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Puerto Rican, Sociology, Activism
Juan Flores, born John Martin Flores, in Richmond, Virginia, was a professor of social and cultural analysis and director of Latino studies at New York University. He earned his BA from Queens College New York, his MA and PhD in German Literature from Yale University, and became a pioneering and award-winning scholar in Latin American and Nuyorican culture.
A classically trained intellectual with a deep interest in the voices of ordinary people, his personal and scholarly identity evolved along a self-reflective path accelerated by the radical movements of the 1960s. Motivated by the Chicano Movement, he “Puertoricanized” his name to Juan Flores, and became one of the pioneering university faculty to teach courses in Chicano studies. Through research and teaching, he developed important theories of diasporic and transnational communities, incorporating along the way a lived and studied Nuyorican and Puerto Rican cultural self-identity.
Flores began his academic career as an assistant professor of German studies at Stanford University, before returning to the East Coast in the mid-1970s to join the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York. He immersed himself in the lives and voices of ordinary people—the ways they express themselves through ethnic identification, music, literature, oral poetry, dance, foodways, and political ideology. He studied, lived, wrote about, and presented with these communities in scholarly fora. He has stated, “I know that the real scholars and the real experts are people who don’t have the academic credentials by and large……I have a populist and working-class point of view that I try to bring to bear on it…. And a black point of view.“
As a discerning interpreter, Flores conscientiously recorded the oral histories of musicians and poets and was careful to highlight their world views in their language, affirmatively embracing Nuyorican cultural nomenclature. He was also a noted translator of Puerto Rican working class life, which included Memoirs of Bernardo Vega: A Contribution to the History of the Puerto Rican Community of New York (1984),
Flores’s wife Miriam Jiménez-Román was his intellectual partner. She was instrumental in honing his steadfast anti-racism, his research axis in the influential role of African descended oral and musical culture-makers, and bolstering his working-class outlook from his former affiliation in the Communist Labor Party. The couple founded the Afro Latino Forum, which nurtured a cutting-edge generation of Afro Latinxs scholars and scholarship centered largely around their co-edited Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (2010) for which they were awarded an American Book Award in 2011.
Among his publications of importance to folklore:
From Bomba to Hip-Hop: A Study of the Ambiguous Citizenship Status of Puerto Ricans (2000).
Puerto Rican Arrival in New York: Narratives of the Migration (1920-1950).