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JORGE DUANY COLONIAL MIGRANTS: R E C ENT WORK ON PUERTO R I C ANS ON AND OFF THE I SLAND Colonial Subjects: Puerto Ricans in a Global Perspective. RAMN GROSFOGUEL. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. xi + 268 pp. (Paper US $ 21.95) Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City GABRIEL HASLIP-VIERA, ANGELO FALCN & FLIX MATOS RODRGUEZ (eds.). Princeton N J: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2004. viii + 240 pp. (Paper US $ 24.95) R ecent studies of Puerto R icans have revisited their colonial status, national identity, and transnational migration from various standpoints, including postcolonial, transnational, postmodern, queer, and cultural studies. 1 Most scholars in the social sciences and the humanities no longer question whether Puerto R ico is a colony of the U nited S tates. What is often discussed, some times angrily, is the exact nature of U.S. colonialism, the extent to which the Island has acquired certain postcolonial traits such as linguistic and cultural autonomy, and the possibility of waging an effective decoloniza tion process. The issue of national identity in Puerto Rico is still contested as intensely as ever. What is new about current scholarly discussions is that many intellectuals, especially those who align themselves with postmod ernism, are highly critical of nationalist discourses. Other debates focus on the appropriate approach to population movements between the Island and the U.S. mainland. For example, some outside observers insist that, techni cally speaking, the Puerto Rican exodus should be considered an internal, not international, migration, while others, including myself, refer to such a massive dispersal of people as transnational or diasporic. Much of this 1. Duany 2002; Pabn 2002; Martnez-San Miguel 2003; Ramos-Zayas 2003; Rivera 2003; N egrn-Muntaner 2004; Prez 2004.
New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids vol. 79 no. 3 & 4 (2005) 274 controversy centers on whether the geopolitical border between the I sland and the mainland is equivalent to a national frontier in the experiences of Puerto R ican migrants. In Colonial Subjects Puerto Rican sociologist Ramn Grosfoguel pro poses an alternative reading of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans within the modern world-system (p. 1), as well as a new interpretation of the global process that conditioned Caribbean migration to the United States (pp. 3940) and Western E urope. O n the one hand, G rosfoguel surveys Puerto R icos colonial history, economy, and politics, especially during the second half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, he compares the Puerto Rican diaspora with those from other Caribbean territories, both independent and dependent. Both intellectual moves are rare in Puerto Rican and Caribbean studies, which still tend to adopt an insular and short-term approach. I n con trast, Colonial Subjects offers a valuable historical and contemporary over view of Puerto R icos place within the capitalist world economy. Grosfoguels theoretical framework derives primarily from Immanuel Wallersteins approach to the modern world-system as a single multidimen sional system with multiple and entangled structuring logics such as capital ist accumulation, state military security, symbolic strategies of prestige and honor, struggles of antisystemic social movements, and racial, gender, and sexual hierarchies (p. 49). Despite Puerto Ricos persistent colonial status, Grosfoguel classifies the Island as semiperipheral because it concentrates certain management and control functions for high-tech manufacturing indus tries, particularly banking (Chapter 2). Moreover, Puerto Rico has become a modern colony akin to other Caribbean islands such as Martinique and Curaao through shared citizenship with the metropolis, extensive civil rights, relatively high wages, modern working conditions, mass consump tion, welfare transfers, and sponsored migration. According to Grosfoguel, the metropolises granted such economic and political reforms after World War II to preclude the success of any potential anticolonial struggle (p. 67) and to offset the inequalities produced by core-periphery exploitation (p. 11). Compared to the independent nations of the Caribbean, modern colonies enjoy higher standards of living, more democratic regimes, and unlimited freedom of movement to their metropolises. Colonial Subjects relies heavily on the notion of coloniality of power, elaborated by the Peruvian sociologist Anbal Quijano. Grosfoguel defines the term concisely as the continuity of colonial forms of domination after the end of colonial administrations (p. 4), including racial, ethnic, class, gender, and sexual forms of exploitation. He contends that the modern world-system is organized along a male/female axis, as well as a heterosex ual/homosexual-lesbian axis, in addition to the E uropean/nonE uropean and capital/labor divides. A s he argues, power structures are still colonial in that white E uropean/ E uroA merican males continue to control the most impor
