Our Casa Paoli
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Exterior view of the restored gallery seen from the backyard of Casa Paoli, where live, public activities take place
At the end of the 1980s, we set about searching in the old and historic urban center of Ponce for a building that would be the permanent headquarters of the Centro de Investigaciones Folclóricas de Puerto Rico, Inc. and that in the future would allow us to develop meaningful programming on a small budget. Since its founding in 1976, the Center had operated in rented places that our founder paid from his own pocket. In 1980 our institution became registered with the State Department. In 1982, the Historic Conservation Office approved our first two proposals: an inventory and research of the Old Ponce Urban Center and an archaeological survey of the Yauco River Basin.
The Inventory allowed us to provide the country with the first study of its kind, to complete our survey of the historic area and select, for purchase and restoration, an abandoned building on Calle Mayor—today Casa Paoli. This turned out
to be the old modified birthplace of the great tenor Antonio Paoli. It is a structure built of brick, wood and zinc, which originally had two floors. In 1908, the second floor was demolished and around 1911, the engineer Manuel V. Domenech rebuilt it for the local merchant, Julio M. Salicrup. The Penna-Salicrup family of Ponce—particularly Antonio Penna Salicrup and Jaime J. Yordán Conessa— facilitated the acquisition of this property.
Hear [in Spanish] our founding president, Néstor Murray Irizarry, discuss the history and goals of the Puerto Rican Folkloric Research Center, Inc., in a recorded interview.
If you click on this photograph, you will be able to learn the very interesting story about the restoration of a structure that remained abandoned for many years, ignoring that it was the place where the greatest dramatic tenor of Puerto Rico was born and lived: Antonio Paoli. Restored with a ridiculous amount of public and private funds, it is today the headquarters of our Center. In times past it was a meeting and gathering place for many of the most important educators, politicians and intellectuals in our history.
Dr. Fernando Padilla
Every institution that is dedicated to the research and study of our culture needs a reading room and an archive. Our Center has the Archive and the Reading Room Dr. Fernando Padilla Lugo, in the name of one of the great collaborators of our institution. The archive preserves documents and works related to the life and work of Antonio Paoli and the muralist Rafael Ríos Rey and their respective families. In addition, photographs and materials on Puerto Rican culture in general. The Reading Room has deposited around more than a thousand books on the culture of our country and most of the Ibero-American countries, highlighting editions of Mexico, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and some European countries such as Spain and France. Currently, due to earthquakes and the crisis created in part by Coronavirus 19, the archive and the reading room are undergoing renovation and are closed to the public until further notice.
If you click on the photograph, you will see a summary of almost half a century of the commitment of a very small group of people dedicated—tirelessly and passionately—to the task of promoting, disseminating and enriching Puerto Rican cultural endeavors. The collection and research of cultural expressions of the Caribbean and Latin- American people are symbolized in the text presented behind this photograph of Dr. Esteban Núñez Meléndez, taken by Nelson García Santos. Sir Winston Churchill once said that "Ignorance of the past seriously compromises the ability to understand the present and build the future. A nation that forgets its past has no future."