Contemporary Latin American Fiction

States of Emergency: Puerto Rico

Entry Activity

Pose a critical question about the texts. What aspects do you need more context to understand? Is there an element of any of the stories that you wish we go over today?


Excerpts: 15: 40-18:45/ 41:15-47:38

Maria had a strong impact, ripping the veil off Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States—particularly for those living outside of the island, but even to some living there. But that unveiling process had been underway since 2016, with the declaration of the debt crisis, the determination that Puerto Ricans could not declare bankruptcy, and a series of Supreme Court rulings that made it patently clear that the island’s commonwealth status did not offer any measure of sovereignty.

These events had started to peel away the facade of Puerto Rico as a decolonized place. People of my generation and older were taught that in the 1950s we had been decolonized through the creation of the Commonwealth, or Estado Libre Asociado. Although there were those who questioned this notion, and there had always been an anti-colonial movement, the promise of prosperity and the escape valve created by migration had long cloaked the enduring relationships of colonialism.

People talk about how Maria ripped leaves off trees and, metaphorically, off Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the US. The storm made our vulnerability and our unequal relationship to the United States undeniable.

-Yarimar Bonilla

. What are the central ideas of these writers?

Puerto Rican writers Cézanne Cardona, Beatriz Llenín Figueroa, and Sofía Gallisá Muriente propose tensions and interconnections between individual lives and views and the failures of the local and federal government (context: colonialism).

. Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

“I also heard that we should burn all flags…

You need a rock-solid stomach to deal with this country, said my dad, since before the storm.” (109)

-“Another Haphazard Gesture”,  Sofía Gallisá Muriente

“I spent months jobless, and the only things that came up were temporary jobs that didn’t pay enough to rent a studio…He told me that things had changed, that people no longer respected the baseball fields that they used them as if  they were garbage dumps… once the election year was over, the municipality didn’t want to renew our contract, and my father was devastated.”

-“Sofa”, Cezanne Cardona Morales

Excerpt: 4:30-7:15

“To show that our lives are worthless, it is enough for a hurricane, strengthened disproportionately by the systemic exploitation of the planet led precisely by that empire, to churn atop an ancient colony.” (Expand p. 98)

-“This Was Meant To Be a Hurricane Diary”, Beatriz Llenín Figueroa

Cardona uses a sofa as an object that carries the history, misadventures, and weight of a working-class family but also that signifies the fall out of the suburban “dream” in Puerto Rico. The sofa’s decay is a symbol of the failures brought by the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the US. and the marginalization of Boricuas in the archipelago.

Similarly, Llenín Figueroa and Gallisá Muriente propose that the aftermath of Hurricane Maria put in perspective how corruption, neoliberal policy, diaster capitalism and imperial disdains have affected the recovery of the island.

However, all three notice and participate in acts of healing and creative survival. They highlight moments, events, people, and grassroots organizations doing the work of uplifting Puerto Ricans especially the poor, the racialized, and the marginalized.

“In San Sebastián they started their own power authority with retired electricians and figure a way out.

In Adjuntas they’re still installing solar panels, for the next one.” (107)

“Where people haven’t seen FEMA, they’ve seen friends, relatives, curious strangers, the press, the diaspora, and the municipal government.

Where there once was, now remains.” (109)

-“Another Haphazard Gesture”,  Sofía Gallisá Muriente

Group Discussion

. Discuss how the structure of the texts and their linguistic choices (style) enhance the narrative goals of the authors.

Asynchronous Blog Post on the Puerto Rican Texts

ASYNCHRONOUS BLOG POST (Due on 9/13 before the class)


In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).


What is the function of the sofa in the story? Besides the individual account, can you identify elements in the story that let you understand bigger societal issues?

*Recommended source:


Elaborate on the ways Beatriz Llenín Figueroa digs deep into historical and political wounds as a way to explain the multiple disasters after Hurricane Maria. What makes her hopeful?


Sofía Gallisá Muriente explains that her lists were written in the effort of processing the scale of what [Puerto Ricans] lost and gained after Hurricane Maria. Analyze the content of her lists to expand on her balancing logic.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about any or all of the three texts do you want to bring into the discussion?

*Recommended source to add context to Llenín Figueroa and Gallisá Muriente’s texts:

Pa’lante- Hurray for the Riff Raff

Entry Question

How do climate disasters unveil social inequities? Have you experienced a climate disaster? What issues did you confront in the aftermath?


Hurray for the Riff Raff is a band from New Orleans. It was formed by Alynda Segarra, a Puerto Rican singer-songwriter from the Bronx, New York after she had moved to New Orleans in 2007.  The group originally performed different styles of US folk music while releasing several albums independently.

by Alynda Segarra and Pedro Pietri
Oh I just wanna go to work
And get back home, and be something
I just wanna fall and lie
And do my time, and be something
Well I just wanna prove my worth
On the planet Earth, and be something
I just wanna fall in love
Not fuck it up, and feel something
Well lately, don’t understand what I am
Treated as a fool
Not quite a woman or a man
Well I don’t know
I guess I don’t understand the plan
Colonized, and hypnotized, be something
Sterilized, dehumanized, be something
Well take your pay
And stay out the way, be something
Ah, do your best
But fuck the rest, be something
Well lately, it’s been mighty hard to see
Just searching for my lost humanity
I look for you, my friend
But do you look for me?
Lately, I’m not too afraid, to die
I wanna leave it all behind
I think about it sometimes
Lately, all my time’s been movin’ slow
I don’t know where I’m gonna go
Just give me time, I’ll know
Oh, any day now
Oh, any day now
I will come along
Oh, any day now
Oh, any day now
I will come along
I will come along
Dead Puerto Ricans, who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break from the 10th commandment
To kill, kill, kill
The landlords of their cracked skulls
And communicate with their Latin souls
Juan, Miguel, Milagros, Olga, Manuel
From the nervous breakdown streets where the mice live like millionaires
And the people do not live at all
From el barrio to Arecibo, ¡Pa’lante!
From Marble Hill to the ghost of Emmett Till, ¡Pa’lante!
To Juan, Miguel, Milagros, Manuel, ¡Pa’lante!
To all who came before, we say, ¡Pa’lante!
To my mother and my father, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
To Julia, and Sylvia, ¡Pa’lante!
To all who had to hide, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
To all who lost their pride, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
To all who had to survive, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
To my brothers and my sisters, I say, ¡Pa’lante!
To all came before, we say, ¡Pa’lante!


Group Discussion

How do the lyrics examine crisis and states of emergency?
How the music video shows the integration and tensions between Puerto Ricans in the archipelago and in the diaspora?