Boricuas en la Luna? An Exploration of Puerto Rican Migration and Diaspora Narratives

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With a nod to Puerto Rican poet’s Juan Antonio Corretjer’s well-known poem “Boricua en la luna” [Puerto Rican on the Moon], in this fascinating article—“Boricuas en la Luna?” (80grados)—Harry Franqui-Rivera explores the topic of “Puertoricanness,” cultural production related to Puerto Rican migrations, and tropes and discourses that framed these patterns of dislocation, such as Hispanophile nationalism, language, national symbols, etc. A broader version of this article—“Boricuas en la Luna? Is Popular and Cultural Production on Puerto Rican Migration Waves and the Peninsularism of Insular Puerto Ricans”is forthcoming in Centro Voices. Here are a few excerpts with a link to the full article below. Franqui-Rivera writes:

Not long after the U.S. took over Puerto Rico in 1898, the Island’s elites response took shape influenced by Hispanophile nationalism. I argue that such Hispanophile nationalism is at the core of island-based anti-migration and anti-diaspora narratives. Further, I propose that such nationalist discourses can be understood as a recreation of the pre-1898 Peninsular-Criollo insular dichotomy.

Pre-American invasion Peninsulares, those born in the Iberian Peninsula, occupied a commanding position over their American-born Criollo elite counterparts, just because of their place of birth. Within this colonial dichotomy American birthplace made you inferior. It hybridized and bastardized your identity. Of course there was a problem that Peninsulares did not consider. And, and that was that their children would be born in the Americas, hence inheriting the “defect” of American-birthplace. So, Peninsulares had to be somewhat flexible with the Criollo elites. The Criollos also had the wealth that most peninsulares did not, and that allowed for the unhappy marriage of the two elite factions.

Island-based Puerto Ricans, whom for now own I will call Insulares, have been taking on the role of pre-1898 Peninsulares. A visit to social media will show that, in great numbers, Insulares consider the state-based, and especially the state-born Puerto Ricans, as either not Puerto Rican at all or maybe, somewhat Puerto Rican. Hence, state-born Puerto Ricans are placed on the role of the former “Criollos” carrying the birth-place defect that makes them inferior to INSULAR Puerto Ricans. Just like Peninsulares considered pre- 1898 Criollos inferior to them for having been born on the island, so modern Insular Puerto Ricans consider state-born Puerto Ricans as not really-Puerto Rican due to their place-of birth.

Such attitude is also present among Insular Puerto Ricans newly-arrived to the states- especially if they move to non-traditional centers of the Puerto Rican diaspora. However, just like the obvious faulty logic and expiration date of pre-1898 Peninsulares, the migrant Insular Boricuas soon run into the problem of having their children being born or raised in the States- thus inheriting the birthplace-defect that nationalist popular discourses attributed to previous waves of state-born Puerto Ricans. Another factor adding to the “un-Puerto Rican character” of the Diaspora is language. And again, the identification of language with identity is also part of nationalist discourses.

The supposed inability of the diaspora to speak proper Spanish has been traditionally presented as evidence of the cultural degradation of migrants and state-based Puerto Ricans. Ironically claiming the Spanish language as a marker or definer of Puertoricaness is something that Puerto Rican revolutionaries in their quest for independence from Spain never did. There is an obvious reason for this. Spanish was the language of the metropolis, the language of the oppressor. There was no way that an independence and anti-Spanish movement could claim the Spanish language as a definer of Puertoricannes. However, very tellingly of the Hispanophile nature of early independent and nationalist movements, under U.S. sovereignty, Spanish becomes a definer of Puertoricaness. [. . .]

For full article (in Spanish), see http://www.80grados.net/boricuas-en-la-luna/

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