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Pioneros II

Community members celebrated Pioneros II, the story of the Puerto Rican pioneers who helped shape the story of New York City within a fifty-year period.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College is curator of the book titled Pioneros II: Puerto Ricans in New York City 1948-1998. The center celebrated at a Meet the Authors event with Virginia Sánchez Korrol, historian and Professor Emerita at Brooklyn College, and Pedro Juan Hernandez, archivist at Centro, on May 14, 2010. Pioneering Puerto Ricans and family members whose work was featured in the book were among attendees.

The book, published by Arcadia Publishing, features images and text documenting the mass migration of Puerto Ricans to New York following World War II. Puerto Ricans moved to New York in record numbers. Those who emigrated in the later part of the century joined the earlier migrants, and these numbers swelled by the children born in diaspora. In a series of vivid images, Pioneros II brings to life their stories and struggles, culture and values, entrepreneurship, and civic, political, and educational gains. The Puerto Rican community's long history and achievements opened pathways for the city's newer Latino immigrant communities.

Sánchez Korrol said her parents actually came to New York City in the 1920s. She grew up in the South Bronx and went to St. Anselm’s School. Throughout her school years, she remembered that she didn’t see the history of Puerto Ricans in her books, and it bothered her. Early on, she decided that she wanted to be a teacher to help Puerto Rican children learn their history.

For Sánchez Korrol, the documentation of Puerto Rican history for future generations is one of the most important things we can do as a community. She described Pioneros II as a family album of sorts that documents significant periods in the struggles and strides of Puerto Ricans in New York, including the Great Migration, battles for bilingual education and social justice, and political representation.

“In one finite place, it’s a sketch of fifty years of our documentation, and it’s a book that makes us wonder what is the next fifty years going to be,” she said.

She said forty-five sources for Pioneros II came from the Centro archives. She made a call for members in the Puerto Rican community to consider donating to the archives to preserve that history.

Pedro Juan Hernández thanked the heroes “who helped build New York City” while maintaining their cultural heritage. “This community has struggled and accomplished a lot,” he said, calling the historic book a work in progress.

He said it is important to build on the collection at Centro’s Library and Archives, and it is up to community members who are the heart of the stories to build the collection by donating to the Centro archives. Pioneros is a sampling of the archives. He said he hopes the book inspires others to share their stories too.

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