Statehood Issue Stirs Passions About Puerto Rican Identity

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-20 01:23Z by Steven

Statehood Issue Stirs Passions About Puerto Rican Identity

Puerto Rico: Unsettled Territory
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Arizona State University

Kailey Latham
Cronkite Borderlands Initiative

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — What does it mean to be Puerto Rican?

For over 500 years, the people of this island have struggled with the answer to that question. This November, the question will follow them into the voting booth.

As the rest of the United States goes to the polls to elect a new president, the big issue for Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens but can’t vote for president unless they live in a U.S. state, is whether to vote for a change in their territorial status. They can decide to remain as they are, become an independent nation, or apply to become the 51st U.S. state. If statehood wins at the polls Congress will eventually have to decide Puerto Rico’s political fate.

But much more than meets the eye rides on the vote. The question on the ballot goes to the heart of what it means to be Puerto Rican. A question that has hung over the island since the U.S. acquired it in 1890.

These days, citizenship links Puerto Ricans to the United States on paper but culture and history separate the two.

“Puerto Rico is not a nation-state, not an independent … country, but still it has its own history, language, territory, culture and autonomy,” said Jorge Duany, a dean and anthropologist at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. “And perhaps more importantly, the awareness people do have of being separate from other people of the world, including the United States.”…

…Puerto Rican Racial Identity and the U.S. Paradigm

Under the leadership of Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, Puerto Rico in 1960 removed the racial identification question from the territory’s version of the U.S. census. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Puerto Rico Planning Board worked together to develop a specific census that met the needs of the territory, and did not include stateside topics such as race and Hispanic origin.

Professor Juan Manuel Carrion, from the University of Puerto Rico, says that this change is representative of a traditional view about race on the island.

“The governments of Puerto Rico and of the Popular Democratic Party defended that on the idea that we are all Puerto Rican here, we don’t make distinctions about race,” Manuel said.

The race question remained off the Puerto Rican version of the census until 2000, when the Puerto Rican government sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau requesting to receive the same decennial census that is distributed within the continental United States.

However, the reinstatement of this question has posed some challenges because racial categories in the United States are not reflective of the racial identities used in Puerto Rico.

In 2010, approximately 76 percent of the Puerto Rican population identified as ‘white’ and 12.4 percent identified as ‘black.’

“If you took the more recent census statistics seriously, Puerto Rico would look more like a Scandinavian country than a Caribbean country in terms of the large proportion of people that have African origin and are not reflected in the census,” Duany said.

Milagros Denis-Rosario, a professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York, says that the racial identification question does not provide Puerto Ricans on the island the flexibility to identify using the terms they are familiar with.

“There are race categories in Puerto Rico, but people self-define,” she said. “It’s not like the U.S., like a binary system where you are black or white. But on the island, there is this flexibility.”

Manuel agrees, saying that race is more than black and white in Puerto Rico; it is about the shades in between.

“According to North American criteria, all Puerto Ricans would be black no matter how light their skins are,” Manuel said.

Duany says that because the census has been translated from the U.S. version it has created a big issue for Puerto Ricans who may not understand where they fit in.

“Every 10 years, Puerto Ricans get their census questionnaire and they have to figure out exactly how to fill out the form,” he said.

Vasquez, the student from the University of Sacred Heart, says that racial distinctions in Puerto Rico are not as important as they are in the United States. He feels that the census is an effort to make Puerto Ricans fit within a mold that they never came from.

“All of this really boils down to is that we don’t give such an importance to race, because at the end of the day we are all Puertoriquenos,” Vasquez said. “I don’t care what your color is, or where you come from. What I care about is that we have a common cultural background.”

Vasquez believes that Puerto Rico’s mixed heritage is the reason why racial differences are not a concern for the Puerto Rican people.

“Even from within the family nucleus we are always sharing space with someone that looks different, and when you are sharing space with someone that looks different than you, those differences start melting away and you don’t see them anymore,” he said.

Joglar Burrowes, the student from the University of Puerto Rico, agrees as she has witnessed these sentiments in her own family.

