President’s Message MARCH 2011
A Message from Roberto Márquez
President, Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA)
March 14, 2011
I hope that, after the success of our 9th Biennial Conference in Hartford recently concluded, you have had an equally happy beginning to the New Year and are enjoying a pleasant and productive new semester. Let me begin this first of my messages to the membership by expressing, on the Association’s behalf and my own, our sincerest thanks and appreciation to all our retiring officers and Executive Council members, whose devoted energies, sustained hard and good work over the past two years have brought us all thus far.
I would like, as well, to extend appreciative recognition and our gratitude to the University of Connecticut and its Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies; the City of Hartford and City Councilman Luis Cotto; to Trinity College and its President, James F. Jones, Jr.; to the extraordinary photographer and artist Angel Franco; to The Hartford City Public Library; Eastern Connecticut State University and President Elsa Nuñez; and to the Wadsworth Athenaeum for the warmth of their welcome in Hartford, no less than for their generous support, sponsorship, and enthusiastic willingness to serve as hosts and local venues for essential parts of our biennial conference program and for the contributions they each and all made to the caliber of that program’s overall accomplishment.
A note of particular grateful thanks especially to Gladys Jiménez Muñoz, Tony de Jesús, Vilma Santiago Irizarry, and Charles Venator Santiago—our outgoing President, Treasurer, Conference Program Committee Chair, and Chair of our Conference’s Local Organizing Committee, respectively—for the uncommon dedication each brought to these tasks and major responsibilities, as well as for the able skill, the personal élan, critical efficacy, and dependable generosity of their collective leadership. That steady stewardship in an unusually challenging time was surely one among those central elements which ultimately resulted in the general success of our Hartford conference. Their thoughtful leadership, in addition and no less significantly, capably conducted us through the enduring achievement of that too-long-overdue updating of our By-Laws which they also collectively, and equally successfully, undertook.
As recently approved by the PRSA’s membership (and beyond bringing us more strictly into compliance with all federal requirements pertinent to would-be Tax Exempt organizations), our revised By-Laws clarifying amplification, fuller, more meticulous detailing of our procedures of governance, organizational, administrative and archival structures and units appreciably contribute to and advance our Association’s infrastructural health and continuing vitality.
Widening its scope of reach and ambit of increasing possibility our new By-Laws, like the freshly minted Book and Dissertation Awards also inaugurated on their watch, positively reaffirm, as they more transparently secure our overall constitution, core purposes, and abiding mission. By setting more conspicuously in place the basic scaffolding and foundation on which these all vitally depend, and on which we can ever more certainly build into the future, they, at the same time, practicably enable and facilitate our continuing ability as an institution of Puerto Rican Studies research and advocacy fruitfully to accomplish and achieve our diverse membership’s common objectives.
I am very pleased to report that PRSA has obtained, as of January 28, 2011, legal standing as a fully tax-exempt, non-profit organization. This is an achievement directly traceable to the persevering efforts and efficacy of our retiring officers’ and Executive Council members. It is also the result of the expert help and excellent professional labors of our authorized legal representative, Ann Thomas, Esq. Well-earned thanks to them all. We are currently in the process of also obtaining non–profit, tax-exempt status in New York State which, with enhanced chances of positive result, this outcome at the federal level will undoubtedly make more likely.
As our Hartford conference drifts inevitably toward the pleasanter precincts of memory and remembrance, your newly installed Executive Committee (a list of whose current members I attach for your convenience) is already fully embarked on the work of planning, organizing and making all necessary arrangements for the next one.
I am happy to announce that our 10th Biennial Conference will take place on October 24-28, 2012, at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY), with the sponsorship and support of the Center for Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CELAC), in collaboration with the Local Organizing Committee chaired by its director, Distinguished Service Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, U.S. Latino and Women’s Studies Edna Acosta-Belén, and including representatives from a variety of the university’s other units and programs.
The 2012 conference will open the evening of Wednesday the 24th with a Welcoming Reception and Keynote Address. A celebration and closing reception is similarly planned for that Saturday evening. Sunday morning the PRSA’s Executive Council will hold its usual end-of-conference meeting. Proposed workshops, roundtables, concurrent panels, plenary sessions, and our general membership business meeting will all be scheduled during the remaining three full days between Thursday morning and Saturday evening.
The University at Albany, in addition to its own outstanding facilities, has several excellent, very reasonably priced hotels immediately across from the main campus that serves as our Conference venue. We will soon be passing on the results of our further investigations into what added specific discount arrangements can be negotiated and made available for PRSA members attending the Conference.
This upcoming 10th Biennial Conference meeting will mark the 20th anniversary of PRSA’s sustained support of and dedication to the field of Puerto Rican Studies.
