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October 25, 2007


NEW YORK, October 25, 2007 – The Dominican Archives of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY-DSI) at The City College of New York recently received five cubic feet of archival materials from the family of Rafael Petitón Guzmán, the 20th century Dominican composer, conductor, band leader, pianist, percussionist and song-writer.  The items consist of music scores, personal documents, photographs, and memorabilia.

Mr. Petitón’s surviving daughter, Angelina McKenna, and sons John and James Petitón donated the materials.  The announcement was made today by CUNY Dominican Studies Institute’s Director, Dr. Ramona Hernández, and Mr. Petitón’s surviving son John Petitón, a lawyer from Garden City, New York.

“This collection includes some original scores written by our father,” said Mr. Petitón.  ‘The family felt that it was time now for these and other materials to be held in a safe place where, at the same time, our father’s legacy could be studied and disseminated.”’ The Dominican Archives seemed fitting for this purpose, he indicated. 

Dr. Hernández called the Petitón family’s gesture commendable and gracious.  “They are preaching by example as to the need to protect Dominicans’ historical legacy in all its aspects,” she said.  “I commend them for taking this step and for trusting the CUNY-DSI Dominican Archives as the full-fledged archival repository that it is already, destined to serve our communities for generations to come.”

Rafael Petitón Guzmán was born in 1894 in Salcedo, a town in the central region of the Dominican Republic.  He passed away in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1983 and was interred in his beloved Salcedo.  He studied at the Julliard School of Music under composer Leopold Stokowski and in Puerto Rico under Spanish pedagogues Julio de Arteaga and Ramón Morlá.  He also was a member of the original Rafael Muñoz Orchestra. 

After traveling through numerous countries in Latin America, Mr. Petitón established himself in New York City in 1935.  Shortly after arriving in New York, he organized the Lira Dominicana Orchestra, which met with much success.  Here he was referred to as the “merengue ambassador,” being one of the first musicians to introduce merengue to New York City.  During his career in The Big Apple he performed in some of the era’s most famous venues including Radio City Music Hall, the Stork Club, and Copacabana.

About the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, founded in 1994, is the only university-based research unit in the United States fully devoted to the research and information dissemination about the Dominican people, their history, society, and culture.  It is housed at The City College of New York.  The Institute’s Dominican Archives is the only archives in the United States devoted to collecting the historical heritage of Dominican Americans in the country.  It recently received the New York State Archives’ Debra E. Bernhardt Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Documenting New York’s History.