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Neither White nor Black: The Representation of Racial Identity Among Puerto Ricans on the Island and in the U.S. Mainland

  • Jorge Duany

Abstract

How is racial identity represented in an Afro-Hispanic Caribbean nation like Puerto Rico? And how do racial and ethnic categories shift in the diaspora? In 1990 I directed an ethnographic study of the sociocultural causes of the census undercount in Barrio Gandul, a poor urban community in Santurce (Duany et al., 1995). At the beginning of our fieldwork, my colleagues and I asked our informants: “What race do you consider yourself to belong to?” Responses to this seemingly innocuous question ranged from embarrassment and amazement to ambivalence and silence: many informants simply shrugged their shoulders and pointed to their arms, as if their skin color were so obvious that it did not need to be verbalized. When people referred to others’ race, they often used ambiguous euphemisms (such as “he’s a little darker than me”), without making a definite commitment to a specific racial label. Sometimes they would employ diminutive folk terms like morenito or trigueñita (referring to dark-skinned persons), which are difficult to translate into U.S. categories. For the purposes of this research, it seemed culturally appropriate to collect our impressions of people’s phenotypes as coded in Hispanic Caribbean societies such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. However, this procedure left open the question of the extent to which the researchers’ racial categories coincided with the subjects’ own perceptions.

Keywords

Government Printing Racial Identity Racial Composition Racial Category Latin American Immigrant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Anani Dzidzienyo and Suzanne Oboler 2005

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  • Jorge Duany

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