On Friday, May 2, nine local leaders from the Boston area will be honored for donating their oral histories and/or papers to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) in New York City. They are: Felix D. Arroyo, Jovita Fontanez, Miguel Fuentes, Dr. Ernesto González, José Massó, Tony Molina, Felita Oyola, Jaime Rodríguez and Maria Sánchez.
With their contribution, they will join the other accomplished men, women and organizations from cities across the nation that are being acknowledged for their contributions to the 100 Puerto Ricans Preserving Our History campaign.
The campaign was launched by Centro, which is based at Hunter College of the City University of New York, to increase the number and breadth of the collections held in this venerable research institute’s renowned Centro Archives, the only repository in the world that holds works dedicated solely to the Puerto Rican experience in this country.
Centro’s archival collections include items such as personal and business papers; government, organizational, business and personal records; videos, oral histories, photos, graphics; and other types of records and memorabilia. The Centro Archives comprises donations of more than 5,000 cubic feet of documents, 40,000 images and hundreds of oral histories and videos.
This event has been organized in collaboration with IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, and it is the second of its kind in Massachusetts. Centro previously honored seven Worcester area leaders at a reception in that city.
The leaders from the Boston area will add their stories and help preserve the history and heritage of Puerto Ricans living in that U.S. for generations to come:
Felix D. Arroyo was a city councilor (at large) in Boston. He also served on the Boston School Committee, becoming the first Latino to run citywide. He founded the Latino Democratic Committee, the first statewide Latino political organization in Massachusetts. He also served as the Latin American Affairs Director for U.S. Senator John Kerry and served in Mayor Raymond L. Flynn’s cabinet. He is a candidate at Register of Probate and Family Court.
Jovita Fontanez recently retired from the City of Boston’s Office of Business Development, where she worked as business manager. She continues to engage with nonprofits and political campaigns as a consultant. Fontanez has had a remarkable career including being the first woman/and Latina commissioner for the City of Boston’s Election Department; one of first Latina commissioner of the City’s Fair Housing Commission; and the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts Electoral College. Fontanez worked with Rick Quiroga, director/founder of Casa Esperanza, and was associate director and a founding member of the South End Community Health Center.
Miguel Fuentes is a longtime small-business owner and Mission Hill community activist. His family business, Fuentes Market, participates in a variety of local activities, which have included those of Sociedad Latina, Mission Main and Mission Church. His commitment to his beloved Mission Hill community as a business owner has been about perseverance. His market has faced several devastating fires through the years, which he has attributed to retaliation for his stance against drugs. Fuentes attended Mass Bay Community College, where he studied business.
Dr. Ernesto González is a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. He was the first director of the Phototherapy Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital and became a pioneer in the investigation and application of photochemotherapy (PUVA) to treat psoriasis. The Ernesto Gonzalez, M.D. Award for Outstanding Service to the Hispanic Community was established in 2005 by the Massachusetts General Hospital to honor González. It recognizes hospital employees every year for their contributions on behalf of the Hispanic community.
José Massó, a native of Old San Juan, is a radio host who was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame on September 16, 2010 and has the distinction of being the first Puerto Rican/Latino to join such a renowned group of radio and television broadcasters from throughout state. He is director of community relations at Massport and host/producer of “¡Con Salsa!” on WBUR 90.9FM, Boston’s NPR news station, for 39 years. Masso’s career has included prominent and groundbreaking positions in education, communications, politics, entertainment, sports and philanthropy.
Tony Molina, a former United States Marine, was the first Puerto Rican wounded in Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart medal. Molina has devoted a great deal of time and effort to causes and organizations that promote the welfare of Boston’s Puerto Rican community. Currently he serves as the first vice president of the Puerto Rican Veterans Monument Square Association.
Felita Oyola (posthumously) was a singer who began her career performing jíbaro music and was dubbed as “the Queen of the Mapeyé.” As a singer, she became involved with various music genres. Ovola recorded with famous cuatro players Yomo Toro and Nieves Quintero and established the theatrical revue Estrellas Tropicales de Boston (Tropical Stars of Boston). This led to the foundation of a non-profit corporation whose purpose was to further Hispanic culture with an emphasis on traditional celebrations, theatrical arts, music and folk dances.
Jaime Rodríguez is a Vietnam combat Army veteran having served from 1968-1970. He was an administrator for the Cardinal Cushing Hospital and also served as a team leader of the Federal Outreach Center in Boston designing outreach centers around the United States and Puerto Rico in the 1980s. He retired after 22 years as a Research Coordinator for the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston Campus. Currently he serves as president of the Puerto Rican Veterans Monument Square Association.
Maria Sánchez retired after having served as the State of Massachusetts Probation Officer in Boston Juvenile Court for 20 years. She founded the Mission Main Tenants Task Force and has been a political activist in Mission Hill for many years. Her first community involvement was helping families who were illegally living in apartments in Mission Main Housing. On September 14, 2014, Mayor Thomas Menino, Mission Hill Neighborhood residents, local business owners and community leaders dedicated Maria Sanchez Square at the corner of Tremont and Gurney Streets.
The celebratory event honoring these outstanding Puerto Rican civic leaders will be held on Friday, May 2 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at IBA’s Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, located at 85 West Newton Street in Boston’s South End. The event is open to the public. Due to limited space, please RSVP at www.eventbrite.com (search: 100 Puerto Ricans Boston).
About the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College
The Center for Puerto Rican Studies is a research institute dedicated to the study and interpretation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States, producing and disseminating relevant interdisciplinary research. Centro also collects preserves and provides access to library and archival resources documenting Puerto Rican history and heritage. We seek to link scholarship to social action and policy debates, and to contribute to the betterment of our community and enrichment of Puerto Rican studies.
Hunter College, located in the heart of Manhattan, is the largest college in the City University of New York (CUNY). Founded in 1870, it is also one of the oldest public colleges in the country.
About IBA – Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción
IBA is a community building organization dedicated to empowering individuals through education, workforce development and arts programs.