Puerto Rican Culture

Asynchronous Assignment on Raza Interrupted (Pages 123-132)

Ed Morales argues that Nuyoricans were/are equipped to engage in a project of multiculturalism while preserving their local, human, and urban culture and traditions. These traditions come mostly from the Taino, African and Spanish heritage as well as the many hybridizations of US society. Morales defends that more than assimilating to Hispanic (in its original European sense) or US American culture, Nuyoricans responded and at times contested and added complexity to these identity formations. (Pages 131-132)

The questions that follow address some instances in which Nuyoricans have become central influencers in the development of NYC’s arts and communities at the end of the twentieth century.



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/12 before class):


Discuss the involvement of Nuyoricans in the creation of Hip Hop. (Pages 122-123; 128-130)


Morales argues that Benjy Meléndez’s story illustrates the multicultural intersections at the core of Hip Hop. Why? Expand. (Pages 124-128)


Describe the input of Puerto Rican artists to avant-garde visual arts scenes in New York. (Pages 130-131)


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Raza Interrupted” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Raza Interrupted: New Hybrid Nationalisms (Pages 100-116)-Ed Morales

Entry Question
When you think of Nuyorican culture what art forms, artists, thinkers, activists, community organizations, political organizations come to mind and why?
In the chapter “Raza Interrupted: New Hybrid Nationalism” poet, journalist, and critic Ed Morales argues that Nuyorican identity developed out of three spheres: salsa, radical cultural nationalism, and Nuyorican literature (Page 104)


Oral presentation on the essay “Raza Interrupted. New Hybrid Nationalisms.”

Nazario,Bryanna Ivette

Reisgerzog,Nicholas D


Salsa reached back to Caribbean musical forms and insisted in Spanish as a lingua franca to preserve a sense of origin. It was a modernist re-contextualization of the mulatez aesthetic of Afro-Cuban music, redrawn to fit the 70s crisis of capitalism and the collapse of industrialization in cities like New York. (Morales, 104-107)

What do you think of Ed Morales’ claim that salseros created a “stripped-down package of from-below musicians playing for a from-below audience (106).”?

Radical Politics

The Young Lords’ core membership was motivated by local community concerns, such as the infrequency of garbage collection, the lack of access to tuberculosis testing, and the impact of lead-based paint used in tenements that housed the children of the urban poor. Like the Black Panthers, it functioned as a national liberation movement with a strong focus on culture and identity. (Pages 108-110)

In your opinion what were the greatest achievements of the Young Lords and how do you think these direct actions and political strategies promoted a Nuyorican identity?

Nuyorican Poetry

Bilingual poetry and letters disrupted linear thinking, engaged in multivocal discourse, and restore call and response as the central logic of internal dialogue… It uses the modified language of two colonizers to express the conscience of a conquered race, a raza, by prioritizing its main raíz: the mestizo/mulato/black body. Nuyorican poetry expressed Latin American cultural tradition as refracted through Puerto Rico’s unincorporated territory status.  (Page 113)

Pietri’s poem memorialized the sacrifice of countless laborers with dignity, but he sounded the death knell for a generation that lacked self-awareness. (Page 110)

Luciano describes the transformation of the jíbaro from an idealized white peasant of the countryside to the modern-day black, urban Puerto Rican whose racial identification was a major part of a political radicalization project. (Page 107)

How these poems, poets, and performances illustrate the ideas about Nuyorican identity presented by Ed Morales?

The World According to Bad Bunny- Carina del Valle Schorske

Entry Question

Beyond electoral politics, protests, and manifestations, in which ways people engage in political acts?

According to Bad Bunny 

The fireworks I remember from Santurce hiss and pop in the break, but they can’t drown out the deep moan of our collective tropical depression: “Maldito Año Nuevo,” he curses. Damn New Year. There’s a timelessness to this lament. In the long, low-grade crisis of life in the world’s oldest colony, what year is not cursed?

