Huge congratulations to our Seminar Faculty Leader of the Puerto Rico Syllabus project and CUNY colleague Dr. Yarimar Bonilla who has been appointed interim Director of El Centro, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter/CUNY (el Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños)!

Click here to read Dr. Yarimar Bonilla's statement accepting the Directorship of El Centro and regarding the path forward. You can write to Dr. Bonilla directly or join the community group #Community4CENTRO at [email protected] to stay informed of new developments.

Dr. Yarimar Bonilla

Read more about this news story from Hunter College, CUNY below or here:

Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab today announced the appointment of Professor Yarimar Bonilla as Interim Director of El Centro, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter/CUNY (el Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños). Dr. Bonilla, Professor of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies in the Anthropology Department, will be the first woman to head Centro in its 48-year-history. She will assume the post following the retirement of longtime director Dr. Edwin Meléndez, which takes effect June 30. Hunter will conduct a national search with a diverse and inclusive search committee for a permanent director for El Centro.

President Raab commented: “We are delighted that the highly accomplished Yarimar Bonilla will be building on the legacy of Edwin Meléndez to advance Centro’s mission in support of scholarship and engagement on issues vital to Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. “In Yarimar, we welcome a leader who has always combined scholarship and activism in her work. She brings to Centro a deep understanding of Caribbean cultures in general and the Puerto Rican community in particular—and a commitment to research, educating students, utilizing new technologies, and advocating around pressing issues on the island and the mainland.”

Continued President Raab: “Edwin Meléndez has made an enormous impact in his 13 years at Centro, leaving an admirable legacy on which Yarimar and the Center can now build. On behalf of the entire college, I want to thank Edwin for his remarkable achievements. We are delighted that, following a well-deserved one-year sabbatical, he will return to Hunter’s Urban Affairs and Planning faculty where he will continue his vital efforts to study economic development and the process of recovery in Puerto Rico.”

“I would like also to express special thanks to CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez for his advice and support during this important transition. As a former Centro director himself, the Chancellor has long made the Center a high priority, and we are fortunate to have his leadership and encouragement as we plan for its future.”

“I had the privilege of starting my CUNY journey at Centro and know first-hand how unique Centro is and how crucial it is as a research and archival anchor of the Puerto Rican experience in the U.S.,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “I want to thank Edwin for his transformational work over the last 13 years and welcome a scholar of the caliber of Yarimar as interim director. I am as committed to Centro’s future today as I was in 2000 when I became its director and to working with Yarimar and other Centro leadership during this time of transition and opportunity leading to Centro’s exciting 50th anniversary in 2023.”

"We are delighted that the highly accomplished Yarimar Bonilla will be building on the legacy of Edwin Meléndez to advance Centro’s mission in support of scholarship and engagement on issues vital to Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora."

Hunter College President, Jennifer J. Raab

Dr. Bonilla, who joined the faculty in 2018, was born in San Juan and spent part of her childhood in Topeka and Phoenix before returning to Puerto Rico at the age of 12. She received her BA from the University of Puerto Rico, an MA from the University of New Mexico, and a PhD from the University of Chicago. She previously taught at the University of Virginia and Rutgers. In 2018 she was named a Carnegie Fellowship for her research on the social impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“I look forward to working through this moment of transition with the different constituencies that Centro serves,” said Dr. Bonilla. “I am proud to be part of the ever-evolving Puerto Rican community of New York and excited to build Centro’s connections with its community roots. Centro’s mission has never been more urgent as Puerto Rico faces the compounding effects of economic, political, and environmental health crises, which in turn reverberate across the diaspora. “Given that my focus has long been on public-facing scholarship that pushes beyond the confines of the academy, I am particularly eager to grow the interdisciplinary scope of Centro. In particular, I want to create more opportunities for artists to use the archives and develop their work in dialogue with the CUNY community. I also want to forge partnerships with our scientific community who have so much to tell us as we navigate a post-disaster and post-pandemic future.”

