Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Economics, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-02-08 20:07Z by Steven

Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico

University of Illinois Press
February 2015
320 pages
6.125 x 9.25 in.
38 black & white photographs, 3 maps, 1 chart, 3 tables
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03890-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08045-6

Isar P. Godreau, Researcher and Former Director
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
University of Puerto Rico, Cayey

Ideas of blackness, whiteness, and racial mixture in a Puerto Rican barrio

The geopolitical influence of the United States informs the processes of racialization in Puerto Rico, including the construction of black places. In Scripts of Blackness, Isar P. Godreau explores how Puerto Rican national discourses about race—created to overcome U.S. colonial power—simultaneously privilege whiteness, typecast blackness, and silence charges of racism.

Based on an ethnographic study of the barrio of San Antón in the city of Ponce, Scripts of Blackness examines institutional and local representations of blackness as developing from a power-laden process that is inherently selective and political, not neutral or natural. Godreau traces the presumed benevolence or triviality of slavery in Puerto Rico, the favoring of a Spanish colonial whiteness (under a hispanophile discourse), and the insistence on a harmonious race mixture as discourses that thrive on a presumed contrast with the United States that also characterize Puerto Rico as morally superior. In so doing, she outlines the debates, social hierarchies, and colonial discourses that inform the racialization of San Antón and its residents as black.

Mining ethnographic materials and anthropological and historical research, Scripts of Blackness provides powerful insights into the critical political, economic, and historical context behind the strategic deployment of blackness, whiteness, and racial mixture.

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Changing Space, Making Race: Distance, Nostalgia, and the Folklorization of Blackness in Puerto Rico

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-11-28 19:12Z by Steven

Changing Space, Making Race: Distance, Nostalgia, and the Folklorization of Blackness in Puerto Rico

Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power
Volume 9,  Issue 3, 2002
pages 281-304
DOI: 10.1080/10702890213969

Isar Godreau
Institute of Interdisciplinary Research
University of Puerto Rico, Cayey

In this article, I critique some of the discursive terms in which blackness is folklorized and celebrated institutionally as part of the nation in Puerto Rico. I examine a government-sponsored housing project that meant to revitalize and stylize the community of San Antón, in Ponce, as a historic black site. Although government officials tried to preserve what they considered to be traditional aspects of this community, conflict arose because not all residents agreed with this preservationist agenda. I document the controversy, linking the government’s approach to racial discourses that represent blackness as a vanishing and distant component of Puerto Rico. I argue that this inclusion and celebration complements ideologies of blanqueamiento (whitening) and race-mixture that distance blackness to the margins of the nation and romanticize black communities as remnants of a past era. I link these dynamics to modernizing State agendas and discourses of authenticity that fuel cultural nationalism worldwide.

In March 1995, The San Juan Star, one of Puerto Rico’s leading newspapers, announced that “Puerto Ricans will ‘bleach away’ many of the physical traces of its African past by the year 2200, with the rest of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean following a few centuries later” (Bliss 1995:30). The article, which was written to commemorate the 122nd year anniversary of the abolition of slavery on the island, also seemed to be commemorating the future “abolition” of blackness itself, “in two centuries.” said one of the experts interviewed, “there will hardly be any blacks in Puerto Rico” (historian, Luis Diaz Soler, in Bliss 1995: 30).

This racial forecast and concomitant claims to the gradual disappearance of black cultural manifestations reinforces ideologies of blanqueamiento well known and thoroughly documented in Latin America (Burdick 1992; de la Fuente 2001; Lancaster 1991; Martinez-Echazabal 1999; Skidmore 1974; Stephan 1991; Wade 1993,1997; and Whitten and Torres 1992. among others). Scholars and activists have demonstrated that such notions of whitening often go hand in hand with…

Read or purchase the article here.

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