Asynchronous Assignment On The Great Puerto Rican Family (Pages 294-301)

In the last section of her chapter, Arlene Torres shows that Puerto Ricans who define themselves as negros and mulatos argue that those who promote ideologies of mestizaje and blanqueamiento fail to recognize how Black people have engaged in cultural practices that have transformed Puerto Rican culture, the nation, and its people. She concludes that Black Puerto Ricans are continually creating themselves anew as they engage in debates about the rootedness of Puerto Rican culture. (Pages 300-01)



In the comment section down below, write a 225-word response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 3/8 before class):


Arlene Torres argues that also under US rule Black and Mulato people understood that they were within the geopolitical boundaries of the nation but they were not considered part of that cultural construction. How these exclusions affected national solidarity? Expand on how the mestizaje ideology emerged from this conflict. (Pages 294-97)


According to Torres, in Puerto Rico indicators of social status are racialized. How issues of race, class, and a sense of place are usually intertwined? (Pages 295-298)


How migration to the US and return migration to the island challenge racist and class-based ideologies and stereotypes around black and mulato people?  (Pages 298-301)


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “The Great Puerto Rican Family” you want to bring into the discussion?

18 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment On The Great Puerto Rican Family (Pages 294-301)”

  1. Option 2:

    Barrios, arrabales, casseríos, and the southern coast represent a population of primarily black people who carry the stigma that the rest of Puerto Rican’s blame as the reason for the “social ills” of the community. People who live in these areas or the jibaros who live in rural areas are considered less cultured than the rest. The rest being, the urban or “urbanizaciones.” Here the working class and middle class reside. Although our perception of working and middle class would be some place like the Bronx or Brooklyn and we’d consider the more rich or better off to live in the city or Long Island or even upstate, in Puerto Rico it seems that the more remote you are the more less cultured or poor you are. This demographic disposition is associated with racial and economic disparities that aren’t always true. The reading informs us that although urbanized people are suggested to be cultured and economically better off, this isn’t always the case. Moreover, race see,s to have a tie with economic or social status and predjuce is often reflected to black people. Towards the end of the readings a man refers to a seller as “negro pero bueno.” This suggests that Puerto Rican’s maintain a stigma that black people are bad or untrustworthy.

  2. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, black people and slaves took over labor force on the sugar plantations as wells as urban labor force that needed to meet the needs of “white” plantation owners and creole. In the mid 19th century Jose Luis Gonzalez argued what created Puerto Rican identity. He believed the formation of a Puerto Rico national identity could be divided into several tiers. Afro-Antillean- Puerto Rican culture and society was rooted in the experience of enslaved and free people of African descents who lived on the island shortly after the arrival of the Spanish. Exreanjeros- “white” Europeans who were encouraged to migrate to Puerto Rico in the early 19th century. They allay fears about a black takeover following the Haitian Revolution. Third Tier- happened in 1898 invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States Fourth Tier- grounded in the populist movements of the 1940’s. Geography and terrains played a huge role for Puerto Ricans. The cultural mapping of Puerto Rico is important due to the fact it is racialized, and class based. Between the coast and the interior and between the coastal urban and rural laborer positions are subsumed blacks, white, and laborers. Jibaro are represented by light-skinned peasants living in the mountainous interior. Afro-Antilliean peopled lived in the southeastern coastal towns of Maunabo. Race, class, and place are intertwined because even today that how people are judged. For example, still in Puerto Rico today, many times if you are dark skin and have African features, you are considered an outsider.

