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Luis A. Cardona Oral History Collection

Identifier: OHC 2

Scope and Contents

The Luis A. Cardona Oral History Collection is comprised of interviews with people who were leaders in the New York Puerto Rican community during the 1950s through 1980s. The collection documents Cardona’s interests in the Puerto Rican community of New York and the diaspora as a whole. The topics of the interviews and Cardona’s interests include: migratory history, education, culture, and the arts, among many others. The collection serves to understand Puerto Rican experiences in the United States, primarily in New York. These experiences are told through the interviews of leaders such as Antonia Pantoja, who describes her childhood in Puerto Rico, her education and her migration to the United States. In addition, the interview of Frank Bonilla serves to place New York as a center of Puerto Rican studies and delves into the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, which he was director of from 1973 to 1993. Tapes are arranged alphabetically.


  • 1976-1989


Conditions Governing Access

Access to digitized interviews are open without restrictions through Centro's Digital Collections Portal, undigitized audiocassette tapes are currently restricted due to the fragilility of the format.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by Centro.

Biographical / Historical

Luis A. Cardona was an important member of the New York Puerto Rican community. In addition to his work with the Migration Division, Cardona was an advocate for better access to employment opportunities and job training for Puerto Ricans who migrated to New York. He conducted extensive research on Puerto Rican history and other matters, the culmination being his oral history interviews with leaders in the community.

Luis Antonio Cardona was born December 11, 1927 and raised in the East Harlem section of Manhattan, New York by his father Luis Antonio and his mother Maria Dolores Cardona. His family left Puerto Rico in the 1920s, arriving in East Harlem, and when his mother remarried, Cardona then moved to the South Bronx. His mother worked as a garment worker, and his step-father worked as a building superintendent and janitor. He had 9 siblings, including Alice Cardona who was a community activist in the Puerto Rican community in New York.

Cardona joined the Army in 1948 having only achieved an 8th grade education. While stationed in Germany, Cardona took on a position as a reporter in a local newspaper. After the Army, Cardona went back to high school, getting his degree in two years. He then enrolled as an undergraduate in Long Island University, receiving his BA in English in 1955. He received his Master of Arts degree in 1969 from the University of Oklahoma.

Cardona married in 1956 and had 3 children, two boys and one girl. His wife Lavinia Rodriguez was a social worker. Cardona began working at the Migration Division of the Department of Labor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on July 20, 1955. Upon graduating from college, he went to the Migration Division employment office looking for work, and was eventually given a position as an interviewer by the employment office director, Francisca Bou. On his own initiative, Cardona launched a series of programs of tutoring sessions and resume writing counselling for job seekers and future city employees. From thereon, Cardona was considered a specialist in labor matters, especially as it relates to the Puerto Rican community. Cardona was soon promoted to the position of Employment Office director, which he held until 1964. He proceeded to take on a position as Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Manpower and Career Development Agency in March of 1968 when Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed him. Prior to that, Cardona was the Regional Director of the U.S. Labor Department from 1965 until 1966. Cardona also served as a consultant of ASPIRA, assisting in the preparation of an adequate program and training of administrators. He was a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, serving in the capacity of employment analyst for the agency. He was named ‘Man of the Year’ in 1967 by Organizaciones Unidas del Bronx.

Luis A. Cardona was an avid researcher of Puerto Rican history and a collector of materials related to Puerto Rican history and culture, such as photographs, books, etc. His research led him to interview many key leaders and founders of Puerto Rican organizations in New York, which he donated to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. These include: Antonia Pantoja, Jack Agueros, Awilda Orta, Frank Bonilla, and many others. He is the author of several books including: A History of the Puerto Ricans in the United States, Contributions of the Hispanics to the United States, A Selected Directory of Audiovisual Materials on Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans, An Annotated Bibliography on Puerto Rican Materials and Other Sundry Matters, and The Coming of the Puerto Ricans, among others. Cardona passed away in 2003.

Sources: Lapp, Michael. Managing Migration: The Migration Division of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1948-1968. Baltimore, MD. The Johns Hopkins University, 1991.

Michael Lapp Migration Division Oral History Collection. Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY 1984.

Ribes Tovar, Federico. El Libro Puertorriqueño De Nueva York = Handbook of the Puerto Rican Community. New York, NY: Libro Puertorriqueño, 1968.


0.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


The Luis A. Cardona Oral History Collection contains 32 interviews on audiocassette tapes from 1976-1989. Cardona interviewed leaders of the Puerto Rican community, many of who were founders of Puerto Rican organizations in New York and throughout the diaspora. These interviews contributed to Cardona's research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Luis A. Cardona.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digitized interviews are available through the Centro Digital Collections Portal and are linked in the container list.

Related Materials

The Luis Cardona Oral History Collection complements the Alice Cardona Papers, Joseph Monserrat Papers, Antonia Pantoja Papers, Tina Ramirez Papers, Luis O. Reyes Papers, Center for Puerto Rican Studies Records, Michael Lapp Migration Division Oral History Collection, Puerto Ricans in New York - Voices of the Migration Oral History Collection, and the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States, Migration Division Records, all of which are in the Centro Archives.

Luis A. Cardona Oral History Collection
Jonathan Morales with supervision from Pedro Juan Hernandez.
July 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019: Digitized interviews linked, container list revised and missing notes added by Lindsay Wittwer

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.