Now, in 2020, in this maldito año nuevo, he has given us a little something to take the edge off… He performs the expressive freedom we wish we could, clearing the global stage not only for the charismatic spectacle of our joy but also for the impossible demands of our grief.

Despite the packaging of reggaeton as global pop, a palpable tension remains between Puerto Rico’s subjugated political status and its boisterous, filthy, defiant, and now world-dominating music. This is especially true of the music Benito makes as Bad Bunny.

Oral presentation on the essay “The World According to Bad Bunny.”

Medina, Andree

Miro, Christine

Group Discussion

In her essay, writer and translator Carina del Valle Schorske reads Bad Bunny as a figure of “defiant” politics but also asks to what extent “we’ve seized on Bad Bunny as a symbol and extracted more political meaning from him than he can take credit for himself”?

Observing Bad Bunny’s interventions within these categories: language, gender, sexuality, national identity, and/or creative autonomy, what do you think of this debate?

Reading Bad Bunny’s songs through historical events

He exploded onto the música urbana scene as Bad Bunny in 2016, when he was just 22, with the emo trap ballad “Soy Peor”: If I was a son of a bitch before, now I’m worse … because of you. That was the year the United States Congress passed PROMESA, the law that subjected Puerto Rico to a pitiless payment plan for its debt crisis.

Then, in 2017, Hurricane Maria hit, and nine months later Bad Bunny released “Estamos Bien,” the defiant anthem of battered dreamers: And if tomorrow I die, I’m already used to living in the clouds.

Estamos bien. No, really, we’re fine — that’s what they told us, but we knew it wasn’t true. Benito’s parents would not have electricity at home for three months after the storm. Along the shoreline, there are still so many palm trees with missing crowns.


In 2018, amid an epidemic of femicides in Latin America, he released “Sólo de Mí,” channeling his voice, in the video, through a woman’s bruised mouth: I’m not yours, I’m not anybody’s, I belong only to myself.

The song defends vulnerability as a sacred principle in all of us that should never be exploited

Benito often condemns gender-based violence on Twitter and live TV, but much of his advocacy takes the form of performance art: grinding in full drag in the “Yo Perreo Sola” video, wearing a skirt on “The Tonight Show” to publicly mourn the murder of Alexa Negrón Luciano, a trans woman in Toa Baja.

On language

When Bad Bunny appeared with J Balvin on Cardi B’s smash hit single “I Like It” in 2018, the New York bugalú sample seemed to signal a major crossover moment… But this wasn’t really a conventional “crossover”: Bad Bunny cracked “the gringo market” (his words) without assimilating, without making the one concession that seemed unavoidable: his mother tongue.

Bad Bunny’s dialect — his highly particular Puerto Rican Spanish, as he mirrors, modulates, and maximizes it — inspires exultant proprietary feeling in those who understand it instinctively and desperate thirst in those who don’t. Then there are the shamefaced Nuyoricans texting questions to cousins they know will clown them for asking. I count myself among those who must embark on a program of cultural reclamation to follow his clever flow and hyperlocal allusions.

He is well aware of the politics latent in his language choices, and he performs this awareness slyly in his lyrics… the vocables of Indigenous revolt stay on the tips of our tongues, and generations of Black speech from Kingston to Brooklyn to Santo Domingo style our interjections.

Puerto Ricans have fought fiercely to preserve this supposedly cut-rate Spanish as the official language of government, schooling, and culture under U.S. colonialism. This syncretic, sidelong way of speaking — celebrated and circulated via popular music — archives histories of migration, resistance, and coerced intimacy barely audible elsewhere.

On salsa, Lavoe, and the jíbaro image

But his style made such a mark — his voice, his way of singing. Jíbaro, but modern. A jíbaro who wouldn’t let anybody play him.” It’s hard to translate “jíbaro,” a historically loaded word that Puerto Ricans use to describe humble rural people on the island, people who have been both abandoned by the national project and held up as symbolic of its noble essence. My Puerto Rican family on my grandmother’s side are jíbaros, and the same might be said of Benito and his family.

