By Julie Clack
On February 7, Professor Díaz-Quiñones received the Pace Center for Civic Engagement’s Faculty Service Award. The award is given each year to Princeton University faculty who, according to the Pace Center’s website, “have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to service and social justice that transcends the classroom.”
The award “especially recognizes faculty who have inspired others on campus to join their efforts, and who through their service to humanity have responded to needs in the world.”
Díaz-Quiñones was honored for his efforts in mobilizing the Princeton community to respond to the devastation inflicted on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Shortly after the hurricane hit, Díaz-Quiñones, with the support of colleagues from various departments, helped form the Puerto Rico Working Group, which assisted in organizing two full-day colloquia. These events, sponsored by the Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS), brought Puerto Rican scholars and activists from the island and diaspora to Princeton to discuss the island’s current situation and future.
As a result of the proposals submitted by the Puerto Rico Working Group, the University offered to collaborate with “80grados,” a digital Puerto Rican magazine that creates and disseminates investigative journalism, as well as political and cultural criticism and commentary.
With strong support from the Office of the Provost and PLAS, the Puerto Rico Working Group contributed to the creation of the Visiting Scholars and Artists from Puerto Rico program (VISAPUR), which provides relief to scholars, students and artists from Puerto Rico by allowing them to continue their work in Princeton during the summer.
As Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, Librarian for Latin American Studies, Latino Studies, and Iberian Peninsular Studies, reflected at the award luncheon: “Only Arcadio could have mobilized and inspired the group of people who came together to make these initiatives possible.”
Acosta-Rodriguez highlighted several other contributions made by Díaz-Quiñones over the course of his long career at the University, such as his efforts to create a home for scholars of Latin America at Princeton in the 1980s, a time when the field was relatively marginal.
“What Arcadio did as the director of PLAS was to create a home for me and for others, for the passions and interests which could not find a sense of place within the wider university,” said Jeremy Adelman, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History.
Pedro Meira Monteiro, Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said “Whenever I think of Arcadio, I think of his largess in regard to his knowledge on the Caribbean and his critical wisdom, both of which he has shared with colleagues and students generously throughout the years."
While Díaz-Quiñones retired nearly a decade ago, he remains involved in teaching at Princeton, and hopes that Puerto Rico will continue to be integrated into the curriculum, especially with the University’s ties to the island and its diaspora through many esteemed alumni, including Anthony D. Romero and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Disasters also have the power of transforming our own institution,” said Díaz-Quiñones. “I hope that the financial and climate disasters that have devastated Puerto Rico will help to promote new knowledge and new courses at Princeton in which the crucial issues raised by Puerto Rican history and culture and its long colonial relationship with the United States will finally be studied with academic rigor.”