PRdream mourns the passing of Gilberto Gerena Valentin 1918 – 2016


PRdream mourns the passing of Gilberto Gerena Valentin, Puerto Rican political activist and labor organizer.
Gilberto Gerena Valentín is a key figure in the development of the Puerto Rican community in the United States, especially from the forties through the seventies. He was a union organizer, community leader, political activist and general in the war for the civil rights recognition of his community. In his memoirs, Gilberto Gerena Valentín takes us into the center of the fierce labor, political, civil rights, social and cultural struggles waged by Puerto Ricans in New York from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Centro’s publication Soy Gilberto Gerena Valentín: memorias de un puertorriqueño en Nueva York was presented last Thursday, May 23, at El Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe.
An energetic, enthusiastic and overtly cheerful Gerena (age 94) shared his memories at the presentation. He stressed “Un pueblo que se moviliza cambia. Y yo voy a seguir dando la pelea hasta que me muera.” (Tweeted by GracielaRodzMar). Translated as, “a nation that moves, changes, and I’m going to keep giving the fight until I die.”
Dennis Rivera, member of the advisory board of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, who was also at the event, addressed Gerena’s involvement in community issues. Rivera told how he had met Gerena when Rivera moved to New York in the 1980s, at a time when the Bronx Lebanon Hospital was about to be shut. Gerena encouraged protesters to join a massive march, which they did. Rivera shared this experience to emphasize that “with Gerena any problem was a collective one. That’s how good he was as a leader.”

Xavier Totti, editor of Centro Publications was there to introduce the book. Totti stressed the contributions of this publication to the history of Puerto Ricans in New York. He mentioned that “this book opens a new page in the history of Puerto Ricans in New York by highlighting the importance of union and community organization in the civil rights movement. The history of the fights for civil rights has been untold and is revealed in Gerena’s book.”

Miguel Rodríguez López, provost of El Centro de Estudios Avanzados, was pleased to welcome the large group of attendees and host at the institution the type of debate unveiled by Gerena’s book. Located in historic Old San, El Centro de Estudios Avanzados is a higher education institution with a graduate program whose objective is to develop individuals committed with Puerto Rico and its culture. Edwin Meléndez, director of el Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños emphasized how events like Gerena’s book presentation encourages a dialogue about the diaspora in Puerto Rico.

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