Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

You are here: Home » Romance Languages » NEH » Program Overview
Document Actions

Program Overview

Dear Colleague:

We would like to invite you to apply to become one of twenty-five participants to explore New York City through the fascinating perspective of Latinos who have helped shape the culture and rhythm of this city. The NEH summer institute Latino Identity in New York runs from July 10th to July 29th at Hunter College and is supported through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. María Hernández-Ojeda and Tena Cohen will direct the institute; we hope that teachers of all subjects will apply to learn more with us about the inspiring story of Latinos in New York.

The purpose of our institute is to examine the story of immigration in America through the eyes of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and Mexicans who have set down roots in New York City and have come to reevaluate their identity as Latinos and as Americans, all the while creating ties to their new home and transforming the neighborhoods where they live. We will investigate both the divisions and subcultures created by the mix of Anglos, Latinos and African Americans, and how the different cultures contribute to create vibrant forms of music, art, literature and language. In addition, we will examine how different generations of Latinos grapple with their heritage and American citizenship, rewriting their identity in the growing field of Latino literature that, though written in English, tells the story of these newest American communities.

As a NEH Summer Scholar, you will discover the world of Latino studies by engaging in a variety of activities. You will have the opportunity to hear lectures on Latino immigration and Latino literature by renowned scholars and contemporary cultural figures—poets, writers, and journalists. Touring research centers such as the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, the Hispanic Society and Instituto Cervantes, you will be introduced to a wealth of resources for your own studies. Together, we will explore the Lower East Side and el Barrio on walking tours, and try out salsa and mambo in a dance lesson at a Manhattan studio. You will have the incredible opportunity to work with art educators from MOMA and El Museo del barrio and even take a playwriting workshop. Both of these hands-on sessions will support you as you infuse your own curriculum with the arts.

We anticipate that educators of all disciplines will benefit from the institute and to this end are offering simultaneous reading groups, one in Spanish, one in English using bilingual texts. Professor Rolando Pérez, Associate Professor of Spanish at Hunter College, Professor Hilda Mundo-Lopez, and María Hernández-Ojeda will facilitate the Spanish reading group. María Eugenia Santana, specialist in second language acquisition and educator at Brooklyn Technical High School, will facilitate the English reading group by incorporating Spanish language instruction to highlight the subtleties of the texts and guide participants in their own translations of poetry. Tena Cohen will support NEH Summer Scholars in curriculum writing sessions geared to the creation of lesson plans that will be made available online as part of an ongoing forum and interchange of ideas through the Hunter College Website.


Week I: Welcome to New York City: a wealth of resources

Our first week is dedicated to an overview of New York City and Hispanic immigration. We begin with perspectives of two visiting writers, Federico García Lorca, discussed by Professor Rolando Perez, and José Martí. Dr. Milagros Denis, Assistant Professor of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latina studies at Hunter College, will present an overview of Latino immigration. Dr. Hilda Mundo-López, expert in Africana and Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Hunter College, will give an overview of Latino literature. Distinguished Professor Silvio Torres Saillant of Syracuse University will lecture on the history of Dominican immigration and Professor Magdalena Sagardia from Hunter College will introduce participants to the world of Latino cultural studies. Participants will tour three very important research centers, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter, the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Instituto Cervantes. Students in the Spanish text class will receive a master class on Spanish language pedagogy with Dr. Alicia Ramos, Associate Professor of Spanish and Coordinator of Romance Languages at Hunter, while students in the English reading class explore the writings of José Martí, who worked as a journalist in New York City for fifteen years. Art lecturer and founder of En Nueva York Lisset Martinez-Herrymen will give a tour of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn Bridge. The week closes with close readings of Dante’s Run by E. González Viaña, and Pedro Pietrí’s classic, Puerto Rican Obituary. Friday afternoon, participants will take a three-hour educational cruise of New York City and the immediate environs on the Circle Line. 

