Puerto Rican Culture

Asynchronous Assignment on Afro-Boricua Archives and You Are Who I Love

Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez argues that Frank Espada’s photography and Aracelis Girmay’s poetry  “embodied practices that refuse silencing and erasure by bringing the Boricua subject to the fore as valuable and knowing human subject.” In cleaving these works together,  she makes space for the examination of photo/poetics as “insurgent productions.” She analyzes how “the body and the quotidian are used as lenses through which to understand and indict coloniality and erasure.”

Inspired by the theory of Tina Campt, Figueroa suggests that the observer and reader listen to the images. “In her monograph Listening to Images, Tina Campt articulates the photographic image as a phenomenon beyond sight and focuses on sound, frequency, and the aural as a valuable and necessary intervention in Black diasporic cultural studies and beyond. Campt urges us to understand that the act of “listening to images” as “a practice of looking beyond what we see and attuning our senses to the other affective frequencies through which photographs register.”



In the comment section down below, write a creative response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/19 before class):


Inspire by Yomaira Figueroa’s method of describing and “listening” to photographs of Afro-Boricuas, describe and analyze one of Frank Espada’s photos from The Puerto Rican Diaspora Project.


Write a poem about a Puerto Rican, Latinx, Afro-diasporic and/or indigenous community using the poetic structure and main phrase (“You Are Who I Love”) proposed by Aracelis Girmay.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ creative responses. What elements of his/her/their piece caught your attention? What other observations about Frank Espada’s photographs and/or the poem by Aracelis Girmay do you want to bring into the discussion?

16 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on Afro-Boricua Archives and You Are Who I Love”

  1. Option One:
    I will be analyzing picture #25 from the Puerto Rican diaspora project. This photo has very little information written on the picture; however it gives the photo 1000 words. In this photo, you see many people protesting. There are two older hispanic men in front and one of them holds a sign that states, “Robas a los pobres para darle a los ricos.” These latinos are fighting for their rights and inclusion in equality. They are also looking for financial equality. On the bottom of the sign, it says, LCLAA. This is the leading organization for Latino workers. This organization works to secure rights and job protection and also tries to expand their influence in the political process. In this picture, I can hear the hundreds of people protesting, chanting, screaming. I can see the sweat their faces begin to create. I can also hear the fear and frustration that comes with the organization, the frustration that this is actually something they need to fight for, that this isn’t already given in the United States. In another sign, it mentions President Reagan and how the protestants do not want him to ignore or take away the dream of hispanics. During the time that President Reagan was in office, Latino immigration fluctuated in the U.S. especially in parts like California; however, unemployment for Latinos took an all time high of around 14%. This rate must’ve been another trigger for this protest.


    Frank Espada’s picture of a young black leaves so much more than the image can contain. The strong emotions of frustration, tiredness and thought leaves to question more about what is happening. This appears to be outside possibly at a park as the young man is leaning on the wire fence. With his white collared shirt with no tie, he could be coming from school or possibly a job interview. The dark color of the young man’s skin contrasts with both the white of his shirt as well as the fence to his left. A strong profile shot allows to feature his nose and lips as well as his brow. Short nappy hair which seems to be longing for a trim, shows how Frank Espada is showing not only the different skin tone ranges that Latin people have but also the hardworking blue-collar mentality that they have as well. Being Latino and black, these young boys would not be white passing like other Latinos that might come from the same place that he is from. In the greater collection of young men in Frank Espada’s collection shows other young men of different skin color as well as different hair types.

    1. Hello Ernesto!
      I love your description of Espadas photo. I agree with much of what you said. When you speak on the young man and his skin color and what that means it reminds me of my younger brother. He faces many different obstacles than I due to my lighter skin. In the wake of Adam Toledo, it brings more attention to the potential dangers he will face. I worry every day for him as I know eyes fall differently when they look his way. I love that Espadas includes all the versions in which we can look as Latinx people. We may not all look the same but we all came from the same place and it’s important to remember that and lift each other up as best we can.

