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UPLIFTT | June 20, 2017

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White Puerto Rican Migration and the Effacement of Blackness

White Puerto Rican Migration and the Effacement of Blackness

By William Garcia

It was August 2009 when I was admitted to the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras and that what was when I first saw the amalgamation of a new breed of Puerto Rican I had never encountered before in my life, the [email protected]/[email protected] Most impoverished and working-class people in Puerto Rico call them [email protected], [email protected] and/or [email protected]; derivatives from the word blanquito, meaning white Puerto Ricans with money. I remembered that I heard those terms when I had been in the barrio of Sabana Seca in Toa Baja and somebody started saying “En poco le rompo la cara al guaynabito pendejo ese…” and also heard, “Ese es un blanquito de la YUPI…” I wondered what could a [email protected] or a [email protected] be? Most of the [email protected] or [email protected] were dressed in different styles: some were dressed like hipsters, others dressed like yuppies, followed by west coast-looking surfers while others dressed in European fashions. Most of them were the whitest Puerto Ricans I had ever seen in all my life and had no problem in taking pride in their whiteness.

Many of them spoke English very well but unlike New York Puerto Ricans they spoke like white Americans with the ‘bro’, ‘totally’ and ‘dude’ colloquialisms. They uttered the words, ‘like’ and ‘loca’, in the same sentence every time they spoke. I was impressed by the way they were speaking in Spanglish with an Anglo-American twist because it was these people who were supposed to hate Nuyorican Spanglish and be patriotic ‘Spanish Only’ Puerto Ricans. They behaved very similarly to U.S hipsters who talked about hipsters but never admitted they were the very hipsters they criticized. These [email protected] were the same way, always criticizing upper-class people without looking in the mirror.

There I was with an old New York Yankees fitted baseball cap, a long white t-shirt, and my crusty Nike sneakers. My black skin covered in tattoos wanted to disappear in thin-air like Chevy Chase in the movie Invisible Man. It was obvious that they enjoyed a good chunk of white supremacy and privilege and didn’t mix with Puerto Ricans of darker hues even if Puerto Rican nationalism stressed that we were all mixed. One could tell that most of the professors at UPR-Rio Piedras came from the same [email protected]/[email protected] stock, which probably did not think much of me either, even though they never gave me an unfair grade and even to this day I am grateful for that.  It might have been because they had the privilege of being color-blind. Most of those professors also refrained from talking about blackness, stateside Puerto Ricans or anything that questioned their privileged gatekeeping, prophetic intellectual identity and above all; archetypical Puerto Rican identity. I would spend five more years defending the Puerto Rican diaspora and contemporary blackness in those classrooms which was usually rebutted by a simple silent treatment by the professor and the students.

It was surprising for me to see white privileged Puerto Ricans play plena, bomba, and salsa music considering that those are Afro-diasporic derived musical inheritances of black resistance.[1]This usurpation of black culture caused me frustration because I knew that black Puerto Rican culture was more than listening to salsa while getting drunk off of Medalla Lights on the Juan Ponce de Leon Blvd. I noticed that what acclaimed Afro-Puerto Rican scholar, writer and researcher, Isar Godreau argued was right: that there is a selective celebration of blackness in Puerto Rico. A selective blackness that was folklorized and distanced that does not require critically assessing inner-workings that contribute racial inequity and injustice.[2] In these academic spaces most black Puerto Ricans seemed more interested in being accepted as Puerto Rican first before being black and never spoke about racism and white supremacy, always reinforcing racial harmony.

Felipe Luciano’s publication A New Deal Between Stateside and Island Puerto Ricans: The View From a New York Rican (2012) predicted the problems with the ongoing smug institutional racism in Puerto Rico. He comments:

We’ve noticed that your professional class has been coming in droves to America, many with their bourgeois attitudes on class and race, their inability or unwillingness to deal with Black people and their occupation of top level positions in our cities based on their educational attainment. In the main they’ve done well, but, now, they’ve got to take a back seat. They’re hurting us.[3]

Nowhere is Luciano’s comments truer than experiencing it oneself in racist institutional spaces surrounded by [email protected]/[email protected] Only, in spaces that certainly contribute to glaring racial inequities in higher education and lack of black racial advancement, one has to find out exactly who are these [email protected]/[email protected] that Feliciano mentions and how they came to be.

One of the most well documented and researched works on gated communities in Guaynabo City is Carlos Suarez-Carrasquillo’s dissertation Marketing and Gated Communities: A Case study of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico (2014), which examines the emergence of surveillance and luxury gated communities and its relationship to race and class. He posits,

Homogeneity can be accounted, for in these communities in the Puerto Rican context is dominated by income, and not surprisingly, the spheres of power that belongs for the most part to white Puerto Ricans. A clear example is how the term guaynabito has been gaining more prominence in popular conversations. This in my opinion certainly an offspring of the term blanquito which is how whiteness has been defined in the Puerto Rican context that not only includes race but income as well.[4]

Shockingly, however, over the past ten years white middle-class Puerto Rican migration to the United States is on the rise and continues to change the Puerto Rican landscape. The massive population decrease in Puerto Rico and the alarming reconfigurations of Puerto Rican destinations to mainly Florida, the Midwest amongst other regions requires an examination through an [email protected] lens and epistemology if we are to condemn black racism and continue anti-racist organizations that began in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1970s. The term [email protected] was reared in the United States with a transnational cross-fertilization between the United States and Latin American and the Caribbean. This movement stresses anti-black racism within the [email protected] communities themselves who stress a propensity to uphold mestizaje while upholding blackness at the bottom of the racial hierarchy.

