Hunter College has appointed distinguished Afro-Puerto Rican writer, teacher, and scholar Yomaira Figueroa as the director of CENTRO, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, President Jennifer J. Raab announced.
“We are so pleased that CENTRO will be led by Yomaira Figueroa, a talented historian and teacher with a body of research worthy of this important institute,” President Raab said. “After a nationwide search, we found that she was far and away the most impressive leader, and we’re confident she will bring CENTRO to new heights during its 50th year and beyond.”
“CUNY and CENTRO are fortunate to be able to welcome Yomaira C. Figueroa, an accomplished scholar who has advanced our understanding of Puerto Rican history, literature, and activism, and a dedicated educator with a passion for empowering her students,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “Dr. Figueroa will take the helm at an exciting period in the evolution of CENTRO, which will begin its second half-century by expanding its archive, library and exhibition space and its presence in El Barrio, one of New York’s most vibrant Puerto Rican communities.”
CUNY Trustee Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, who was on the search committee, lauded Figueroa’s talents.
“Not only is Yomaira a brilliant scholar and electrifying teacher,” Cortés-Vázquez said. “I am confident she will continue to advance Puerto Rican economic and political issues through scholarship and advocacy.”
Figueroa said she was thrilled to come to CENTRO.
“I am honored to serve as director and to work alongside the exceptional CENTRO staff as we attend to some of the most pressing needs of the Puerto Rican community across the archipelago and the diaspora,” said Figueroa, now an associate professor of English at Michigan State University. “CENTRO is a critical part of our cultural and intellectual heritage and I’m looking forward to continuing its groundbreaking legacy of fostering research, programming, arts, and community outreach.”
Figueroa succeeds Interim Director Yarimar Bonilla, CENTRO’s first female director who will now become a professor at the Princeton University Effron Center for the Study of America.
“We are so grateful to Dr. Bonilla for her inspiring vision,” President Raab said.
“We thank outgoing Interim Director Yarimar Bonilla for her strong stewardship, and wish her the best in the next chapter of her exceptional career,” said Chancellor Rodríguez, who served as the center’s director from 2000–2005.
Figueroa is the author of the award-winning Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature (Northwestern, 2020) and the forthcoming The Survival of a People (Duke University Press). She has published work in journals including Hypatia, Decolonization, CENTRO, Small Axe, Frontiers, Hispanofilia, Contemporânea, Post 45 Contemporaries, SX Salon, and Dialogos.
She is the principal investigator for the Mellon Diaspora Solidarities Lab a $2 million project focused on Black feminist digital humanities initiatives that support solidarity work in Black and Ethnic Studies. She also is the founder of the MSU Womxn of Color Initiative, #ProyectoPalabrasPR, the Mentoring Underrepresented Students in English recruitment program (MUSE), and the Digital Humanities project Electric Marronage. She has received fellowships from the Duke University Council on Race and Ethnicity, the Ford Foundation, and the Cornell University Society for the Humanities.
Now celebrating its 50th year, CENTRO is an internationally recognized research institute for the study, interpretation, and preservation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States.
CENTRO scholars have used its extensive library and archives to contribute to public policy and celebrate the rich art, culture, and history of Puerto Rico and its Diaspora.