  3. Option One

    Frank Espada was a Boricua photographer and a community organizer. The Puerto Rican Diaspora Project was a documentary that focused on the lives and the migration of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. The image I decided to analyze was image 16. Physically analyzing the image, you see an elderly man who is wearing a suit and if you look at his face you can see the distress and see that he has a story to tell behind those eyes. In his hand you notice that he has a wallet and one side you see an image of a couple when they were probably younger and on the other side you can see that there is an image of a child. Based on the background information given about the Puerto Rican Diaspora Project you can just image the story behind this image. Now trying to look more in-depth on analyzing the image you can image that the man is explaining a story about him and his wife and probably his wife having to leave with his child to the United States in order to get better opportunities and probably there was some circumstances that didn’t allow him to leave the island to get the better opportunities like his loved ones did. I can only image the pain the poor man had to go through and just the look of distress you can see that it wasn’t all that great for him and his loved ones. Knowing that he couldn’t do his best for them especially with all the economic and societal issues that they face in Puerto Rico This analysis can be made by the background information about the documentary and just the physical features of the image and the man.

  4. Frank Espada gallery showcases many views. From political, religions, and race. Every image can be interpreted in many ways. The image I choose is thirteen. This image shows four children. one child looks more so of African descent while the others look Hispanic. The setting seems like either or unkept park or some backyard. They’re playing with a ball and just enjoying their little life. Analyzing the picture, I see inclusion and diversity. Puerto Rico racialize those who looked African even though they were Afro-Latino. Colorist views was also an issue since those who looked African or was dark wasn’t allowed to be with those who were lighter skin. Seeing these children come together and live life normally shows change. Even with the economic and social issues, opportunities for change have arisen for the new generation.

    1. Indeed the photo shows racial and cultural integration.

      In the case of Puerto Ricans, to be of African descent is not separated from being a Spanish-speaking person and/or having Spanish-European heritage.

      While colorism is an issue in Puerto Rico and globally, formal segregation is not a Puerto Rican phenomenon. The issue is more connected to having access to structures of power.

  5. Option One:
    Frank Espada’s 14th photo of the child taking note off the board at school was both an inspiration and a revelation. The collection along with the poem speaks volumes to way Yomaira Figueroa places the Puerto Rican experience as subjective to the needs of “White America”: “Much of contemporary Boricua cultural production reflects the lives and concerns of peoples relegated to colonial subjectship and second-class US citizenship.” The photo we see here is indicative of education and a child being educated. However, analyzing this photo we can quickly point out that the education afforded for in this photo is much different than the white experience, meaning, that a representation of a white child being educated in America would look very different than this one. For starters, there’d be a table and a chair. The child writing on the floor that hardly looks clean, dictates poverty. Moreover it represents an underfunded community of people that the government has neglected to apply an equal level of concern as others. Another point I want to observe is that there is no teacher and there is only one student. I read the first chapter of Bodega dreams and it struck me in comparing this because as Julio shares his school experience we see that most teachers in the system are often times unconcerned with educating Boricuan children. For this reason coupled with many others, children tend to drop out of school or don’t further their studies. However, the photo shows an idea of hope and aspiration. In her poem, Aracelis Girmay reminds us of the striving spirit of a group of people who against odds, still achieve: “graduating from school, wearing holes in your shoes.” This shows that regardless of you circumstance, many things are still possible.

  6. Once children played freeze tag and touch football in fields of white snow saturating frozen toes in worn out converses…BUT NOW, football apps on thousand-dollar phones make strong thumbs and heavy bodies and the only tag they know is the one on their new Nike Air Jordan’s.

    Once there was COMMUNITY gatherings, COMMUNITY caregiving, COMMUNITY parenting, COMMUNITY gardens…BUT NOW, there is community conflict in areas stigmatized as “hoods” and “barrios” setting a tone that normalizes a lack of progression.

    Once there were small businesses and “mom and pop” shops for all your family’s needs…BUT NOW, Amazon packages are delivered to the projects daily, there are 7 sneaker stores, 7 fast food restaurants, and 7 liquor stores within a 10-block radius, and the beauty supply store (with its wigs, ponytails, and braiding hair) is still holding its own against the multi-million-dollar bully, Duane Reade.

    -In 1977 everyone bought their toys at store called “Morris Toyland” on 105th and 3rd avenue…but then Morris was looted and set ablaze during a neighborhood black out.

