The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-01-27 19:50Z by Steven

The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

A Contra corriente: A Journal on Social History and Literature in Latin America
Volume 5, Number 3, Spring 2008
pages 243-251

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Escritura afropuertorriqueña y modernidad (2007), by Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz, is an insightful critical work on contemporary afropuertorican discourse with an emphasis on the writings of Carmelo Rodríguez Torres. The work commences by situating Puerto Rico in the “Black Atlantic,” that is, the greater African Diaspora. Ironically, Santiago-Díaz begins and ends his study noting that his research on Afro-Puerto Rico and Rodríguez Torres is simultaneously an affirmation and a negation of black identity because it counters official discourses of racial homogeneity during the island’s nation-building period which posited blackness over whiteness. This racial oppression and suppression of blackness stems from early twentieth-century (1930s and 1940s) Puerto Rican national discourse which erased blackness from the national imaginary and contributed to the failed black project of modernity. Thus, Santiago-Díaz argues that afropuertorican discourse is a failed modern project stemming from Antonio de Nebrija’s seminal text Gramática castellana (1492) and the literary whitening that resulted from it. Instead of illustrating the complexity of Afro-Puerto Rican discourse, these contemporary texts illustrate the suppression of Afrocentricity that can be traced to the publication of Gramática. As the title suggests, Santiago-Díaz places the work in modernity and views it from a cultural studies perspective, stemming from the identity politics research of black British cultural critic Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 1993) and the late Afro-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois’ work on double consciousness (The Souls of Black Folk 1903), that is, the duality of being both black and (North) American, explicates the problematic of identity and the complexities of it in Puerto Rico, which is rooted in multiple representations of identity (white, mixed-race, mulatto, black, etc.) Finally, he uses performance studies to illustrate that blackness is a performance that is never realized due to a colonial discourse of whiteness…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,