Borinquen, Borincano, Borinqueño
Identification. Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico in 1493, during his second voyage, naming it San Juan Bautista. The Taínos, the indigenous people, called the island Boriquén Tierra del alto señor ("Land of the Noble Lord"). In 1508, the Spanish granted settlement rights to Juan Ponce de León, who established a settlement at Caparra and became the first governor. In 1519 Caparra had to be relocated to a nearby coastal islet with a healthier environment; it was renamed Puerto Rico ("Rich Port") for its harbor, among the world's best natural bays. The two names were switched over the centuries: the island became Puerto Rico and its capital San Juan. The United States anglicized the name to "Porto Rico" when it occupied the island in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. This spelling was discontinued in 1932.
Puerto Ricans are a Caribbean people who regard themselves as citizens of a distinctive island nation in spite of their colonial condition and U.S. citizenship. This sense of uniqueness also shapes their migrant experience and relationship with other ethnoracial groups in the United States. However, this cultural nationalism coexists with a desire for association with the United States as a state or in the current semiautonomous commonwealth status.
Location and Geography. Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest of the Greater Antilles, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Basin to the south. Puerto Rico is a crucial hemispheric access point. It was thus a valuable acquisition for European powers and the United States. Puerto Rico retains its strategic importance, housing the U.S. Army Southern Command and other military facilities. Since the 1940s, the U.S. Navy has used its offshore islands for military maneuvers that have damaged their ecology, economy, and quality of life.
Puerto Rico includes the surrounding small islands, including Culebra and Vieques to the east and Mona to the west. Mona is a nature reserve and wildlife refuge under government jurisdiction. The total land area, including the smaller islands, is 3,427 square miles (8,875 square kilometers).
The tropical island ecosystem is unique and diversified in spite of industrialization and urban sprawl. Beside Mona, the government has established several other nature reserves. There are twenty forest reserves, such as El Yunque Rain Forest and the Caribbean National Forest, which are under federal jurisdiction.
A rugged central mountain range constitutes two-thirds of the island and separates a northern coastal plain noted for karst formations from a drier southern plain. The Taínos recognized the power of the seasonal hurricanes that affect the island. The Spanish word huracán originated from the Taíno juracán, the sacred name for this phenomenon.
Spain turned Puerto Rico into a military stronghold. San Juan was walled and fortified to house military forces, but the other settlements were neglected until the eighteenth century; isolated by the scarcity of roads, they subsisted on contraband, with little official management. The impenetrable highlands became a refuge in which settlers, runaway slaves, Taínos, and deserters produced a racially mixed population.
Demography. Puerto Rico is densely populated and urbanized. Census projections for 2000 place the population at 3,916,000, not including the estimated 2.7 million Puerto Ricans in the mainland United States. Almost 70 percent of the island is
Puerto Ricans self-define as a homogenized Taíno, African, and Spanish mixture. Taínos were Amerindians who occupied the island before European domination. Then estimated at thirty thousand, they were reduced to two thousand by the seventeenth century through exploitative labor, disease, native uprisings, and emigration to the other islands. But many fled into the highlands or intermarried: Spanish immigration to the island was mostly male and interracial relations less stigmatizing than among Anglo settlers. The contemporary revival of Taíno identity is partially based on the survival of Taíno highland communities.
Although the Spanish introduced slavery to replace a dwindling Taíno labor force, slavery never reached large proportions until the plantation system was fully implemented in the nineteenth century. However, there was a significant African influx of slave, indentured, and free labor.
Chinese labor was introduced in the nineteenth century, and immigrants came from Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque provinces, Galicia, and the Canary Islands. Threatened by Latin America's nineteenth century revolutions, Spain facilitated immigration through economic incentives, attracting other nationalities as loyalists fled republican uprisings. The nineteenth century also brought Corsican, French, German, Lebanese, Scottish, Italian, Irish, English, and American immigration.
The U.S. occupation increased the American presence, and the 1959 revolution in Cuba brought an estimated 23,000 Cubans. Many Dominicans immigrated in search of economic opportunities; some use Puerto Rico as a port of entry into the United States. Tension and prejudice against these two groups have emerged. Americans, Cubans, and Dominicans tend to consider their presence in Puerto Rico temporary.
Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish and English are the official languages, but Puerto Rico is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking, despite government efforts to eradicate Spanish or foster bilingualism. Puerto Rican Spanish is a dialect of standard Spanish that has its own particularities. The influence of Taíno is evident in descriptions of material objects ("hammock" and "tobacco"), natural phenomena ("hurricane"), place names and colloquialisms. However, Africans gave Puerto Rican Spanish defining nuances. African speech contributed words and also influenced phonology, syntax, and prosody.
Language is a significant cultural marker of national identity for a people whose culture has always been under siege because of colonialism. U.S. officials disdained Puerto Rican Spanish as an unintelligible "patois" that had to be eradicated; they also believed that by learning English, Puerto Ricans would be socialized into "American values." The U.S. government imposed educational policies prescribing schooling in English through the first half of the twentieth century; language became part of the long-standing struggles over Puerto Rico's culture and colonial condition.
Although "English-only" policies were abrogated after the establishment of the commonwealth in 1952, debates about language have intensified. Purists decry the loss of the "mother tongue," advocating vigilance and "correctness," yet the "deterioration" of Puerto Rican Spanish through English "interference" has been exaggerated. Puerto Ricans in the United States have developed a linguistic repertoire that involves mixing English and Spanish in everyday talk. This code switching has been stigmatized as "Spanglish" and condemned by language purists, but is actually culturally significant as an identity marker.
Symbolism. The most powerful cultural symbol is the island itself. Idealized in a variety of media, its image resonates even among members of U.S. migrant communities. Natural and human-made features associated with the island are imbued with great value. The coquí (a tiny indigenous tree frog), royal palms, Taíno petroglyphs, Luquillo Beach and El Yunque, bomba and plena (music and dance forms of African origin), literature, and native food are some of these features. Puerto Ricans in New York City have built casitas, copies of the traditional rural wooden houses painted in vibrant colors and decorated with Puerto Rican objects.
The jíbaro, the highland rural folk, has become a controversial symbol because jíbaros are depicted as descendants of white Spanish settlers in a way that casts Puerto Rico as a backward rural society and negates Puerto Rico's African roots.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The Taínos received the Spanish with civility but were quickly farmed out in encomiendas , a system of indentured labor, to work at mining and cultivation. By mid-century, African slaves were imported for labor, and both slaves and Taínos soon rose in armed rebellion.
Spain realized that the island's wealth did not lie in gold and silver, yet it was attacked repeatedly by European powers that recognized its strategic location. Puerto Rico survived on contraband and piracy, trading cattle, hides, sugar, tobacco, and foodstuffs directly with other nations.
In the eighteenth century, the Spanish initiated a series of improvements, reforming the system of land tenure and in effect initiating private ownership. Overhauled policies allowed trade with other nations. These measures fostered development and increased settlement, urbanization, and population growth; they also facilitated the emergence of a sense of culture. By the eighteenth century, Puerto Ricans had developed a definite creole identity, distinguishing themselves from the hombres de la otra banda ("men from the other side"), who were transient colonial administrators, military personnel, or exploiters.
The nineteenth century fostered increased political consciousness and claims for autonomy or incorporation as an overseas province. In liberal times, Puerto Rico was granted civil liberties, which were abrogated upon the return to conservatism and repression.
The independence movement culminated in the Grito de Lares of 1868, an armed rebellion that was reported to the Spanish by an infiltrator and suppressed. Some of its leaders were executed, and those who were exiled continued their struggle from Europe, Latin America, and New York City, where they worked alongside Cuban patriots.
National Identity. Cultural nationalism generated political activism, literary and artistic production, and economic development. In 1897, Spain granted Puerto Rico an Autonomic Charter that recognized its right to internal self-government. The first autonomous government was constituted in April 1898, but its accession was postponed when the United States declared war on Spain.
The national consciousness that emerged under Spanish rule survived into the twentieth century under U.S. control. The United States saw itself as exercising a benign modernizing function, but Puerto Ricans saw it as eroding their culture and curtailing their autonomy. This tension was aggravated by U.S. capitalistic practices. The government facilitated the economic exploitation of the island's resources by absentee corporations and fostered the exportation of local workers as cheap migrant labor. Claiming that the island lacked resources and was overpopulated, the U.S. government encouraged migration, with the consequent formation of diasporic communities across the United States.