    Short term and long-term migration as described in the reading helped create an image of success for respectable families known as “gente buena”. Like most Caribbean cultures the act of families that have migrated into the United States of America and still have family members back in the homeland, send boxes or barrels filled with essentials including clothing, food, cleaning supplies, books, appliances, electronics; anything that may not be as accessible back home. This act shows the family’s connection with other members back home kind of like a care package for others. Some have even gone so far to create business by buying cheap heavily discounted clothing here in the United States and sending it back to the islands to sell at retail. The discrepancy that this brings is that non-black Puerto Rican families that are higher up socioeconomically do not see it as a gift, they see it as a form of dependance from those that are in the mainland US. The stereotype that black people are poor, lazy, and dependent is constant throughout both Puerto Rican culture and American culture and any practices by these people that show the contrary are often skewed to show that black people are disorganized. Mestizaje is the idea of a mix between different races and the Puerto Rican people according to Torres can never be achieved because nonblacks do not accept the fact that negros, mulatos, triguenos, jabaos are all truly members of the nation. This is mainly because of the stereotypes and connotations that have been attached to said group. The idea of blanqueamiento is an unconscious and sometimes conscious movement to be whiter. The saying “mejorando la Raza” is an idea that the children of black parents are encouraged to seek partners that are lighter skinned or even white in order to have children that are of a lighter complexion.

  4. Option 3:

    The migration to the U.S. and return migration to the island has ultimately brought issues to Mulato and Black people has been challenging. People who are living on the island have the struggle and no guarantee on being able to elevate their social and economic status on their families on the island. When it comes down to Black people there have been stereotypes brought upon them such as “poor”, “lazy” and “dependent” due to their strategies they have to improve their socioeconomic conditions that has become contradicting. Even when the evidence has shown to be otherwise, they are still being brought upon these stereotypes. Throughout history, people who have been considering themselves as black have been failing to convince the people that they are equal people to the nation. This is when this idea of mestizaje is being brought upon. Mestizaje was a term used for racial mixing. But mestizaje could never fully be achieved because negros, mulatos, triguenos, jabaos weren’t accepted as members of the nations. This challenge racist is heavily impacted Puerto Rico because it was the lack of acceptance towards black people and that most dark-complexioned people were Puerto Rican and the role they had on the culture. People were trying to promote blanqueamiento and how Puerto Rico will “become white” faster than Dominican Republic. Overall, although black people have tried to help their loved ones and their family out in the island there will always be this racist and stereotypes that have been brought upon them. It is that people don’t and haven’t accepted that Mulato and Black people play a huge role on the island and its history. Due to their skin complexion there will always be viewed differently and even when migrating to the U.S. to get better opportunities and come back to the island there will always be contradictory on the things they do and how society view people from the island.

  5. Option 3:
    Migration to the US and to the island of Puerto Rico has greatly promoted the stereotypes against black and mulato people and has also brought up the conversation of racism that has developed within the island. Torres mentions that social and economic problems are only partly resolved by outward migration. Successful individuals within the island are defined as people who travel in and out of the island. When such individuals send consumer goods back to their families in Puerto Rico, this makes the families of higher class. They now have goods that most people on the island don’t have. This places other families into further debt and encourages stereotypes of black people and involves them with poverty. Torres also described how US ideologies have come to Puerto Rico. Many people that have migrated from the US to the island have brought in ideas of race formations. Due to these migrations, many people on the island have reacted to colorism or the idea that people with lighter skin are the true Puerto Ricans and that they are smarter and better. Many black people have tried to argue that their people have greatly contributed to the island’s culture and traditions. With these ideologies comes the idea that mestizaje can never be fully achieved. This is because non-black people do not consider these people as fully black. It also brings in the idea of colorism or the order based on skin color that benefits those with a light complexion. In conclusion, all of these ideas and problems that have developed on the island, allow many to believe that Puerto Rico will become whiter than many other countries such as the Dominican Republic.

  6. Option Two:

    The opposition between San Juan and la isla is the beginning of how race and a sense of place are intertwined. The idea that people who are not from San Juan, but from within the island are seen as ‘less cultured’ than one from San Juan and communities on the coasts are even ‘less cultured’ than the aforementioned. Torres states that darker skinned people reside on the coasts, the area that is seen/believed to be less cultured than inhabitants of even the interior of the island. The connotations of regions/areas and the level of culture acts as proof of the ways social status are racialized and how the three issues stated are intertwined. The difference of perceptions between urbanizaciones and arrables & caseríos is another example of how the intersections of the three issues appear in beliefs and in reality, in Puerto Rico. Urbanizaciones are thought to have folk who are financially better off, better educated and more refined and not thought of to be inhabited by black people; whilst arrables & caseríos are seen as poor, less refined and defined as having black habitants or just black. According to Torres, there are a disproportionate number of black people who resides in public housing complexes and are blamed for ‘social ills’ in the community. Segregation and closeness to mestizaje ideology creates these connotations and tropes about people who live in specific regions or municipalities, all which seem to be closely associated with blackness. It could be said that the act of blanqueamiento and the ideology of mestizaje paired creates a perpetually racially charged climate where blackness and black people are not seen as a part of the accepted culture (mestizo or jíbaro – associated with lighter skin), which is why social statuses are racialized and why the three issues are typically intersected.