“I am white, but my grandparents are more dark,” Joglar said. “They are almost black. It is almost like we are not very defined. I may look white, but I don’t feel like it.

Manuel says the same racial pride you find in the United States cannot be found in Puerto Rico.

“If you think that is something that should be cultivated at least for some racial categories, then the situation in Puerto Rico is not very likeable,” he said.

While Barack Obama in 2008 made history as America’s first black president, Luis Lopez Salgado, a senior at the University of Puerto Rico, says the President wouldn’t necessarily be considered black in Puerto Rico.

“Here, he wouldn’t necessarily be deemed black,” Lopez said. “He would be called mixed race, because he is mixed race. If he were competing for governor here, there wouldn’t be that much attention paid to his racial identity.”

Lopez says that the issue of race on the census is one huge problem without a solution.

“I think it’s kind of absurd to ask people to identify themselves,” he said. “It’s very a personal thing how you identify yourself, and it should be left up to the person. Not fill out whatever category you think because what you think you are may not even be in those categories.”

With all of Puerto Rico’s challenges in defining identity, the upcoming election season has added extra pressure on the people of this nation to let the world know exactly who they are…

Read the entire article here.

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How the United States Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-12-05 23:07Z by Steven

How the United States Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences

Paradigm Publishers
May 2009
264 pages
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-59451-598-9
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-59451-599-6

Edited by

José A. Cobas, Emeritus Professor of Sociology
Arizona State University

Jorge Duany, Professor of Anthropology
University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

Joe R. Feagin, Ella C. McFadden Professor of Sociology
Texas A&M University

Mexican and Central American undocumented immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens such as Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans, have become a significant portion of the U.S. population. Yet the U.S. government, mainstream society, and radical activists characterize this rich diversity of peoples and cultures as one group alternatively called “Hispanics,” “Latinos,” or even the pejorative “illegals.” How has this racializing of populations engendered governmental policies, police profiling, economic exploitation, and even violence that afflict these groups?

From a variety of settings—New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Central America, Cuba—this book explores this question in considering both the national and international implications of U.S. policy. Its coverage ranges from legal definitions and practices to popular stereotyping by the public and the media, covering such diverse topics as racial profiling, workplace discrimination, mob violence, treatment at border crossings, barriers to success in schools, and many more. It shows how government and social processes of racializing are too seldom understood by mainstream society, and the implication of attendant policies are sorely neglected.


  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Introduction: Racializing Latinos: Historical Background and Current Forms / José A. Cobas, Jorge Duany, and Joe R. Feagin
  • Chapter 1: Pigments of Our Imagination: On the Racialization and Racial Identities of “Hispanics” and “Latinos” / Rubén G. Rumbaut
  • Chapter 2: Counting Latinos in the U.S. Census / Clara E. Rodríguez
  • Chapter 3: Becoming Dark: The Chilean Experience in California, 1848–1870 / Fernando Purcell
  • Chapter 4: Repression and Resistance: The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin in the United States, 1848–1928 / William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb
  • Chapter 5: Opposite One-Drop Rules: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Need to Reconceive Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Race Relations / Laura E. Gómez
  • Chapter 6: Racializing the Language Practices of U.S. Latinos: Impact on Their Education / Ofelia García
  • Chapter 7: English-Language Spanish in the United States as a Site of Symbolic Violence / Jane H. Hill
  • Chapter 8: Racialization among Cubans and Cuban Americans / Lisandro Pérez
  • Chapter 9 Racializing Miami: Immigrant Latinos and Colorblind Racism in the Global City / Elizabeth Aranda, Rosa E. Chang, and Elena Sabogal
  • Chapter 10: Blacks, Latinos, and the Immigration Debate: Conflict and Cooperation in Two Global Cities / Xóchitl Bada and Gilberto Cárdenas
  • Chapter 11: Central American Immigrants and Racialization in a Post-Civil Rights Era / Nestor P. Rodriguez and Cecilia Menjívar
  • Chapter 12: Agency and Structure in Panethnic Identity Formation: The Case of Latino/a Entrepreneurs /Zulema Valdez
  • Chapter 13: Racializing Ethnicity in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean: A Comparison of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and Dominicans in Puerto Rico / Jorge Duany
  • Chapter 14: Transnational Racializations: The Extension of Racial Boundaries from Receiving to Sending Societies / Wendy D. Roth
  • Contributors
  • Index
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Puerto Rico: Afro-Caribbean and Taíno Identity