    -Barbie and Ken died together in a melted madness and the toy soldiers fought til their last stands but dissolved against the blaze too. Red wax all over the floor was eerily mistaken for blood shed.

    -In 1986, “Buster Brown’s” on 103rd and 3rd was the go-to shoe store for kids first day of school shoes…but then in 1990 it closed, and girls traded in Mary Janes for Nike’s, Adidas, Reeboks, and Lotto’s, then Timberlands because ashen pavements present hard obstacles.

    -In 1995 the Spanish bakery on 103rd between Lexington and 3rd Avenues closed, and in 2003 small tenement buildings and a church was demolished.

    Classic movies like Grease 1 and 2, Halloween, Carey, and Friday the Thirteen once projected off the movie screens at The Eagle theater on 3rd avenue between 102nd and 103rd streets…BUT NOW DJ Khalid pulls up in a Maybach to host events at SNIPES USA (the old Eagle) directly across from NYCHA projects were many residents struggle between the urge of spending money on a drug fix rather than a meal.

    Once there was hope…BUT NOW, the complacently colonized remain confined within the 10-block radius as they ping pong amongst their three lucky 7’s all day.

  7. For this assignment I’ll be taking a look at Image 24 in the shared series. This image shows a grandmother smiling in a kitchen. To me, this image has a lot of history. The lady has lived a long life, the kitchen is worn, and the whole atmosphere has an antique or vintage feel to it. The kitchen, although well-kept, seems to have been used for many years. Multiple generations were probably fed in this one kitchen, and it seems as though she might’ve been the one who has been around this kitchen the most. To me, this photo has an interesting historical and familial feel. Many family memories are made in the kitchen, and so I think by the care and attention to this kitchen shows that this woman might be the head of family.

    Photo: https://www.thefrankespadagalleries.com/p445030086/h500b9601#h500b9601

  8. I chose photo #17 in Frank Espada’s Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project 1 because it conflicts with the idea of a paperless Puerto Rican. At first glance the photo is of an old man showing off a picture in his wallet. But by applying what Tina Campt’s “Listening to Images” describes as “beyond sight”, a deeper look at this picture could say much more than what a quick eye sees. First, the setting could be a bakery selling pan de dulce or perhaps pan Italiano, and other pastries. The two white paper boxes, the metal tongs, and the glass display we see behind the man proves that it is some type of eatery with goods that need to be boxed as so. The man is either a frequent patron or the owner of this establishment because we see his comfortability in the space by the way he leans on the counter with his right elbow. The man could be anywhere between the age of 65-years or older, his face is wrinkled, his eyes are deep and hooded, his hair is grayed, and his attire may be somewhat dated. Although the suit is in good condition and he wears it respectfully, we could also see that his belt is worn it. This is a man who has worked all his life, his hands look like those of a worker and his eyes say that he is tired but still very lively. In his hands he holds a wallet with pictures he shows off. The picture in the right side of his wallet that he shares with the camera man is of a wedding or prom. It could be his own and that may be the love of his life. Next to it on the left is another picture but the grainy quality of the older photo makes it hard to tell if it is a boy or a girl in their youth. The man is pointing at the picture of the couple on the right and his expression tells us that he has a story to tell of that photo. This picture of this man holding a photo and telling a story proves against some of the theory that Puerto Rican’s are paperless people. The paper is there, it just has to be found.

  9. Option one:

    Frank Espada has an incredible talent of bringing story to life through photography. For this assignment I will be taking a look specifically at picture 24. This picture made me feel so many emotions, despite just being a photo. In this photo I saw many people. It reminded me mostly of my great grandma, who passed away years ago. It made me think about all of the sacrifices she made to come to the states in order for us all to have a better life. In this photo I see an older lady who has a whole life behind her, a whole life of taking care of her family and fighting for her own rights to create a better future for her children and grandchildren. This picture inspires me because it is so many people. It is my great grandma fighting for my family to have a better life, its my grandma working tirelessly to support me and my siblings, aunts and uncles. We will all one day be as wise as this older lady and have a whole life behind us, similarly to this older lady. This picture caught my attention for that exact reason, it is inspiring and relatable in many ways.

