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Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies gets $1.2M Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Hunter College a grant of $1.2 million to support scholarly study groups bringing together academics, journalists, and artists from both Puerto Rico and its diaspora at Hunter’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the Centro announced.

The Centro has a 50-year legacy of interdisciplinary and collaborative research. This new grant will help “reinvigorate this legacy by creating benchmark publications, media products, and artistic projects that can bridge the divides that exist,” the institution stated in a press release.

The concept of “bridging divides” demonstrates the need to overcome long-standing divisions that have served as roadblocks to the development of Puerto Rican Studies and a collective agenda. These divides are not just linguistic, geographic, and ideological, but also reflect the multiplicity of experiences among Puerto Rican communities.

“We’re thrilled to receive this support and recognition from the Mellon Foundation,” said Yarimar Bonilla, the Centro’s director, and a professor in Hunter’s Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies.

“We plan to convene a broad group of thinkers and makers from across Puerto Rico’s intellectual and geographic communities to engage in collaborative research regarding the pressing issues facing our communities,” she said.

The inaugural study group will be launched this month, convened by Bonilla and Efrén Rivera from the University of Puerto Rico Law School, and will focus on the question of decolonization.

The second group will launch in Fall of 2022 coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane María and will focus on how to create a more just and inclusive post-disaster future. Each study group will result in a collectively authored publication with concrete policy recommendations for Puerto Rico’s political, economic, social, and cultural future.

They will also contribute to a digital media hub featuring long-form journalistic pieces, multimedia products, interviews, podcasts, and other artistic projects created by group members throughout the project period.

One important goal for these study groups is to develop new policy recommendations as well as theoretical foundations and conceptual pathways for thinking and reimagining Puerto Rico and its future, Bonilla said.

“Recent experiences like Hurricane María and the COVID crisis have shown that there is not one singular Puerto Rican experience but a multiplicity of realities, visions, and desires,” said Bonilla. “Even the basic terminology for describing Puerto Rico is subject to conceptual debate: is it a colony, a territory, a dependency, or a nation?”

“Our congratulations to Yarimar Bonilla, and her colleagues at Centro for receiving this important grant that will enable them to build on Centro’s legacy as the premiere site of collaborative research regarding Puerto Rico and its diaspora,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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