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, United States on 2011-07-05 03:00Z by Steven

Puerto Rico: Afro-Caribbean and Taíno Identity

Repeating Islands: News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts

Ivette Romero-Cesareo, Professor of Spanish and Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Note from Steven F. Riley:  [The number of 2010 census repondents from Puerto Rico identifiying as two or more races (TOMR) decreased by 22.82% over the last decade. New York was the only other commonwealth/state with a TOMR decrease; which was 0.73%.]

The number of Puerto Ricans that identify only as black or Native American has increased by about 50 percent in the last decade, according to the latest census figures, which have surprised experts. “The increase suggests a growing sense of racial identity among the various ethnic groups that for a long time have been considered a heterogeneous mosaic in this Commonwealth of United States” writes AOL Noticias.

However, experts consider that it is too early to explain the reason for the change. “This really breaks with a historical pattern,” says Jorge Duany, professor of anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico. With the growth in those who consider themselves black or Native American, there was a decrease in the percentage of the population of Puerto Ricans who only identify as white. This group dropped almost 8 percentage points, to about 76% of the 3.7 million inhabitants of the island. More than 461,000 islanders identified solely as black, an increase of 52%, while close to 20,000 said that they were Native Americans, an increase of almost 49%.

According to experts, several factors could have influenced the increase in the number of people who identify as black. Duany explains that the choice of Barack Obama as President of United States could have influenced some who see themselves as black, because the leader dissipated negative stereotypes about race. The increase in the number of blacks also coincided with a push to highlight the black population of Puerto Rico, as the Department of Education included for the first time a high school textbook dealing exclusively with its history. Moreover, there was a base effort aimed at dark-skinned Puerto Ricans through social networks such as Facebook to urge them to identify as “afro-puertorriqueños” [Afro-Puerto Ricans] in the 2010 census…

Read the entire post here.

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PRico sees increase in blacks, American Indians

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2011-04-05 21:14Z by Steven

PRico sees increase in blacks, American Indians

The Seattle Times

Danica Coto
Associated Press

The number of Puerto Ricans identifying themselves solely as black or American Indian jumped about 50 percent in the last decade, according to new census figures that have surprised experts and islanders alike.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—The number of Puerto Ricans identifying themselves solely as black or American Indian jumped about 50 percent in the last decade, according to new census figures that have surprised experts and islanders alike.
The increase suggests a sense of racial identity may be growing among the various ethnic groups that have long been viewed as a blurred racial mosaic on the U.S. territory, although experts say it is too soon to say what caused the shift.
“It truly breaks with a historic pattern,” said Jorge Duany, an anthropology professor at the University of Puerto Rico…

Experts said several factors could have influenced the rise in the number of people who identify themselves as black.

Duany said the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president might have influenced some to call themselves black as the high-profile leader dispelled negative stereotypes about their race.

The jump in numbers of blacks also coincided with a push to highlight Puerto Rico’s black population, with the Department of Education offering for the first time a high school book that deals solely with their history…

…In addition, there was a grassroots effort to target dark-skinned Puerto Ricans through social media websites including Facebook that urged them to identify themselves as “Afro-Puerto Rican” in the 2010 census.
It was an option that appealed to Barbara Abadia-Rexach, a 30-year-old sociology and anthropology professor at the University of Puerto Rico…

…The island’s population is a fusion of races where phrases such as “coffee with milk” abound to identify various varieties of skin color.
“There is no authentic or pure race,” Abadia-Rexach said. “We are all mixed.”
Puerto Ricans are known as “boricuas,” a name derived from the Taino Indian word for the island’s indigenous people who were colonized by the Spaniards.
One possible reason for the increase in Puerto Ricans who identify themselves as American Indian is that the U.S. Census Bureau allowed responders to write down their tribe…

Read the entire article here.

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