As has been said before, if you are Latinx in Philadelphia, all roads lead to Taller Puertorriqueño. And much of that credit is due to the organization’s longtime executive director, Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel.
Now, after 22 years at the helm of Pennsylvania’s largest Puerto Rican and Latinx arts organization, Febo will be retiring effective November 1.
During Febo’s tenure, Taller grew from a small organization housed in a Philadelphia row home to a $1 million operation headquartered in an $11 million cultural center in the heart of Philadelphia’s Latinx community.
In addition to the capital campaign for the construction of El Corazón Cultural Center, Febo led the expansion of Taller’s Art Residencies into the School District of Philadelphia, and entered into collaborations with the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the Barnes Foundation, among other arts and cultural organizations.
Reaction to the news of Febo’s retirement has been swift from the Latinx nonprofit and arts community.
“Carmen has been and continues to be a stalwart on the issue of Hispanic/Puerto Rican culture and its role in the formation of our youth and community,” said Rev. Luis Cortés, the founder, president and CEO of Esperanza. “Her work at Taller Puertorriqueño has not only nourished our community but has been a bridge to the greater Philadelphia community, sharing our artistic and thought leaders with them.”
Philadelphia visual artist, muralist, filmmaker and community arts educator, Michelle Angela Ortiz, told Generocity: “Taller Puertorriqueño is a treasure in our city and our community. It is a treasure that I hold close to my heart. I am grateful for Carmen Febo’s years of investment at Taller. I have been able to witness the growth of the organization and the continued impact that it has on our Latinx and cultural community at large. I wish Carmen many blessings during her retirement and thank her for the foundation she has laid for Taller’s continued success.”
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Another Philadelphia muralist, César Viveros, recalled working with Febo during his solo exhibition at Taller’s former gallery site. Titled “No me conformo,” the installation explored Viveros’ journey into the Mesoamerican world and its influence in Philadelphia. “Carmen Febo has been instrumental in creating a platform that amplified the voice of the community in North Philadelphia,” he said.
“Not just for the Puerto Rican community from which the center she directs gets its name,” he added, “but for the [larger] Hispanic community that has been involved in the process of growing [the organization] from its humble origins decades ago to what it is today: the largest cultural institution in North Philadelphia with a national reputation as the urban center of Latino culture in our region.”
Thomas Delphi, the founder of The Nerdtino Expo, the first East Coast Latinx/Hispanic comic book convention which has taken place at Taller Puertorriqueño since 2017, told Generocity that Febo was a source of inspiration for him and the Nerdtino Expo team.
“The doctor and her team were always welcoming,” he said. “We are eternally grateful for her leadership in Philadelphia’s Latinx community. The Nerdtino Expo team wishes her all the best in her retirement.”
Febo was born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, and lived on the island until after receiving her medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico.
She moved to Philadelphia in 1974, to do her residency in family practice at Hahnemann Hospital and Medical Center. After her residency she became the medical director of the Spring Garden Family Health Services Center in Philadelphia.
She moved back to Puerto Rico in 1979, to work at the Naranjito Health Center, where she tended to the medical needs of the rural population. When Febo returned to Philadelphia in 1984, she became the medical director of Germantown Family Medicine Associates.
A year later she served the first of 14 years as the chair of the board of directors of Taller, becoming the organization’s executive director in 1999.
“Taller has been central to my life for 36 years,” Febo said via the emailed announcement of her retirement. “I am proud of all we have been able to accomplish during my tenure as board chair and then, executive director. Today, Taller is a dynamic, growth-oriented arts institution documenting and sharing with others the vibrant character of the Puerto Rican and Latino community. I prepare for my retirement knowing that Taller has a strong board, committed staff, and wonderful advocates across the city and state.”
The board of directors indicated in the announcement of the retirement that it has formed a committee to initiate the search for Febo’s replacement.
But those are big shoes to fill.
“Carmen is a special soul that will be hard to replace,” Cortés said. “Open to all people … committed to the development and consciousness-raising of all people for the common good.”
“Her legacy is one we are all proud of,” he added.-30-
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