On Tego Calderón

A polymathic rapper and percussionist who infused Puerto Rican rap with sophisticated Caribbean rhythms — not just dancehall, but bomba — and Black Power consciousness. For baby Benito, Tego was his “favorito full,” and those mornings on the radio were his “moment” to key into the particular pleasures of his own generation.

On reggaetón and race

Benito came into the world with the mainstreaming of reggaeton, when a quirky, introverted kid from the country, with no taste for the streets, had access to the music descended from underground mixtapes once sold at pickup points in the projects and exchanged in San Juan’s high school parking lots. The music was still gritty, but it was everywhere, and it came to seem as though it belonged to everyone. In the early aughts, canny impresarios worked to rebrand reggaeton as reggaeton Latino, shifting away from its intimate associations with the emphatically Black genres of rap and reggae and toward the vague but profitable Pan-American possibilities promised by latinidad.

He has been able to take advantage of a much more hospitable pop landscape than the one his predecessors navigated, when the genre was dismissed as hood music. The market still seems to value versatility most highly in white artists. When I say “white,” in the Caribbean context, I’m departing from the rigid “one-drop rule” that still seems to determine most U.S. thinking about race. Many Puerto Ricans, including Benito, are racially mixed. But he consciously identifies as white in recognition of how he’s treated in relation to darker-skinned Puerto Ricans.

Given the hierarchies that organize modern society, it’s not surprising that música urbana has become whiter as it has been further subsumed by global capitalism, but this trend is hard to tolerate given the genre’s genesis in Black rhythms and diasporic solidarity.

It’s also true that many white artists in the Caribbean diaspora really did grow up collaborating closely with Black people, living, loving, and working in the same neighborhoods, in multiracial families, under intimately related forms of state violence, so that simple charges of appropriation sound off-key.

On the links between corruption and colonialism

Mainstream media outlets have portrayed the political cronyism in Puerto Rico as typical third-world shenanigans, obfuscating the role of the United States in fomenting the decade-long financial crisis by offering huge tax breaks to American corporations at the expense of local businesses, defunding public services including utilities and education and triggering a wave of out-migration.

The Telegram chat revealed what many of us already knew: Urban music was never to blame for the degradation of Puerto Rican society. The real degradation has always been Puerto Rico’s colonial condition and the nihilistic corruption it cultivates among local power brokers.

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?

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)


Asynchronous Assignment on Local/Diasporic Tainos by Arlene Dávila

Founding Director of the Latinx Project and Professor of Anthropology and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University,  Dr. Arlene Dávila provides in “Local/Diasporic Tainos” a dis­cussion of the diverse objectives and goals for which Taino-ness has been deployed. Dávila argues that the “debate over Taino is not only about the content and nature of this identity, but rather about issues of cultural authority and the role of cultural memory in the very redefinition of Puerto Rican-ness both on the island and in the diaspora (35-6).”

Dávila describes the historical transformation of the Tainos from a recognized group and a living population into a symbol of national assertion to be revived, romanticized, and manipulated.



In the comment section down below, write a 225-word response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 3/1 before class):


Elaborate on the ways cultural policy in Puerto Rico constructed the Taino heritage as an “equal” foundational element of Puerto Rican culture.  How the Taino identity was used as a “racial buffer” and a basis of racial integration despite the ongoing reality of racial discrimination directed at Afro-descendants on the island? (Pages 36-39)


How the Taino image has been interpreted politically by different groups? (37-40)


Discuss how in the United States, interest in the Taino has not been limited to its use as a symbol of national assertion (Puerto Rican-ness) but also as an organized movement of ethnic revival and indigenous advocacy. (Pages 40-43)

Tainos: Mythology and Cosmology- Sebastián Robiou Lamarche

Sebastián Robiou Lamarche is a historian dedicated primarily to the study of the Tainos and Caribs, the two main indigenous people of the Caribbean. The chapter “Tainos: Mythology and Cosmology” from his book Tainos and Caribs The Aboriginal of the Antilles offer us a description of the recuperated Taino myths, ancestral storytelling, cosmology, and spiritual views.