    1. Option 4
      I agree with Xavier that people on the island who aren’t from San Juan and chastised and treated differently than those who are from there. Afro Puerto Ricans who are usually from coastal areas spread throughout the island aren’t only thought of and treated as less, but usually are less financially suited, have access to less economic/medical resources, and are discredited as having roots in Puerto Rican culture and history holistically. The immense Afro influence can be shown in the musical aspects of Reggaeton and Bomba, cultural aspects through foods like plantains, okra, yams, and historic aspects through major Puerto Rican figures like Arturo Schomburg, Jose Barboza, and Pedro Campos. Racism is still an issue to this day where black Puerto Ricans face bullying and colorist prejudice which is broadcasted especially through the case of Alma Ariela Cruz in 2017(an 11 year old girl who was physically bullied and persecuted for being dark). The idea that black inhabitants contribute to social ills and lack of prosperity on the island like Xavier mentioned is an ideology that still thrives, and they suffer through the exclusion of economic opportunities with lower paying jobs, heavy population in public housing, and lack of aid through natural disasters on the island just as they did in the most recent catastrophe, Hurricane Maria. We must strive to not only embrace African roots in Puerto Rican history, but destroy the very bounds of our system which oppress Afro Puerto Ricans.

  7. Just some definitions because I needed a clarifying reminder myself .

    Racism: “the belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. ….as in one race over another….

    Colorism: “prejudice or discrimination within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin”.

    Nativism: “the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants”.

    Classism: “prejudice against or in favor of people belonging to a particular social class”.

    When trying to make sense of racism amongst Puerto Ricans it is difficult to understand how a group of people who openly celebrate and discuss their mixed heritage could be racist towards one of the groups that belong to that formation. However, the racism that does exist on the island started from the imposition of colonizing racial classifications and the history of labor division.

    Slavery then labor division followed by geospatial constrictions is why colorism and classism have since plagued the Puerto Rican people. This is a major topic for social ethnographers because the island’s imbalanced economy keeps many divided by constructs of economic disparity. In America, it is common for those of privileged backgrounds to be offered superior educations over those of low-income communities. The island mirrors this as well. This social class divide guarantees legacies of success for some with a shadow of definitive poverty looming over others. And while it is not impossible for the underprivileged to break barriers and come into success, social constructs of classism, colorism, racism, and nativism make it more of a challenge.

    Those who migrated during early great migrations had to face American enforced social standards and barriers defined by race, culture, religion, and gender. These dividing tactics make for an easier conquest because it dilutes the potential power one singular dominating race into three separate ones.

    Furthermore, migrants returning to the island with their Americanized ways may be thought of as a threat to the cultural integrity of the island. This is a miscommunication because while native islanders see returning migrants (with rich incomes and gifts) as pompous, the returning natives see themselves as barrier breakers who “resisted assimilation” by coming back to their communities successful and baring gifts. This too continues to divide the people because returning migrants no longer feel at home and descendants of Puerto Rican inherited heritage (like me) are made to feel foreign and unwelcomed.

    Uniting the island in the common best interests of one conjoined ethnic identity empowered by the influences of three or more contributing cultures would enforce internal codependency that would not work in favor of the status of the commonwealth. Pushing the narrative of black and indigenous erasure is a divisive tactic that will continue to bland the Puerto Rican mezcla. It will lose its dark and milk chocolate and its cinnamon and honey until it’s watered down enough for the takeover of one dominated flavor, vanilla.

    1. Option four:

      Hi Christine,

      First I want to say that I think your response was so well written and thought provoking. I think adding those definitions in the beginning really reminds us what exactly it is that we are talking about here. I agree with you as Puerto Rican woman myself, that it is sometimes hard to understand how an island filled with so much culture and mixed heritage can impose racial bias on its own people. Colorism is indeed an issue amongst our people, I myself am a lighter skinned Puerto Rican who comes from a family of dark skinned Puerto Rican people and I can see first hand how differently we are perceived in society. My grandparents migrated from Puerto Rico to New York when my parents were born and dealt with colorism and racism in many ways and unfortunately our family still deals with it today. It brings up thought provoking conversations among us because we start to dissect who we really are. For example my younger brother is dark skinned and was called racial slurs by a kid at school, one of the slurs used was the N word. When my brother came home he was of course upset but also questioned why that choice of word as he knew it was a direct slur towards African Americans. We had to explain to him that we do in fact have African heritage that attributes to his skin and physical features. When I sat back and reflected on what happened I realized that as Puerto Ricans we can forget to celebrate every aspect of who we are. We actually decided to all take DNA tests so that we could further analyze who we are and where we come from. As it turns out the majority (over 50%) of our DNA was from indigenous and African decent. We are hyper focused on our Spanish roots but push aside our African and indigenous ones while they are just as important. I believe that it is important that we stop erasing our black and indigenous heritage and instead embrace it fully for all its beauty. Mestizaje is something we should strive for but it will take a lot of work and time, I hope new generations will see it as we do and push away the old ideals.

  8. Option 2:
    Issues of race, class, and a sense of place are usually intertwined because they depict a type of social status in society. Race typically connects to the other two because of how people perceive certain races in society, which has previously meant that certain races did not have as many rights as the others. Class relates to the others because the races that are given lesser opportunities typically fall into the lower classes of society, which severely handicaps the ability to move forward. With a sense of place, having some form of complacency also dictates one’s willingness to move forward or change their place. With those who have been oppressed, it makes it difficult to progress because of the actions taken against them to maintain a certain status quo. One example in Puerto Rico was the displacement of the indigenous peoples, and later enslaved and free Africans who were essentially forced away from their lands as a result of both the Spanish and American occupation. Many were forced into poverty, which displaced many people in their homeland, a result of being treated poorly by those who took over.
    As a result, their sense of place was strengthened however, as they found a deep-rooted connection and love for their homeland. Being oppressed made their love for their culture stronger because it also showed the fight they had to endure to survive.

  9. Option 3:
    Migration created an image for those leaving the island as successful and respectable people. They move to the United States and, because many still have families on the island, send back help and support. This act of support is then stereotyped, and many black Puerto Ricans are seen as lazy or dependent because they’ receiving help from their families on the continental U.S. Because of this, many black Puerto Ricans are portrayed and viewed as unequal to non-black Puerto Ricans. Mestizaje, or people of mixed race, was a term that was used to separate people further culturally. Ideas of whitening the population are popular, and many see it as a disadvantage to be considered Black despite having a huge part to play in the island’s history.

    1. More than to separate people the mestizaje ideology creates the false notion of a post-racial society. The discourses on integration, while partially true, tend also to erase the specific contributions of Afro-descendants to Puerto Rican culture.

  10. Option 2:
    Puerto Rico, although a small island, has various types of living conditions, whether that be living in the Metropolitan area of the island or the more costal, rural areas. The areas in which people live connect deeply to the issues with race and social status on the island. In the passage Torres states “Most Puerto Ricans, particularly those who do not reside in the area, believe that poor, dispossessed, and dark-skinned Puerto Ricans reside in arrabales, sectors of towns or villages with substandard housing, and in caserios, public housing complexes” (Torres 296). Based on where you live, you are either more or less cultured, and many believe that the people residing in “lower income” areas are responsible for their misfortunes, especially people of color, despite the fact that darker skinned Puerto Ricans are not the only people living in these areas. Torres goes on to explain that residents of urbanizaciones are given a higher status, and “not categorized as gente negra, black people” (Torres 296). Puerto Ricans intertwine their issues of race and class with where they live by believing that being lighter means you are of a higher status and more culturally aligned then those of a darker skin color. They have been conditioned to believe that being darker is less-than, and that “whiteness is associated with la cultura” (Torres 297). Social status in Puerto Rico is largely associated with a person’s race and where they live, and there is a large negative association when it comes to Black people and Puerto Rican culture.