Americanization efforts included English-only education and the implementation of an American educational system, the appointment of pro-U.S. officials, the incorporation of Anglo-Saxon common law principles and practices into the island's legal system, the grant of U.S. citizenship on the eve of World War I, and the introduction of U.S. currency and the devaluation of the local peso.
The advent of the commonwealth in 1952 did not end debates over Puerto Rico's culture and colonial status. Many people view the changes over the last century as modernization and the introduction of a corporate capitalist culture that has spread around the world without erasing cultural differences.
Ethnic Relations. Cultural identity is commonly defined in terms of nationality rather than ethnicity. Puerto Ricans in the United States have been defined as an ethnoracial group in spite of their nationalism.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Old San Juan is a world-class example of Spanish urban architecture adapted to a tropical environment. After the commonwealth government initiated its renovation, it became a tourist attraction and a handsome residential and commercial area. Its
A man hand-rolls cigars for the Bayamón Tobacco Corporation, the last family-owned cigar producer in Puerto Rico. They produce five thousand cigars per day.
The Spanish plan of cities organized in a grid pattern of intersecting streets with central plazas bordered by public buildings recurs throughout the older sectors of the island's towns and cities. Residential architecture is eclectic. The U.S. occupation brought about a revival of the Spanish colonial style. Grillwork is ubiquitous because it offers security against criminality. Elite families built Art Nouveau and Art Deco houses, some luxurious and deserving of their designation as private "castles." The 1950s brought good examples of contemporary architecture.
Puerto Ricans have a strong cultural preference for owning their own houses. Housing developments ( urbanizaciones ) are the norm; shopping centers and strip malls have partially replaced the old marketplaces. Public housing projects ( caseríos ) have supplanted the old urban slums; people initially resisted them because they violated cultural expectations of individual housing and community. High-rise condominiums were constructed in the 1950s and have become desirable housing choices. In the few remaining rural areas, wooden and straw huts have been replaced by cement block houses.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. Food preferences were shaped by the island's cultural diversity and predominantly rural lifestyle. Taíno and African influences are seen in the use of tropical fruits and vegetables, seafood, condiments, and legumes and cereals (the ubiquitous rice and beans). The Spanish contributed culinary techniques and wheat products and introduced pork and cattle. The tropical climate required the importation of preserved food; dried codfish was long a dietary mainstay. Candied fruits and fruits preserved in syrup are also traditional. Rum and coffee are the preferred beverages.
Traditionally, meals were patterned after Spanish custom: a continental breakfast, a large midday meal, and a modest supper. Many people now eat a large breakfast, a fast-food lunch, and a large dinner. Puerto Ricans tolerate fast-food, but prefer native food and home cooking. There are fast-food establishments that serve rice and beans, and other local dishes. The island boasts restaurants and eating places across the economic and gastronomic spectrums; San Juan, in particular, offers international choices.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Although American holidays are legally celebrated, the foods associated with them are prepared according to local tastes and culinary techniques. Thus, the Thanksgiving turkey is done with adobo, a local seasoning mix. The traditional holiday menu includes pernil or lechón asado (spit-roasted pork), pasteles (plantain or yucca tamales), and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas); typical desserts are arroz con dulce (coconut rice pudding), bienmesabe (coconut pudding), and tembleque (coconut milk pudding). Coquito is a popular coconut and rum beverage.
Basic Economy. Industrialization has eroded the viability of agriculture as an important economic activity and the island is dependent on food imports. Local products are considered of higher quality.
Land Tenure and Property. Most Puerto Rican land is in private hands. Owning a home holds important cultural value. The emphasis placed on owning one's own home led to agrarian reform in the 1940s and the parcela program, a local homesteading effort by which the government appropriated land held by corporations for exploitative agribusiness and sold it for minimum prices. The only period within the twentieth century when private property was affected was precisely between 1898 and the 1940s when the whole island was literally carved up among a handful of absentee U.S. sugar-producing corporations and their local subsidiaries.
The government holds portions and there are protected nature reserves.
Commercial Activities. Beginning in the 1950s, Operation Bootstrap, the commonwealth's developmental program, fostered rapid industrialization. Tax incentives and cheap skilled labor brought many U.S. industries to the island, but by the late 1960s, the social costs and the ending of tax incentives eroded the economy. The flight of industry to cheaper labor markets in Asia and Latin America and the rise of transnational business have reduced the process of industrialization.
