic  Languages, University of Houston: “Nación, identidad y política: Gonzalo O’Neill un Puertorriqueño en Nueva York.”

7. Orlando José Hernández, Professor, Modern Languages, Hostos Community College:  “Recovery of New York Writings By Eugenio María de Hostos.”

8. Petra Raquel Rivera, Ph.D. Candidate, African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley: “What is Afro-Boricua? The Impact of Migration and Popular Culture on understandings of Blackness in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Diaspora.”

9. Yesenia Aponte Meléndez, M.A. Student, Sociology, The City College of New York: “Needle Exchange Programs’ Influence Over the New York City Migrant Puerto Rican Injection Drug Users’ Population.”


1. Vladimir Ovtchrenko, Assistant Professor, Natural Sciences, Hostos Community College: “Biodiversity of Spiders of Dominican Republic.”

2. Fabiola Ceballos, Doctoral Student, Criminal Justice, John Jay College:  “Multiple-Offender v. Single –Offender Homicides in the Dominican Republic”

3. Elana Milstein, M. A. Student, Ethnomusicology, Hunter College: “La Conga Oriental in Contemporary Santiagueran Society.”

4. Milagros Denis, Assistant Instructor, Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, Rutgers University: “A Historical Analysis of the Racial Dimension of Puerto Rican Modernity.”

5. Kimberly Pritchard, Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre, CUNY Graduate Center: “The Lost Apple Plays: Performing Operation Pedro Pan.”

6. Peter Manuel, Professor, Art, Music, and Philosophy, John Jay College: “The Folklorization of Social Dances in the Dominican Republic.”

7.Maritza Quiñones-Rivera, Ph. D. Candidate, Communications Research, University of Illinois: “ La Sista, Blackness, Women, Power and Resistance.”

8. Baz Dreisinger, Assistant Professor, English, John Jay College: Should Babylon Release The Cure? True Reflections of Freedom, Prison, Art and the  Reggae-Star Rapist.


1. Rafael A. Torruella, Ph.D. Candidate, Social-Personality Psychology, Graduate Center:

“Allá En Nueva York Todo Es Mej