What implication do these [email protected] and [email protected] have in the way that transnational Puerto Ricanness is constructed? How does the Puerto Rican construction of whiteness and white supremacy reflect on the massive population decrease in recent years? Are these [email protected]/[email protected] going to be in solidarity with marginalized folks in the U.S upon their arrival, or will they assimilate to U.S notions of whiteness?

The lack of sustained academic attention of this new wave of Puerto Ricans is worrisome from an [email protected] epistemology. Puerto Rican racial politics is in deep connection with the whitewashing of Latinos in the United States in order to give them honorary whiteness. Despairingly, the significant academic and cultural politics of the Nuyorican movement, and [email protected] movements amongst other community initiatives by important figures like Tato Laviera, Miguel Piñero, Mariposa (María Teresa Fernández), Pedro Pietri followed by foregrounding works of scholars like Juan Flores, Miriam Jimenez, Jossiana Arroyo, amongst others, are under scrutiny by many Ivory towers in Puerto Rico and the United States. This reminds us that we have a strong base and our presence cannot be ignored, especially in mainland territory. The [email protected] and [email protected] movements are in the rise and would benefit from analyzing the constructions of Puerto Rican whiteness and recent migrations. The crux of my argument suggests that with the increase of white Puerto Rican migration in mostly white American spaces intersected with the already racist culture and customs of Puerto Rican culture, Puerto Rican [email protected]/[email protected] in the United States and the island will continue to efface the Afro-diasporic linkages of black cultural and political heritage of Puerto Rican culture supported by their dissociation with blackness.

According to the lauded Puerto Rican scholar, Juan Flores, more than just economic remittances result as a circular migration between countries of origin and the United States. Flores coined the term “cultural remittances” as the process that results from the cultural exchanges, interactions, and experiences Puerto Ricans have in the ebb and flows of migrations resulting in a fluid re-construction of Puerto Rican identity. Flores has investigated on how Puerto Rican migration from below, meaning; marginalized classes from the U.S and Puerto Rico have influenced Puerto Rican culture with the introduction of converged musical forms such as New York salsa and hip-hop amongst political movements. I predict that due to white Puerto Rican migrations toward predominantly white spaces will create cultural remittances that will rapidly increase the already racist establishment in Puerto Rico and the mainland. White U.S supremacy and racism can also become part of “cultural remittances” affecting Puerto Rico. Conversely, the racist baggage Puerto Ricans bring with them is also worrisome. Simply writing of blackness in Puerto Rico and the United States gives Puerto Rican academics the impression that race only has to do with blackness and nothing to do with whiteness making it fundamental to further investigate how whiteness affects the process of Puerto Rican migration, the construction of a new state-side Puerto Rican and development of racial politics.

White supremacy has increased exponentially in Puerto Rico since the island has experienced economic recession, severe population decrease and talks about statehood further alienating the Puerto Ricans Caribbean heritage. The same way social media creates groups of resistance through global hip-hop movements so has social and corporate media propagated the construction of guaynabitonness in Puerto Rico. Many scholars refuse to write about [email protected]/[email protected] because scholars of them are in fact [email protected]/[email protected], an issue, which continues to diminish spaces for black introspection in the academy.

Construction of White Puerto Rican identities in the Island

Isar Goudreau argued at the Second Symposium of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg: Culture, Race and Gender (2014) at The University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras while accompanied by Miriam Jimenez: “Taino culture is explained thoroughly while black history starts in slavery without mentioning powerful African nations and cultures prior to resistance, capture and slavery.” Indeed, very seldom do Puerto Ricans in general ask the question: How did plena and bomba come to emerge? Was there a black consciousness taking place that created these Puerto Rican elements? Does blackness have to always be examined with a national lens or is African diaspora really credible? Do black Puerto Rican figures like Arturo Schomburg, Tego Calderón, and Mayra Santos-Febres have a black consciousness? How has it been obliterated and swept under the rug by a ruling white middle and upper-class by calling one a vende patria or a Boricua de embuste whenever one claims an existential right to have our reason to exist and recognized as black bodies. There is a white Puerto Rican history; it is called Puerto Rican history. There is white Puerto Rican poetry it is called Puerto Rican poetry. Puerto Rican culture has been unable to shepherd our people out of the wilderness of racism and inequality. U.S colonialism was resisted while simultaneously privileging whiteness and denying any charges of racism while controlling blackness through a nationalistic agenda.

In her book Locked In and Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City (2013) Zaire Dinzey-Flores, investigates how spatial boundaries are deliberately delineated to enforce and reinforce boundaries of inequality based on social class and race.[5] Gates were erected during the 1970s and 80s, which led to more unequal segregation. Increasing fear of crime led to voluntarily erected gates for the rich and involuntary gates for the poor. The most famous epicenter known to harbor the construction of whiteness and gated communities in Puerto Rico is the city of Guaynabo.