RE V IEW ARTICLES 275 tant positions in the world economy (p. 31). This insistence on subsuming all forms of subordination as colonial (even though some migrant groups such as Dominicans in the United States were not colonized by their host societies) is both provocative and problematic. Grosfoguel gives few details (such as sampling, instruments, or proce dures) about his fieldwork in Puerto Rico, the United States, or Europe. I could find references only to interviewing one Puerto Rican on the Island (pp. 68-69), several casual Cuban informants in Miami (pp. 89-90), a Puerto R ican in Paris (p. 158), and a D ominican in N ew York City (p. 167). Most of G rosfoguels sources of information are secondary, especially published cen sus data and surveys conducted by others. Consequently, many of the books generalizations and interpretations could be better documented. Although I agree with Grosfoguels claim that Puerto Ricans have a strong sense of national identity (p. 9), for example, I found no supporting evidence for it in the book. More difficult to prove are hypotheses such as these: that Puerto R icans imagine themselves simultaneously as a nation and as an ethnic group (p. 77); that the movement in defense of the S panish language excludes work ing-class people in Puerto Rico (p. 62); and that Caribbean people prefer to live in a modern colony rather than in a nation-state (p. 68). Nonetheless, Colonial Subjects makes an original and substantial con tribution to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latino studies. One of the books major findings is that the emigration processes of colonial people [from the Caribbean] ... have more in common than when compared to ... Caribbean nation-states (p. 183). I n two lucid chapters (3 and 6), G rosfoguel spells out several striking parallels among Caribbean immigrants in the metropolises: (1) their long colonial histories, (2) incorporation as racialized subjects, (3) subordinate location in the local labor market, (4) legal status as metropolitan citizens, and (5) lower-class origins, as well as (6) the organized character of much of their migration, and (7) their concentration in world cities, such as N ew York, Paris, and A msterdam. I n Chapters 5 and 7, G rosfoguel argues that most Puerto R ican (and D ominican) immigrants have been racialized as black or colored O thers, and hence are exposed to racist stereotypes such as laziness, criminality, stupidity, and uncivilized behavior (p. 149), similar to F rench A ntilleans in Paris, D utch A ntilleans in A msterdam, or West I ndians in L ondon. F inally, G rosfoguel shows that comparing Puerto R icans with other Hispanics in the United States, such as Mexicans, Cubans, or Dominicans, may be inappropriate because these last groups originate in postcolonial states. H ere he makes a convincing case that the sending countrys geopoliti cal position within the modern world-system shapes the migrants economic and political incorporation into the host country (p. 181). I n sum, G rosfoguels work advances our understanding of Puerto R icos role within the capitalist world economy, U.S. imperialist strategies, and postwar decolonization and recolonization processes in the Caribbean. His
New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids vol. 79 no. 3 & 4 (2005) 276 book raises intriguing issues about lingering colonial discourses and prac tices, national and postnational identities, transnational migration, and racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as the utopian project of a radical democ racy on the Island and in the U.S. mainland. Colonial Subjects situates the Puerto R ican case in a broad regional and global perspective that illuminates its particular and general implications. In contrast to the sweeping approach of Colonial Subjects Boricuas in Gotham focuses on a specific locality and time period. It is the product of a conference held at the City U niversity of N ew York in 2000, inspired by the Puerto R ican activist-scholar A ntonia Pantoja. T he participants in that meeting reviewed the history of the Puerto R ican community in N ew York City since World War II, especially its settlement patterns, community organization, economic development, and political institutions. The publication contains four substantive chapters, five extended commentaries, the editors introduc tion, and an appendix. The contributors include three historians (Virginia Snchez-Korrol, Flix Matos-Rodrguez, and Gabriel Haslip-Viera), two political scientists (Angelo Falcn and Jos Cruz), an anthropologist (Ana Celia Zentella), a sociologist (Clara Rodrguez), an economist (Francisco R ivera-Batiz), and two community leaders (Pantoja and F ernando F errer). T he editors main purpose was to update and reassess the evolution and status of N ew Yorks Puerto R ican community (p. xvii), largely in response or reaction to earlier publications by social scientists, journalists, and other writers, especially Anglo Americans (p. xviii). Several chapters rebuke the claims made by the journalist Mireya N avarro in 2000, in a New York Times article entitled Puerto Rican Presence Wanes in New York. For instance, both F alcn and R odrguez take exception to the article because it suggested that the Puerto R ican population was declining, not only in numbers, but also in economic and social capital. As Rodrguez further notes in her commen tary, much of Puerto R ican scholarship in the U nited S tates has been devoted to combating pejorative portrayals of the Puerto Rican community, such as the infamous culture of poverty thesis by Oscar Lewis or its more recent incarnation in the urban underclass literature inspired by William Julius Wilson. As colonial subjects, to use Grosfoguels apt phrase, Puerto Ricans have been continually exposed to prejudice and discrimination, within both academic circles and the mass media. Most of the chapters in this volume lack an explicit theoretical frame work, concentrating instead on describing the socioeconomic experiences of Puerto Rican migrants in New York between the 1940s and the 1990s. Implicitly, the authors question the applicability to the Puerto Rican case of traditional models of assimilation that were developed to understand earlier European immigrants in the United States. For instance, bilingualism and biculturalism continue to characterize a large part of the Puerto Rican com munity in N ew York City, as Zentella eloquently documents in her memoirs
RE V IEW ARTICLES 277 of growing up in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). In general, the book adopts a chronological narrative approach that shies away from examining Puerto R icans from a global perspective, as G rosfoguel would have it. By and large, the authors remain close to the immediate historical events and social actors they depict. Perhaps, as F alcn argues in one of his two essays for this collection, most of the current research and analysis on Puerto Rican migration is ... much too general or theoretical (p. 165). H e later laments that a once confi dent and deadly serious Marxism has given way to often flaky and fun-filled postmodern meditations (p. 172). Perhaps, as Haslip-Viera suggests in his commentary, Puerto R ican studies have experienced a paradigmatic shift over the past decade. In his view, current research exaggerates the importance of identity and other issues connected to postmodernism and cultural stud ies (p. 139). I nstead, this collection centers on economic and social issues of critical importance to New Yorks Puerto Rican community during the 1990s, what Haslip-Viera calls the real day-to-day lives of people in our communities (p. 138). Unfortunately, the book does not articulate an inte grated analysis of the processes of migration, resettlement, incorporation, or exclusion of Puerto R icans in N ew York City. N or does it illuminate ongoing discussions about whether Puerto R ican migrants can be considered transna tional or diasporic in a broad comparative sense. Most of the essays are based on recent census and archival data espe cially journalistic articles on Puerto Ricans in New York. A lively discus sion emerges from Cruzs reliance on one major source of information, the New York Times harshly criticized by Falcn. No such critical reflection appears on the widespread use of census data in Falcns own work or in F rancisco R ivera-Batizs analyses. I n addition to these sources, some authors notably Snchez-Korrol, Zentella, and Pantoja recur to personal narra tives and documents that may help to undermine standard treatments of the Puerto R ican experience in N ew York City. S till, the volume as a whole does not identify new data sets or advocate alternative approaches to the Puerto R ican diaspora, from either a quantitative or qualitative viewpoint. O ne must look elsewhere for more creative and persuasive counternarratives based on historical, literary, artistic, photographic, and other primary documents. The archival materials housed at the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueos at Hunter College are still a largely untapped mine of information. From an anthropological perspective, ethnographic fieldwork in local settings such as New Yorks Spanish Harlem or Chicagos Near Northwest Side still has no adequate substitute. 2 U nlike H aslip-Viera, I feel that some of the most exciting and innovative research in contemporary Puerto R ican studies is taking place precisely along 2. R amos-Zayas 2003; R ivera 2003; D vila 2004; Prez 2004.
