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Juanita Arocho Papers

Identifier: MSS 46

Scope and Contents

The Juanita Arocho Papers provide insight into community organizing efforts in the Puerto Rican community of East (Spanish) Harlem, Puerto Rican independence movements, and the participation of Puerto Ricans in the Masonic Order.

The materials in the collection span the years from 1944 to 1994. They consist of a small array of personal documents, correspondence, publications, clippings, Masons related materials, and organizational ephemera. In addition, the Papers contain a strong collection of photographs, particularly of Masonic activities. The folders are arranged alphabetically and the documents are arranged chronologically. The bulk of the documents are in Spanish.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1994
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

A pioneering presence in the Puerto Rican community of East (Spanish) Harlem, Juanita Arocho was a dedicated organizer and independentista who worked for the rights and freedoms of Puerto Ricans both on the island and in her adopted home of New York. An active political figure, she was in addition an integral member of the Orden de la Estrella de Oriente, a local Puerto Rican Masonic Order, which figured prominently in both her personal and political activities.

Born in Lares, Puerto Rico in 1910, Arocho migrated to the United States in 1933 on the U.S.S. San Jacinto, joining the many other Puerto Ricans who took advantage of increased steamship travel between New York and the island to seek better opportunities abroad. Settling with her mother on 112th Street and 7th Avenue, Arocho quickly became active in community and independence politics. Taking impetus from her work on the women’s right to vote campaign in Puerto Rico and the inspirational political work of Pedro Albizu Campos, Arocho was involved in the founding of Casa Borinquen, La Asociación Cívica Lareña, and the Comité de Manhattan del Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, of which she was President. She also worked as a political assistant to Congressman Vito Marcantonio, who represented East Harlem, during three of his campaigns, starting in 1936. In addition, Arocho was an active journalist and wrote weekly columns for a number of Spanish language newspapers. These columns included commentaries on the state of women in the Puerto Rican community, editorials, and discussions of community events.

In the course of her political and community work, Arocho became acquainted with such figures as the poet Julia de Burgos, political leaders Pedro Albizu Campos and Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, political prisoner and nationalist Lolita Lebrón, and political activists Erasmo and Emily Vando. Of particular note was her relationship with Albizu Campos, who looked to her to heighten the awareness of women’s issues in the independence movement.

In 1948, Arocho married Homero Rosado. Himself active in independence and nationalist circles, the couple supported each other’s efforts towards the empowerment of Puerto Ricans in New York and on the island. In 1959 they moved to Brooklyn where they would reside for the rest of their lives. Arocho would remain with her husband until his death in 1994.

Juanita Arocho died on August 22, 1998 in Brooklyn, New York. A seminal presence in the pionero community of East Harlem and the general Puerto Rican community of New York, she leaves behind a legacy exemplified by her extensive community work and support for the independence of Puerto Rico. This collection provides but a hint of the extent of Arocho’s activities and is supplemented by interviews that are part of the Centro Oral History Project. Researchers interested in the participation of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in the Masons and early organizational efforts within the Puerto Rican community of New York would do well to investigate both the Papers and the interviews.


1.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Community activist and journalist. Collection contains correspondence, articles, photographs, and printed matter pertaining to the participation of Juanita Arocho in the Masons and the movement for the independence of Puerto Rico.


The collection is divided into the following series:

I. Biographical and Personal Information

II. Correspondence

III. Masons

IV. Subject Files

V. Writings

VI. Organizations

VII. Photographs

VIII. Publications

IX. Clippings

X. Artifacts

Processing Information

Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Juanita Arocho Papers
Mario H. Ramírez
March 2003
Language of description
Script of description
Processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Funding was also provided by a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Repository

Silberman Building, Hunter College
2180 Third Ave. Rm. 122
New York New York 10065

About the Collections

Our collections consist of personal papers from prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Our largest collection, the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States (OGPRUS) Records, measures approximately 2,900 cubic feet and contains an extraordinary amount of information regarding Puerto Rican migrants and the government institutions established to assist them. The collections date from the 1890s to the present, and document Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast, Midwest, Florida, California and Hawaii.