  11. Option 2 :
    Puerto Rican authorities, researchers, and agents of key social foundations have generally evaded formal and public conversations on racial arrangement and separation on the Island. The discussion on race has often been subsumed or subbed by the discussion encompassing the Puerto Rican country’s presence. Thus, this examination endeavors to overcome that issue in Puerto Rico’s social, artistic, and academic creation by investigating how pictures of whiteness and Blackness are built inside the Island setting.
    In the first place, ‘folkloric obscurity’ is a static, historicized variant of darkness that addresses Puerto Rico’s African legacy without bargaining the brightening inclination of racial majority rule government talk (Duany, 145). A second development the darkness that I expression ‘metropolitan obscurity ‘ also courses all through the island; however, it fills in as the antithesis to the remainder of the apparently ‘more white’ Puerto Rico. Both have been emplaced inside particular, limited areas and partnered with certain social practices. I contend that these ’emplacements’ that emerge from the relationship between race, culture, and spot produce explicit developments of darkness that seem conflicting, yet eventually, cooperate to keep up the racial progressive systems characteristic for racial popular government talks.
    With everything taken into account, this thesis has endeavored to reveal insight into the manners by which thoughts of whiteness and Blackness impact, shape, and to a degree decide Island Puerto Ricans’ vision of themselves as well as other people, just as of Puerto Ricanness overall. Although the investigation of this aspect of Island race relations has been a lot of attached to understandings of U.S. racial operations, this thesis breaks with past work on race and bigotry in Puerto Rico in that white American prejudice is neither depicted as the “father figure” of Island Racism nor utilized as a theoretical substitute.

    Duany, Jorge. “Reconstructing racial identity: Ethnicity, color, and class among Dominicans in the United States and Puerto Rico.” Latin American Perspectives 25.3 (1998): 147-172.

  12. “When the question ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from from?) is posed,” it does not necessarily judge the cultural status of a person in Puerto Rico (Torres295). Everything depends on who asked the question, where the question has been asked, and/or why the question is being asked. It is undeniable that many people in Puerto Rico consider some people less cultured than the other, especially between the people from the Metropolitan Area (NOT ONLY SAN JUAN) and the people from el campo (rural areas) in municipalities outside the metro area. However, racialization in Puerto Rico is not considered to be the real problem by most of the Puerto Ricans living in the island. Instead, the real problem starts with the reality that everything in Puerto Rico is being controlled by the elites, rich people, middle class people, but more than anything by the corrupt politicians, not people with a specific skin color. Torres argues that “most Puerto Ricans, particularly those who do not reside in the area, believe that poor, disposed, and dark-skinned Puerto Ricans reside in arrabales, sectors of towns or villages with substandard housing, and in caseríos, public housing complexes” (Torres296). What Torres does not mention is the fact that the “range of phenotypical variation in these housing facilities” are composed by a higher percentage of non-black Puerto Ricans. Moreover, the blame for the “many social ills present in the community” falls in the hands of criminals who are at war with other territories in the underworld of caseríos, barrios, arrabales, and even in urbanizaciones (for rich, middle class, and poor people) that are always looking for the total control and consolidation of drug trafficking groups in Puerto Rico, not on the “disproportionate number of black people” that reside in these communities.
    Furthermore, people living in urbanizaciones do not have a higher social status compared to people from caseríos, barrios, arrabales, etcetera, as Ms.Torres states in page 296, unless they live in high-class urbanizaciones. In many cases, people from the caserios, barrios, and arrabales move to urbanizaciones or other municipalities in Puerto Rico looking for a better quality of life and to flee from the high criminality in the metro area, most of the times, these people end up renting houses in urbanizaciones or apartments outside and far from these marginal areas. Also, some of the people from el campo or la isla (rural areas or the island), are not jíbaros, many of them are businesspeople from the metro area that own farms or businesses in the countryside or the mountains. Meanwhile, some people choose to stay in the places where they live because they have inherited properties from family members. Other people choose to be where they are because they have jobs, businesses, and/or just love where they live. Others just do not have the means to leave and move to a better place. Most people are stuck where they are because everything relies on having a connection that would connect them to have a decently paid job. However, most of these jobs are taken by friends and family members of rich people, middle class people, businesspeople, and politicians. Then, should we racialized social status in Puerto Rico or should we dig deeper and talk about the real issues that the elites, rich-people, businesspeople, and middle-class people do not want us to talk about? I would say that I agree with Ms. Torres in a few things but at the same time I honestly believe that social status in the island is not being racialized. The real problem in Puerto Rico is not about race, but about money and power.

