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Serrano Concerned About Potential Arecibo Closure

Congressman José E. Serrano
Representing the Sixteenth District of New York

Washington, DC – September 19, 2007 – Yesterday, Congressman José E. Serrano sent the following letter to the National Science Foundation expressing his deep concerns about the potential closure of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.


September 18, 2007

Dr. Arden Bement
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Dear Dr. Bement:

I am writing to express my concern over the National Science Foundation’s current and future intentions for the Arecibo Observatory located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. I strongly believe that Arecibo still has a vital role to play in the U.S. and worldwide scientific community.

As you know, Arecibo Observatory has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of radio astronomy research and atmospheric sciences. Scientists from around the globe use Arecibo’s facilities to further research in everything from astrophysics to the atmospheric sciences. There have been several new discoveries in the past year alone, which continue to justify the importance and necessity of the Arecibo Observatory. The potential loss of this device would not just be a blow to Puerto Rico, but to the scientific community at-large.

Additionally, Arecibo plays an important role in the local Puerto Rican economy, providing jobs to members of the surrounding community. It also has an important public relations mission as well, with more than 120,000 visitors, including 25,000 schoolchildren, coming to the facility on an annual basis. At a time when the United States is trying to promote science-related career opportunities to people of color, it is seems unwise to move to close a facility that serves as such an important resource to more than 4 million Latinos in the United States.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have helped increase NSF’s major facilities and construction budget by $50 million dollars since 2004. Moreover, Congress has stated its intention to continue this trend. Because of this, I do not understand why the proposal to build new observatories must come at the expense of those that continue to provide important and relevant information to the scientific community. Given Congress’ interest in renewing our nation’s scientific research capabilities, we should be expanding our facilities, rather than closing them.

It is my hope that you will reconsider this decision. However, please be assured that I will do everything in my power to ensure that federal funding does not fall below the critical level that would force the Arecibo Observatory to close. I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.


José E. Serrano
Member of Congress






The President of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), Paula A. Kerger, met on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 with representatives from the Latino community at their headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia to discuss their concerns and recommendations about the exclusion of Latinos from producer Ken Burns’ forthcoming documentary, “The War”, on World War II.

Representing the Latino community at the meeting were Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez of the University of Texas at Austin; Gus Chavez of San Diego; Marta Garcia, co-chair and founder of the New York Chapter of the National Hispanic Media Coalition; Angelo Falcón of the National Institute for Latino Policy; and Ivan Roman of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. PBS was also represented by new PBS Board member Lionel Sosa, Senior Vice President/Chief TV Programming Executive John F. Wilson, Chief Content Officer John L. Boland, and Director of Corporate Communications and Media Relations Jan McNamara.

The PBS position on this issue at this point is:

· The Ken Burns 7-part documentary, “The War”, 6 years in the making, is completed and cannot be changed. The idea of PBS telling him to make changes to include Latinos would violate Burns’ artistic independence.

· PBS is putting resources to promote local programming by its 348 member stations around this documentary, the best of which they plan to promote at the national level. They are willing to work with the Latino community to make sure that the Latino involvement in WWII is addressed in this way.

· PBS may be willing to facilitate a meeting between Ken Burns and representatives of the Latino community to discuss this issue, as well as the Latino role in this future productions.

The Latino community representatives made the following points:

· The exclusion of Latinos from Ken Burns documentary is an insult to our community and nothing short of delaying the release of this film until it is edited to include Latinos is acceptable.

· We are willing to meet directly with Ken Burns as an independent producer to discuss our concerns.

· Why, if this documentary took six years to complete, did no one at PBS flag this problem of Latino exclusion earlier? We raise the need for PBS to consider instituting measures that prevent this type of exclusion from occurring in the future.

· There is a clear pattern of the neglect of Latinos in all of Ken Burns projects, so why hasn’t PBS been sensitive to this problem earlier?

· We have given Ms. Kerger one week, until Tuesday, March 13, 2007, to formally respond to us in writing.

For further information on this issue, please contact:

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

School of Journalism

The University of Texas at Austin

1 University Station A1000

Austin, TX 78712


Fax: 512-471-7979



Gus Chavez

Latino Community Development and Education Advocate

4674 Esther Street

San Diego, CA 92115

619-807-8938 (Cell)

619-286-9858 (Home)


Marta Garcia

Co-Chair and Founder

New York Chapter

National Hispanic Media Coalition

101 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-9758



Angelo Falcón

President and Founder

National Institute for Latino Policy

101 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10013