With perhaps no better milestone moment to look at once prospectively forward and reassessively back, we have chosen “Boricuas and Other Border Crossers: Of Diasporas and Latinidades” as its overall thematic focus. By taking as a point of departure the distinctively national, decisively transnational and variously “border crossing” dimensions of contemporary Boricua life, we hope to engage with and critically explore the many facets of its connections to a more broadly shared experience of multiple and overlapping diasporas from the Caribbean and the wider Americas. Coming into increasingly dramatic view in the decades immediately before and since our founding, the new Puertorriqueñidades and “paradigm shifts,” in any number of spheres, inescapably borne of these diasporic encounters, practices, convergences and transformations both at “home” and “abroad” are thus a both germane and vital field of apt inquiry. Our formal Call-for-Papers appears in a separate article in this new “El Noticiero”, PRSA blog.
We have also recently concluded the preparations and creation of the respective committees preliminary to public announcement of the formal opening of the 2012 competitions for the PRSA’s Book and Dissertation Awards.
Charles R. Venator-Santiago, from the Department of Political Science and Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at the University of Connecticut, and our new Vice-President/President-Elect, will serve as chair of the Book Award Selection Committee. Angel G. Quintero Rivera, of the Centro de Investigaciones Sociales at the University of Puerto Rico and winner of the inaugural prize in 2010, and Dr. Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva, of the Department of History at the University of Washington, Seattle, have agreed to serve with him on that Committee.
I should also note that, at its meeting in January, the Executive Council also voted unanimously in favor of having this Book Award henceforth bear the name of Frank Bonilla, in honor of one of our field’s most distinguished foundational figures, public announcement of which will also occur very shortly with our open call for competing entries.
Aldo Lauria Santiago, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University, Livingston campus, has graciously consented to serve as chair of our Dissertation Award Selection Committee, on which he also will be joined by last year’s inaugural winner, Radost A. Rangelova, of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, and Professor Maritza Stanchich, from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, College of Humanities.
In the hope of promoting still greater, more timely apt managerial efficiency in the conduct of the PRSA’s normal business, and as part of the continuing effort of renovation and renewal begun by our predecessors, the Executive Council has for the first time introduced and committed to a standard calendar of fixed quarterly (October, January, March or April, and July) meetings. This calendar, among its other benefits and virtues, also provides our membership with a predictably recurring opportunity timely to bring whatever matters they think appropriate to our collective attention.
We have similarly committed to launching a new PRSA website. Under the adept guidance and direction of our new Treasurer Luis Figueroa-Martínez, of the Department of History at Trinity College, we are now fully engaged in the process of its design and implementation; and of technically and more interactively making it a more vibrantly dynamic and usefully informative, member and general-public friendly location.
Simpler more regularly to update, refresh, and enhance, this remodeled website site will include, among its various sections, subsections, components and functions, an online blog-cum-newsletter, “El Noticiero.”
The website will also ultimately permit our constituents to renew their membership and to pay conference registration fees more directly, conveniently and securely online. It will allow others likewise to become new members. It is further our hope that this capability of online financial transaction will in time encourage potential donors, members and non-members alike, to make tax-deductible gifts and contributions in support of the PRSA and its work.
In the coming months, in brief, you should see a noticeable improvement in our website’s projection of our distinctiveness as an organization actively attuned to developments in our field and in its enhanced capacity effectively to serve as an attractive gathering place and welcoming clearing house of sources helpful to people professionally concerned with or otherwise interested in Puerto Rico, its diaspora communities, Puerto Rican Studies and related issues.
The Executive Council having recently also put in place a Website Editorial Board, headed by Luis, to oversee the on-going receipt of its specific content material and its continuing general operation, we expect to be initially launching the new site, in the first of two phases, sometime in March, 2011.
Please feel free, in the meantime, to send us whatever news, announcements, interviews, discussions of recent scholarship or other pertinent content you would like to have us post here. Submissions must be made using the appropriate form available in the new website’s “Contact Us” page.
As we value your knowledge and expertise, the website editorial board will, in any case, be reaching out to the membership and seeking volunteers to contribute to and further develop the site.
The Executive Committee, finally, has also begun initial discussion, not just of those strategies appropriate to meet the necessary financing of our more immediate operational and conference requirements and costs, but of the need as well to design a longer-term strategic capital campaign. Such a capital campaign would allow us to generate the seeds for a permanent PRSA endowment that would help to secure our Association’s lasting financial stability and enduring viability. The members of the Sub-Committee on Planning and Budget created directly to address these matters and questions are Gladys Jiménez Muñoz, Charles R. Venator Santiago, Luis Figueroa-Martínez, Edna Acosta-Belén, LiYún Alvarado and I. Whatever ideas relevant to these concerns as you may have are certainly more than welcome.
To bring this perhaps already overlong letter-report to a close, let me lastly take the opportunity to say, with all of my colleagues on the Council, that, in the last analysis, this is your Association. Without your active support and involvement, it cannot long flourish or prosper. To that end, we invite your comments, ideas, and suggestions and will, of course, be keeping you posted as our plans for 2012 progress and these several other initiatives move forward.
Mt. Holyoke College
Editor’s Note: Please consider sending PRSA your feedback on Roberto Márquez’s message by using the form found on the “Contact Us” page.