White racialized homogeneity excludes black and low-income people. Guaynabo City was a microcosm and paradigmatic example of the future new waves of white Puerto Ricans that would immigrate to the United States in the 21st century. During the 1970s while the development of gated communities or controles de accesso was on the rise, so were low-income government housing projects. During this time there was a massive return migration from stateside Puerto Ricans usually seeking alternatives to post-industrial economic hardships. It was from these interstices that salsa, reggeaton, and hip-hop germinated, feminist and queer ideas fertilized and flourished into the eventual conduit of poor working-class and Afro-Puerto Rican identities. Institutional racism neglected working-class and black populations and sought to control a Puerto Rican national identity that stressed racial harmony. Puerto Rican became a race in itself that ignored racial hegemonies in the island further exacerbating equality for black people, which increased white privilege.

Institutions like El Instituto de Cultura, Department of Tourism and the University of Puerto Rico amongst other prestigious universities and government agencies are in part responsible for making sure the politics of exclusion within Puerto Rican identity went unmentioned. These universities very seldom teach Black Studies, African Diaspora studies, or Puerto Rican diaspora and migration, which further emphasizes how Puerto Ricanness should be envisioned—another project of white supremacy.

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White middle-class Puerto Ricans would benefit and appropriate the ideological social problems of the 1970s without the benefit of having to engage in self-criticism by scapegoating U.S colonialism as responsible for all the problems in the island, including racism. More compellingly, the crack-cocaine trade was attractive as a counter to poverty within the postindustrial cities of Puerto Rico. Furthermore, during the 1980s many black Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, particularly, young black men, were excluded from both the service and high tech industries that were developing in the island, leading to high unemployment rates among black youth.

The white Puerto Rican middle classes benefitted from these social inequalities and were recruited for well-to-do jobs by family members also colloquially known as palas, which goes unmentioned as a destructive economic element. These inequalities led to emerge of illegal activity as a primary conduit for economic survival amongst poor segments in Puerto Rico. Illicit activities like petty thievery, prostitution and even drug dealing had been a small part of the informal economy of segregated black spaces throughout the twentieth century. Reggaeton, a genre despised by most white middle-class Puerto Ricans would be an important representation of these lifestyles confronted and far removed historically and intellectually from the landscape of Puerto Rican epistemologies. After years of Puerto Ricans’ blatant dissociation with stateside Puerto Ricans for not being “real” Puerto Ricans, has now become a reality for themselves.

Massive Population Decrease 1990s-Present

Puerto Ricans in the island have been an important presence in more recent massive migrations to areas of the U.S. without previously established Puerto Rican communities, which some analysts read as brain drains and as a drastic population decrease. Puerto Rico has been experiencing a massive population decrease in the last fifteen years with a new type of Puerto Rican moving from Puerto Rico to the United States. Although many are poor working-class Puerto Ricans who are seeking a better life, an abundant white Puerto Rican population is also migrating to the United States. Unlike poor working-class Puerto Ricans, many guaynabitos have a strong academic background, enjoy white privilege in the U.S, and continue their studies and thrive among their white constitutes while working-class Puerto Ricans benefit from their whiteness and anti-black attitudes. Many of these white middle-class Puerto Ricans have white counterparts and are creating the new Americans. As Arlene Davila’s states in her book Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race (2008):

In dispute is whether Latinos will mongrelize America, or become the new group on the route to whiteness, the new Italians or Irish Americans; or whether they will become the new “mainstream”, or perhaps, the new base for the Republican Party[6]

In the last decade various racist videos in YouTube have been uploaded by Puerto Ricans from the island to discuss “Boricuas Vs. Nuyoricans The Truth!” stressing the difference of white and sophisticated islanders in comparison with the ghetto uneducated stateside Puerto Ricans.[7] In her article Boricuas Vs. Nuyoricans–Indeed! (2008) Miriam Jimenz argues:

It is to this white identity that our amateur video-maker pays homage citing census figures and mitochondrial-DNA studies of University of Puerto Rico biologist Juan Carlos Cruz to “buttress” his argument that “real” Puerto Ricans owe their genetic and cultural mestizaje to European and indigenous peoples. And it is this understanding of a de-Africanized mestizaje that many Puerto Ricans cling to when they first arrive to the United States.[8]

The perils and advantages of these attacks underscores that not identifying as white is a clear indication that white Puerto Ricans want to continue to enjoy white privilege in the U.S while also claiming Puerto Rican identity through a racist agenda.  Stateside Puerto Ricans who refuse to acknowledge their whiteness due to defiance to white Anglo supremacy also do a disservice to Puerto Rican equality due to lacking an acknowledgment of white privilege and multi-dimensionalities within Puerto Rican identity. This indoctrination has been ingrained in them since birth with hopes of forgetting powerful African empires, African slavery, black resistance, the aesthetic Caribbean transformations that resulted from it and also the black consciousness that lead to the creation of black culture. Many recently Puerto Rican migrations have settled in locations that tend to be predominantly inhabited by Anglo-Americans. According to Jorge Duany and Felix Matos’ investigation of Puerto Rican migration to Orlando, the media falsely portrays Puerto Ricans from the island as an educated middle-class, white collar, and from the suburbs while they conclude that many come from working-class backgrounds as well. Yet the report states:

