The Great Puerto Rican Family is Really Really Black (Pages 285-294)- Arlene Torres

Entry Question

What do you understand by the ideology of mestizaje and why Torres considers it a paradox?

Associate Professor of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter, Arlene Torres works “against the silencing of a critical discourse on race relations and color prejudice in Puerto Rico.” She discusses how “ideas and perceptions of self and other are reproduced and/or changed over time in a racist and [racialized] class-based society.” (288)

Torres argues that powerful symbols of nationhood in Puerto Rico are coupled with ideologies of mestizaje and blanqueamiento. The mixture [el sancocho] is embraced, provided that the essence of Puerto Rican society and culture is still rooted in Spain and later in the Americas.” (287)

She defends the perspective that blacks and mulatos should be considered not as marginal but rather vital to the development of the nation. (294)

Oral/slide presentations on “The Great Puerto Rican Family is Really, Really Black.”

Grechka, Inna V

Heeralall, Kelly

Historical Background (Pages 290-93)

.During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Black people constituted the labor force on sugar plantations.

.Free blacks (the majority) and maroons lived in subsistence-oriented fishing communities or in the interior

.With 1815’s Real Cédula de Gracias a major influx of Europeans came to the island creating a powerful hacendado class that displaced many small farmers. They worked independently of the people.

.In the mid-nineteenth century a second wave of foreigners arrived. They settled in the interior because of the coffee industry. As black slaves became more difficult to acquire, and later after abolition (1873), Europeans relied on the indentured labor of the displaced peasants.

.The señorial class, the hacendados began to lay claim to Puerto Rico in opposition to the interests of the Spanish colonial government. “Puerto Rican nation was constituted as a paternalistic class of hacendados who provided the jíbaro with the means to engage in productive labor for the good of the nation.

Group Discussion

Torres argues that the opposition between the coast and the interior and between coastal/urban and rural laborers positions are subsumed by the tripartite classification of el negro (coastal towns), el blanco (urban), and el jíbaro (mountanious interior).

Why she challenges traditional conceptions of el jíbaro, the represented light-skinned peasant, bearer of a Puerto Rican identity? (292-93)