  10. Option 2

    You, sitting upright
    You, drinking your Medalla
    You cheering in the crowd for the parade
    You acknowledging your history, your ancestry
    You protecting the river as your ancestors once did
    You who were taken for granted, overtaken by resources and the sick
    You with pride that stretches oh so high but oppression that keeps you below
    You, who wasn’t made for this, wasn’t meant for this, didn’t deserve this
    You who stood tall even through all the pains and disrespect
    You take the blame for the mess, won’t even acknowledge the rest
    You ignore the facts, not facing the facts, misconstruing the facts but what are the facts. 3 out of 3 equals me yet I am not a whole. What does the whole even mean?
    You look into the faces of the people, correctly seeing if they are your people. Look around and you see that the people look like you but others that aren’t in your point of view.
    You, beautifully different, seemingly different, but aren’t we all the same
    You wear your pride on his shirt and the flag on your chest
    You saying “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for Puerto Rico.”

    You are who I love

  11. Option 1:
    I was immediately drawn to picture 8. There is strength and aggression in the mans stare, which we only see half of, and a well kept and big afro. He is standing with others and the puerto rican flag is mostly covering him, the entire picture is in black and white. I feel that the black and white used for all of Frank Espada’s pictures was used to blur the lines between literal color but to also emphasis’s tone. It shows depth especially well, I was so drawn to the image because I first noticed his closeness to the flag and his afro. There appears to be a united front a strength to him provided by the flag is what i see when i see the photo.

  12. A photograph is an embodiment of art that is worth a thousand words. It would be prudent enough if one introspects keenly on the details within which a picture tries to contextualize itself and bring out the well-thought meaning that the picture is trying to convey. Frank Espada’s photos from The Puerto Rican Diaspora Project bring out a clear-cut comprehension of what the photo-based project entails.
    Photo coded 29 stands out to me since it speaks volumes. Figueroa’s framework was initially designed to investigate inequality in culture, specifically how race affects justice and access to society’s resources. Many factors that influence and of us as individuals must be considered when analyzing why people choose to engage in or avoid physical activity.
    Photo 29 tries to portray how human beings are breaking the barriers of life in all social contexts, including marriage as described in the photo. When critiquing any given photo, one must be attentive to details, this is key. When Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez says that, “embodied activities that resist silencing,” she implies that there are numerous contentious issues which exist in our society, which we vividly know exists, but we hardly speak of.
    The above photo shows an Asian man and an African woman who seem to be in a deep relationship. To highlight an interracial relationship is important because it challenges segregation and racism.
    A photograph precedes conventional sight, and at the same time, words cannot express in totality what a photo may express. This suggests that one has to look beyond the photo, be part of the process in the making of that photo, and come out with a meaningful conclusion retroactively.

  13. Option 2
    Espada’s Puerto Rican diaspora project is able to convey so much about Puerto Rican culture. Picture 12 is one in particular that caught my eye. The ethnic melting pot that Puerto Rico stands to be after years of colonization and mixing is displayed with all these people of different colors, facial features, etc. Moreover, from the clothing they are wearing, the audience can conclude these aren’t wealthy people, but people of middle or lower class. This seems like a tense setting with everybody partaking in a discussion of some serious matter. However, they are unified, and are upholding this sense of community among themselves to aid and help one another – because there has always been an absence in any sort of political aid on the island.

  14. Option 1

    After looking at all these photos, what caught my eye the most was photo number 7. This photo was taken of two young boys smiling, maybe even laughing. Why this caught my eye is because of their innocence. These kids could be dirt poor for all we know, but they have a smile worth a million dollars. It makes you appreciate your loved ones, your life, and everything in between. Most of the other photos showed people that were down and sad, mainly due to probably the situation that society put them in. But these two kids, with no shirt on, smiling and enjoying life. Many times, people and even your own conscience can put you down, but it’s how you face that adversity, do you stay positive like these kids or stay negative and let the perpetrator win. Who knows if these kids know the situation they are in and how society treats Latinos, just the fact that they stay happy during all this shows the power of friendship and unity amongst these kids.

Comments are closed.