In particular, Puerto Rican communities in Orlando differ significantly from their counterparts in other major U.S cities, such as New York, not only in their historical origins and settlement patterns, but also in their mode of economic, political and cultural incorporation. Economically, Puerto Ricans have been more successful in Central Florida than elsewhere, as measured by their income, occupational, residential and cultural incorporation.[9]

Duany’s and Matos’ 2000 census analysis in Florida also underscores:

More than two thirds classified themselves as white, the highest proportion of all states. Inversely a smaller proportion of Puerto Ricans identified themselves as black or some other race. According to the census, Island-born Puerto Ricans are more likely to describe themselves as white and less likely to describe themselves as black than mainland-born Puerto Ricans.[10]

These investigations are helpful but do not address white privilege and discrimination. Also, there is a possibility that due to living in the U.S south, a region known to be extremely racist, Puerto Ricans may identify as white as a protective measure. This also shows that although not all Puerto Ricans are identifying as white in the United States and prefer the option of ‘Puerto Rican’ or ‘other’ in the census, it tells us that discussion of race is still an unspoken issue in Puerto Rican culture. No longer can we allow racism and white supremacy in the Latino and black communities.

In September 2014, director and activist Cesar Vargas published an article: “The privilege of White Hispanic II, Facts, Stats and Cognitive Dissonance” arguing that white Latinos enjoy more privileges than Black or Afro-Latinos and more opportunities for upward mobility. He also underscores the white middle class complaining about alleged racism for not being white enough. However, Vargas argues:

Do you know what’s the biggest struggle white Latinos face according to these articles/blogs? Being confused for white and having to prove to other Latinos their Latino-ness. Seriously, if that is your biggest struggle then it would behoove you to reconsider your entire existence and why you think that should supersede any other issue we’re facing today.[11]

The article was an extension of his first version “The Privilege of White Latinos: Leaving Out the Rest” that infuriated many white and black [email protected] when it went viral in the Huffington post. He argues “People talk so much about [email protected] denying their blackness but bring up the term white Latino and you will see an extreme reaction, visceral attack by white [email protected] themselves”. [12] This exemplifies the extent to which white supremacy and racial harmony admonishes any pathway toward racial equality.

Puerto Rican diaspora research needs to focus on white supremacy in the island and the uncritical celebration of “[email protected] middle class” desires that is masked by the continuous mainstreaming of racism in the Latino media, color-blind ideology, and false pan-Latin homogeneous racial makeups. Arlene Davila’s research on the controversial transformations by El Museo del Barrio and other [email protected] institutions discussed in her book Latino Spin (2008) exemplifies how the gains of the [email protected] movement have begun to faltered due to white [email protected] establishments who are obsessed with “Latininzing” (aka whitewashing) our black identities.

During the 1970s a massive migration of stateside Puerto Ricans returned to Puerto Rico only to be mistreated and referred to as immoral, violent, Afrocentric, lazy, welfare-dependent and drug-addicted felons consumed by American values.[13] Ironically for white Puerto Ricans the script has flipped and now they are the ones who are moving to the United States and “consumed” by American values. In these times, new research agendas should focus on destabilizing any purity with Puerto Rican identity and asking on which side of the struggle with the U.S are they?  Are they for white supremacy or are they for equality and justice for all? Will black Puerto Rican island scholars take off their anti-U.S. Black and Puerto Rican Studies blinders and help us achieve racial justice?


The recent white Puerto Rican migration to the United States is further co-opting Puerto Rican identity and culture into a larger project of whitening that, far from acquiring honorary whiteness, has contributed to the multiple marginalizations of Afro-Puerto Ricans, other [email protected] and people of color in general.[14] Many middle-class Puerto Ricans are strikingly reminiscent of Puerto Rican identity while embracing romanticized articulations of nationalism. More compellingly, it carries its white consciousness and culture through its racist efforts to diminish seeing the Puerto Rican experience through the black lens. Their lens provide a view that stems from European colonialism that perhaps will not leave its inherent influence that now has further spilled to the stateside eradicating strenuous years of counter-culture stemming from the Nuyorican movement to the [email protected] movement.

Afro-Puerto Rican scholar and writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro published a short article suggesting that Puerto Rico should follow African studies in the United States amongst other countries.[15] Many Afro-Puerto Rican scholars refuse to deconstruct white supremacy and white privilege. While return Puerto Rican migrants in the 70s were treated harshly, our national identity loyalties obligate us to give white Puerto Ricans a break and a right to be as racist as they want to be simply because we are all colonial subjects. Sympathetically, matters of national belonging and a fear of becoming completely invisible and unaccounted for is the space of liminality that black Puerto Ricans live in.

The options are limited: Black Puerto Ricans in the island either confront white supremacy straight on using their voice and risk being completely obliterated from belonging to a Puerto Rican nationhood, or not take the risk and continue to enjoy a small piece of belonging within a liminal space. It is a space of having a social life in a very limited and marginal space. We need to explore the space of liminalities of national identity in order to understand their fears of confronting an identity that attempts to erase them completely. How do people make the best out of this space of liminality? What does it allow us to do? How can we position ourselves as black bodies in order to have some agency? It goes back to strategic exceptionalisms.  If we are to unite against the U.S it will not be by upholding a flag that represents white supremacy.