Yarimar Bonilla, left, in conversation with New York Times corespondent Francis Robles. Image from Hunter College, CUNY.

Centro at Hunter College

Centro is the acclaimed CUNY research institute dedicated to the study, interpretation, and preservation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. Founded in 1973, the center conducts interdisciplinary research and collects, preserves, and disseminates its incomparable resources documenting Puerto Rican history and culture. Centro works to share its collections and scholarship not only with researchers and students at Hunter and around the world, but also with government leaders and non-profit institutions in an effort and advance public policy discussions and nourish social action.

Among other initiatives, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro de Estudios Puertoriquenos) provides research grants and fellowships—including a Research Exchange Program that has benefitted more than 100 resident scholars to date—while offering an array of student internship opportunities. Centro also maintains one of the most extensive Latino research libraries and archives in the nation, the Evelina López Antonetty Research Collection, in a state of the art facility at the Silberman campus. The archive houses, among other highlight treasures, the archives of former Congressmen Herman Badillo and Jose Serano as well as those of the National Puerto Rican Coalition.

The Center also manages Centro Press, which has published 15 titles to date with more forthcoming; and issues the thrice-yearly Centro Journal, which presents important scholarship on political economy, history, and Puerto Rican migration and work, along with social policy analysis. In addition, Centro has amassed and maintains a vast collection of oral history (Centro Voices), which has conducted and archived more than 300 interviews; a data center housing information on Puerto Ricans throughout the U.S.; and a video network (Centro TV) that has launched a documentary series celebrating pioneers of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Additionally, the Centro Digital Collections provide an unparalleled resource for academics, researchers, students, genealogists, filmmakers, and the community at large.

Dr. Yarimar Bonilla

Dr. Yariar Bonilla. Photo by Angel Franqui Vazquez.

Dr. Bonilla is a Professor in Hunter’s Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, and in the Anthropology Department at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is an award-winning scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Bonilla is a major voice on issues of Caribbean and Latinx politics. She has contributed to the New Yorker, the Nation, and the Washington Post, writes a monthly column called “En Vavién” for Puerto Rico’s newspaper El Nuevo Día, and is frequently heard on National Public Radio and television programs such as Democracy Now. Most recently, she contributed an episode to WNYC’S new bilingual radio series about Puerto Rico, La Brega.

She has written for scholarly journals on such subjects as the role of digital protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, post-disaster impacts in contemporary Puerto Rico, and anti-colonial labor struggles in the French Caribbean.

She is the author of the books Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment (2015); Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm (2019); and the forthcoming Trouillot Remixed (2021). Her digital projects include Visualizing Sovereignty: Animated Video of Caribbean Political History, which she co-designed, and the Puerto Rico Syllabus Project (#PRSyllabus), which she co-created to provide an open access resource for teaching and learning about the socio-economic crises affecting Puerto Rico.

Dr. Edwin Meléndez

Dr. Meléndez, a long-respected specialist in Latino Studies, economic development, poverty, and labor markets, is a Professor of Urban Policy & Planning at Hunter. He is the author of 13 books, including State of Puerto Ricans (2017) and Puerto Ricans at the Dawn of the New Millennium (2014), both published by Centro Press, which he helped establish, and Latinos in a Changing Society (Prager, 2017). In addition to his scholarship, Dr. Meléndez has a long record of community and public service, having served as Chair of the ASPIRA Association National Board, Vice President of the Board of Directors of UnidosUS, and membership on the New York Hurricane Maria Memorial Agenda, among other posts.

Dr. Meléndez will step down on June 30 after 13 years at the helm of Centro where he was instrumental in growing Centro’s programs, developing partnerships across the country, and strengthening Centro’s outreach to disseminate research. He has also served on a number of government task forces and commissions. Before joining the Hunter faculty, he taught at the New School, the University of Massachusetts, MIT, and Fordham.