New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids vol. 79 no. 3 & 4 (2005) 278 the lines of cultural, postcolonial, subaltern, and transnational studies. What impressed me the most about this collection were not the relatively familiar numbers in the tables, but rather the vivid testimonials by several contribu tors, especially what Zentella dubs a N uyoricans View of O ur H istory and L anguage. T he most significant finding of this book may be the sheer tenac ity of Puerto R ican identity in the U nited S tates against all odds: xenopho bia, racism, stigmatization, poverty, unemployment, economic restructuring, deindustrialization, displacement, dispersion, diminished migration, and even rejection by Puerto R icans on the I sland. A nother central finding is that despite their waning presence, Puerto R icans remain the largest ethnic group in N ew York City, which has by far the largest concentration of Puerto R icans in the diaspora. Moreover, N ew York Puerto R icans have recently increased their electoral representation. Culturally, they continue to leave their mark in the citys popular music, language, religion, arts, food, education, and media. T his waxing presence must be thoroughly documented, analyzed, and interpreted. O verall, Boricuas in Gotham provides a commendable account of some of the leading bread-and-butter issues in the study of N ew Yorks Puerto R ican community. T he volume brings together a wealth of statistical data on the economic and political situation of Puerto R icans in the city. T he chapters by Cruz, F alcn, and R ivera-Batiz, in particular, are packed with useful infor mation on poverty, unemployment, income, education, occupation, industry, and other important variables for understanding the socioeconomic well-being of N ew York Puerto R icans. H owever, the field of Puerto R ican studies is not advanced by branding all recent scholarship on race, identity, popular culture, and related topics (p. 138) as abstract and detached, romantic (p. 166), much too theoretical (p. 165), and often flaky (p. 172). I t would be much more productive to engage in a respectful dialogue between various theoretical and methodological positions, such as Marxism, postmodernism, feminism, positivism, and constructivism, as well as across disciplines, such as the hard social sciences as opposed to the soft humanities. A s F alcn notes in his closing remarks, many topics await further study, and much of this research will be conducted by a post-Marxist, post-positivist, post-Civil R ights genera tion of scholars. T his younger generation should be encouraged to explore new issues, epistemologies, and methodologies, wherever they may lead them. T ogether, the two books under review document some of the intense con temporary debates surrounding colonialism and migration in Puerto Rico. G iven that the I sland remains a colony of the U nited S tates, a crucial theoret ical and political question becomes whether colonialism has impregnated all forms of social inequality, such as those based on gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. F urthermore, does the concept of coloniality of power adequately explain the current situation of Puerto R icans on the I sland and in the U nited S tates? A ssuming that Puerto R icans are colonial migrants similar to other Caribbean diasporas in their respective metropolises, it is important
RE V IEW ARTICLES 279 to pursue a comparative research agenda on Puerto R icans in N ew York City, Martinicans in Paris, Dutch Antilleans in Amsterdam, and so on. Both theo retically informed and methodologically sophisticated treatments of Puerto Rican colonialism and migration are urgently needed. Without abandoning legitimate concerns for economic development, political empowerment, and community organization, there is still much room for fine-grained analyses of cultural identities, practices, and discourses. S uch studies would do well to move beyond artificial dichotomies such as those between global and local, macro and micro, structural and cultural forces, placing the experiences of ordinary Puerto Ricans on and off the Island within their broader socioeco nomic contexts. After all, the best social science usually dwells on the mul tiple intersections between collective biographies and historical trajectories.REFERENCESD V ILA, ARLENE 2004. Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City. Berkeley: U niversity of California Press.D UAN Y JORGE 2002. The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States Chapel H ill: U niversity of N orth Carolina Press.MARTNE Z S AN MIGUEL, YOLANDA 2003. Caribe Two Ways: Cultura de la migracin en el Caribe insular hispnico S an Juan: Callejn.N EGRN-MUNTANER, F RAN C ES 2004. Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture N ew York: N ew York U niversity Press.PA B N, CARLOS 2002. Nacin postmortem: Ensayos sobre los tiempos de insoportable ambigedad S an Juan: Callejn.PREZ, GINA 2004. The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement, and Puerto Rican Families Berkeley: U niversity of California Press.R A M OS-ZA Y AS, A NA Y., 2003. National Performances: The Politics of Class, Race, and Space in Puerto Rican Chicago. Chicago: U niversity of Chicago Press. RI V ERA, R A Q UEL Z ., 2003. New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone N ew York: Palgrave Macmillan. J ORGE DUAN YD epartment of S ociology and A nthropologyU niversity of Puerto R ico S an Juan P R 00931-3345