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Luis O. Reyes Papers

Identifier: MSS 51

Scope and Contents

The Luis O. Reyes Papers are a valuable resource for the study and understanding of public education and the Puerto Rican/ Latino community in New York City from the 1980s-1990s. The documents in this collection fill a significant information gap on important organizations such as ASPIRA of New York, Inc., the Puerto Rican/Latino Educational Roundtable and the Latino Commission on AIDS. Among the most recurring and most comprehensive topics covered in the papers are: bilingual and multicultural education, minority students, the rights of non-English speakers in the U.S., minority language rights, HIV/AIDS, school dropouts, educational reform, Latino representation on the Board of Education, public school demographics, and numerous local and national education associations.

The bulk of the materials consist of administrative files. There are letters, memoranda, notes, notebooks, minutes, reports, announcements, and newspaper clippings. The folders are organized alphabetically and chronologically.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980s-1990s
  • Creation: 1961-1998


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Activist and educator, Luis O. Reyes has been at the forefront of the struggle for bilingual, multicultural education and for improving educational opportunities for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in New York City. He was the Director of Research for ASPIRA of New York from 1986-1990 and was a member of the Board of Education of the City of New York from 1990-1998.

Luis Orlando Reyes Peraza was born December 18, 1944 in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. His parents, Pedro José Reyes and Zenobia Peraza migrated to New York in 1946 and settled in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Their family life was disrupted when his father suffered a serious auto accident and his mother contracted tuberculosis. For two years Reyes lived in foster homes in Staten Island and Long Island, but in 1951 he was reunited with his mother and they moved to the Melrose Projects in the South Bronx.

Reyes’ education started in the Immaculate Conception Grammar School, which he attended from 1951-1955. In 1956 he began studying in Catholic schools run by the De La Salle Brothers who greatly influenced the course of his life. They were solicitous and caring while the young Reyes convalesced in a hospital in 1958 and encouraged him to have high expectations, motivating him to become an exemplary student. Still very young and about to begin eighth grade, he decided to join their order as a Brother. In preparation he enrolled in St. Bernard’s High School in Manhattan and later entered St. Joseph’s Normal Institute in Barrytown, New York, the La Salle Brothers Seminary. He graduated with honors in 1962 and that summer received his habit and began a one-year novitiate.

Between 1963-1967, Reyes completed his undergraduate studies at the LaSalle Institute in Troy, New York and at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. From 1967 to 1971 he taught Spanish at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey. During the summers of 1969-1971 he worked on obtaining a Masters degree in Middlebury College, Vermont. By 1971 he realized that he did not have a religious vocation and decided against taking his final vows. From 1971 to 1973 he continued to teach high school Spanish in Ramsey, New Jersey.

A growing concern for the needs of the Puerto Rican community led him to pursue doctoral studies. In 1973 he was accepted in the Ph.D Program in Bilingual Education at the Stanford University School of Education in California with a fellowship from the Bay Area Bilingual Education League (BABEL). During this period, he became more involved in issues related to Latinos and actively participated in the struggles of the Chicano community. He also helped organize the first Puerto Rican Conference to be held west of the Mississippi. In the summer of 1973 he returned to the East Coast to work in El Centro Borincano/ Day Care Center in Camden, New Jersey. From 1975 to 1976 he worked in the Urban/Rural School Development Program of the Stanford University Leadership Institute.

While working as a substitute teacher in California from 1978 to 1980 he completed his doctoral studies. In the course of writing his dissertation, he spent time in New York and reestablished his connections with the Puerto Rican community. He received his Ph.D in 1980 from Stanford University.

Soon after receiving his doctorate, Reyes was hired by ASPIRA of America as administrator of a counseling program for students in five cities. From 1983 to 1986 he worked for ASPIRA of New York, Inc. serving as Director of the Leadership Development Program and of the Mayor’s Scholarship Program. He also served as special assistant to the Executive Director. In 1986 he was named Director of the Office of Research and Advocacy assuming leadership in bilingual education issues and mobilizing campaigns including one demanding Latino representation on the Board of Education of the City of New York.

This campaign bore fruit and in July 1990, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger named Reyes to the Board of Education where he served until 1998. During his tenure, he distinguished himself as a strong advocate for multicultural education and for HIV/AIDS prevention education. His commitment to causes related to the welfare of the Latino community is well demonstrated through his participation in various commissions and organizations that sought to change the condition of education for Latinos and through his work on issues concerning HIV/ AIDS prevention and education. He served as Vice-President of the Puerto Rican/Latino Education Roundtable and as a member and President of the Latino Commission on AIDS.

Outstanding among the many awards he has received are the Educational Advocate of the Year Award from Asian American Communications, the Gladys Correa Award from the New York State Association for Bilingual Education and the Louis Nine Award from the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of the New York State Legislature.

Reyes has written extensively about bilingual education and has participated widely in academic and community forums. He serves on the New York State Department of Education Board of Regents (2016-2026) and retired in 2021 from his positon as an assistant professor in the Educational Foundations Department, and as Director of Education at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) at Hunter College, CUNY.


21.12 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Educator, scholar, activist, and university professor. Collection contains information on bilingual education and multicultural education, New York City public schools, school dropouts, language rights, minority rights, HIV/AIDS education, ASPIRA of New York, Inc., educational reform, the Board of Education of the City of New York, and numerous organizations. Consists of administrative files, letters, memoranda, notes, notebooks, minutes, reports, announcements and newspaper clippings.


The collection is divided into the following series:

I. Biographical and Personal Information

II. Correspondence

III. Writings

IV. ASPIRA of New York, Inc.

V. Board of Education of the City of New York

VI. Latino Commission on Educational Reform

VII. Organizations

VIII. Subject Files

IX. Notepads

X. Photographs

Other Finding Aids

English / Spanish language finding aid is available. See External Documents.

Other version of this finding aid was created as part of Ventana Al Pasado: Building a Latino/Hispanic Online Research Collection. The New York State Archives and Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños received funding for this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Separated Materials

Books and pamphlets were removed to the Centro Library.

Luis O. Reyes Papers
Ismael García with the assistance of Izzy De Moya, Damary González and Yosenex Orengo.
March 2003
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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. A recent addition of records and others still held by donor will be processed at a later date.

Revision Statements

  • 2005: Guide reviewed and actualized by Pedro Juan Hernández and Nélida Pérez.

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.