Beyond blanqueamiento: black affirmation in contemporary Puerto Rico

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2021-10-29 16:34Z by Steven

Beyond blanqueamiento: black affirmation in contemporary Puerto Rico

Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies
Volume 13, 2018 – Issue 2
pages 157-178
DOI: 10.1080/17442222.2018.1466646

Hilda Lloréns, Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Rhode Island

If, according to turn-of-the-twentieth-century observers, black Puerto Ricans were destined to become racially white in a few generations, how did 12.4 per cent of the population manage to remain black in 2010? And how did they survive in the face of both national and everyday forms of racism? How is the persistence and even increase in black identity in Puerto Rico supported? This article argues that there is a covert and largely unexplored social current at work in regard to how black Puerto Ricans live and reproduce their blackness. This is the desire to maintain and celebrate blackness. Using ethnographic data gathered during nearly two decades, the article illustrate that many Puerto Ricans have chosen not to engage in blanqueamiento, instead affirming their blackness, marrying within their communities, and valuing their own cultural practices and beliefs.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Hence, even if mixed-race identity is assumed to be the organizing principle, it is anti-Blackness and the systemic striving to achieve whiteness that operates as the driving force of Puerto Rican society.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2020-06-26 03:47Z by Steven

Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States since 1898―and a colony of Spain for 400 years before ―was very much subjected, by the empires and local criollo elites, to eugenicist ideas. “Race” science, in the first-half of the twentieth century, allowed criollo elites to create new racializing parameters while inserting “progressive” measures of social hygiene, public health, and eugenics to promote ideas of modernization, progress, and civilization. These seemingly progressive ideas were cemented on the figure of “el jibaro” (a white Puerto Rican farmworker) as the mythical symbol of the Puerto Rican nation which is constructed as a product of the mixture of Black, indigenous, and Spanish. Discursively constructing Puerto Ricanness as the mixture of three “races” allows for an erasure of racialization processes and the systematic racist structure of Puerto Rican nationalism as an all-inclusive ideology of exclusion. The conflation of these three “races” to create a white/light-skinned farmworker signify an erasure of the “factors”/bodies that were assumed to compose the idea behind Puerto Rican nationalism. Additionally, by seeing these three “races” as a mere factor for the creation of the “jibaro” it invisibilized those bodies which—in the criollo elite’s views—did not belong unless they were to “better the ‘race”(an intrinsic eugenic idea rooted in popular belief around certain kinds of racial mixture “pa’ mejorar la raza”). Hence, Blackness and Indigeneity in Puerto Rico are discursively mounted to create a seemingly mixed—dare I say, post-racial—society as long as Black and indigenous bodies mix and assimilate to the “jibaro nation.” This is to say, everything that falls outside of the national symbol of the “jibaro”—which strives for a lighter skin—becomes systematically pathologized. Hence, even if mixed-race identity is assumed to be the organizing principle, it is anti-Blackness and the systemic striving to achieve whiteness that operates as the driving force of Puerto Rican society.

R. Sánchez-Rivera, “Shilling for U.S. Empire: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Puerto Rico,” The Abusable Past, June 22, 2020. https://www.radicalhistoryreview.org/abusablepast/shilling-for-u-s-empire-the-legacies-of-scientific-racism-in-puerto-rico/.

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Shilling for U.S. Empire: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Puerto Rico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2020-06-26 01:10Z by Steven

Shilling for U.S. Empire: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Puerto Rico

The Abusable Past
Radical History Review
2020-06-22

R. Sánchez-Rivera
Department of Sociology
University of Cambridge


Pablo Delano, A Group of newly made Americans at Ponce, Porto Rico, (detail from the conceptual art installation The Museum of the Old Colony, 2016-ongoing). Source: Stereocard published by M. H. Zahner, Niagara Falls, New York, 1898. Photographer not identified.

Recently, a published, peer-reviewed article caused a great deal of controversy when it circulated among many academic Facebook pages such as Latinx Scholars, Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA), and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA)-Puerto Rico Section. This article, “Economic Development in Puerto Rico after US Annexation: Anthropometric Evidence,” written by Brian Marein, a PhD student in economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, brings together data to show that the average height of men in Puerto Rico increased by 4.2cm after the U.S. “annexation” (a euphemism for colonization). The author uses anthropometrics to argue that U.S. colonialism was actually beneficial to Puerto Ricans “in contrast to the prevailing view in the literature.” His main conclusion is that because U.S. officials brought in resources, food, and education, the life of Puerto Ricans improved (inferred by the increased height of men) as a result of colonization.