Major Industries. Restrictive U.S. laws and policies and U.S.-dominated banking and finance have limited Puerto Rico's ability to develop its own markets and conduct international business. The island is now dependent on manufacturing and services. The government remains a major employer. It has fostered petrochemical and high-technology industries that capitalize on an educated labor force. Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, medical equipment, and machinery are the leading products. Tourism is the most important service industry.
Trade. Major imports include chemicals, machinery, food, transport equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, professional and scientific instruments, and clothing and textiles.
Major exports include chemicals and chemical products, food, and machinery.
Division of Labor. There is a professional class in Puerto Rico. It is a full-fledged Westernized society, with the government being a major employer. Unemployment rates average at 12.5 percent. Agriculture is a waning labor source.
Classes and Castes. A capitalist class structure is organized by access to wage labor and means of production. During the colonial period, small farms and subsistence agriculture prevailed. This prevented the emergence of a privileged hacendado class as in other latin societies. In the nineteenth century, with the implementation of an economy dependent on sugar, tobacco, and coffee, landowning and merchant classes emerged, along with a small class of urban professionals. Most political leaders came from those classes, but the bulk of the population remained artisans, sharecroppers, and laborers. Families that retained their assets under U.S. control made the transition to the professional, business, banking, and industrialist class. The economic changes of the 1950s produced an expanded middle class of government employees, administrators, and white-collar workers and an industrial working class replaced the rural one.
Symbols of Social Stratification. A "good" family and education are considered more important than wealth, but class distinctions increasingly are based on the ability to purchase and consume certain goods and commodities such as cars, electronic media, clothes, and travel.
A doorway painted to represent the flag used in the 1868 Lares Insurrection.
Government. The official head of state is the president of the United States even though Puerto Ricans can not vote in presidential elections. A local governor is elected every four years through universal suffrage. An elected resident commissioner represents the island in the U.S. Congress but has no vote. Puerto Rico has its own constitution. A bicameral legislature is elected every four years. The Senate is composed of two senators from each of eight senatorial districts and eleven senators at large; the House of Representatives consists of eleven representatives at large and one each from forty representative districts. Minority party representation is guaranteed in both chambers regardless of election returns.
Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties are based on the three traditional positions on status: autonomy in an enhanced commonwealth status, statehood, and independence. Currently, these positions are represented by the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the New Progressive Party (PNP), and the Independence Party of Puerto Rico (PIP). The PPD was founded in the late 1930s by the architect of commonwealth status, Luis Muñoz Marín, who became the first elected governor in 1948. The PNP emerged in 1965, succeeding an old pro-statehood party. The PIP was established in 1948 when a PPD faction split off because of Muñoz's failure to support independence. Its popularity peaked in 1952 but has decreased. However, the PIP plays an important opposition role.
Over the last forty years, government control has alternated between the PPD and the PNP. Puerto Ricans vote politicians in and out for their governing abilities rather than their position on status. Concerns about the economy and the quality of life predominate.
Several plebiscites have been held to allow residents to exercise their right to self-determination by expressing their status preference. However, the United States has not honored any plebiscite results.
Social Problems and Control. The unified court system is administered by the island's Supreme Court, which is appointed by the governor. But Puerto Rico is also subject to federal law and constitutes a district within the U.S. federal court system, with a local district court that has jurisdiction over federal law cases. Legal practice incorporates elements from Anglo-American common law and the continental civil code law inherited from Spain. There is no "customary" law.
The island has its own police force, though the FBI also exercises jurisdiction. The correctional system has been plagued by overpopulation, lack of rehabilitation programs, poor physical facilities, undertrained correctional officers, and violent inmate gangs. Criminality is a major problem. Some attribute it to the flight of Cuba's organized crime, which shifted operations to Puerto Rico after 1959. Others blame modernization and the alleged deterioration of traditional values. Many crimes are committed by drug addicts. Drug addiction has also brought the spread of AIDS.
