Return to the Future: Puerto Rican Vernacular Architecture in New York City

  • Joseph Sciorra


And so I thought of many things. I thought of my new born son and what was to become of his life here, I thought of Puerto Rico and the elders and all that we left behind simply out of necessity. I thought of many things that by now I have forgotten, because, you know, the mind is like a blackboard and time an eraser that passes across it each time we fill it up. But the thing I will always remember is what I told doña Lula, which is what I am going to tell you now to finish what it is you wanted to know. And that is, in my poor way of understanding things, that was the night we became people again.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Peter Stallybrass and Alton White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1986), pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (South End Press, Boston, 1990), pp. 145–53.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Anthony D. King, Urbanism, Colonialism, and the World-Economy: Cultural and Spatial Foundation of the World Urban System (Routledge, New York, 1991), p. 99.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    José Luis González, Puerto Rico: The Four Storeyed Country, trans. Gerald Guinness (Waterfront Press, Maplewood, New Jersey, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    James L. Dietz, Economic History of Puerto Rico: Institutional Change and Capitalist Development (Princeton History Press, 1986), p. 259.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1984), p. 472.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    V. N. Volosnov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (Seminar Press, New York, 1973), pp. 59–63.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination (University of Texas Press, Austin, 1988), pp. 291–2.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1988), p. 23.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Gordon K. Lewis, Puerto Rico: Freedom and Power in the Caribbean (Monthly Review Press, New York, 1963), p. 43.Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    Felix Cortes, Angel Falcon and Juan Flores, ‘The Cultural Expression of Puerto Ricans in New York, A Theoretical Perspective and Critical Review’, Latin American Perspectives, 3.3 (1976), pp. 117–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 27.
    Juan Flores, ‘Rappin’, Writin’, and Breakin’: Black and Puerto Rican Street Culture in New York’, Dissent, 34. 4 (1987), pp. 580–4.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    Juan Flores, John Attinasi and Pedro Pedraza Jr., ‘La Carreta Made a U-Turn: Puerto Rican Language and Culture in the United States’, Daedalus, 110. 2 (1981), pp. 193–217.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    Carol F. Jopling, Puerto Rican Houses in Sociohistorical Perspective (University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1988), p. 65.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    Sven Loven, Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies (Elander Bokfrycheri Akfiebolog, Göteborg, Sweden, 1935), pp. 339–48.Google Scholar
  16. 34.
    John Michael Vlach, ‘The Shotgun House: An African Architectural Legacy’, in Common Places: Readings in American Vernacular Architecture, (ed.) Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach (University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1986), pp. 58–78.Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Sidney W. Mintz, Caribbean Transformations (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1984), pp. 86–91.Google Scholar
  18. 37.
    Angel Q. Quintero Rivera, ‘The Rural-Urban Dichotomy in the Formation of Puerto Rico’s Cultural Identity’, New West Indian Guide, 61. 3–4 (1987) pp. 127–44.Google Scholar
  19. 39.
    Virginia E. Sanchez Korrol, From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1917–1948 (Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 1983), pp. 17–28.Google Scholar
  20. 42.
    Jesse Walter Fewkes, The Aborigines of Porto Rico and Neighboring Islands (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1907), p. 45.Google Scholar
  21. 46.
    Clara E. Rodriguez, Puerto Ricans Born in the USA (Unwin Hyman, Boston, 1989), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  22. 47.
    Constance R. Sutton, ‘The Caribbeanization of New York City and the Emergence of a Transnational Socio-Cultural System’, in Caribbean Life in New York City: Sociocultural Dimensions, (ed.) Constance R. Sutton and Elsa M. Chaney (Center for Migration Studies of New York, Staten Island, 1987), pp. 15–30.Google Scholar
  23. 49.
    Luis Rafael Sanchez, ‘The Flying Bus’, in Images and Identities: The Puerto Rican in Two World Contexts (ed.) Asela Rodríguez de Laguna (Transaction Books, New Brunswick, N.J., 1987), pp. 17–25.Google Scholar
  24. 53.
    Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (Penguin Books, New York, 1988), pp. 292–393.Google Scholar
  25. 56.
    Kevin Lynch, What Time is This Place? (The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1990), pp. 190–9.Google Scholar
  26. 59.
    José E. Limon, ‘Western Marxism and Folklore: A Critical Introduction’, Journal of American Folklore, 96. 379 (1983), pp. 34–52.Google Scholar
  27. 62.
    Verni Greenfield, Making Do and Making Art: A Study of American Recycling (UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1986), p. 2.Google Scholar
  28. 65.
    Clarissa T. Kimber, ‘Spatial Patterning in the Dooryard Gardens in Puerto Rico’, Geographical Review, 63. 1 (1973), pp. 6–26.Google Scholar
  29. 72.
    Helen Icken Safa, The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico: A Study in Development and Inequality (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York, 1974), p. 78.Google Scholar
