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CUNY Dominican Studies Institute

Normandia Maldonado Collection

Founder, Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya

Note of Gratitude

Normandia Maldonado is one of the first two prominent members of the Dominican community to donate their papers to the Dominican Archives. The Institute is tremendously grateful to this pioneer who entrusted us with her precious historical legacy. Ms. Maldonado's long history of community activism helped establish the Dominican people as a distinct ethnic group within the New York City mosaic. Ms. Maldonado worked tirelessly and effectively to promote Dominican culture in New York City, engendering a great sense of pride among Dominicans in their roots. Ms. Maldonado is a pioneer in the unique historical development of the Dominican Population in the United States.

 

Biographical Information

Ms. Maldonado was born in 1929 in Santiago, Dominican Republic. As a child, Ms. Maldonado demonstrated her love for the arts and community work, forming part of "Coro José Ovidio Garcia" directed by Margarita Espaillat in the Dominican Republic; tutoring children in her community; and participating in a local radio show singing and dancing.

Normandía Maldonado founded, the Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya in 1967; and co-founded the Centro Cívico Cultural Juan Pablo Duarte in 1966, the second oldest Dominican institution in New York. She is also the founder of the Dominican Day Parade.

Ms. Maldonado arrived in the United States in 1960 as a member of the cast of "Busquen A Ese Hombre" a Cuban film produced by the Caribbean Theatrical Alliance. She decided to leave the world of acting upon completing the film, but decided to make the United States her permanent residence and began to work as a seamstress in a clothing factory to make ends meet. It was in New York where Ms. Maldonado began her career as a dancer, teacher, and community activist. In 1962, Ms. Maldonado formed the group Mambo Girlstogether with her sister Marina Maldonado. With Mambo Girls, Ms. Maldonado traveled around the world performing in local and national television stations. During one of her performances with Mambo Girls at Lincoln Center, she met her husband who was an internationally acclaimed singer. Around this time, Ms. Maldonado also met Juan Paulino and Victor Liriano, two rising community leaders in Washington Heights. Together with Paulino and Liriano, Ms. Maldonado conceived the idea of having a statue of the founding father of the Dominican Republic, Juan Pablo Duarte, erected as a landmark for Dominicans living in New York City, a dream that would be realized 1978, after years of struggle.

Continuing with her passion for dance, she participated in the Desfile de la Hispanidad and in a Santo Domingo Canta y Baila show at the former Teatro San Juan. In 1967,  Mambo Girls adopted the name Ballet Quisqueya in 1967, later to be known as Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya. To this day, the Centro Cultural Ballet Quisqueya has continued to uphold its mission to promote Dominican culture and folkloric music at the international level, bringing attention to such classic dances as the "Merengue" and the "Mangulina". Centro also works to educate Dominicans, in particular the second generation and other nationalities about the various musical rhythms and the rich cultural heritage of the Dominican people. In 1982, Mrs. Maldonado founded a new entity, the Cassandra Damirón Hall of Fame, devoted to the yearly showcasing of Dominicans prominent in the arts and in public life.

In recent years, Mrs. Maldonado has received many awards and recognitions for her hard work in the Washington Heights community from elected officials, including former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, former New York City Councilman Guillermo Linares, and New York State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat. She has been honored by local organizations and institutions such as Alianza Dominicana and the Dominican Folklore Hall of Fame. Without a doubt, Mrs. Maldonado stands as one of the most accomplished activist and community leaders among the Dominican people in the United States.

Collection Description

The Normandía Maldonado Collection consists of correspondence, flyers and other promotional materials, invitations, speeches, audio and video tapes, photographs and other memorabilia relating to the cultural programs, ceremonies and other community activities of the organization. The Collection also includes personal papers relating to the artistic accomplishments of Ms. Maldonado as a dancer and organization founder. Materials contain important information about Dominican folkloric music and community activities not found in any other archival repository.

Inclusive Dates: 1950-2000
Size of collection: 44 cubic feet