As a colonial territory there is little inkling in criticizing our own people while achieving autonomy and belonging. Many black subjects that seek independence in the island are often supported by many white middle-class [email protected]/[email protected] who want the same thing, resulting in leaving race in the back seat for another discussion. As a U.S colony there is fear to erode any hopes of achieving independence; hence the fear of critiquing racism and white supremacy. These multiple positionalities are in contradiction sometimes. I say it is time we continue to explore white supremacy and white privilege in Puerto Rico while understanding our own afro-diasporic and multiplicities of black consciousness. Not just our African heritage, like bomba and plena, but our black Afro-Caribbean and diasporic inheritance as well. We do not owe anything to [email protected]/ [email protected] or any other white racist Puerto Ricans.

Miguel Pinero’s poem, A Lower East Side Poem, stresses he does not want be buried in Puerto Rico and instead prefers to be near the stabbing, shooting, gambling, fighting, and unnatural dying and pleads to have his ashes scattered throughout the Lower East Side. This poetic statement may be interpreted as a cognitive dissonance in Puerto Rico for its unpatriotic tone but I wonder: Where are these recently arrived Puerto Ricans going to want their ashes buried at?


William Garcia is an Afro-Nuyorican by way of Staten Island. He has a BA and a MA in History from the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras. His research interests are Afro-Latino history, hip-hop and reggaeton in the Caribbean and Puerto Rican transnational migration. He is currently an MA student in Curriculum and Teaching at the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. You can find him on Twitter @webdubois2014


Bonilla Eduardo, Racism Without Racists: Color Blind Racism & Racial Inequality in Contemporary America, (2010) Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Betances, Samuel, The Prejudice of Having no Prejudice in Puerto Rico. 1972.

Chaves, Linda, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politic of Hispanic Assimilation, (1991)

Duany, Jorge, Blurred Borders, Transnational Migration Between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States (2014), The University of Carolina Press.

Flores, Juan. From Bomba to Hip-hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity. (2000) New York: Columbia University Press

Flores Juan. “Créolité in the Hood: Diaspora as source and challenge.” Centro Journal, Fall 2004, number 002, City University of New York, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños.

Flores Juan, The Diaspora Strikes Back: Caribeño Tales of Learning and Turning (2009) by Routledge.

Flores Juan, Jimenez Miriam. The [email protected] Reader: history and Culture in the United States. edited, Duke University Press.

Fountain-Stokes, Larry La, Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora, University of Minnesota Press, 2009

Godreau, Isar  (2006) “Folkloric Others:‘Blanqueamiento’ and the Celebration of Blackness as an Exception in Puerto Rico” in Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Deborah Thomas and Kamari Clarke ed. 171-187 Durham: Duke University Press.

Goudreau, Isar Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism and U.S colonialism in Puerto Rico, University of Illinois Press, (2015).

Gonzales, Lydia, la Tercera Raiz: Presencia Africana en Puerto Rico. 1993. Centros de Estudios de La Realidad Puertorriquena de instituto de cultura Puertorriquena.

Kantrowitz, Nathan, Algunas Consecuencias Raciales: diferencias Educativas Y Ocupacionales entre los Puertorriqueños Blancos y No Blancos en los Estados Unidos continentales 1950, Revista de Ciencias Sociales 15(3): 387-97.

Luciano, Felipe, A New Deal between Stateside and Island Puerto Ricans: The View From a New York Rican (2012) [email protected] Project,

Pabón, Carlos, Nación Postmortem: Ensayos Sobre los Tiempos de Insoportable Ambigüedad, 2006, Ediciones Callejon.

Rodríguez Olleros, Ángel, Canto a la Raza: Composición Sanguínea de estudiantes de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, (1974)Rio Piedras colegio de Farmacia

Vargas, Cesar The privilege of White Latino: Leaving out the Rest (9/92014) Huffington Post,

Vargas, Cesar: The privilege of White Hispanic II, Facts, Stats and Cognitive Dissonance, UPLIFTT,

Wise, Tim, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and white Denial in the Age of Obama (2009) City Light Books.


[1] See Isar Godreau, “Folkloric Others:‘Blanqueamiento’ and the Celebration of Blackness as an Exception in Puerto Rico” in Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Deborah Thomas and Kamari Clarke ed. 171-187(2006) Durham: Duke University Press.