Oral/slide presentations on the essay “Tainos: Mythology and Cosmology.”

Claudio, Pedro O

DaCosta, Alexander


Robiou Lamarche organizes his re-count of Taino myths by dividing them into different cycles.

The first cycle (pp.106-110) describes Taino origins  in the spiritual realm:

.Yaya also know as Yocahú is the spirit, cause, and essence of life. He lives in heaven and is immortal. He has no beginning and his mother is Atabey.

.With Atabey we can identify the feminine/fertility principle in Taino culture.

.The struggle with son Yayael leads to a sacrifice and the creation of our world. It also initiates the cult of ancestors.

The second cycle (pp. 110-112) corresponds to the creation of the Taino universe in the Antilles:

.The Tainos emerged in the Caribbean from Ayiti (Haiti).

.Caves were considered a kind of uterus, the portal of entry and exit to the underworld.

.When leaving the cave some Tainos were transformed by the sun into different natural beings: stone, tree, and bird.

.These myths let us know the deep connection between Tainos and their ecosystems.

The third cycle (pp.113-115) is dedicated to the formation of Taino Society:

.Guahayona and Anacacuya were among the first Taino to emerge from the Cacibajagua cave.

.Their troubled relationship lets us understand the division of power and gender within Taino society.

.Guahayona separates women from men and submerges Anacacuya into the sea.

.Anacacuya, the mythical cacique, is associated with both the underwater world and with Polaris, the star at the center. Astronomical knowledge was a pursuit of Antillean Tainos.

.Guahayona, the behique or shaman, is connected to navigation, travels, and spiritual rituals.

The fourth cycle (pp. 116-117) is the stage of growth, development expansion, and consolidation of Taino people.

.The ancestors of Taino women are androgynous celestial beings.

.The women were transformed by woodpeckers by carving Jobo trees.

.This cycle represents the reunification of men and women.

Group Discussion

Once Upon a Time in Puerto Rico (Daniel Ramirez, 2016)

4:40- 7:40 (Areito sequence)

What was the importance of areíto in Taino societies ? How the areítos relate to current Puerto Rican festivities?

Aftershocks of Disaster- Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón

In their anthology Aftershocks of Disaster, professors,  scholars, and public intellectuals, Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón engage in a conversation about colonialism and coloniality and how current climate and governmental disasters, and recent Puerto Rican migration waves are connected to more than 122 years of US imperialism in Puerto Rico.

In a recent interview, Yarimar Bonilla argues that the 2020 earthquake “swarm” in Puerto Rico pushed us to expand their framework of the Aftershock.

“In an earthquake swarm, there is no sense of a “main event” with smaller precursors and successors. Instead, you have a jumble of seismic events of disordered magnitudes, depths, epicenters, and consequences.

I’ve thus started to think that what Puerto Rico and many of its neighbors are experiencing might best be understood as a “disaster swarm,” with hurricanes, earthquakes, debt crisis, migratory crisis, imperial violence, austerity governance, and other forms of structural and systemic violence all acting as a disordered jumble upon a collective body that cannot distinguish a main event or a discrete set of impacts.”


Aftershocks (of Hurricane María): an examination of not “just the effects of the wind or rain but also what followed [and preceded it]: state failure, social abandonment, capitalization on human misery, and the collective trauma produced by the botched response.” (2)

Aftershocks happen “every time systemic failures are revealed, death and damages are denied, aid is refused, profiteering is discovered, and officials who were not elected by local residents make drastic decisions about the island’s future (3).”