Military Activity. The island is fully integrated into the U.S. military system. Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. forces. There is also a local national guard. Many residents object to U.S. military control and the military use of Culebra and Vieques. The U.S. ceased maneuvers in Culebra in the mid-1970s, but intensified them in Vieques. It has faced resistance and civil disobedience from many Puerto Ricans.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
Ongoing economic difficulties have produced high rates of unemployment. Puerto Rico receives federal aid but does not get equal coverage or qualify for most welfare programs. The local government is the main welfare provider. Although it has managed to sustain a relatively high standard of living, the cost of living is steep and Puerto Ricans accumulate high levels of debt. However, Puerto Rico's achievements in reducing mortality, increasing literacy, improving medical services, and raising life expectancy have placed it on a par with many U.S. states.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
The list of organizations and associations in Puerto Rico is vast, since the number and kind of them there parallel those found in any state of the U.S. They include international (the Red Cross), national (YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts), and local groups (Puerto Rico Bar Association).
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Gender relations have become increasingly egalitarian. When the island had a subsistence lifestyle, women were important economic producers in rural households and outside the home. The ideal of the home-tending housewife has been honored among the middle and upper classes but has become impractical. In an ideal male world, women are expected to do the double duty of workplace and household labor, but this is changing because of the need to maintain double-salary households.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. There is a long-standing tradition of women being active in public life as intellectuals, writers, activists, politicians, and professionals. When women's suffrage was approved in 1932, Puerto Rico elected the first woman legislator in the Western Hemisphere.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Puerto Ricans consider family life a core cultural value; family and kin are viewed as the most enduring and reliable support network. Despite a high divorce rate and an increase in serial monogamy, most people prefer marriage to living together, although female virginity is not as important as it was in the past. Today courting is based on group or individual dating rather than chaperoned outings. Wedding ceremonies may be religious or secular but preferably include receptions for relatives and friends. Although remaining single is increasingly acceptable, marriage is an important marker of adulthood.
Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is prevalent, but relatives socialize often. Having children is preferable to childlessness, but it is increasingly the couple's choice. Working spouses who share household chores are becoming common, but socializing children is still predominantly a female role even among family-oriented men. Male authority is invoked and appealed to, but women's authority over many domains and activities is recognized.
Kin Groups. Relatives are expected to support each other materially and emotionally. Support is legally prescribed and required along descent, ascent, and collateral lines. Elders are respected. Kinship is bilateral, and people commonly use both the father's and the mother's family name as surnames.
Inheritance. Civil law requires that a third of an estate must be bequeathed equally among all the legal heirs. Another third may be used to improve an heir's lot, and the last third may be disposed of freely by the testator. The estate of a person who dies without a will is divided equally among all the legal heirs.
Infant Care. People try to rear children within the family. When the mother is unavailable, relatives are preferred to outsiders, and professional infant care providers are regarded with ambivalence. Puerto Ricans have adopted most modern child raising practices, such as separate beds and bedrooms, medical care, toys, and equipment. From infancy, children are socialized toward family and communal participation. Traditionally, they are expected to learn through observation rather than instruction. Children must learn respeto , the most valued trait in the culture. Respeto refers to the belief that every person has an intrinsic dignity that must never be transgressed. One must learn to respect others by learning to respect oneself. All other valued qualities, such as obedience, industriousness, and self-assurance, follow when a child internalizes respeto .
Child Rearing and Education. Elementary education is legally mandated, but the youth of the population has strained the public education system. Those who can afford it prefer private schooling, which better prepares children for college.
Puerto Ricans distinguish between instrucción (schooling) and (educación) (education). Education transcends schooling. Education is within the province of the family, since an educated person is not someone who has achieved "book learning" but a person who is respectful, cordial, courteous, polite, and "cultured."
Higher Education. Credentialism is on the rise, and a college degree is required for most positions and for upward mobility. The rates of high school and college graduation have increased in recent decades. The newly acquired importance of higher education sustains the university system, which includes the public University of Puerto Rico and the private Interamerican University, Sacred Heart College, and Catholic University. All these institutions have multiple campuses. People have access to professional training in law, medicine, engineering, and other fields.
Respeto and educación are indispensable components of social interaction. Indirection is also an important strategy. People believe that directness is rude and use a variety of euphemisms and hedges to avoid it. Close friends are allowed directness but maintain the boundaries of respect. Puerto Ricans prefer people who are publicly expressive but not excessively so. Friends customarily greet by kissing each other, and engaging in animated conversation is viewed as a social asset. Although social drinking is approved, drunkenness is not. Relajo is a joking
A young woman holds a banner during a pro-statehood demonstration. A U.S. commonwealth since 1952, Puerto Rico has maintained a strong sense of nationalism.