Anthropometrics refers to the measuring of people’s bodies and skeletons to correlate their difference to “racial” and psychological traits that privileged Eurocentric ideas of beauty, intelligence, ableness, morality, among others. This stems from a long history of “race science” that surged from the polygenetic assumption that (1) “race” was a biological type and (2) “races” had distinct origins. Two major theories of human origins and heredity dominated during the nineteenth century: monogenism and polygenism. Thinkers who advocated for monogenism argued that all humans came from the same origin but were in different developmental stages (usually with Whites at the top and Black people at the bottom). However, during the second half of the nineteenth century polygenism, or the notion that the “races” had separate origins and should be considered as distinct and immutable species, became more widely accepted…

Read the entire article here.

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My family was thoroughly racialized long before we moved out of Puerto Rico.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2020-06-15 01:54Z by Steven

My family was thoroughly racialized long before we moved out of Puerto Rico. I suppose when one grows up in a Black family designated as such by history, economics, society, and experiences of racism, along with the embodied trauma it produces, as much as by one’s cultural practices, one is likely, in the context of the archipelago, to also thoroughly understand that: 1. being evidently Black is a disadvantage; 2. that being mixed-race while publicly aspiring to be white is acceptable; and 3. being light-skin and/or white means privilege and access.

Hilda Lloréns, “‘Racialization works differently here in Puerto Rico, do not bring your U.S.-centric ideas about race here!’,” Black Perspectives, March 3, 2020. https://www.aaihs.org/racialization-works-differently-here-in-puerto-rico-do-not-bring-your-u-s-centric-ideas-about-race-here.

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‘Racialization works differently here in Puerto Rico, do not bring your U.S.-centric ideas about race here!’

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2020-06-13 22:07Z by Steven

‘Racialization works differently here in Puerto Rico, do not bring your U.S.-centric ideas about race here!’

Black Perspectives
2020-03-03

Hilda Lloréns, Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Rhode Island


“FSA – T[enant] P[urchase] borrowers? by their house, Puerto Rico” – Jack Delano (Library of Congress)

This title is a variation of a statement I have heard during the last two decades as a professional anthropologist. I was reminded of it again recently, when a Puerto Rico-based colleague mentioned that it is common in the archipelago to think about the race research produced by U.S.-based Puerto Rican researchers as being tainted by U.S.-centric ideas about race. At its base, this assertion has the effect, and maybe even the goal from the outset, of discrediting the race research produced by those of us living in the Diaspora. But I believe there is more going on than just marking our research as suspect.

Because at this point I have heard variations of this opinion dozens of times, and particularly so by a subset of the archipelago’s intelligentsia, it is time to explore the ideological work this claim does. This brief analysis is less a defense of the validity of research like mine, and instead exposes how as a cultural construction in itself, this hegemonic statement is an example of how cultural nationalism and anti-Black racism warps even the brightest minds. While it is true that anti-Black racism takes on specific and locally contextual qualities, it is also true that the anti-Black racism experienced by evidently Black individuals throughout the American hemisphere has strikingly similar consequences: poverty and marginalization; lack of access to quality education, health care, employment, and a clean environment; police profiling and brutality; spatial segregation and territorial dispossession; denial of entry into restaurants, night clubs, stores, and country clubs; social marginalization and political exclusion; and the attempt to silence the voices of those who dare speak out against on-going racial violence and terror.

Read the entire article here.

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Why Some Black Puerto Ricans Choose ‘White’ on the Census

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2020-02-10 01:58Z by Steven

Why Some Black Puerto Ricans Choose ‘White’ on the Census

The New York Times
2020-02-09

Natasha S. Alford


A bomba dance class at the Corporación Piñones Se Integra community center in Loíza, P.R.
Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

The island has a long history of encouraging residents to identify as white, but there are growing efforts to raise awareness about racism.

LOÍZA, P.R. — A dozen dancers wearing bright, colorful ankle-length skirts gathered around five wooden drums. Their shoulders and hips pulsed with the percussion, an upbeat, African-inspired rhythm.

Loíza, a township founded by formerly enslaved Africans, is one of the many places in Puerto Rico where African-inspired traditions like the bomba dance workshop at the Corporación Piñones se Integra community center thrive.

But that doesn’t mean all of the people who live there would necessarily call themselves black.