Building from the premise that Hurricane Maria is not a singular event, Bonilla, LeBrón, and the contributors of the anthology defend that Puerto Rico endured coloniality of disaster, that is, “the way  the structures and enduring legacies of colonialism set the stage for María’s impact and its aftermath (11).” The particular trauma experienced in Puerto Rico after María is deeply tied to a longer preexisting colonial trauma (12).”

Group Discussion

For those with family members or friends on the archipelago of Puerto Rico, how Hurricane Maria and/or the earthquakes particularly affected your loved ones?



Oral/slide presentations

Cancel, Caitlin

Cepeda, Liliana

Concise Writing Exercise

Engage in a 5-minute brainstorm/writing session based on the essay and your own analysis.

Write a concise response in the chat based on this prompt:

How writers, journalists, artists, activists, and organizers offer us ways to understand the disaster and imagine futures for Puerto Rico?  (Pages 10-16)

Asynchronous Assignment on A Brief History of US Colonialism in Puerto Rico (Pages 36-48)



In the comment section down below, write a 225-word response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 2/17 before class):


Thinking about the Ponce Massacre of 1937, the imprisonment of nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, the  “Gag Law” (La Mordaza), and the response to the insurrection of October 1950, discuss the repercussions of the clashes between the Puerto Rican government and the Nationalist Party.


How the mass sterilization campaign and Operation Bootstrap (Manos a la obra) raised concerns about a possible population control agenda in Puerto Rico? Discuss the intersections between Puerto Rican migrants and African Americans in the northeast?


Regarding the creation of the Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado) analyze the following quote:

“[Luis Muñoz Marín] worked with the Truman administration to create a meaningless new status for Puerto Rico that would change nothing regarding the US Constitution’s “Territorial Clause,” through which Congress would continue to have complete authority over territories.”

Why Morales considers the Commonwealth (ELA) a fantasy?

A Brief History of US Colonialism in Puerto Rico (Pages 19-36)- Ed Morales

What are the central ideas of this writer, thinker, or artist?

The first half of Nuyorican scholar, journalist, and poet Ed Morales’ essay goes over major events in the history of the colonial relationship between the United States and  Puerto Rico. Morales explains US imperial expansion at the end of nineteen-century by offering details of the Spanish-American War and its consequences in the Caribbean and Asia.

.Spanish-American War

Morales says that “although the idea of Manifest Destiny was at the forefront  of the political discourse of this period, it’s less often observed that the United States’ expansionist gaze was saturated with racial language and attitudes, at once desirous of and repelled by Latin America’s [Black] mestizo/mulatto social dynamic.” (20) These oppressive racial constructions were responsible in many ways for the early rejection of annexation and the creation of the Foraker Act which established the legal notion of the unincorporated territory (22-25).

.Foraker Act


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

“The Jones Act conferred citizenship on all Puerto Ricans. It established a resident commissioner and a nonvoting representative of Congress, and it subjected the island to its shipping laws, which permanently raised the prices of goods shipped to the island… [it] forbid Puerto Rico from allowing any commercial ships to dock at its ports that were not constructed in the United States and flying the US flag… The Jones Act also provided for the triple-tax exemption from the sale of government bonds that helped create the current debt crisis.”  (30)

.The Jones Act

.Political Status

What analogies can you establish between the primary source, your own experiences, and/or other sources you have read, listened to, or seen?

The Jones Act was responsible for the restricted relief after Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans couldn’t receive help from neighboring countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and except for one week, the Jones Act was never removed during the emergency which, because of taxation bureaucracy, had the effect of stagnant donations and help at the ports.

Pose a critical question to the group.

Ed Morales and Rosie Pérez argue that although controversial and in many ways, conservative, Pedro Albizu Campos “retains a venerated status in Puerto Rico and even more so among the mainland diaspora, regardless of political orientation in US or Puerto Rican politics.” Why do you think he is still respected and celebrated in Puerto Rican circles? (Pages 32-36)