[2] Isar Goudreau, Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism and U.S colonialism in Puerto Rico, University of Illinois Press, (2015).
[3] Luciano, Felipe A New Deal between Stateside and Island Puerto Ricans: The View From a New York Rican (2012)
[4] Carlos Suarez Carrasquillo, Marketing and Gated Communities: A case Study of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico (9-1-2009), University of Massachusetts-Amherst, pp.: 179.
[5] Sookhee, Oh, Locked in, locked Out: Gated communities in a Puerto Rican City (2014), Book Review, published the American Journal of sociology, vol. 120, Nov 1, 2014.
[6] Arlene Davila Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race (2008), New York University Press: pp. 1.
[7] Boricuas vs. Nuyoricans The Truth!
[8] Miriam Jimenz, Nuyiricans Vs. Boricaus Indeed!, Revista, Harvard rEview of Latin America.—indeed
[9] Jorge Duany, Felix V Matos Rodriguez, Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Central Florida.
[10] Ibid, p. 21.
[11] Cesar Vargas, The privilege of White Hispanic II, Facts, Stats and Cognitive Dissonance (2014)
[12] Cesar Vargas, The privilege of White Latino: Leaving out the Rest (9/92014) Huffington Post
[13] Op Cit, Miriam jimenez.
[14] Op Cit, Arlene Davila, Latino Spin, pp. 18.
[15]  Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Estamos Listos Para Tener Nuestra Propia Facultad de Estudios Africanos en Alguna Universidad en Puerto Rico?, Revista Cruce, Critica socio-Cultural Contemporanea, Universidad Metropolitana,


  1. Puerto Rico has always had a huge problem with identity. It has been a constant struggle since the first “criollos” stopped considering themselves Spanish and called themselves Puertorriqueños. There have been many attempts throughout history to clearly identify what it is to be Puerto Rican: Luis Pales Matos writing “Tun Tun de Pasa Y Griferia” in the 1930s coining the term “Afroantillano” to include black caribbeans as part of Puerto Rican diaspora; the adoption of Cuban writer Luis Carbonell’s saying “Y tu abuela donde esta” to counter the dominating white class’ dissociation with the black race; even the Puerto Rican Parade held in New York every year allowing “mainland” Puerto Ricans to celebrate their heritage. Therefore, we can definitely conclude that Puerto Ricans have been eager and yearning to establish what it means be a Puerto Rican. Yet doing so has proven to be a very complicated feat as our history, alike most of the Western Hemisphere’s, has been so complex.

    Being Puerto Rican entails being Taino (Indigenous), European, African, American, and even Chinese. And along with each, being Puerto Rican also entails embracing the full history, not just the history that happened within the island. There have been so many peoples that have contributed to our rich history and our culture, that denying or obviating any aspect of each history would be denying the true fabric of our existence.

    To be able to start the process of identification, there need to be some radicals that dare speak out their reality, their history, their truth. It will not be the same for every person, and AMEN HALLELUJAH to that! So, even though I am not completely in favor of what the author of this article, William Garcia, has to say, I commend him for starting a dialogue that can conduce to retaking a dialogue of identifying what being a Puerto Rican is. But I must argue against the biased viewpoint of the author in criminalizing and distancing “white” Puerto Ricans from defining the Puerto Rican race. “Y tu abuela donde esta” goes both ways!

    What really defines a Puerto Rican is how diverse we are. I have family in Dominican Republic, US, Middle East, China, Europe and South America. I have family who physically resemble other races: black, white, asian, indigenous. Some are straight, others queer, even transgender. Some live in ghettos, others in Guaynabo, and others like me prefer to go beyond PR and US soil. And you know what… we’re all Puerto Rican.

    Instead of trying to point out our differences and fight over who is more Puerto Rican, I would actually invite all to start viewing our similarities. Don’t forget our history, as it does defines us, but learn to forgive the atrocities committed equally by invaders and locals in the past and accept that these things did change us, and for better or worse, they are part of who we are now-a-days. I’ve had enough of our pointing fingers at others and making ourselves victims. Lets not allow OUR identity to be defined by what others do, rather lets take control of who we are and embrace it. Lets look at the diversity and richness that makes us truly beautiful, and lets aim to represent that 100%.

    That’s all I have to say…

    • Amarilis

      Thank you SO MUCH for those words. This is exactly how I feel. it’snalways good to read someone who has a balanced point of view.

  2. la

    y si me considero raza humana Y soy una minoría? Este artículo completamente invisibiliza el problema de mi raza pues aunque no lo creas comparto mi habitat con millones de microorganismos y somos mas de lo que piensas. Ni siquiera hay una cajita que tenga mi raza cuando lleno un documento oficial. Estot cansada de este abuso. En puerto rico soy esto en eeuu soy aquello muy jincha pa los negros muy grifa pa los blancos…!!!

  3. Erico

    Me parece que el autor esta bastante acomplejado. Si buscaria consejeria en vez de hablar tanta mierda, habria llegado un poco mas adelante en la vida!

  4. No hay racismo en Puerto Rico ?

    • Claro q hay racismo en PR. Hay racismo en contra de negros, en contra de blancos, encontro de mestizos, en contra de dominicanos, en contra de gringos, en contra de todos. Igual q en todo el mundo.

  5. yocahu

    This essay does raise valid issues.
    I would enjoy talking about it more that writing about it.
    I migrated before “Guaynabo city” was a thing so the term is new to me.
    In my opinion it is true that there is a significant segment of Puerto Ricans that discriminate against blacks, other Hispanics, women and lgbt. All for ignorant and incorrect reasons.
    I don’t think that race is the main causation of this.
    Race is not a biological definition, its a cultural one.
    If you look at a large part of reggaetton and salsa artists they are considered white in Puerto Rican society.
    If you look at all societies regardless of color there exist discrimination based on ignorant beliefs.

    Most of the time this discrimination aligns more with income level. The problem of capitalism is that is not design to create equality.
    Regarding emulating fashion, Yankees hats and Nike’s are no more Puerto Rican that surfer or hipster clothes. Also they are status symbol. I remember as a kid it was uncool not to have some Jordan’s.
    I’m curious of the statistics that back the demographics of the Puerto Ricans migrating to the us through the years.
    Also when do you considered someone black. Looking at some of my forefathers they were considered black depending on the census. And I count my afro as part of my african heritage.
    The latest consensus in science is that modern humanity came from Africa, which makes any society be based on African culture in their past
    I would like more data backing some of the anecdotes.
    Other books agreeing with ones statement don’t give the reader an objective idea of the findings basing the statement.
    As someone who lived during the growth of gated community I don’t see them motivated by race. The times I was mugged and her about mugging, The mugger was, what would be considered white in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that this is an anecdote with a small sample size.

  6. It’s always dangerous to make over-simplifications on the very complex socio-cultural ramifications of the Puertorrican condition. As a student at the UPR mayaguez campus in the late 70’s I can tell you that there was a well define structure of,if not racially biased attitudes, at least a priviledge status one. It always baffled me to hear expressions like: “Ustedes los de la Isla”, mainly coming from those “blanquitos” stated in the article. To say that there is no prejudice in P.R. means that either you never lived there or you prefer to stick your neck in the ground. As a dark skinned puertorrican I lived through even it in my own family setting and living in the USA since the 80’s I am still experiencing it. Racial bias is the condition of a weak spirit and I don’t think it will ever be erradicated as long as there humans living on this planet.

  7. William Garcia is an Afro-Nuyorican by way of Staten Island, enough said! Do go back and study Puerto Rican history. And, do feel free to research your subject matter before putting pen to paper, you would benefit from searching sources predating the 1990’s.

    • yocahu

      I don’t with some of what the author said but it takes courage to publish ones words to be judge by the world.
      If you disagree with something you should say what it is.

    • William Garcia

      Yes thank you for your comment. As a historian I have knowledge of the Puerto Rican canon. I have read many books that are important to my topic such as Narciso Descubre su Trasero, Cuatro Pisos, books from Guillermo Baralt and so forth. The reason why I didn’t put these works in the bibliography was in order to let people know about them more recent works that are out there. Also, in my bibliography you will find some important books that predate the 1990s.

  8. Que muchos @s Boricuas estan “Sangrando por la Herida” ! Lean ! Participen activamente de la politica, cultura , historia y justicia social de nuestra Isla o fuera de ella y de todos aquellos movimintos que promueven una conversacion/ dialogo logico y creativo para todos @s en nuestro Planeta Tierra.. Muchas gracias William Garcia por tener el conocimiento y bravura que distingue a todos los guerreros @s de Nuestra Patria Puerto Rico y por traer a la Luz un tema tan guardado debajo del “matress”.
    Te conviertes en una Voz mas, que reclama nuestra “decorada negritud” tan ignorada a un nivel de Humanismo y Entendimiento . El hecho de que tanta gente haya reaccionado es algo muy positivo . Se ha traido el tema del privilegio social , “romanticismo cultural” “y la Belleza de nuestra Negrura Boricua a la Luz de una nueva cancion. Esto es Buena Medicina . que cura ! y si te arde …te soplas… !

    • William Garcia

      todavia me rescuerdo la primera vez que lei Narciso Descubre su Trasero del negro Boricua queer Isabelo Zenon Cruz. Tambien un egresado de la UPR le dio una bofeteada al canon Boricua que el racista Antonio Pedreira y Thomas Blanco. Me da Pena que despues y el famoso libro de Los cuatro pisos y various otros escritos que todavia Se utilizen el Mismo discurso para negar o para justificarlo. Los argumentos son: 1) Ty no eyes de aqui por lo tanto no sabes lo que estas diciendo 2) el racismo de Estados Unidos es diferente (por lo tanto mejor) en comparacion con la de Puerto Rico Y 3) todos estamos mezclao por ende no hay racismo ni Tampoco ahi que ahi hablar de eso. Racionalizaciones baratas y tristes. Gracias por Ty apoyo.

  9. Es fascinante que este artículo crea tanta ira.Si, somos un país racista. Pero es un racismo diferente al de los Estados Unidos. Se complica porque está entremezclado con un clasismo y no es un racismo institucional como lo fue en los Estados Unidos. A los nuyoricans les sorprende ver a las puertorriqueños «humildes» tratar con tanta deferencia a los puertorriqueños de clase media alta o de clase alta, que son mayormente blancos. Piensan que se debe al racismo. Hay un elemento racista pero también hay un legado de paternalismo y de privilegio que resulta en que algunas personas «educadas» o «de buena familia» traten de forma diferente a los demas, no con desdén pero si con indiferencia. Creo que es esta actitud a la que se refiere el artículo.

    • William Garcia

      De alguna manera Estoy de acuerdo con lo que dices. Claro hay clase y raza. Gracias por Tu comentario.

  10. Robert

    Born in the USA. white,entered Navy,Caucasian,WTF am I????

  11. [email protected]

    You know you are not Puerto Rican, right?

    • William Garcia

      Why aren’t I Puerto Rican?

      • Edna

        Because you were apparently in your teens when you came to PR, late 20s when you first met a guaynabito and lack basic knowledge about PR while pushing 40. I can call myself the world’s biggest Pokemon fan, but if the only critter I can mention is Pikachu, then I may certainly like Pokemon, but I’m certainly not “the biggest fan”.

        What’s more, I’ll probably give more credibility about Puerto Rican – Ness to the whitest gringo that ever gringoed if he put in the time actually living in PR and can name two beers beyond Medalla and Medalla Light. He’d still be more Rican than you.

        • William Garcia

          “Puertorican beers like Heineken?”

        • William Garcia

          Shoo. Go away white Puerto Rican racist lady.

          • Edna

            Bye, black gringo.

          • William Garcia

            Too bad for you I was born in Puerto Rico. It’s all good though. I know you don’t know what you’re saying.

          • Gabo

            Born in Puerto Rico but not raised there. You are the product of being raised in Staten Island and you are culturally different than Puerto Ricans, just accept that. No different than Italian Americans are different than Italians in Italy, and Irish Americans are different than the Irish in Ireland.

          • William Garcia

            “En verdad que tu eres bien inteligente”. Aunque no hubiera nacido en Puerto Rico, haber vivido casi diez años en Puerto Rico (especialmente con el va-y-ven: o sea que estudie en escuelas elementales de Candelaria en Toa Baja, comiendo frozing, jugé gallitos y trompos etc), ser hijos de padres Puertorriqueños y haberme educado en la UPR, hubiera seguido siendo Puertorriqueño. Ustedes de la isla son una minoria y no se si te has dado de cuenta, no estamos pidiendo su permiso para ustedes nos legitimen como Puertorriqueños. Un Boricua del Bronx es probablemente mas Boricuas que tu y probablemente ha luchao por la bandera mas que tu. Did you even read the article? Were five million strong and w’ell let YOU in the island know who is Puerto Rican from now on heh heh. Peace.

  12. Cuando entré a la IUPI (UPR – Río Piedras) fue en 1998 con una gorra de los Yankees, una camisa del Che Guevara y tenis Adidas.

    Eramos un corillo de prepas raperos con afros y, aunque no todos eramos negros de color, representabamos nuestra herencia africana y escuchabamos el hip-hop de nuestros hermanos de New York. Allí hice amistad con los raperos Luis Días “Intifada”, DJ Nature, E.A. Flow, que eran estudiantes allí y por ellos me hice amigo de SieteNueve que es el mejor rapero que habla sobre ser negro en Puerto Rico en sus canciones (Fuck Tego).

    Todos los estudiantes nuyoricans se hacían nuestros amigos porque los aceptabamos y entendíamos sus gustos. Soy b-boy y a veces nos íbamos a bailar y a fornar círculos de baile frente a los anfiteatros con radios “boombox” que traíamos. Nos pusimos un nombre, “Los Rapkaholiks”, y de ahí salió el colectivo de hip-hop Vanguardia Subterranea.

    Yo me dejé los “dread-locks” un año a pesar de tener pelo lacio. Tuve un profesor nuyorican que daba la clase “Sociología en los Movimientos de Protesta”, y tomé muchos cursos sobre inmigración puertorriqueña.

    Mi experiencia en la iupi fue diferente a la del autor ya que en la UPR aprendí más sobre mi lado africano, claro, yo entré en 1998, el autor es clase 2009 y ya el rap no estaba tan pegao.

    William, completamente de acuerdo con todo lo que escribiste, lo leí completo. Y si estos guaynabitos de mierda te dejan odio en los comments sabes que lo hiciste bien.


    • William Garcia

      Wow. Voy a seguir tu trabajo jefe. Los panas mío en la Yupi saben que yo no hablo de ellos. Tenemos que criticarnos a veces de manera especifica y desmantelar nuestros problemas, no quedarnos callaos y disfrutar de desigualdad. No creo que eso es inverosímil. Saludos.

  13. Soy de tez blanca y 6′ 3″ de estatura. Mi familia es de San Sebastian donde es comun ver estos razgos geneticos. Crecí en Barrio Obrero de familia pobre, justo en la calle de atrás (la calle Dolores) de donde yo vivía, los pleneros del Quinto Olivo ensayaban. Siempre que oigo un tambor de Bomba me contagia su ritmo. Nuca me robe nada, la cultura me abrazó y me hizo parte de ella. Yo no veo colores de piel por que crecí con todos los colores de piel a mi lado. Si he sentido el prejuico por decir que soy de Barrio Obrero, que lo llevo a orgullo. Seria interesante ver como se refleja la misma situación en paises latinoamericanos que tienen composición similar a la de nosotros, Colombia, Perú, Brazil por decir algunos.

    Mientras no se intente tratar de entender el otro lado de la moneda seguiremos en franca guerra cultural. hay que encontrar una identidad Boricua, mestiza y caribeña.

  14. T

    Nadie habla de los puertorriqueños blancos que no son de Guaynabo. Demasiado blanquitos para la gente del pueblo de uno, pero demasiado jíbaros para los “guaynabitos”. Siempre me han tratado como turista y “otra” en mi propia isla. Y en EEUU, no saben que hacer con uno tampoco. Uno no pertenece en ningún lado…

  15. Enjoyed every bit of your article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool. Menning

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