  30. 74.
    Sherry B. Ortner, ‘On Key Symbols’, American Anthropologist 75. 5 (1973) pp. 1338–46.Google Scholar
  31. 77.
    Oscar E. Vazquez, ‘The Birth of an Axiomatic Cultural Symbol: Images of the Puerto Rican “Jibaro” and the 1934 Sugar Workers’ Strikes’, unpublished paper delivered at the Department of Romance Languages Conference, ‘New World Regionalism Versus Old World Domination’ (SUNY Binghamton, 1992).Google Scholar
  32. 79.
    Marimar Benitez, ‘The Special Case of Puerto Rico’, in Latin American Spirit: Art and Artists in the United States, 1920–1970, exhibition catalogue (The Bronx Museum of the Arts in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1988), pp. 80–90.Google Scholar
  33. 80.
    Mari Carmen Ramirez, ‘Puerto Rican Painting: Between Past and Present’, in Puerto Rican Painting: Between Past and Present (exhibition catalogue) (The Squibb Gallery, Princeton, N.J., 1987), pp. 21–6.Google Scholar
  34. 83.
    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976), pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  35. 84.
    T. J. Jackson Lears, ‘The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities’, American Historical Review, 90 (1985), pp. 567–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 85.
    Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford University Press, New York, 1988), pp. 108–14.Google Scholar
  37. 92.
    Dell Hymes, ‘Folklore’s Nature and the Sun’s Myth’, Journal of American Folklore, 88 (1975), pp. 345–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 93.
    Gerald M. Sider, Culture and Class in Anthropology and History (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1989), p. 122.Google Scholar
  39. 94.
    José Luis Gonzalez, Mambrci se fue a la guerra (y otros relatos) (Editorial Joaquin Mortiz, Mexico City, 1972).Google Scholar
  40. 96.
    Anthony Lauria, Jr., “‘Respeto”, “Relajo” and Inter-Personal Relations in Puerto Rico’, Anthropological Quarterly, 37. 1 (1964), pp. 53–67.Google Scholar
  41. 98.
    Sarah Bartlett, ‘2 Bronx Messes: One Trash, One Bureaucracy’, New York Times (29 Nov. 1991) Al, B4.Google Scholar
  42. 100.
    Lisa Cashdan, Peter R. Stein and David Wright, ‘Roses From Rubble: New Uses for Vacant Urban Land’, New York Affairs, 7. 2 (1982), pp. 89 – 96.Google Scholar
  43. 104.
    Roger D. Abrahams, ‘Phantoms of Romantic Nationalism in Folkloristics’, Journal of American Folklore, 106. 419 (1993), pp. 3–37.Google Scholar
  44. 106.
    Moyra Byrne, ‘Antonio Gramsci’s Contribution to Italian Folklore Studies’, International Folklore Review, 2 (1982) pp. 70–5.Google Scholar
  45. 107.
    Alberto Maria Cirese, ‘Gramsci’s Observations on Folklore’, in Approaches to Gramsci, (ed.) Anne Showstack Sasson (Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative Society, Ltd., London, 1982), pp. 212–47.Google Scholar
  46. 108.
    James W. Fernandez, ‘Folklorists as Agents of Nationalism’, New York Folklore, 11. 1–4 (1985), pp. 135–47.Google Scholar
  47. 109.
    José E. Figueroa, Survival on the Margin: A Documentary Study of the Underground Economy in a Puerto Rican Ghetto (Vantage Press, New York, 1989).Google Scholar
  48. 111.
    Richard Handler, Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 1988).Google Scholar
  49. 112.
    David Harvey, The Urbanization of Capital: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore: 1985).Google Scholar
  50. 113.
    Michael Herzfeld, Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece (University of Texas Press, Austin, 1982).Google Scholar
  51. 114.
    Mary Hufford, Marjorie Hunt and Steven Zeitlin, The Grand Generation: Memory, Mastery, Legacy, exhibition catalogue (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC., 1987).Google Scholar
  52. 116.
    Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Objects of Memory: Material Culture as Life Review’ In Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader, (ed.) Elliot Oring (Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 1989), pp. 329–38.Google Scholar
  53. 117.
    Marvin A. Lewis, ‘The Puerto Rican in Popular US Literature: A Culturalist Perspective’, in Images and Identities: The Puerto Rican in Two World Contexts, (ed.) Asela Rodriguez de Laguna (Transaction Books, New Brunswick, NJ., 1987), pp. 65–75.Google Scholar
  54. 118.
    Luigi Lombardi-Satriani, ‘Folklore as Culture of Contestation’, Journal of the Folklore Institute, 11 (1975) pp. 99–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 121.
    Palmira N. Ríos, Review of José Luis Gonzâlez’s ‘El pais de cuatro pisos y otros ensayos’, Cimarrón, 1. 2 (1986) pp. 97–101.Google Scholar
  56. 122.
    Robert Blair St. George, ‘Bawns and Beliefs: Architecture, Commerce, and Conversion in Early New England’, Winterthur Portfolio, 25. 4 (1990) pp. 241–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 124.
    E. P. Thompson, ‘Folklore, Anthropology, and Social History’, Indian Historical Review, 3. 2 (1977), pp. 247–66.Google Scholar
  58. 125.
    Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (Vintage Books, New York, 1984), pp. 146–58.Google Scholar
  59. 126.
    E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture (The New Press, New York, 1991).Google Scholar
  60. 127.
    Richard Westmacott, African-American Gardens and Yards in the Rural South (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1992).Google Scholar
  61. 129.
    William A. Wilson, Folklore and Nationalism (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1976).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joseph Sciorra 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Sciorra

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations