What is the Casa Paoli ?
Brief history of our Center
The Centro de Investigaciones Folklóricas de Puerto Rico, Inc. [CIFPR] is a private non-profit educational institution that was founded in 1976 and registered with the Puerto Rico Department of State in 1980. It is dedicated to studying various aspects of Puerto Rican culture.
It has maintained its headquarters in different buildings but always located within the old Historical Zone of Ponce:
in the Caribe Building, Salud street, corner of Jobos street;
at 33 Marina street, corner of Aurora street;
at Casa Zalbo – Nebot, at Calle Marina 35
and in the current permanent headquarters, Casa Paoli, at Calle Mayor 2648, near the corner of Calle Aurora.
The main objective of its founders, Néstor Murray –Irizarry, Carmen Iris Ramos-Texeira and Narciso Vilaro – Canals, was to establish an institution dedicated to the study and research of Puerto Rican national culture and in particular, its folklore.
The first major task that the Center set itself was to establish an alliance with the Ethnographic Study of Popular Culture of Puerto Rico, attached to the Center for Social Research [CIS] of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. This union of purposes and goals allowed us to begin the training of the Center's volunteer staff, to carry out two courses in folklore research by Professor Pedro C. Escabí Agostini, who in turn directed the ethnographic studies. Ricardo E. Alegría Gallardo, director of the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean [CEAPRC] was consulted, and he supported the initiative to create the CIFPR and authorized Escabí to serve as professor at CEAPRC, incorporating the two courses in folklore that Escabí offered in Ponce into its catalog of master degree studies. Over the years, twelve CEAPRC master's credits were offered from our Center.
The second objective that was part of our work plan was the investigation of the most relevant topics in our work area. The CIFPR submitted in 1981-82, with great success, two proposals to the Office of Historical Conservation: 1) an inventory and research of the old and historic urban center of Ponce and 2) the archaeological survey of the hydrographic basin of the Yauco River. Murray–Irizarry ran the inventory; researchers Edgar Maíz Pérez and Eduardo Questell Rodríguez led the Reconnaissance. The results were very valuable. The Inventory proved that 25% of the old or historical buildings were demolished, while the survey/research helped to discover more than fourteen new archaeological sites in the area. The findings of both studies today lie in the files of that Office of Historical Conservation at its Ballajá headquarters in Old San Juan.
The third purpose was linked to the dissemination of a variety of research and study topics on the country's culture. Two proposals were submitted to the Puerto Rican Foundation for the Humanities [FPH] called: Humanism and Folklore: Cycle of public conferences Six humanists participated in the first phase and twenty in the second cycle. Each dialogue that the humanists held with their public was recorded in the same place where they were held: the Old Casino in Ponce. They were then transferred to one-hour cassettes, where the participants' questions and answers were also included in the content of the conferences. Each properly identified cassette was placed in a plastic folder. The folders were decorated in slkscreen on one of its faces by artist Sixto Cotto, depicting an allegorical design of the content of one of the topics analyzed in the cycle. The folders were distributed in the main educational centers of Puerto Rico and in the USA.
The second proposal to the FPH was the continuation of the first submitted proposal. The same format was followed and the number of humanists and participants expanded. Each night of the event more than six hundred people attended the new place where the conferences were held, the conference room of the Secretary of Recreation and Sports of the Municipal Administration of Ponce. The people who attended all the talks were awarded a certification of attendance. Over the years the FPH included us in the list of its Regional Centers. This agreement allows us to receive a donation from the FPH annually to organize a cycle of conferences. We have been part of this alliance for more than twenty years.
A plan was prepared which has been reviewed and updated every ten years, which we have called CIFPR's Vision and Mission. Each general objective that is part of our vision and mission is complemented by a series of projects or seminars that constitute a small programmatic unit that carries out activities that respond to the purposes for which it was created. A list of examples of projects or seminars already established in the Casa Paoli can better illustrate our simple structure of cultural action:
Social Research Seminar [History and Literature Conference and Humanities Conference];
Afro-Puerto Rican Studies Seminar;
the Movement of Children and Youth Art by Zone Project [MAIZ];
Colloquium on Art and Literature for Children and Youth;
the Editorial Fund [more than 50 titles, 3 DVD YI CD];
Traveling and Permanent Exhibitions;
Communication projects in electronic and virtual media;
Education Project for teachers, librarians, principals, and students;
Concerts and recitals;
The Casa Paoli Cultural Festival;
Conservation project for the birth house of Antonio Paoli and his family;
Project to collect donations for the Centro-Casa Paoli; among others.
Each project has had its own poster printed [more than 40] product of a commission to an artist-painter or graphic artist.
This administrative structure has made it possible to carry out uninterrupted work on cultural events that has transpired in and outside of Puerto Rico for 45 years [1976-2021].
In addition, it has been possible to offer concerts, recitals, gatherings, conferences, exhibitions, workshops in which more than 35 thousand people have participated. Without being able to quantify the listeners who listened to us through our radio program, Miradero: the people, their ideas and their experiences, through WPAB AM for more than nine years.
The Center receives donations from individuals and public and private entities in Puerto Rico and the US, particularly from friends who are interested in acquiring as incentives, the portfolios of the work of a group of plastic artists who have donated to the Center, to finance in part, its financial needs.
Since its registration with the State Department in 1980 until 2017, we received a small stipend from the insular legislature. Also in the past, donations have been received from the Municipal Administration of Ponce, Cooperativa de Seguros Múltiples, the Miranda Foundation, and the Puerto Rican Family Institute in New York, among others. The Puerto Rican Humanities Foundation continues to contribute funds annually.
Currently, the Flamboyán Para las Artes Fund has welcomed our Center among its affiliates. With the financial support of the Fund, the CIFPR develops several new projects: William Cumpiano Workshop for the Arts-screen printing and assembly-manufacture of traditional instruments of the country-in the Center's own headquarters; an animation on the history and manufacture of the Puerto Rican tiple and the rescue of the Center's heritage due to the earthquakes that occur daily in the south-west of Puerto Rico.
Pedro Escabi Agostini (upper right) offering in 1982 one of the lessons of the course on folklore in Puerto Rico, in the first headquarters that the Center had in the Caribe Building, Calle Salud on the corner of Calle Jobos in Ponce, PR.
Second headquarters of the Center at Marina Street #25, corner of Aurora Street. Drawing by Arch. Jorge Joel Pérez Díaz
First promotional folder of the Center
Folder of recordings of Humanism and Folklore (Paliques de la Comunidad, sponsored by the Puerto Rican Foundation for the Humanities, 1981) contains six conferences recorded on cassettes on various topics of Puerto Rican culture.
Second folder that the Center prepared for the cassettes that contain the recordings of the humanists who participated in the second Community Small Talk event with the support of the Foundation for the Humanities in 1983.
The Center's first poster announcing its first exhibition in 1983, designed by Néstor Murray-Irizarry. He used a photo of Pablo Delano provided by Teodoro Vidal
1983-Francisco Lluch Mora: poet, historian, essayist and university professor, taught two sessions of the post-graduate course on Puerto Rican Literature from its origins until the end of the 19th century at the Center's second headquarters on Marina Street.
1989-Esteban Nuñez Melendez, doctor specializing in natural drugs, university professor and author of the book Medicinal Plants of Puerto Rico signing his book for his admirers, Ramón López Crespo and Brunilda Ramírez, at the Center's second headquarters.
Virtual drawing of Casa Paoli by William Cumpiano
Eugenio María de Hostos Reading Room in the second headquarters that the Center had.