Religious Beliefs. The U.S. occupation brought Protestant missions to a predominantly Catholic society. An estimated 30 percent of the population is now Protestant. All major denominations are represented, and there is a synagogue in San Juan but no mosque. Revivalism is quite popular.
The Catholic Church had much power under Spain, but Catholics are prone to a populistic kind of religion that is wary of the established church and its hierarchy. Many people are nonobservant, yet consider themselves devout because they pray, are faithful, treat others with compassion, and communicate directly with God.
African slaves introduced brujería (witchcraft practices). In the nineteenth century, European spiritualism became popular. It is the most important alternative practice and coexists with established religions. Many people consider both forms equally legitimate and practice both. Spiritualist mediums are predominantly women who hold divinations and seances in their homes; many have become successful and even wealthy. Cuban immigrants brought santería , a blend of Yoruba and Catholic religions. Spiritualism and santería have merged into santerismo . Both posit a spirit world, worship a hierarchy of guiding saints and deities from the sacred and secular worlds, and practice divination.
Religious Practitioners. Most religious life in Puerto Rico is enacted in terms of a populist style, in the case of established religions, and engages espiritismo and santería as culturally-specific systems of belief that co-exist with mainstream religious practices.
Medicine and Health Care
Until the second half of the twentieth century, Puerto Rico suffered from the dire health conditions that are typical of poor, underdeveloped countries. Tropical diseases and parasites contributed to high mortality rates and low life expectancy. Progress in health care has been dramatic, and the island now has modern medical facilities. Mortality rates and life expectancy have improved, and many diseases have been eradicated.
People celebrate both United States and Puerto Rican holidays and feast days. Major local holidays include New Year's Eve (1 January), Three Kings Day (6 January), Hostos Day (11 January), Constitution Day (25 July), Discovery Day (19 November), and Christmas Day (25 December). Easter Thursday and Friday are observed. Cities and town celebrate the patron saint's feast day, usually with carnivals, processions, masses, dances, and concerts. These celebrations are local, except for the eve of the island's patron saint, Saint John (23 June).
The government sponsors civic and military parades for political holidays such as the Fourth of July and Constitution Day. Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Three Kings are the high points of a holiday party season that extends from mid-December to mid-January. Easter brings religious processions.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. The arts are important as expressions of cultural nationalism. The government has contributed to their institutionalization through the establishment of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, which sponsors and funds artistic activities and programs. Although the institute has been criticized for fostering an essentialistic notion of national identity and favoring "high" culture, it has been instrumental in recovering the artistic past and fostering new arts production. Local artists have access to support from U.S. institutions. Universities and colleges are also sources of work, support, and facilities. There are museums in Ponce and San Juan and art galleries all over the island. A performing arts center in Santurce has facilities for theater, concerts, opera, and dance.
Literature. Puerto Rican literature is usually dated to the nineteenth century publication of El Gíbaro , a collection of pieces on the island's traditions, because the book represents the first self conscious expression of a native culture. Literary production is diverse, locally valued, and internationally acknowledged. Puerto Rican authors work in all genres and styles.
Graphic Arts. Graphic arts production is diverse and prolific. The pictorial tradition dates back to the eighteenth century with José Campeche, who specialized in religious painting and portraiture and is acknowledged as the island's first artist. Francisco Oller's impressionist work hangs in Paris museums. Twentieth century artists have been particularly successful in print media.
Performing Arts. Music ranges from popular and folk genres to classical works. Salsa, the island's most recent contribution to world music, is rooted in African rhythms. Puerto Rico has classical composers and performers and has been the site of the international Casals Festival since the 1950s. There are established ballet companies and groups that perform modern, folk, and jazz dance. Efforts to establish film production companies have floundered.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
Most social and physical science research is conducted in institutions of higher learning. The social sciences have been instrumental in documenting and analyzing Puerto Rican society and culture. Because of its uniqueness, Puerto Rico is among the most intensely researched places in the world.
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—V ILMA S ANTIAGO -I RIZARRY
Alternautas, an academic peer-reviewed blog, is calling for contributions for a special issue on ‘‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’. On Wednesday 20 September the lives of Puerto Ricans on the archipelago and abroad... more
Alternautas, an academic peer-reviewed blog, is calling for contributions for a special issue on ‘‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’.