  13. Choice 2

    Social status is heavily determined by race and class in Puerto Rico, as it is almost intertwined. Black Puerto Ricans were not heavily included in being part of the Puerto Rican nation. Darker skinned Puerto Ricans are believed to be poorer and reside in arrabales, which is substandard housing in certain areas or caserios which are public housing complexes. The working poor, working class and middle class live in the urban area in urbanizaciones. Urbanizaciones are the home of a wide variation of people, however typically those people are not categorized as black. This is because the people who reside there are typically viewed as more refined or better off. Being viewed as more refined in Puerto Rico, is to take after your European features and to wear “fine” clothes and speak in a “refined” manner. This makes indicators of social status very intertwined with not only race, but also class. Social status is almost a combination of geographic location, family lineage, social and moral conduct and socioeconomic status. The “respectable” families known as the gente buena constitute the nation. A way to elevate your social status, typically is to demonstrate that you are hardworking, provide consumer goods and economic resources and then the goods become a kind of marker and symbol of that status. Therefore, it can be seen that a respectable person in Puerto Rico is typically a person who is financially better off and more showing of their material goods. In addition, darker skinned Puerto Ricans are viewed as poorer and tend to live in worse areas.

  14. Option 3:

    Migration to the US and return migration to the island challenges racist and class-based ideologies and stereotypes around black and mulatto people by engaging in activities that actively challenge the status quo. For instance, one of the key factors in this is that many black and mulatto people will migrate depending on the circumstances of their living situations, as many are willing to move if it means seeking a better status in the socioeconomic ladder. This is also a risk, as there is no guarantee, rather it only improves their chances of success in the long term. Through this, many of them are also able to travel between Puerto Rico and wherever they relocated to, often being able to maintain connections in both places. By doing this, they push the idea that they were able to resist the norms of other cultures and were able to find success in their own right, through maintaining the close connection they had to their home.
    There are certain cases where many would argue that the stereotypes that fit black or mulatto people apply such as the inability to properly handle money and splurge on goods, yet within their native community it is seen as a form of wealth and status. While this may not challenge the typical status quo among the upper classes, it presents a challenge to consider when looking at it objectively. As a result, while they might not change a group’s ideas on their people, it changes the dynamic significantly when applying this lens within their own groups.

  15. Option 2

    Communities within the island and on the coast are considered less cultured than the ones in the San Juan metropolitan area. There are the rural areas where the Jibaros lived and the darker-skinned people lived near the coast. The southeastern coast of puerto rico is culturally and socially denied as negro. Most Puerto believe that the poor dark skinned Puerto Ricans reside in arrabales and in caserios. Many times being blamed for the “social ills” in the community.Then there is the stereotype of being better off for the people that live in a more urban area. But in reality there are all types of people, poor and rich, in these areas. There is a big acceptance for the same types of people. Farmers trust farmers and middle class urban Puerto Ricans trust other similar middle class urban Puerto Rico. Genta Negra, or black people, are still looked down upon, usually perceived to be culturally unrefined and lack ambition. For example, an inlander buys a horse and he asks who sold it to him. The person’s response is “from a man on the coast, a black one, but a good one.” This insinuates that the coastal black people are bad unless they satisfy a need or activity for the “good people.”

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