More than three-quarters of Puerto Ricans identified as white on the last census, even though much of the population on the island has roots in Africa. That number is down from 80 percent 20 years ago, but activists and demographers say it is still inaccurate and they are working to get more Puerto Ricans of African descent to identify as black on the next census in an effort to draw attention to the island’s racial disparities…

Read the entire article here.

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But in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America where racial mixing was common, there are numerous ways to identify racially, with different names for different combinations of skin tones, hair textures, and facial features, such as “negra,” “trigueña,” or “morena.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-09-22 02:07Z by Steven

In the United States, racial segregation enforced strict political and social barriers between Blacks and whites long after slavery. (“One drop” of African blood designated you as “Black,” no matter what your complexion or ethnicity.) But in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America where racial mixing was common, there are numerous ways to identify racially, with different names for different combinations of skin tones, hair textures, and facial features, such as negra, trigueña, or morena.

It’s one of the reasons that not every Latino who has brown skin or African ancestry calls themselves “Black” or “Afro-Latinx“—and some might even take offense to the suggestion that they should be called anything but Puerto Rican.

Natasha S. Alford, “This Afro-Latina Started a Magazine in Puerto Rico to Celebrate Black Beauty,” The Oprah Magazine, September 20, 2019. https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a29107354/afro-latinos-puerto-rico-magazine/.

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This Afro-Latina Started a Magazine in Puerto Rico to Celebrate Black Beauty

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Latino Studies, United States on 2019-09-22 01:39Z by Steven

This Afro-Latina Started a Magazine in Puerto Rico to Celebrate Black Beauty

The Oprah Magazine
2019-09-20

Natasha S. Alford

image
Mikey Cordero

Revista étnica shines a spotlight on Afro-Latino culture on the island.

When Sacha Antonetty-Lebrón was a young child growing up in Puerto Rico, she attended modeling school, her dreams of appearing in advertisements sprouting like the palm trees in the sandy streets of her native island.

But even with her bright eyes and perfect smile, Antonetty-Lebrón was often warned there may be one factor that worked against her.

“The owner invited me to the modeling school but made sure to tell me, ‘They didn’t ask for Black girls, but I’m going to send you. Do the best you can do,’ Antonetty-Lebrón remembers.

And when she did get calls for castings, she rarely saw any other Black faces. Antonetty-Lebrón, whose skin was a deep rich brown, learned at an early age that Afro-Latinos—or afro descendientes—were noticeably absent in nearly every form of Spanish media in Puerto Rico.

From TV anchors to beauty queens, the “ideal” Puerto Rican was always fair-skinned with European features—despite the fact that Puerto Rico’s rich history includes African, Taino native, and Spaniard ancestry.

Still, when Afro-Latino images did appear in media or television, they were often in offensive or derogatory roles—and just like in the United States, actors would even dress in blackface for comedy…

Read the entire article here.

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Pondering My Black, Biracial and Multiracial Identity Post Hurricane Maria

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-30 23:29Z by Steven

Pondering My Black, Biracial and Multiracial Identity Post Hurricane Maria

Multiracial Media: Voice of the Multiracial Community
2018-05-27

Sarah Ratliff

Biracial and Multiracial

I have been writing from the Biracial and Multiracial perspective since I co-authored the book, Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide in 2015. Being Biracial is an anthology of essays from either Multiracial people or parents of mixed race kids.

In my essay I wrote about being the product of a Black and Japanese mother and a White (German, Dutch and Irish) father who were married in New York City in 1960.

I wrote about my experiences being “light, bright and clearly half White” while being raised to self-identify as Black, and of course, having to explain for the elevendy millionth time why I self-identified this way. I shared moments of complete vulnerability and isolation because I grew so frustrated trying to explain that being Black isn’t just about complexion but lived experiences as well…

Read the entire article here.

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My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, WHAT ARE YOU?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-11 04:16Z by Steven

I’m Afro-Boricua. I’m biracial—my mother is white and my father is black, both Puerto Rican. Sometimes people don’t know that I’m black, but I’m black. I was raised in a black family, by my father and grandmother, both unapologetically black and unapologetically Boricua. My sister and I look brown, and our brother looks white. Our white grandmother was racist and threw around the n-word even when referring to us, me and my sister, her grandchildren. She made us feel like we were not part of her white family. But my brother, with his blond hair and his blue eyes, she loved to claim.

My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, What are you?

Jaquira Díaz, “You Do Not Belong Here,” KR Online: Kenyon Review, September 2017. https://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/resistance-change-survival/selections/jaquira-diaz-656342/.

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