Week II: Into the City: public and private narratives

In the second week, we juxtapose Latin American and Latino literature, as well as explore the public sphere of Hispanic identity. Some questions we will explore are: how Hispanic art is interpreted, how Latino music inspires American culture, how America opens new spaces for Latinos and how Latinos live within these spaces. Readings include selections from Reynaldo Arenas’ memoir Before Night Falls, The Perfect Novel by Carmen Boullosa, short stories by Junot Diaz, Ed Vega and J.L. González, and “When Tía Lola Came to Visit,” a children’s story by Julia Alvarez. The week includes a session on curriculum writing, art education at El Museo del Barrio and a walking tour of El Barrio. Participants will also be introduced to the incredible resources at The Hispanic Society. There will be two film viewings: Before Night Falls, directed by Julian Schnabel, and the award winning documentary From Mambo to Hip Hop, followed by a question and answer session with producer Elena Martínez. We will have the first of two exciting “Meet the Writers” sessions. Sonia Rivera-Valdes, writer and professor of literature, Puerto Rican Studies and Women’s Studies at York College, City University of New York, and Nancy Mercado, author of It Concerns the Madness, will discuss their works with the students, followed by readings from their work and a Q & A session. On Wednesday, July 20th, Dr. Maria Hernandez-Ojeda will lead a Latino media round table discussion with Albor Ruiz (columnist for the New York Daily News, Executive Editor of Más magazine, former News Editor at New York's El Diario-La Prensa) and Mario Picayo (Executive Director of LART- Latino Artist Round Table, and Producer of “Gente y Cultura,” a weekly cultural television program). The week closes with a two-hour class at Dance Manhattan Studio exploring the Afro-Cuban rhythms of Mambo, Bolero, Guacuanco-Guaracha and North American progressive jazz found in Tito Puente’s 1958 groundbreaking album Dance Mania.

Week III: Through the Looking Glass: transformations

Week three focuses on transformations—how we translate ideas into different genres; interpret art; transform words into performance and ideas into lessons. Monday morning, NEH Summer Scholars will engage in a hands-on professional development session in art education at the Museum of Modern Art. Participants will explore works of art and discuss how to empower students to interpret art with some of the top art educators in the world. Tuesday, NEH Summer Scholars will attend a four-hour professional development session on theater with Puerto Rican playwright and actress Teresita Martínez. During the first two hours, Ms. Martínez will direct participants to draw on the texts read during the institute in order to demonstrate how to use playwriting in the classroom. In the afternoon, Ms. Martínez will read from her work as well lead a Q & A session on the process of creating educational theater, citing her ongoing investigation of Puerto Rican activist and Hunter College graduate Antonia Pantoja. NEH Summer Scholars will explore and share ideas about how to use film in the classroom. Tena Cohen will show selections from Robert MacNeil’s Do You Speak American (a National Endowment for the Humanities funded project) that examines the linguistic implications of growing up bilingual in the United States, as well as some clips from films that examine the question of identity, language and race in the United States.

Afternoon sessions include the second “Meet the Writers” session, facilitated by Tomás Urayoán from the Department of English at the University of Albany. NEH Summer Scholars will meet three iconic poets: Tato Laviera, who arrived in New York in 1960, performance artist Josefina Báez and Willie Perdomo, author of Smoking Lovely.  The poets will read from their work and then enter into a discussion of Latino poetry and identity with NEH Summer Scholars.  Our last round table discussion is centered on Latinos in the USA and led by Juan González (columnist for the New York Daily News, co-host for the radio and television program Democracy Now!), author of Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. The week concludes with two sessions to assist participants in the development of lesson plans and group presentations.

Institute Faculty

Director María Hernández-Ojeda specializes in transatlantic literary and cultural relations. She has taught Spanish language and literature at Hunter College since 2004.  Her book, Insularidad Narrativa en la obra de Nivaria Tejera: Un Archipiélago transatlántico, was published by Editorial Verbum In 2009. Her second book has been accepted for publication at the Spanish publishing house Torremozas.  She has published articles in Hispamérica, Ínsula, Gaceta de Cuba, Encuentro de la cultura cubana, Anuario de Estudios Atlánticos and other journals.

