The Newark Public Library‘s annual Latino Celebration will feature the exhibition Boricuas in the Garden: The Story of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey, on view from September 14 through December 31, 2017, and a series of related programs at the Main Library located at 5 Washington Street.

Boricua, pronounced BÔ-ree-kwa, another term for Puerto Rican, comes from Borikén – the name the Taínos, the island’s pre-Columbian inhabitants gave their homeland.

This exhibit and public program series explore the long history and dynamic presence of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey and illustrate how this vibrant community has become an integral part of the fabric of the Garden State, paving the way for other Latino groups.

The story of the Puerto Rican people is unique in the history of United States. Puerto Rico has been a possession of the U.S. since 1898, but it has never been a state. Its people were declared U.S. citizens in 1917, but, like Washington, D.C., they have no vote in Congress. As citizens, the people of Puerto Rico can move throughout the 50 states just as any other Americans can – legally, this is considered internal migration, not immigration. However, when moving to the U.S., Puerto Ricans leave a homeland with its own distinct language, identity and culture, and the transition involves many of the same cultural conflicts and emotional adjustments that most immigrants face.

New Jersey is home to the third largest population of Puerto Ricans in the United States. Although early generations of migrants faced great obstacles, their labors and activism has created institutions that now benefit newer Latino immigrant groups: community based organizations, churches, civic and cultural centers, businesses, educational and political organizations.

The exhibit will trace the history of Puerto Ricans in the Garden State with archival materials, historic photographs, and other documents about individuals and the community organizations they established, many drawn from the Library’s holdings in the Puerto Rican Community Archives, part of the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center. It will also feature a selection of extraordinary works from the Library’s Puerto Rican Fine Prints Collection. The Newark Public Library has been acquiring original prints, signed posters and special books by artists and writers from Puerto Rico for over forty years. Today, it has a collection of approximately 400 fine prints and signed posters by artists such as Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Tufiño, José Rosa, Roberto Moya, Antonio Martorell, Luis Cajiga, Myrna Báez, Nelson Sambolín, and others who made Puerto Rico one of the most important countries in graphic arts in the mid-20th century.

Boricuas in the Garden was curated by Ingrid Betancourt, Chief Librarian for Special Collections; Yesenia López, Director, New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center at the Newark Public Library; and Kristyn Scorsone, Archival Assistant, NJHRIC.

The exhibition will be open during regular Library hours, Monday through Saturday, with free admission. Group visits and more details are readily available by calling the Sala Hispanoamericana at the Library at 973-733-7772.

Latino Celebration 2017 will include the following public programs, all offered free of charge:

  • Thursday, September 14: Boricuas in the Garden: The Story of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey Opening Reception, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Centennial Hall

The story of the Puerto Rican people is unique in the history of U.S. immigration. This vibrant community has a long history in New Jersey and has become an integral part of the fabric of the Garden State. Please join us for the kick-off event for the Newark Public Library’s 2017 Latino Celebration exhibit and program series.  Keynote Speaker, Samuel Delgado, Vice President for External Affairs for Verizon New Jersey. Other special guests include Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez, creator and writer of the new critically-acclaimed superhero and comic book series, La Borinqueña, and Nelson “Butchie” Nieves and the members of the Puerto Rican Day Parade 2017 Royal Court. The evening’s festivities include a Salsa dance performance and lesson.

  • Saturday, Sept 30: Gran Fiesta Jíbara, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, Centennial Hall

Spanish settlers who made their livelihood through the cultivation of small plantations in the highlands of Puerto Rico were known as “jíbaros” or country folk. Jíbaro music has its roots in the musical forms that came to the island from Spain during the time of colonization and settlement. In it you can hear the influence of eight centuries of Arab domination in Spain, as well as the legacy of the Taíno, the island’s native people. Rubén Figueroa and Conjunto Ritmo Tropical bring an “orquesta jíbara,” to the Library this fall. Bring your family, your maracas, güiros, and bongos, and enjoy a gran fiesta jíbara.

·       Saturday, Oct 14: Comic Book Talk and Signing, with Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez,  2:00 – 3:30 pm, Fourth Floor Auditorium

Meet Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez, creator and writer of the new superhero La Borinqueña, for a talk about the making of his critically-acclaimed comic book series, followed by a comic book signing. Miranda-Rodríguez has been spotlighted by major media outlets from Telemundo to the New York Times for the creation of this Afro-boricua heroine whose mission is to help the Puerto Rican community unite and fight for social justice. This Nuyorican artist uses his comic to raise awareness about Puerto Rico’s human rights and economic issues. He is also a writer for Marvel Comics, and an independent publisher.

  • Saturday, Oct 28: Film Screening The Borinqueneers, 2:00 – 4:30 pm, Fourth Floor Auditorium

The award-winning documentary The Borinqueneers chronicles the untold story of the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, the only all Hispanic-unit in U.S. Army history. Rare archival materials and compelling interviews with veterans, commanding officers, and historians bring to life stories of courage, struggle, and triumph. Narrated by Hector Elizondo, The Boriqueneers reveals how soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment served with merit in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Screening introduced by Noemí Figueroa Soulet, producer, director, and writer. Following the screening there will be remarks by local 65th Infantry Regiment veterans, and a Q and A session.

  • Saturday, Nov 4: Public Forum, Puerto Rico’s Present Crisis and Political Future, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, Fourth Floor Auditorium

Billions in debt, a staggering unemployment rate, and a declining population have dominated news coverage of Puerto Rico and caused many to question the island’s governance and stability. But few reports have bothered to examine the deep roots of the current crisis. How did we get here, and how can the Puerto Rican people deal with the country’s immediate problems and long-term economic challenges? Join the conversation at the Newark Public Library as we mark a century of American citizenship for Puerto Ricans. This public forum will feature keynote speaker Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice–Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). Cartagena will be joined by Edwin Meléndez, Director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College CUNY [invited]; and other prominent Puerto Rican leaders and scholars. Jason Cortés, Associate Professor, Graduate Program in American Studies, Rutgers University-Newark, will serve as moderator. This forum is co-sponsored by the Friends of HRIC.

  • Saturday, Nov 18: Eating Puerto Rico, a cooking demonstration and tasting, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, Centennial Hall

Puerto Rican gastronomy is a delicious and aromatic blend of Spanish, African and Caribbean spices and ingredients.  Think mofongo, alcapurrias, arroz con gandules, pasteles, tembleque, mallorcas….  Don’t know what these are?  Come to the Library and bring your curiosity and appetite.  Chef Kenny Candelaria, owner of the Puerto Rican restaurant Cocina Candela in Montclair, will be demonstrating his own style of “cocina criolla” featuring his signature trifongo and a few other essential Puerto Rican dishes. Candelaria has a passion for fusing traditional ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques to create a unique gastronomic statement (and a delicious meal).

The exhibition Boricuas in the Garden will be on view on the second floor gallery of the Main Library during regular library hours.  More information about the exhibition and programs is available on the Library’s home page, at, or by calling La Sala Hispanoamericana at 973-733-7772.

Also on view at the Library this fall will be the exhibition We Are Still Here: Taíno Survival and Identity, which celebrates the survival of the Taíno culture in the Caribbean and United States diaspora with a selection of Taíno-themed art and artifacts.  The exhibit is curated by Sonia Vera and Jaimí Kauríx Rodríguez, and presented in partnership with the Puerto Rican Day Parade of Newark.

This year’s programs and exhibit are made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and administered by the Essex Council Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs, support from Verizon / NJ Shares Communications Lifeline program, and by a grant from the Friends of the HRIC.