On Wednesday 20 September the lives of Puerto Ricans on the archipelago and abroad changed forever. Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico as a category four storm (sustained winds of 155mph), leaving the Island in a state of emergency. Essential services such as power, potable water and communication services collapsed (Duany, 2017). The first response from the Puerto Rico and United States federal government was insufficient and slow (Sosa Pascual & Mazzei, 2017). Flooding did not discriminate between marginalised and affluent neighbourhoods. However, like the damage caused by Katrina in New Orleans (Werner 2017; Brand 2018), the island’s natural disaster uncovered the soaring levels of inequality, unequal status and commodification of disaster-related recovery for Puerto Rican residents. To varying degrees, this ‘Not-So-Natural Disaster’ (Lloréns et al. 2018; Seda-Irizarry and Martínez-Otero 2017) has also affected ravished Caribbean neighbours like Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Dominica - with their own variable ‘sovereign’ political arrangements and spatial and socio-economic frontiers of unequal development.
The government of Puerto Rico recently stated that “the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria creates an opportunity to redesign” the role of the government and the market (AAFAF, 2018:11). The Caribbean government is following Prince’s (1920) centenary idea of portraying a disaster as a chance of permanent social change. Jones (2009: 318) argues that major disasters “have rarely sparked significant social changes, other than to solidify the power base of elites and further immiserate the poor”. This reproduction of inequality can be seen in the wake of hurricane Maria, through the attack on an already weakened and financially beleaguered public infrastructure, including its public energy and education system-- a tactic Naomi Klein has critically framed as disaster capitalism and ‘the shock doctrine’ (2007) in cases like post-Katrina New Orleans and post-tsunami Sri Lanka. Referred to also as a ‘doctrine of trauma’ (Bonilla 2015), a unique exploitation of distress appears to underway in the island; where long-standing crises-- political, economic and environmental-- are being used to justify further acts of negligence and austerity. Given that the future Puerto Rico envisioned in the revised fiscal plan proposes further austerity measures, privatisations, stagnation, liberalisation and flexibilization of the labour market (AAFAF, 2018), we must ask ourselves, what type of significant social change would these post-disaster policies bring to residents?
Beyond Puerto Rico, what kind of alternative Caribbean futures are being imagined and enacted in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season, and how are these entangled with a sense of greater infrastructural, relief or racial justice-- both local and regional? This special issue seeks to address the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in impacted neighbouring islands like Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin and the Dominican Republic, among others.
Articles can address (but not be limited to) any of the following issues:
· Historical and comparative dimensions of ‘hurricane’ responses and aftermaths
· Intersecting productions of ‘crisis’, ‘natural’ and ‘disasters.’
· Neo-colonial power structures: La Junta vs elected government of Puerto Rico
· Community vs state efforts in the emergency response and reconstruction
· Dismantling public infrastructure: deliberate neglect, collapse and exploitation
· International aid, developmentalist models and military interventions
· Divergences and solidarities in pan-Caribbean recovery struggles
· The uses and abuses of ‘resilience’ and ‘vulnerability.’
· Logics, practices and politics of disaster capitalism
· Economic and socio-spatial dynamics of foreign capital incursions
· Colonial instigations of racialised and gendered differences
· Art-as activism
· Deepening of poverty and intensification of inequalities
· Media representations of disaster and crisis (including political leadership)
· Discourses, practices and aesthetics of political ‘post-disaster’ leadership
· Designing reconstruction: legal, social and material reconfigurations of land, property and homes
The call is open to contributions from different disciplinary approaches, from sociology, anthropology, and political geography to architecture, law, history, economics or political science. They are expected to be of a length between 1,500 and 3,500 words and should include two (or more) pictures of your choice, eligible for unlimited reproduction. Please send your contributions before 2 May 2018 to Gibran Cruz-Martinez at gcruz (at) ichem.cl, Melissa Fernández at M.FernandezA (at) lancaster.ac.uk, Janialy Ortiz at janialy (at) gmail.com, and Patria Román-Velazquez at P.Roman-Velazquez (at) lboro.ac.uk
Deadline to submit papers: 2 May 2018
Peer review process: 2 May - 2 June 2018
Author revisions: 2 June - 30 June 2018
Publication: Second semester 2018