Co-Director Tena Cohen teaches Spanish at Brooklyn Technical High School. She has an M.A. from Hunter College and Bread Loaf School of English. She has taught Spanish and ESL in New York City for fifteen years. She has written extensive curriculum and taught staff development in poetry, theater, and film in New York and New Orleans. As one of the directors of H2O Theater Company, Tena Cohen directed bilingual theater pieces based on the work of Federico García Lorca and Jaime Sabines at Nuyorican Poets’ Café and WBAI Radio. She performed her one-woman show, Harry’s Hat at Home Theater and WBAI as well. Her latest publication was a chapter from Heat Wave for Podium.

María Eugenia Santana has co-authored two books on the teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language and was the academic coordinator and teacher of Applied Linguistics for Spanish as a second language at Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Spain.  She has published two textbooks for teaching Spanish and is very excited to be involved in the institute.

Rolando Pérez is an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Romances Languages at Hunter College. His areas of interest include Latin-American literature, the relationship between philosophy and literature, and U.S. Latino Literature.  He has published articles on José Asunción Silva, Octavio Paz, Alejandra Pizarnik, César Vallejo, Severo Sarduy, and others. Selections of his creative work appeared this year in The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. His latest book, Severo Sarduy and the Neo-Baroque Image of Thought in the Visual Arts will be published late Fall 2011 by Purdue University Press.

Silvio Torres-Saillant, Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University, is an internationally acclaimed scholar who has received several fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, Syracuse University and has published essential books, book chapters and scholarly articles on Caribbean and Dominican Studies. Dr. Torres-Saillant will lecture on Dominican immigration in the United States.

Milagros Denis is an Assistant Professor at the Department of African and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College. Her research of interest includes: race, racial identity, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean history, Latino Studies, African Diaspora in Latin America, labor movement and gender issues. Dr. Denis will give NEH Summer Scholars an overview of Latino immigration.

Teresita Martínez teaches at Hostos Community College. In 2008, she presented her theatrical adaptation of When I Was Puerto Rican at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Her plays, For Mi Chichi and My Last Night with Rubén Blades, have been produced by Pregones Theatre, and she gives playwriting workshops in New York City and teaches drama for College Now. Ms. Martínez will facilitate a playwriting session.

Albor Ruiz has been a columnist for the New York Daily News since 1997 where he was hired in 1993, becoming the first Latino member of its Editorial Board. Ruiz was also the Editor-in-Chief of El Daily News, the first bilingual newspaper in the country, and Chief Editorial Writer and columnist at New York's El Diario-La Prensa. Albor Ruiz will participate in a round table on Latino media.

Mario Picayo is Executive Director of LART- Latino Artist Round Table and Producer of “Gente y Cultura”. He has worked for the Smithsonian Institution and the Dominican Republic's Institute of Folklore. Mario Picayo is our second presenter for a round table on Latino media.

Nancy Mercado has a doctoral degree from Binghamton University-SUNY. She is the author of It Concerns the Madness and editor of if the world were mine, a children’s anthology published by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Her work appears in numerous anthologies of both poetry and fiction. Mercado is the author of seven plays (one co-written with Pedro Pietri) and was an editor of Long Shot magazine for 11 years. She is featured along with such eminent writers as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, in the documentary film Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writers Dissecting Globalization directed by Jayne Cortez. Inducted into the Museum of American Poetics, she is profiled in Latino Leaders Magazine as “one of the most celebrated Puerto Rican literary figures in New York City.Dr. Mercado’s biography also appears in the Encyclopedia of Hispanic American Literature published by Facts on File. She has presented her work throughout the US and abroad as a featured poet and conference panelist.

Juan González, an American investigative journalist, has been a columnist for the New York Daily News since 1987. In 1988 he won the George Polk journalism Award. He co-hosts the radio and television program Democracy Now! and has published, among others, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, the central text for our institute. Mr. González will lecture on Latino media and Latino immigration in New York.

Elena Martínez is staff folklorist at City Lore: The New York Center for Urban Folk Culture. From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale, which she co-produced, aired on PBS, winning the National Council of La Raza’s ALMA Award for Best TV Documentary in 2007. Ms. Martínez will present her documentary and lead a question and answer session afterwards.

Tato Laviera is one of the most important Nuyorican poets living today. His poetry addresses language, cultural identity, race, and memory, particularly as it affects the transculturated lives of Puerto Ricans living in the USA. His most recent publication is Mixturao and Other Poems.  Mr. Laviera will read from his groundbreaking poetry for our second “Meet the Writers” session.

Willie Perdomo is the author of Smoking Lovely, which received a PEN America Beyond Margins Award. He has been a Woolrich Fellow in creative writing at Columbia University and is a 2009 fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Mr. Perdomo will read from his poetry for our second “Meet the Writers” session.

Josefina Báez is a writer, performer, teacher, and founder and director of Latinarte/Ay Ombe Theatre troupe collective. Her innovative written work Dominicanish, published in 2001, has been presented locally, nationally, and internationally. She is presently touring New York City with her performance dialogue project Apartarte/casarte. Ms. Báez joins Mr. Laviera and Mr. Perdomo for our second “Meet the Writers” session.

Tomás Urayoán Noel teaches at SUNY Albany. He is a poet and performance artist and author of  Nuyorican Movements: Poetry and Counterpolitics from the Sixties to Slam which will be published in December of this year. Dr. Noel will facilitate our second “Meet the Writers” session.

Alicia Ramos is an associate professor of Spanish at Hunter College and Coordinator in Romance Languages. She has been a collaborator of the ANLE (Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua) since 2009 and has reviewed both manuscripts and programs for Spanish teaching pedagogy. Dr. Ramos will give a session on Spanish pedagogy.

Lisset Martínez Herryman is an art critic and independent curator. She is also a guide and lecturer in museums and galleries around New York through EN NUEVA YORK, an organization to promote arts in New York that she founded with the artist Diego Ponce. She will lead two walking tours: the first to the Lower East Side, the second of El Barrio.

Hilda Mundo-López . Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she has lived in New York City since 1982. She earned a B.A. in both Comparative Literature and in Hispanic Studies in 1980 from the University of Puerto Rico. She earned a M.A. degree in Comparative Literature/English from SUNY, Stony Brook in 1982, and an M.Phil Degree in Latin American Literature in 1989 from New York University. She has been a Full-Time Instructor of the Spanish Language and Literature in the Spanish and Portuguese Dept. at New York University from 1991-1993, and was also hired as a Full Time Instructor of English at Hostos Community College, CUNY from 1993-1999. She teaches Latino Literature at Hunter College, and English Composition and Literature at Hostos Community College. She currently holds a CCE at FIT/SUNY as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Spanish. Prof. Mundo-López has been recognized as Professional of the Year in Bilingual Education by Cambridge Who's Who in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Since the early eighties, she has lectured extensively on aspects of Latino Literature at many academic institutions, and has also published articles on the topic. Samples of her poetry appear in recently published anthologies.

Hunter College & Hunter College Library

Located in the heart of Manhattan, Hunter College offers participants a stimulating learning environment with state of the art computer labs and Wi Fi. Hunter is home to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the only university-based research institute in the United States dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the Puerto Rican experience. The Hunter College library summer hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  NEH Summer Scholars will have full access to the library and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Hunter is easily accessible by subway and bus, and is just four blocks from Central Park.


NEH Summer Scholars receive a stipend of $2700 to be used for travel expenses and the cost of housing. The first check will be disbursed the first week of the institute. Those participants who opt to stay at International House will have the housing cost deducted from their first check. The second check will be distributed at the end of the institute.


Participants may receive three graduate credits for the institute by enrolling in SPAN 796.1 (Special Topics: Latin American Lit). The credits may be cross-listed with other disciplines if necessary. Costs are listed on the Hunter College website. NEH Summer Scholars will also receive a letter and certificate as documentation for in-service credit and/or professional development hours.


Please see our housing page for complete information on accommodations.

Application Procedure

The most important part of the application is the essay. This essay should include your reasons for applying to our institute, Latino Identity in New York, your relevant personal and academic information, your qualifications to do the work of the project and to make a contribution to the institute, what you hope to accomplish and how the work of our institute will benefit your teaching. You may choose to write your essay in Spanish if you prefer, thus indicating your preference to participate in the Spanish reading group.

Application information is included with this letter. Your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 1, 2011, and addressed as follows:

María Hernández-Ojeda

Department of Romance Languages

Hunter College

695 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10065-5024

We greatly look forward to receiving your application.

Tena Cohen and María Hernández-Ojeda