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María DeCastro Blake 
Community Service Award
2006 Honoree

Nélida Pérez
Associate Director for Library & Archives, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños

Nélida Pérez, is the Associate Director for the Library and Archives at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at Hunter College, City University of New York, a position she has held for more than thirty years.

The daughter of an agrarian laborer and a homemaker, she moved with her family from San Sebastián, Puerto Rico to Brooklyn, New York in 1953, when she was seven years old. She graduated Eastern District High in Brooklyn and went to Cornell University on a scholarship, but completed her B.A. degree in 1969 at a small Catholic college in Madison, Wisconsin.

She taught English in a Catholic school in Wisconsin and in New York City public schools, before enrolling in the School of Library Science at Columbia University in 1974. A year later she took a job at the Centro, where she has remained to this day. At the Centro, Nélida helped to develop the only university-based research institution in the United States, devoted exclusively to documenting the Puerto Rican experience. Nélida was instrumental in creating the Centro Archives, a repository devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to researchers seeking information on the history and culture of Puerto Ricans. As she told NJHRIC recently, "over thirty years I have worked with a fine group of dedicated individuals to create a unique resource that is committed to safeguarding the legacy of the Puerto Ricans in the United States. In the process, I have had a rich and rewarding professional life."

For her work, Nélida has received numerous awards, including recognition from El Centro for her twenty-eight years of service (2003), the Debra E. Bernhardt Award for Excellence in Documenting the History of New York, granted by the Board of Regents of NY State Archives and Education Department (2002), the Instituto de Puerto Rico Excellence Award for her service and commitment to the community (2000), and was selected as one of 50 Outstanding Latina Women of Year by El Diario/La Prensa (1999).


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