Update on the Puerto Rican Studies Initiative for Community Engagement and Public Policy

Contributed by Charles R. Venator-Santiago

Charles R Venator Santiago
Charles R Venator Santiago on Oct. 4, 2022. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

The Puerto Rican Studies Initiative for Community Engagement and Public Policy (PRSI) is a research initiative seeking to document and support Puerto Ricans’ vital economic, intellectual, and cultural contributions to Connecticut and to provide research-based support for the development of public policies addressing the needs of Puerto Ricans in the State of Connecticut.

This initiative is part of a collaboration among various programs, including El Instituto (UConn Storrs, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project (UConn Hartford, School of Social Work) and the Hispanic Health Council/Mi Casa. This initiative is funded by the Connecticut General Assembly with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

We are currently working on four civic engagement projects. We are assisting El Show de Analeh with the production of civic education television programs and conducting surveys/focus groups of the audience to gauge the impact of the show on its viewers. We are also working with the Hispanic Health Council in Connecticut to explore the possibility of creating a Welcome Center in Hartford that can help migrants better incorporate into the city and state. At a national level we are working with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino to create a series of educational programs in Connecticut. In addition, we are working with the National Puerto Rican Agenda to organize a leadership symposium in Connecticut.

The PRSI is currently running several parallel projects. The data research project seeks to create a demographic profile of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut in three different periods, namely 2021, 2016-2021, and a historical decades long period. This project will also create a public datahub that will enable users to access public data by geographical locations throughout the state of Connecticut.

We have two different types of archives projects. This year we remade the Puerto Rico Citizenship Archives Project and are creating two additional public repositories of documents, namely the 1909 Survey of Puerto Rican Elites and the Puerto Rico Status Archives Project. The first collects the most comprehensive collection of a 1909 colonial survey of Puerto Rican elites. The second collects all the status legislation for Puerto Rico debated between 1898 and the present.

A second archive will focus on the collection of Oral Histories from Puerto Rican leaders in Connecticut. This is a collaboration with Dr. Fiona Vernal and the Engage, Public, Oral and Community Histories (EPOCH) program in UConn’s Department of History. The goal is to document examples of Puerto Rican community leaders’ work for the civic engagement of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut.

The PRSI is also committed to working with the Caribbean Preparedness and Response, a non-profit focused on disaster communications, to create several satellite-based emergency communications hubs in Connecticut.

Other academic projects will focus on the creation of a Puerto Rican Studies research journal and a national Society for the Study of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.

Overall, the goal is to create a premier research initiative that can help document and address the needs of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut.