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Nations, calling for independence for Puerto Rico and commemorating the
Nationalist insurrection in Puerto Rico twenty years earlier. The march was
organized by the Young Lords, a political group comprised primarily of second-
generation Puerto Rican youth. On July 4, 1976, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party
mobilized more than 50,000 people in Philadelphia and San Francisco, calling for
“A Bicentennial Without Colonization,” and protesting the official versions of
the United States’ bicentennial (1776–1976). These marches were very visible
moments in the Puerto Rican movement, and independence for Puerto Rico
was a central concern for many activists.
The Puerto Rican movement,
however, was not a monolithic entity, nor a hierarchically organized and
synchronized political organization. Instead, it was a constellation of groups
working on a variety of local and global issues, often intersecting. During the 1960s
and the 1970s, the Puerto Rican movement was part of the social movements
that characterized the era, globally and within the United States. Broadly defined,
U.S. social movements sought civil rights, economic justice, and an end to U.S.
imperialism and the war in Vietnam, as well as the elimination of bias and second-
class citizenship based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. Social
movements addressed the multiple and overlapping structures of inequality.
They also crafted identity politics based on pride, thereby challenging social
constructions of inferiority. This was the “radical context” of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (the Center for Puerto Rican Studies)
was founded as a research center in New York City in 1973.
This paper explores the
radical context that surrounded the establishment of the Centro. Centro was not,
however, just a product of the times. Instead, Centro created another “radical context”
by providing a physical space, alternative approaches, and support for scholarship
that laid the foundations for Puerto Rican Studies as a field of research today.
Centro promoted interdisciplinary and collective scholarship through working
groups or task forces, conferences, a newsletter, and working papers. By the late
1970s, Centro began to publish its own works, and in 1987 it launched its own academic
CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies
, which continues today.
Centro’s scholarship provided an alternative to the pre-existing literature on Puerto
Ricans in the United States, reclaimed community histories, and examined the radical
politics of the era. This historiographical account explores the dialogue between these
two “radical contexts”—the Puerto Rican movement and Centro’s scholarship.
[ 222 ]
ON OCTOBER 30, 1970, 10,000
Creating a Radical Context and Reclaiming Community Histories:
The Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños
Reflecting the era’s political activism, Centro defined its mission at the intersections
of scholarship and activism. Celebrating their tenth anniversary, they reaffirmed,
“Centro’s continued commitment to university based research and teaching,
attention to practical community concerns and to the dissemination of the fruits
of our research to the Puerto Rican community and to the general public.”
Centro began the scholarly task of reclaiming community histories and making
these histories visible. The issue, however, was not simply a void in historical
writings on Puerto Rican communities and Puerto Rican politics in the United
States. Instead, the issue was that what did exist in print was often negative and
even negating. Centro provided an alternative to the dominant, mainstream writings
on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Ricans in the States. Beyond this important
historical recovery, Centro developed alternative approaches and analysis. Influenced
by the radical context of the times, Centro’s scholarship entailed a radical critique of
broad structural factors, as well as attention to everyday people and their lives.
As a graduate student in 1987, I discovered that the scholarship on Puerto
Ricans in the United States was still limited and that literature produced during
the 1950s and 1960s was still the most widely cited in mainstream scholarship.
This predominantly social science literature, written during the peak period of
Puerto Rican migration, was a school of immigration studies steeped in American
exceptionalism, as immigrants came to take advantage of the land of opportunity.
Comparing Puerto Ricans in the post-World War II era to European immigrants
at the turn of the century, these scholars found Puerto Ricans lacking, particularly
in culture and ambition. Deemed the “undeserving poor,” Puerto Ricans’ were
blamed for their own poverty.
This scholarship also maintained that Puerto Ricans
had no communities, let alone politics. Writing in 1950, for example, sociologist
C. Wright Mills, along with Clarence Senior and Rose Kohn Goldsen, concluded,
“In the metropolis the migrant has no community, even in clusters of Puerto Rican
[ 223 ]
settlement” (Mills, Senior and Goldsen 1950: 92). In 1959 historian Oscar Handlin
wrote that it was “in the character of their communal life” that “the Negroes and
Puerto Ricans are the farthest removed from the experiences of earlier immigrant
groups” (Handlin 1959: 106).Yet 1987 was also the first year that
published. Puerto Rican Studies was taking shape and becoming more broadly
disseminated. I positioned my research on Puerto Rican migration to Philadelphia
between more recent trends in immigration history and the emerging field of Puerto
Rican Studies.
Initially avoiding the scholarship of the 1950s and 1960s as much
as possible, I later returned to develop a critique of racial ideologies embedded in
“culture of poverty” perspectives.
I now return to explore explicitly how Centro’s
early scholarship provided a striking alternative to this pre-existing literature,
as well as a foundation for Puerto Rican Studies.
1960S AND 1970S AND FROM
Centro’s contributions stemmed from the radical political context of the late
1960s and 1970s and from the radical institutional context created at Centro.
Committed to collaborative and interdisciplinary research, Centro organized
“task forces.” Early task forces included History, Culture, Higher Education,
Language Policy, Puerto Rican Studies, and Oral History. Concerned with the pressing
social and political issues of the day, research agendas were defined in conversation
with the broader community. In 1974, Centro sponsored the Conference on Puerto
Rican Historiography “to elicit from such a diverse group an approximate sense of
research priorities [and] felt needs for new knowledge” and to search for “topics of
strategic interest to Puerto Rican communities in the United States.” Migration
emerged as a central concern, revealing “a rising consciousness of the systematic
forces that define and reproduce a people’s disadvantaged and unsettled condition.”
The impetus for
Labor Migration Under Capitalism
was born. The History Task Force
set out to develop “a theoretical approach to migration that would be responsive to the
totality of the complex and contradictory movements so fresh in their experience” and
“to build on the basic insights and theoretical guidelines provided by Marx, chiefly in
, concerning population and labor force movements as essential components
in the organization of production” (History Task Force 1979: 7, 9, 10). Working for
four years, task force members held public meetings and internal study sessions,
and produced a 1975
titled after the conference, several conference papers,
and articles. Frank Bonilla, Ricardo Campos, and Carlos Sanabria were core members
of the task force, aided by Juan Flores, and others along the way.
Indicative of their
collective approach, the History Task Force is the designated author of the book.
[ 224 ]
Highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the scholarship, most contributors were
not historians, but rather political economists who played a key role in the “historical”
recovery of Puerto Rican communities.
Published in 1979, Centro’s
Labor Migration Under Capitalism
explored the creation
of Puerto Rican communities within a fundamental critique of global capitalism
and U.S. colonialism. Before the terms “globalization” and “transnationalism”
were fully in vogue, the History Task Force analyzed the dynamics of migration
as stemming from the interactions between the United States and Puerto Rico,
more specifically from the U.S. military occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898, the
continuing colonial relationship, and the impact of U.S. capital investment in Puerto
Rico (History Task Force 1979; History Task Force 1982; Bonilla and Campos 1986).
The resultant economic dislocation in Puerto Rico was coupled with active labor
recruitment by U.S. employers in the States, who were seeking low-wage workers
with the assistance, often, of government-sponsored contract labor programs.
Centro’s approach challenged the prevailing portrayals, which stressed Puerto Rico’s
economic “success story” and then pointed to “overpopulation” as the cause of
migration. Mills, for example, argued, “The population pressures upon the island are
so acute and the need for adjustment so grave that these movements can be expected
to continue.” For Mills, “There has been after all no drastic change in the life of the
Puerto Rican, accustomed as he is to a chronically depressed economy. If anything,
conditions there are continually improving” (Mills, Senior and Goldsend 1950: 21, 53).
In contrast, Centro insisted, “Demographic conditions—including, of course,
‘overpopulation’ are at all times seen as being relative to the level of productive
development of society” (History Task Force 1979: 35). They turned to the
shortcomings of Puerto Rico’s industrialization program and the colonial relation-
ship, which reaped profits for U.S. corporations while failing to provide adequate
employment for Puerto Rican workers. Migration stemmed from colonialism,
global capitalism, economic displacement, and labor recruitment.
by focusing on the impact of the United States in Puerto Rico and the role of
government-sponsored labor recruitment, Centro moved beyond immigration studies’
“push-pull” explanations and toward a critical analysis of the global economy.
While this analysis of the causes of migration and the historical overview
of migration to the States was the core of
Labor Migration Under Capitalism
three additional essays contributed to the critique of pre-existing literature
and provided alternatives. One was a demographic overview of Puerto Rican
emigration by José L. Vázquez Calzada, which aimed to provide demographic
details and analysis in place of sweeping generalizations about “overpopulation.”
The other two essays, one by sociologist Clara Rodríguez and one by Felipe Rivera,
who was an activist with an MBA in corporate and labor relations, initiated a critical
assessment of the challenges confronting the working class communities that formed
as a result of this migration. Poverty was caused, not by Puerto Ricans’ presumed
cultural deficiencies, but rather by economic exploitation, subsequent economic
displacement, and discrimination.
The earlier literature had focused on Puerto Ricans’ “problems” and blamed
Puerto Ricans’ culture for those problems. In 1963, Nathan Glazer and Daniel
Patrick Moynihan asserted that “Puerto Rico was sadly defective,” for “it was weak
in folk arts, unsure in its cultural traditions, without a powerful faith…. Nor was
there much strength in the Puerto Rican family.” They suggested that the
“culture of public welfare” was “as relevant for the future of Puerto Ricans in the
[ 225 ]
[ 226 ]
city as the culture of Puerto Rico” (Glazer and Moynihan 1963: 53, 101, 122). In 1965,
anthropologist Oscar Lewis argued that Puerto Ricans had a “culture of poverty,”
encapsulating many of the prevailing perspectives on Puerto Ricans and increasing
their academic and popular credence. Lewis considered “poverty and its associated
traits as a culture… with its own structure and rationale, as a way of life which is
passed down from generation to generation along family lines.” The “culture of
poverty” was characterized by limited interaction with the larger society,
little organization within the ethnic community, families that verbally emphasized
unity but rarely achieved it, and individuals with feelings of insecurity and a high
level of tolerance for pathologies. As Puerto Ricans migrated to New York City,
they brought their “culture of poverty” with them, so that “many of the problems
of Puerto Ricans in New York have their origin in the slums of Puerto Rico”
(Lewis 1965: xi, xxviii, xliii, lii; 1973). By 1971, Joseph Fitzpatrick revealed that,
for some, the “culture of poverty” had become a central feature of Puerto Ricans’
“traditional culture,” as he attributed Puerto Ricans’ problems to “traditional
weaknesses in Puerto Rican families” and “traditional features of Puerto Rican culture
(machismo, the practice of the mistress, consensual unions, the culture of poverty)”
(Fitzpatrick 1971: 159). These works had longevity, as they continued to be cited and as
their notions of the “culture of poverty” continued to infuse scholarly writings on and
popular perceptions of Puerto Ricans.
Although there were alternative voices during
this era, they were unable to shift the dominant “culture of poverty” paradigm.
Sharing concerns about the economic conditions of Puerto Ricans in New York
City, Rodríguez offered fundamentally different explanations for the causes,
and providing an early structural assessment of economic restructuring and its impact.
Seeking to understand “the root causes of Puerto Rican high unemployment, skewed
occupational distribution and low income,” she pointed to “the particular dialectic at
work between the successive waves of immigrants and the development of capitalism
in the United States.” Low economic status persisted because “the historical role of
immigrants in the United States has been that of low-wage workers whose exploita-
tion has tended to increase the surplus value of capitalists while maintaining
general wage levels in depressed conditions.” Yet “differences in material
conditions” stemmed from “the stage of capitalism” when Puerto Ricans migrated,
and “the colonial relationship.” She argued, “A severe problem of blue-collar
structural employment arose. Because of racial and ethnic prejudice, restrictive union
policies, inadequate educational opportunities, and the restriction of Puerto Ricans
from government employment, Puerto Ricans bore the brunt of this blue-collar
structural unemployment” (Rodríguez 1979: 197, 206). Hers was an early assessment
of the deindustrialization that would devastate urban areas in the Northeast and
the Midwest, and especially Puerto Rican migrants who had become concentrated
in the manufacturing jobs that were now disappearing.
Taking a different approach, Rivera emphasized Puerto Ricans’ efforts to
improve their working conditions, their lives and their communities—a far cry from
the apathy and lack of community that permeated portrayals of Puerto Ricans in
the earlier literature. Drawing on his own experiences as the chairperson of the
Asociación de Trabajadores Agrícolas Support Committee, he linked the emerging
scholarship in Puerto Rican Studies with activism. Charting farmworkers’ journeys
from Puerto Rico to the States and “from exploitation to unionization,” he also
linked the challenges confronting working class Puerto Ricans with the colonial
relationship. Puerto Rican and other farmworkers shared “a lifestyle created by an
[ 227 ]
economic system that requires the exploitation of certain sectors of the population
in order to benefit others.” What made Puerto Rican workers “unique” was
“the unresolved question of the political status of the Island” and the connections
between Puerto Rico and the United States. Pointing to the roles of the Puerto
Rico and the U.S. governments in promoting the contract labor program that
brought farmworkers from Puerto Rico to the States, he wrote, “Farm laborers
from extremely depressed areas are shipped to farms to work for very low wages in
an industry unprotected by national labor laws.” Without labor laws, the state then
left workers vulnerable to exploitation through contracts that provided poor wages
and conditions, that had no input from workers in their negotiation, and that the
state failed to enforce. Workers and their union made the connections between the
United States and Puerto Rico, as Rivera observed, “There is a growing demand on
the part of the Puerto Rican agricultural workers themselves to negotiate their
own contracts and a call for the passage of agrarian reform laws on the Island”
(Rivera 1979: 238, 248, 250). Founded in 1973 and organizing in New Jersey,
Connecticut, and Massachusetts, the Asociación de Trabajadores Agrícolas’
(ATA) demanded that Puerto Rico’s government support migrants’ legal actions,
institute agrarian reform in Puerto Rico, end the farm labor program, and prohibit
discrimination based on race, religion, or political belief.
Labor Migration Under Capitalism
analyzed the broad, structural causes of
migration and the origins of Puerto Rican communities, other Centro publications
turned to autobiographical writings and oral histories to uncover
human experiences and human agency. Playing a critical role in reclaiming
community histories, these works also offered a fundamental reinterpretation of
Puerto Rican culture. The emergence of Puerto Rican Studies scholarship at Centro
and beyond paralleled the “new” histories that sought to retell dominant narratives
by writing history from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, and sought
to render valid the historical narratives of everyday life.
The 1974 Conference on
Historiography resulted in a second cuaderno produced by the Culture Task Force.
By the 1980s, publications portrayed Puerto Rican culture as a source of pride
and as a resource for survival. Two collections provided rich lenses to understand
New York City’s Puerto Rican community between the world wars, the
Memoirs of
Bernardo Vega
(Vega 1984 [1977]) and the collected writings of Jesús Colón (1961).
Divided Arrivals
added autobiographical fiction in a bilingual format. Juan Flores,
a member of Centro’s Culture Task Force, translated Bernando Vega’s memoirs
and edited and translated
Divided Arrivals
(Flores 1987).
The Oral History Task Force uncovered critical dimensions of Puerto Ricans’
experiences, as well. A 1984 conference explored the Puerto Rican diaspora,
including Hawaii, New Jersey, Chicago, and Lorain, Ohio, as well as New York
City. The resultant publication,
Extended Roots: From Hawaii to New York
became the foundation for the first issue of
, a volume entitled
“Community History” (Oral Hisory Task Force 1998 [1986]). This task force then
embarked on an ambitious project documenting Puerto Rican women’s lives and
their work in the garment industry—a key component of the post-World War II
migration experience (Benmayor et al. 1987).
Hence, with Centro’s alternative
approaches, Puerto Rican communities were built upon strong cultural foundations,
networks of families and community members, various community and political
organizations, and multiple efforts to improve their lives and communities.
With links to Centro, historian Virginia Sánchez Korrol and sociologist Félix
Padilla, built on Centro’s work and wrote full-length community studies. They took
another step in reclaiming community histories and in forming alternatives to the
mainstream scholarship and its “culture of poverty” perspectives (Padilla 1985, 1987).
In 1983, historian Sánchez Korrol explained, “Discovering materials on the early
settlement to be practically non-existent, I was unable to reconcile the available
writings on Puerto Ricans with my own memories of a
soundly structured by
strict family values, concern for cultural heritage, and an identifiable organizational
network, so I embarked on a search which led to the study of Latin American history
and the writing of this book.” Centro “provided invaluable and consistent support,”
as Sánchez Korrol participated in the History Task Force and relied on materials being
collected for Centro’s archives. Her book,
From Colonia to Community
, chronicled the
history of Puerto Ricans in New York City from 1917 to 1948, expanding the definition
of community beyond formal political structures and community organizations to
include informal networks of childcare and lodging that fostered the community’s
infrastructure and survival. Within this broader definition of “community,” Sánchez
Korrol explored Puerto Ricans’ political associations as a “rubric for interacting with
the host society, for solidifying their identity as a community, and for addressing the
relevant political issues of the period” (Sánchez Korrol 1983: xvii, xviii, 167).
Félix Padilla explored Puerto Ricans in Chicago in Centro’s 1986
. In explaining inter-ethnic tensions, he challenged the focus on “inter-group
competition in the labor market.” He argued instead: “Since the employment of
Puerto Ricans in noncompetitive sectors caused very little friction with ‘other
ethnic’ workers, racial/ethnic antagonisms between Puerto Ricans and whites,
in particular, became related to social, political, and community issues. From the
outset, housing discrimination and police injustice became the leading forces
[ 228 ]
responsible for fostering an antagonistic group relationship between Puerto Ricans
and whites” (Padilla 1998 [1986]). In his full-length community study,
Puerto Rican
, he criticized “the culture of poverty thesis,” noting that “inadequacies…
stem from the fact that the colonization of Puerto Rico and its direct consequences
on Puerto Ricans in the Island and mainland, for the most part, have remained
unexamined.” Highlighting the parallels to classic colonialism, he turned to
“internal colonialism,” defined as “a relationship of socioeconomic exploitation,
subordination, and inequality within the borders of the imperialistic power,
which enhances the position of the dominant group.” His use of “internal colonialism,”
which was more prevalent in Chicano Studies than in Puerto Rican Studies,
nevertheless provided another structural approach to examining Puerto Ricans’
economic status (Padilla 1987; Saragoza 1990).
What emerged during Centro’s first decade was not a monolithic approach to Puerto
Rican studies, but rather a series of approaches, driven by shared concerns. Scholars’
engagement with contemporary social and political issues fostered a focus on working
class communities, the challenges they faced, and their strategies. Scholars grappled
with balancing structural and cultural approaches. Some works were more theoretical,
while others emphasized human dimensions. With varying degrees of success, some tried
to combine the two approaches. What did emerge, however, was a clear alternative
to the pre-existing writings on Puerto Ricans in the States—alternatives that
provided an important foundation for the field of Puerto Rican Studies.
This scholarship, in reclaiming community histories, also uncovered the
foundations for the political activism of the 1960s and 1970s. The post-World War
[ 229 ]
II era was the peak period of Puerto Rican migration to the States, and a
period when Puerto Ricans settled not only in New York City, but also in
communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, and the Northeast.
These postwar migrants gave rise to a second generation, who came of age
during an era of social fervent in the 1960s and 1970s. This second generation,
loosely defined to include those born in the States and youthful migrants,
became activists in the Puerto Rican movement. In unearthing the underlying
causes of migration and the working class communities that took root, this
scholarship called attention to the challenges confronting Puerto Rican
communities, especially the economic hardships wrought by economic
exploitation and economic displacement. At the same time, the scholarship’s
critiques of the capitalist economy, U.S. colonialism, and, more broadly,
“the system” were echoes of those being made on the streets and in protests.
Centro’s reinterpretation of Puerto Rican culture was echoed in activists’ bold
assertions of their newly articulated racial pride. Hence, activists in the Puerto
Rican movement, like Centro’s scholarship, confronted structures of inequality
and the racism that portrayed them as inferior.
Radical Politics and Historiography: The Young Lords in New York City
As a result of shared political contexts and shared concerns, parallels emerged
between the political activism of the era and Centro’s scholarship. In the radical
context of the late 1960s and 1970s, the Puerto Rican movement shared many
goals, tactics, and dynamics with other movements. The Puerto Rican movement
confronted issues such as poverty, residential displacement stemming from
“urban renewal,” housing discrimination, police brutality, inadequate health
care, inferior and biased education, the war in Vietnam and the disproportionate
casualties among the poor and people of color, as well as economic exploitation and
racism in their many guises.
The tactics of the era were confrontational, as people
[ 230 ]
took to the streets, took over buildings, and made demands of local and federal
government authorities, of the military-industrial complex, and of society at large.
The goals were ambitious, as “radical” here refers not only to the tactics, but also to
the “radical” nature of the transformations that activists sought. Satisfied neither
with reform nor incremental change, social movements promoted the fundamental
restructuring of U.S. politics, the economy, and society, as well as power relations in
their everyday manifestations. These movements included the Civil Rights and Black
Power movements; Chicano, Asian American, and American Indian movements;
Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation movements; as well as Student, Anti-War,
and Environmental movements. Globally, the era was marked by decolonization
struggles in the Third World, student movements, and activism more broadly.
At the same time, the Puerto Rican movement drew on the historical legacies
of Puerto Rican activism in Puerto Rico and in the States. The influences were
many and varied—from the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico to community-based
organizations in the States. Activists looked to Puerto Rico as a source of racial
and ethnic pride, as well as a source of political inspiration. As activists sought the
causes of Puerto Ricans’ poverty in the States, the colonial relationship between
Puerto Rico and the United States became central. For many activists, the challenges
that faced Puerto Ricans living in the States stemmed from the colonial status
of Puerto Rico, and they called for independence. In addition to large protest
marches, political groups sought to politicize, organize, and mobilize people in local
communities and in their daily lives. Political groups addressed local issues through
grassroots, community-based activism, often seeing these local issues as part of larger
struggles and using community-based services as a tool for political education.
In crafting identity politics based on pride, many groups looked inward to
address issues of race, class, gender and sexuality in their midst, as well as in their
communities and the broader society. Hence, placing Puerto Rican activism of the
era and the Centro’s scholarship in dialogue, four critical dimensions for studying
Puerto Rican politics emerge: the historical trajectory of Puerto Rican politics in the
States; the political context of the era; the continuing colonial relationship between
the United States and Puerto Rico; and the groups’ internal dynamics and broader
identity politics. Rather than mutually exclusive, these approaches enrich each other
and the analysis of political activism.
The Young Lords provide a lens to both “radical contexts”—the political
activism of the era and Centro’s continued production of alternative scholarship.
With the cry of “All Power to the People,” the Young Lords were one of the
many political groups that arose in the late 1960s and 1970s, as part of the Puerto
Rican movement. Emblematic of the post-World War II Puerto Rican diaspora,
the Young Lords originated in Chicago in 1967, and by 1971 there were branches in
New York City; Philadelphia; Newark, New Jersey; and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The Young Lords advocated a socialist society based on meeting the needs of the
people, grassroots community-controlled services, and independence for Puerto
Rico, thereby “bridging homeland and barrio politics.”
Although they were just
one of many groups, the Young Lords captured the imagination of subsequent
generations of activists and of scholars. Student activists, who occupied buildings
on several campuses of City University of New York in the spring of 1989, referred
to themselves as the “sons and daughters of the generation of 1969,” and as modeled
after the Young Lords Party (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 97). Sociologist Agustín
Laó surveyed revivals of the Young Lords as an inspiration for activism, and concluded,
[ 231 ]
“What became apparent is that the brief but powerful moment of Lords activism
was inscribed in our diasporic political culture and has left a mark in our collective
memory” (Laó 1994–1995: 34). As
became a forum for scholarship on the
political activism of the era and attention focused on the Young Lords, the Young
Lords left their mark on the historiography in Puerto Rican Studies.
In articulating their political analysis and their goals in their “13 Point Program
and Platform,” the Young Lords emphasized the colonial relationship between the
United States and Puerto Rico, rooted themselves in the political context of the
era, and asserted an identity politics with implications for internal group dynamics,
as well as the larger society. Calling for Puerto Rico’s independence, their first
point asserted, “We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans, Liberation on the
Island and inside the United States.” Focusing on Puerto Rico and the States, they
identified the “exploiters” as imperialism, capitalism, and racism, and elaborated:
“First spain and then the united states have colonized our country,” “billions of
dollars in profits leave our country for the united states each year,” and “in every
way we are slaves of the gringo.” Their solution—“We want liberation and the
Power in the hands of the People, not Puerto Rican exploiters.” Simultaneously,
the Young Lords positioned themselves in the political context of the era,
identifying themselves as “a revolutionary political party fighting for the liberation
of all oppressed people.” Other points expanded their struggle beyond Puerto
Rico and Puerto Ricans, as theirs was not a narrow cultural nationalism based on
country of origin. Instead, calling themselves “internationalists,” they demanded
the “liberation of all Third World people,” and the “immediate withdrawal of
all u.s. military forces and bases from Puerto Rico, Viet Nam, and all oppressed
communities inside and outside the u.s.” Similarly, their opposition to “racism”
was linked with their class analysis and included poor whites: “The Latin, Black,
Indian and Asian people inside the u.s. are colonies fighting for liberation….
Millions of poor white people are rising up to demand freedom and we support
them.” Their platform also contained the seeds for an exploration of race and
gender dynamics. Asserting a proud identity, they wanted “a true education of
our Afro-Indio culture and Spanish language,” and an end to “racism.” Asserting,
“Under capitalism, women have been oppressed by both society and our men,”
they criticized the “doctrine of machismo,” and demanded, “We want equality
for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism.”(Young Lords Party and
Abramson 1971: 150).
[ 232 ]
Ultimately, the Young Lords called
for “a socialist society,” which they
defined as “a society where the needs of
the people come first.” They explained,
“We want liberation, clothing, free food,
education, health care, transportation,
full employment and peace.” Pointing
to “police, health services, churches,
schools, housing, transportation and
welfare,” they envisioned “community
control of our institutions and land…
to guarantee that all institutions serve
the needs of our people” (Young Lords
Party and Abramson 1971: 150). In New
York City, the Young Lords’ major
“offensives” revealed the challenges
confronting their community, their
political goals, and their tactics.
In July
1969, the Lords launched their “garbage
offensive.” Reminiscing, a former Young
Lord recalled that the group had been
studying socialism and nationalism.
Yet when they asked “the people”
what they needed, the people replied,
[ 233 ]
Cover of
’s 1994–1995 issue (vol. 7, no. 1).
The photograph, by Martha Cooper, shows the
Second Avenue & 112 Street, New York, NY.
First page and opening spread of Agustín Laó’s essay (
7(1): 34–49, 1994–1995).
“garbage” (
¡Palante, Siempre Palante!
1996; M. Melendez 2003). For several consecutive
Sundays, the Young Lords cleaned up the streets. When the city failed to provide
brooms and remove the collected trash, the Young Lords piled the trash in the streets,
forcing the city to remove it. Their message was that the city should provide services
to their communities and that people should not have to live surrounded by garbage.
It was a dramatic message, especially when a trash heap was ignited. Their actions and
determination resonated with the community, and their membership grew.
The Peoples’ Church offensive exemplified the notion of “community control”—
that community institutions should be responsive to and meet the needs of the
people. When a church in the community refused them space to provide children
with a free, hot breakfast before school, the Young Lords took over and occupied
the church for eleven days, from December 28, 1969 until the arrest of 105 members
on January 8, 1970. In addition to their breakfast program, the Lords ran free
clothing drives, “a liberation school,” a day care center, and health programs,
as well as providing entertainment each night via poetry readings, music, or movies.
Their evening activities reflected the importance they attached to cultural expression,
as well as its intersections with the politics of the era. The Young Lords then took
over Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx in July 1970, collaborating with the Health
Revolutionary Unity Movement (HRUM), a group of hospital workers. They ran
lead poisoning and tuberculosis detection programs and operated a day care center.
The Lords had already been active in health initiatives–going door to door to test for
lead poisoning and “liberating” the city’s TB x-ray truck, which was underutilized.
Like the People’s Church, the takeover of Lincoln Hospital represented the Lords’
vision of socialism in practice. Another takeover of the People’s Church focused on
prison conditions and the number of reported “suicides” among incarcerated Puerto
Ricans and African Americans. When Young Lord Julio Roldán was found hung
in his cell, the Lords responded by occupying the church at the end of the funeral
procession. The Young Lords also addressed drug addiction, education, and the war
in Vietnam, as well as organizing the Inmates Liberation Front for men and women
incarcerated in U.S. prisons. They promoted independence for Puerto Rico through
on-going political education and through demonstrations, including the march of
10,000 people to the United Nations on October 30, 1970.
The Young Lords captured the imagination of scholars, as well as of community
members and future activists. In the
’s second issue, Winter 1987–1988,
Juan González called attention to the Philadelphia Young Lords within the historical
trajectory of Puerto Rican politics in the city (González 1987–1988). The next
issue, Spring 1988, introduced one of the Puerto Rican Student Union’s historical
documents, emphasizing the group’s connections with the Young Lords (Puerto Rican
Student Union 1988). In 1989, two articles referenced the Young Lords in their
overviews of the Puerto Rican community and its politics. Noting the Young Lords’
“very effective program,” Antonia Pantoja added, “These acts were so eloquent and
so correct that parents and neighbors joined the group in their confrontations”
(1989: 27). Carlos Rodríguez-Fraticelli and Amílcar Tirado described the Young Lords
as “at the forefront” of the “new radical leadership and mass movement” and their
impact as “long lasting” (1989: 43). More recent scholarship on the politics of the era
has continued to focus more on the Young Lords than on other groups of the era.
In 1991–1992 and in 1994–1995, Roberto Rodríguez-Morazzani and Agustín
Laó published
articles on the Young Lords that illustrate two distinct,
yet overlapping, approaches to studying the politics of the era. Rodríguez-
[ 234 ]
Morazzani analyzed the Young Lords within the historical trajectory of
Puerto Rican politics in New York City, treating the Young Lords as part of a
“political generation.” Echoing Centro’s earlier emphasis on structural inequalities
and the impact of racism, he argued, “The historic formation of the Puerto
Rican political generation of the 60s was overdetermined by the experience of
imperialism and colonialism, mass migration and the insertion of the Puerto
Rican working class into the international division of labor.” Coupled with the
“subordinate integration of Puerto Ricans into the labor market and dominant
society,” this generation experienced “unbridled racism,” “a school system which
miseducated, denigrated and oppressed them,” and biased attitudes when they
served as intermediaries for their parents in social service agencies. Economic
conditions were deteriorating, despite the postwar era’s rhetoric of economic
prosperity (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 109–10, 98).
Rodríguez-Morazzani delineated three Puerto Rican political generations.
The “pioneros” established community-based organizations that provided
“political, social and cultural cohesion,” as well as the “means by which the
community could access resources from the institutions of the dominant society
and organize the defense of the community against the hostilities of a profoundly
racist society.” By the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new generation of college-
educated “Young Turks” founded Puerto Rican social service agencies.
These agencies were “staffed by Puerto Ricans who would be particularly sensitive
to the specific needs of the Puerto Rican community,” and who promoted
“leadership development amongst the youth” through “cultural awareness and pride,
the appreciation of education as a value, and community service.” Founded by Antonia
Pantoja in 1961, Aspira “represented a benchmark in the organizational life of the
community,” providing students with educational support and leadership development,
as well as conducting research and advocacy. Managing to “provide greatly needed
services and initiate many struggles for reform,” these agencies served as
“important institutional sites within which the evolution of the radical political
generation of Puerto Ricans was facilitated.” After all, “It was within the Puerto
Rican social service agencies that Puerto Rican youth could and did go to find
encouragement and respect for their language and culture,” and where they developed
“pride in who they were” (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 101, 102–3, 106–7).
For Rodríguez-Morazzani, “The Young Lords Party was, more than all the
other Puerto Rican organizations, to set the tone for militancy in the struggle.”
Emphasizing the “rupture” between this “radical” generation and the previous
one, he developed his own critique of the Puerto Rican social service agencies for
relying on external funding and for their “hierarchically organized professional
bureaucracies.” He questioned the founders for their “liberal outlook and
commitment to the social elevation of the Puerto Rican community” via
“individual self-development” and access to resources and the influence of
public policy.” In contrast, “the decade of the 60s and 70s was unique,” as it was
“the first time that youth as youth played a central role in the shaping of anti-
systemic movements against exploitation, domination and subordination.”
According to Rodríguez-Morazzani, in the universities “Puerto Ricans and other
oppressed groups began to encounter emergent discourses which called into question
the possibility, and indeed, the desirability of the political and economic integration
into the mainstream that their predecessors had fought for.” In other words,
the previous generation believed that “the interests of the Puerto Rican community
[ 235 ]
could be served within the existent structural arrangements of liberal capitalism”
and through “reform.” The radical generation did not share these beliefs, as they
mounted a fundamental critique of the system and called for revolution instead of
reform. Indeed, “this break from the strategy of the by then middle-aged Turks
should be seen not only as a rupture between generations, but of the ideological
hegemony exercised by liberalism” (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 113–, 107,
108, 102, 112). Yet, as explored below, Rodríguez-Morazzani may have overstated
the extent of “rupture,” particularly given the relative paucity of historical works
exploring the earlier eras of Puerto Rican activism.
In the 1994–1995 issue, Agustín Laó studied the politics of the era,
by analyzing the Young Lords within the political context of the times.
Noting the limited scholarship on the Young Lords, he sought “to start drawing
a theoretically informed and politically inclined historical analysis by highlighting
selected elements of the practice (the performative) and of the theory and
ideology (the discursive) of the Young Lords.”
provided a forum where
“historical analysis” could be “theoretically informed and politically inclined,”
as well as written by a doctoral student in sociology (Laó 1994–1995: 36).
Hence, Laó focused “on the period between the late sixties and the early
seventies… not only because that was the height of the Young Lords movement,
but also because it was the climax of a world-historical revolutionary
conjuncture.” The era was punctuated by the “Black Freedom Movement,”
including civil rights and Black Power; “an anti-authoritarian/anti-liberal new
left;” and the “growth of new social movements for gender and sexual liberation
(Feminist, Gay and Lesbian Movements); ecological rationality; labor democracy;
and anti-imperialist wars.” Beyond the United States, the era was marked by
nationalist revolutions in the Third Word and by “a global student movement.”
For Laó, the sixties became “an analytical category to conceptualize the political-
economic and cultural crisis of late capitalism.” The Young Lords’ ideology and
discourse derived primarily from the political context of the era. Influenced by
the Black Panther Party, especially their 10-point program and political style,
the Young Lords were also affected by the theology of the Liberation Movement
in Latin America. The Lords held their inaugural rally on July 26, 1969,
in solidarity with the Cuban rebels’ assault in 1953, and with the participation of
the Black Panthers, and Youth Against War and Fascism (Laó 1994–1995: 34, 36).
Also critical for Laó was the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico and the extent
to which the Young Lords “perceived their party as the carrier of this tradition
of uncompromising struggle for the constitution of a Puerto Rican sovereign
nation-state.” Seeing themselves as a continuation of the anti-colonial struggles,
they looked to Pedro Albizu Campos as inspiration. Yet when they turned their
organizing efforts to Puerto Rico, “This shift in geographical center from the inner
city to the Island, was homologous with a political turn from a street grounded
experimentally-minded radicalism, to a party-centered search for ‘scientific’
correctness and ideological purity” (Laó 1994–1995: 38, 41). Indeed, the decision to
open a branch in Puerto Rico increased internal divisions within the group over
whether to focus on independence for Puerto Rico or on issues confronting Puerto
Ricans in the States, and intensified surveillance by the F.B.I. In 1973, the New
York Young Lords transformed into the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers
Organization, which signaled their loss of connection to the community and their
ultimate demise (
¡Palante, Siempre Palante!
[ 236 ]
While emphasizing two differing approaches, both articles illustrate another
approach to Puerto Rican politics of the era, by calling attention to the
continuing colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico.
Although both authors noted the relationship between Puerto Rican politics in
the States and in Puerto Rico, they did not fully explore the transnational
dimensions of the Young Lords’ politics, a conceptual framework that was still
emerging at that time. Instead, Rodríguez-Morazzani pointed to a historically
specific moment—when the “Young Turks” challenged the Migration Division of
Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor. In addition to the farmworker labor program,
the Migration Division opened offices in New York City and other Puerto Rican
communities to facilitate migrants’ adjustment. According to Rodríguez-Morazzani,
Migration Division staff were viewed as “accountable not to the Puerto Rican
community, but to the colonial government of Puerto Rico and, by extension,
that of the United States,” and “the island-born leadership was viewed as elitist
and racist, reflecting a class bias in their interactions with stateside Puerto Ricans.”
The Young Turks asserted that “Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland be in control
of their organizational life,” and they “were able to effectively challenge the old
elite for leadership and within a few years establish themselves as the recognized
representatives of the community” (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 102).
This argument emphasized a shift from island to mainland political leadership
without fully exploring the connections between island and mainland politics
or the continuing influence of the “homeland” in Puerto Rican politics.
Laó’s approach paralleled the scholarship more broadly—with Puerto Ricans
caught between being part of a “divided nation” and being a minority group
in the States. Laó concluded, “Their notion of peoplehood oscillates in an
ambiguity between the national subject and the colonized subaltern,” as the Lords
simultaneously saw themselves as “a national minority” and as part of the U.S.
multinational working class (Laó 1994–1995: 41). Similarly, while
[ 237 ]
[ 238 ]
on the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico in exploring
the causes of migration and the emergence of Puerto Rican communities in the
States, this did not translate immediately into an exploration of the ways in which
those linkages shaped Puerto Rican politics in the States.
retained its focus on both Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the States and remained
bilingual, while attention to transnationalism in Puerto Rican politics developed over
time. An emerging transnational approach appeared in Frances Negrón-Muntaner’s
two part essay, “Echoing Stonewall,” in
’s 1991–1992 issues. The Stonewall
Rebellion, on June 29, 1969, in New York City, is often used to mark the beginning
of the U.S. Gay and Lesbian Movement of the era. Negrón-Muntaner examined the
role of Puerto Ricans in the Stonewall rebellion, and the influences of Stonewall on
the movement in Puerto Rico (Negrón-Muntaner 1991–1992, 1992). More recently,
I suggested that instead of an either-or approach, transnationalism is a useful
framework for understanding the radical politics of the era. Yet the relationship
between Puerto Rican politics in the States and in Puerto Rico has remained
contentious in political activism and in the scholarship (E. Meléndez 2003).
Both authors also broached the group’s internal dynamics and broader identity
politics. Rodríguez-Morazzani observed, “Puerto Rican women, active as leaders and
members in many of the organizations…, would in the early 1970s raise the issue of
the special oppression of women and of the male supremacy within the ranks of the
Left” (Rodríguez-Morazzani 1991–1992: 112). Laó stressed that for the Lords, racism was
part of the “master practice of domination that informs and justifies the multiple
modes of oppression.” At the same time, the Lords “critically exposed the textures
of Puerto Rican racism” that manifested in the denial and debasement of blackness.
Similarly, the Lords anchored the oppression of women in colonial domination, in the
exploitation of workers, and in the household. Here, the struggle became internal to
the group, as women challenged the sexism within the Young Lords. Laó observed
that this “politicization of everyday life (of lifestyle, the households, intimacy) and the
adoption of a holistic ethics of emancipation” could point “toward new avenues of
democratization”(Lao 1994–1995: 42, 43). Indeed, in the “politicization of everyday life,”
the Young Lords shared much with the social movements of the era.
Yet devoting more attention to “sexual politics” opens the door for a more
thorough discussion of internal group dynamics and broader identity politics, while
simultaneously providing an opportunity to revisit the political context of the era and
the historical trajectory of Puerto Rican politics.
In the Young Lords, as in
[ 239 ]
other movements, feminists emerged from within their respective movements.
Hence, although they shared the political context of the 1960s and 1970s and
this parallel to other movements, the Young Lords’ feminism grew out of the
particularities of their own experiences and activism. Women initiated a “revolution
within a revolution,” as they demanded that the Young Lords confront sexism within
the organization, within the Puerto Rican community, and within society. In 1971,
Young Lord Denise Oliver observed, “When the Party got started, there were very few
... We didn’t have a chance to contribute politically.
... We were relegated to doing
office work, typing, taking care of whatever kids were around, being sex objects”
(Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 51). Dissatisfied with these roles, they formed
a women’s caucus to foster their own political development and to challenge the gender
dynamics within the Young Lords. Shortly thereafter they pushed for a men’s caucus
to meet at the same time as the women’s. As Richie Perez described it, “We have been
having a weekly male caucus to discuss the oppression of our sisters not only in the Party,
but in our community in general, because we recognize
as one of the biggest
problems in making our revolution.” For Perez, “it was the first time I had ever talked to
a big group of people about my personal life” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971:
54, 56). As they demanded that women be included in leadership positions, two women,
Denise Oliver and Gloria Gonzalez, joined the Central Committee.
THE 1960S AND 1970S AND
Women linked the need for their participation to the issues the Young Lords were
addressing and developed a socialist feminism. Denise Oliver explained, “We saw that we
really weren’t gonna be able to do any kind of constructive organizing in the community
without sisters actively involved in the Party, because most of the people that we’re
organizing are women with children, through the free-breakfast program and through the
free-clothing drive and health care programs” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971:
51). The Young Lords revised their Thirteen Point Program. An earlier version had called
for “revolutionary machismo.” When pushed to recognize that machismo could not be
revolutionary, the Point was changed as follows: “We want equality for women.
Down with machismo and male chauvinism.” Criticizing both capitalism and
machismo, the Lords explained that “under capitalism, women have been oppressed by
both society and our men.” With a reference to domestic violence, the Lords continued,
[ 240 ]
“The doctrine of machismo has been used by men to take out their frustrations on wives,
sisters, mothers, and children.” The Lords asserted, that “sisters make up over half of
the revolutionary army: sisters and brothers are equals fighting for our people.”
They linked their feminism to their critique of capitalism and to their vision of a
socialist society free from economic oppression and based on meeting human needs.
Moving beyond class analysis, the Young Lords included a critique of gender
constructions, revealing those that they had grown up with and were hoping to
change. Iris Morales described her family as “a very strict, patriarchal type of family”
(Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 26). Her father maintained “his role as an
authority figure,” and her mother was “just one step above the children—she doesn’t
question anything that the father does” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971:
25). Morales saw a change, “there used to be only four choices for the Puerto Rican
woman-housewife, prostitute, or drug addict, and then, when the society needed
more labor for its sweatshops, she would become a worker. Now there’s a
new choice open to her that threatens the existence of the family and the state
itself: The Revolution” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 28). Pablo “Yoruba”
Guzman explained the difference between sex and gender, “See, there is a biological
division in sex, right—however, this society has created a false division based on a
thing called gender. Gender is a false idea, because gender is merely traits that have
been attributed through the years to a man or a woman” (Young Lords Party and
Abramson 1971: 47). For Guzman, it was the Gay Liberation movement that provided
an alternative: “We’re saying that to be totally real, it would be healthy for a man,
if he wanted to cry, to go ahead and cry. It would also be healthy for a woman to pick
up the gun, to use the gun. The gun is not the sole property of the man, you see.
That’s how you round people out. The Gay Liberation struggle has shown us how to
complete ourselves, so we’ve been able to accept this and understand this.” He did not,
however, underestimate the challenge: “We found out it’s a lot quicker for people to
accept the fact that sisters should be in the front of the struggle, than saying that we’re
gonna have gay people in the Party” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 46).
Hence, the Young Lords’ feminism emerged from their socialist analysis and
incorporated a critique of gender constructions and racism. Denise Oliver made
distinctions between those in the Women’s Liberation Movement who were “reformist”
and “want to turn the tables and just be the capitalist oppressors of everybody else,”
and those who were “revolutionaries” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 50).
For Oliver, the Lords’ awareness of “how genocide is practiced on Puerto Rican
people and all Third World people through birth control programs, population
control programs, and abortion programs,” meant their positions were different:
“Yes, we support abortion under a system where abortion is not forced, under a system
where there is community control of abortions, of health services, of all institutions”
(Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 51). She continued, “The basic criticism that
we have of our sisters in Women’s Liberation is that they shouldn’t isolate themselves,
because in isolating yourselves from your brothers, and in not educating your brothers,
you’re making the struggle separate–that’s again another division, the same way that
capitalism has divided Blacks from Puerto Ricans, and Puerto Ricans from whites,
and Blacks from whites” (Young Lords Party and Abramson 1971: 51; see also Nelson 2001).
The Young Lords’ discourse on the Gay Liberation and Women’s Liberation
movements suggests the possibilities of exploring both interactions and comparative
dimensions among groups and movements. Yet the relationships between
movements, as well as comparative analysis, have been slower to emerge in the
[ 241 ]
scholarship, despite early attention to
the broader political context of the era.
Shared experiences, such as sterilization
abuse, economic exploitation, and police
brutality, shaped calls for “Third World
Feminism.” For example, African
American feminists raised the issue of
the contraceptive pill as “genocide or
liberation.” The commonalities raised
by notions of “Third World Feminism”
are as provocative as the contrasting
dimensions. I have argued that Puerto
Rican feminism was deeply influenced by
socialism, and that the Cuban Revolution
of 1959 figured as prominently as other
influences. In contrast, Chicana feminists
confronted the cultural nationalism that
was central to the Chicano movement,
along with its reassertion of “traditional”
gender roles as the foundation for racial
and ethnic pride. Many countered by
rendering feminist interpretations of
“traditional” culture and of Chicana/o
history (Cade 1970; García 1997).
Cover of
’s 1991–1992 issue (vol. 4, no. 1).
The cover is by artist Juan Sánchez.
Opening spread and first page of Roberto Rodríguez Morazzani’s essay (
4(1): 96–116, 1991–1992).
[ 242 ]
Gender also provides an opportunity to revisit the historical trajectory of Puerto
Rican politics, as well as historians’ central questions of continuity and change.
Like Rodríguez-Morazzani’s “rupture” between political generations, Laó stressed a
lack of continuity: “More than a residual (or commonsensical) element of the social
service attitude coming from the Aspira and Anti-Poverty Program background of a
number of them, the focus on services in the early days was based on the search for
developing organic links with the community to gain leadership in the struggle for
decentralized institutions controlled by the people” (Laó 1994–1995: 39).
Yet the notion of “rupture” can obscure continuities, or worse, minimize the challenges
and the activism of earlier eras. There is a relative absence of historical work on the
postwar era in New York City, and a tendency to equate the void in the scholarship
with a void in activism. Rodríguez-Morazzani argued, “As a result of the persecution
and repression of the McCarthy era, the early left-wing Puerto Rican organizations had
ceased to exist… The absence of a radical left would not only deprive the social service
agency founders of a critical perspective, but also the political generation of the sixties
would be deprived of a U.S.-based historical antecedent which could serve as a model or
reference point for a radical U.S.-Puerto Rican political project” (Rodríguez-Morazzini
1991–1992: 101–2). While certainly correct in pointing out the repression of the domestic
cold war and its anti-communist crusades, it remains important to fully explore its
impact. There were links between Aspira and the Young Lords, as both groups emerged
in various communities of the Puerto Rican diaspora. In Philadelphia, the Young Lords
both grew out of and challenged pre-existing, community-based organizations, revealing
generational, political, and sometimes class differences with the more established
Puerto Rican leadership (Whalen 1998b). Still, many issues confronted by the Young
Lords and the broader movement had been addressed earlier, particularly racism and
discrimination, as well as education activism.
Without diminishing what was certainly distinctive about the politics of the
1960s and 1970s, a gender analysis suggests other continuities.
Women in both
eras played a key role in grassroots activism that sought to meet the needs of their
communities. Women’s grassroots, community-based activism evolved from the
social networks that eased migration and initial settlement (Sánchez Korrol 1983).
From networks came hometown clubs and informal committees. Arguably, this
history of community-based activism provided the foundation from which the War
on Poverty’s social service agencies took hold within the Puerto Rican community.
A key component of the Young Lords activism centered on grassroots activism and
the provision of needed services, and as Young Lord Denise Oliver contended, many
of those services were directed at women and children. In addition, women’s struggles
to address sexism within the Young Lords may have had important precedents. As the
professionalism of social services occurred, women activists fought their displacement
and struggled for recognition, rights, and equality (Pantoja 1989–1990: 80).
Hence, as a political movement and scholarship took shape, both activists and Centro
employed alternative tactics or institutional frameworks to achieve their goals. In concrete
terms, the Centro sought to produce socially relevant “knowledge” and to use scholarship
to benefit Puerto Rican communities. Centro and political activists also shared concerns,
especially with poverty that had its origins in economic exploitation and that was
intensifying with the ravages of deindustrialization and economic restructuring.
Centro’s early scholarship called attention to the impact of U.S. colonialism,
capitalist exploitation, and racism on Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and in the States.
So did activists. In addition, both the movement and the scholarship explored linkages
[ 243 ]
between Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in the States, as explanatory factors and as
a source of strength and inspiration. The movement and the scholarship shared a
reclaiming of community histories, based on pride in Puerto Ricans’ racial and ethnic
identities, as well as on the importance of history. Sharing the political context of
the era, the movement and the scholarship mounted a critique of the “system” and
of capitalism, as well as a simultaneous assertion of the importance of “the people.”
It was a dual dialogue of structural considerations and human agency.
Although scholarship often evolves from broad strokes to more nuanced
attention to internal dynamics, perhaps because of the radical politics of the era,
scholarship in Puerto Rican Studies, and that reflected in Centro more specifically,
incorporated gender and sexuality, as well as race, in the study of Puerto Rican
politics. Both the Young Lords and the Centro turned their attention to class, race,
gender, and sexuality, as systems of domination and as everyday power relations that
shaped the position of Puerto Ricans, as well as internal community dynamics. Finally,
both the movement and the scholarship embraced an optimism that characterized the
era—there was hope that change was possible and that alternatives could be created.
The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Puerto Rican Politics and Puerto Rican Studies
The Young Lords, as well as the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, had branches in several
communities of the Puerto Rican diaspora. The issues that activists confronted in
their local communities and the ways that they addressed them raise comparative
questions about the Puerto Rican diaspora, suggesting another approach to studying
the politics of the era. Why did the Young Lords take hold in several communities?
How similar or different were their branches? Why was Centro established in New
York City? Was it the result of greater similarities or differences between New
York City and other communities of the diaspora? Centro started important work
on the Puerto Rican movement and the Puerto Rican diaspora in its early years.
Yet the scholarship from Centro and in Puerto Rican Studies more broadly shifted
to a near exclusive focus on New York City. Writing in
in 1994–1995,
historian Ruth Glasser played with the title of an important anthology and
suggested provocatively, “All the Minorities Are Black, All the Latinos are Chicanos,
All the Puerto Ricans Live in New York City, and Few of Us Are Historians”
(Glasser 1994–1995: 51).
While there are still very few historians working on the
Puerto Rican diaspora, the scholarship on communities other than New York City
has increased since Glasser raised these issues. Rather than presuming New York
City’s community as the center or the model, a comparative approach interrogates
what New York City did and did not share with other communities of the diaspora
(Whalen and Vázquez Hernández 2005).
[ 244 ]
Philadelphia Young Lords pointed out similarities and differences among the
branches of the Young Lords. In 1970, Young Lord Juan Ramos anticipated the
accusation that the Philadelphia Lords were “just trying to copy the Lords in New
York.” He responded in
, the Young Lords’ newsletter, “These people must
realize that the oppression of Puerto Ricans in Philly is the same as the oppression
in New York. The conditions in both of there colonies are the same…. The struggle
is the same.”
Youth in Philadelphia had already organized when they decided to
become a branch of the Young Lords because the Young Lords reflected their goals.
While the Young Lords’ activism reveals important parallels in the challenges that
were confronting Puerto Rican communities, political activism originated within the
communities of the Puerto Rican diaspora, and the branches of the Young Lords
reflected the particularities of their respective communities.
Another Philadelphia
Young Lord, Wilfredo Rojas, pointed to differences in who constituted the Young
Lords. He reminisced, “If we can put labels on the different chapters, you would
say that Chicago were like street Lords because they came out of a gang. New York
were like college students who brought in some street people… And in Philadelphia
you had a bunch of Catholics—Catholics who got together, brought in some junkies
along the way, and dragged in a few students.”
The distinctions between branches, articulated by Rojas, resonate in the
scholarship. Sociologist Félix Padilla explored Chicago’s Young Lords. In 1966,
when a white police officer shot and wounded a young Puerto Rican man, the
Division Street riots ensued for three days. Puerto Ricans challenged the police
brutality affecting their community. As the Young Lords emerged from a street gang
in 1967, they faced continued police harassment, including the repeated arrest and
trumped-up charges against their chairperson, Cha Cha Jimenez. In 1968, the Lords
took over the Armitage Methodist Church, making it the People’s Church and their
headquarters. The church became the site for their day-care program and then for a
free health care clinic (Padilla 1987; Browning 1973; see also Jeffries 2003).
Chicago Young Lords fought urban renewal and displacement. In 1969, they took
over and occupied McCormick Seminary, calling attention to the displacement of
Puerto Ricans from Lincoln Park and to the Seminary’s role in their displacement.
They demanded low-income housing, a children’s center, a cultural center, and legal
assistance. Presbyterian ministers, convening in Texas, designated $600,000 for
low-income housing. They also agreed to open their facilities to support community
activities, to open their financial records, and to join community groups in addressing
the impact of urban renewal. In another demonstration, the Lords marched to an empty
lot that the city planned to develop as a private tennis club, and transformed the lot into
a children’s park instead. As part of the Poor People’s Coalition, the Lords developed
an alternative plan that provided housing for poor people and took it to the city’s Urban
Renewal Board. Although they lost this battle, they saw it as part of an on-going struggle.
These Young Lords worked closely with the Black Panthers and with the Young
Patriots, a radical group of white youth (Padilla 1987: 120–1; Browning 1973).
In the 1987–1988 issue of
, Juan González placed the Philadelphia
Young Lords within the historical trajectory of Puerto Rican politics in the city,
emphasizing that the Lords “catapulted into the city’s awareness in a short time.”
Arguing that the Lords “broke with the more mainstream, less confrontational
approach of earlier social agencies,” he explained, “While those agencies sought
assistance from the government for Puerto Ricans, the Young Lords
assistance as a right.” González credited the Young Lords’ activism as laying the
[ 245 ]
foundations for the elections years later of progressive Puerto Rican politicians,
including city councilman Angel Ortiz and state representative Ralph Acosta, in
1984 and 1985, respectively (González 1987–1988: 37, 41). As the Lords confronted the
deterioration of their neighborhoods, poverty, racism, and police brutality, they were
inspired, not only by Aspira and the social movements of the era, but also by Casa
del Carmen, a Catholic social service agency.
Young Lord Juan Ramos recalled,
“We were part of that system over at Casa del Carmen, we participated in sports,
we cleaned up, so we were into giving a little something back. We saw it in our
parents… our fathers and mothers would give something back, some volunteer time.”
Initially, the director of Casa del Carmen, Father Thomas P. Craven, focused on their
community programs, dismissing their radical ideology but nonetheless continuing
to support them: “It is difficult to organize the whole community behind issues,
and the Lords are trying to change that…. I think, recognizing their problematic
ideology, that the Young Lords have a right to exist…. What I see in them are noble
intentions.” He added a personal note, “Just because young people whom I’ve known
for a long time—and whose families I know—have been radicalized by a different
ideology, I see no reason to stop being their friend or to break off communication
with them.” Casa del Carmen provided office space.
For these Young Lords,
their Catholicism remained important to them, even as they mounted a critique of
institutionalized religion. Ramos criticized churches as “the biggest money-making
organizations in the world,” but added, “I believe in what Christ built the church
on, serving the people.” Their mottos insisted, “If Christ were alive today, he’d be a
Young Lord,” and “Every Christian who is not a revolutionary lives in mortal sin.”
In the New York Young Lords, students played a prominent role. For Rodríguez-
Morazzani, college students were a key component of the “radical generation”
(1991–1992: 108). He posited the universities as where students encountered “emergent
discourses which called into question the possibility and even the desirability of the
political and economic integration into the mainstream” (1991–1992: 111). While some
might question whether “emergent discourses” or continued obstacles inspired student
activism, Puerto Ricans were entering New York City’s system of higher education,
and student activists became Young Lords. Laó described the group’s origin as a
merger between a group of college students, who had been meeting under the name
Sociedad Pedro Albizu Campos, and “young street bloods,” and as “the unity of the
street people with students of working class background.” Juan González was one
of leaders of the 1968 Columbia University student strike (Laó 1994–1995: 36).
Iris Morales was a co-founder of Puerto Ricans in Student Activities (PRISA) at
City College in 1968, which preceded the 1969 takeover of the south campus and the
closing of City College, as students demanded more admissions for students of color,
the establishment of Black and Puerto Rican Studies, and course requirements in Black
and Puerto Rican history and in Spanish for all education majors.
Founded in the same year, 1969, there were numerous intersections between
New York City’s Young Lords and the Puerto Rican Student Union. In 1988,
introduced an excerpt from a Puerto Rican student union pamphlet
by noting the development of a “higher level of political consciousness,” and
explaining that “the Young Lords Party and the Puerto Rican Student Union
were instrumental in this process and the cultural awakening which accompanied
it” (Puerto Rican Student Union 1988: 60). During the initial two-day founding
conference of the PRSU, students went to support the Young Lords’ church
takeover, then under way. Basilio Serrano observed, “This encounter began a
[ 246 ]
lasting relationship between the union and the Lords—one that would have
major consequences for the student group” (1998: 128). After much collaboration,
the PRSU merged with the Young Lords in 1972 (Serrano 1998: 139).
The role of students, as Rojas suggested, may have differentiated the New
York Young Lords from other branches. Differences in class and educational
backgrounds between activists in Chicago and New York City may have
contributed to the split between the two branches in July 1970. The previous year,
New York activists had gone to Chicago to meet the Young Lords and decided to
open a branch. With the split, Chicago remained the Young Lords Organization
and New York became the Young Lords Party. The Chicago Lords were working
class youth, and many were high school dropouts. Writing in 1970, Frank Browning
noted, “The Lords, until 1967 just another gang, have become the most potent
revolutionary organization of Puerto Rican youth in the United States….
That history sets them apart from the vast majority of radical organizations around
the country” (1973: 231–2). Indeed, one of their first challenges was negotiating
peace pacts with other gangs, “convincing them to fight, not against each other,
but against the system which oppresses them” (Browning 1973: 231). Suggesting that
New York Lords were too focused on ideological development, Chicago Young
Lord Omar Lopez explained, “Here in Chicago we’re more concerned with the
immediate needs of the people, but we still understand that the real struggle in not
a local one… We’re better able to analyze when we’re out on the streets talking
with the people. Ideas must come after actions, not just from reading Marx,
Lenin or Mao” (Browning 1973: 244). The Chicago Lords conceded, however,
certain shortcomings in organization and in follow-through.
New York Young Lord Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán reaffirmed the students’ role:
“Students, upon whom the hopes of the preceding ‘pioneer generation’ were pinned,
were particularly active supporters of the radical movement” (1980: 145). Noting the
shortcomings of “dogmatically applying theory, whether it ‘fit’ or not, onto immediate
practical situations,” he concluded: “Rather than maintaining ourselves deeply in the
midst of our people, providing living leadership, we grew more rhetorical, isolated,
and ultimately passé” (1980: 147). Yet Puerto Rican students often came from working-
class backgrounds, and Guzmán stressed that Puerto Rican politics were shaped by
“our overwhelming preponderance in the working class” (1980: 149–50). Hence,
these differences, while potentially significant, should not be oversimplified.
Education was a key issue during earlier eras and during the 1960s and 1970s
in communities throughout the Puerto Rican diaspora.
Put simply, parents
wanted a quality education for their children and sought to get the educational
[ 247 ]
system to meet the needs of their children. During the 1960s and 1970s,
high school and college students demanded access to quality education and a
curriculum that included rather than denigrated their histories and cultures.
Hence, Centro arose out of this history of educational activism, as well as out
of the political context of the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Centro also emerged within
the specific context of New York City, where student activists including Young
Lords may have intensified the challenges to higher education and strengthened
the outcomes in ways that differed from other communities. Students gained
admission to the City University of New York system, in part through the
initiative and programs of earlier activists. A few Puerto Rican students made
their way into other colleges and universities. Students then demanded more
admissions and support for Puerto Rican students, and more Puerto Rican faculty
and staff, as well as Puerto Rican Studies programs. Along with the Centro de
Estudios Puertorriquenos, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College was
established in the South Bronx as a bilingual school (Meyer 2003).
While a comparative approach to the Puerto Rican diaspora and to the politics
of the era engenders great questions, it is here that the still limited historical
work on Puerto Rican communities deprives scholars of the answers. Despite
Centro’s early focus on the post-World War II era, this initial attention gave
way to an interest in the period between the World Wars, as well as a continuing
focus on contemporary issues.
We still lack a full-length historical study of
New York City’s Puerto Rican community after World War II (Haslip-
Viera, Falcón and Matos Rodríguez 2004). The scholarship on Puerto Rican
communities other than New York City has increased, and Centro has again
played an important role, with recent
issues focusing on Chicago and
Hawai’i. Both issues were edited by anthropologists, revealing that much of the
work on Puerto Rican communities is still done by social scientists. This enriches
interdisciplinarity, and many social scientists employ a historical perspective
and/or parallel methodologies such as oral histories, yet few rely extensively
on historical methodologies when it comes to archival research, for example.
This contrasts with Centro’s early archival research, which resulted not only in
Labor Migration Under Capitalism
, but also in their 1982 publication,
Sources for
the Study of Puerto Rican Migration, 1879–1930
Moving beyond answers that focus on the sheer number of Puerto Ricans in New
York City, the largest Puerto Rican community, or that focus on the nature of New
York City’s educational system, other questions remain. One question is the linkage
between the Puerto Rican community in New York City before and after World
War II. New York City had a much larger pre-World War II community than other
communities of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Did generational differences, in the im/
migration sense, shape education and activism in the 1960s and 1970s? Had even
limited social mobility created a class structure that differentiated New York City
from other Puerto Rican communities and enabled some students to attend college?
Another question remains regarding the impact of the rich organizational life in New
York City in the post-World War II era. Too often portrayed as a lull in community
life, and portrayed by a scholarship that still turns too often and too uncritically
to the literature produced during the 1950s and 1960s, New York City’s Puerto
Rican community and other communities of the diaspora require further historical
investigation in order to answer these comparative questions and to fully address
what was and was not distinctive about New York City.
[ 248 ]
Although is commonplace to anchor the origins of racial/ethnic studies and women/
gender studies in the political context of the late 1960s and 1970s, this essay attempts
to tease out what that commonplace observation has meant for the field of Puerto
Rican Studies. Puerto Rican studies remains largely bereft of historiographical
interpretations, in part due to the paucity of historians and specifically historical works.
While merely a preliminary and partial step, this essay sought to demonstrate, at the
very least, that Centro’s early scholarship deserves to be reclaimed and re-read, and that
much of it deserves the status as “classics” in the foundation of Puerto Rican Studies.
Indeed, many of the scholarship’s early imprints have continued to shape the field of
Puerto Rican Studies. Migration was posited as central, as was globalization, or more
specifically the continuing political and economic ties between the United States and
Puerto Rico. These dynamics created Puerto Rican communities in the States that
were predominantly working-class, and the scholarship continues to explore various
dimensions of these working-class communities. The impact of the Left was palpable,
not only in Puerto Rican politics of the era, but also in the scholarship’s critique of
colonialism, global capitalism, economic exploitation, and structural inequalities, as well
as of persisting racism and discrimination. Although the field of Puerto Rican Studies
arguably still has a long way to go, attention to internal differentiation and dynamics,
especially gender, arose relatively early in the scholarship, as a result of the Puerto Rican
political activism of the era and the influence of the Left. Not surprisingly, perhaps the
earliest and most developed of this scholarship is that on women and work. Attention
to race, sexuality, and class differences appeared, but to a lesser extent and more
slowly. Finally, the early commitment to asking fundamental questions and answering
them by all available means has persisted, keeping the field of Puerto Rican Studies an
overwhelmingly interdisciplinary one. Implicit or explicit critiques of existing disciplinary
boundaries or limitations started with the beginnings of the field and have persisted.
Many scholars work at the margins of their disciplines or actively bridge multiple
disciplines. The willingness to engage in discussions and debates across disciplines
keeps the field intellectually vibrant and produces innovative scholarship.
While shared origins have created parallels with other social movements and
other fields of racial/ethnic studies, this essay points to the possibilities of distinct
trajectories, as well. For example, while Puerto Rican Studies focused on migration,
early works in Chicana/o Studies focused on the implications of the conquest of half
of Mexico’s territory in 1848. It was the border that moved, not the people, and for
quite some time, continuing migration took a back seat, while borderland studies
Similarly, much of the early focus in African American Studies was on slavery,
treated rightly as a ‘forced migration” in striking contrast to portrayals of European
immigration. The scholarship increasingly encompassed the massive migration of
African Americans from the rural south to urban areas north and south, with greater
emphasis initially on the post-World War I rather than the post-World War II
In both Chicana/o and African-American Studies, historians were much more
prevalent than in Puerto Rican Studies, and a far more extensive historiography
emerged, enriching interpretations of the earlier time periods. Similarly,
while these fields of study shared a concern with contemporary issues, they differed
in the approaches and theories used to explain persistent inequalities. Although a
full exploration is beyond the scope of this paper, I will suggest that the early
predominance of the Left and the critiques of global capitalism in the early scholarship
in Puerto Rican Studies differed significantly from the “internal colonialism” approach
[ 249 ]
in much of the early scholarship in Chicana/o Studies (Saragoza 1990). Although both
fields were concerned with race and class, class took center stage in Puerto Rican
Studies, while race was central in internal colonialism.
As mentioned previously,
different approaches in the Puerto Rican and Chicana/o movement, gave feminists
in each group both shared and distinct challenges, which may have had parallels in
the scholarship (Ruiz 2007). While these historiographical suggestions are hopefully
provocative, perhaps the more compelling questions turn to the continued formation
and evolution of Latina/o Studies. Inherently comparative and interdisciplinary, this
field could draw on the strengths and trajectories of both Puerto Rican and Chicana/o
Studies, as well as the more recent manifestations of Cuban, Dominican, Colombian,
Studies. Despite many changes over the past thirty years, both Centro and
have remained critical contexts for the continuing evolution of the scholarship.
The United States occupied Puerto Rico in 1898 at the end of the Spanish Cuban
American War and has retained sovereignty ever since.
The U.S. Congress declared
Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens in 1917.
This paper was written in 2003 to commemorate the Centro’s thirtieth anniversary.
In this paper, Centro refers to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and
refers to the journal. Beginning in 1983, Centro published a mimeographed newsletter, with
information on the task forces’ projects, events, and the expanding library and archival
holdings. Newsletters increasingly included excerpts of the scholarship being produced.
In the Spring of 1987, the first issue appeared in a journal format, as the
Boletín del Centro de
Estudios Puertorriqueños
. In 1995, its title was changed to
CENTRO: Journal of El Centro de
Estudios Puertorriqueños
, and in 1999, its name was changed to the current one. My thanks
to Xavier Totti for help in piecing together Centro’s early newsletters, conferences,
and working papers, which are available in the Centro’s archives.
This chapter is inevitably my personal, as well as historiographical, reflection on the
emergence of Centro’s scholarship in dialogue with my own work. I started graduate
school at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in U.S. history in 1987,
’s first
year, and finished with, Whalen (1994).
“Centro Joins Hunter College and Celebrates 10th Anniversary,” Centro de Estudios
Puertorriqueños Newsletter (January 1983), 1.
For a concise explanation and historical overview of a category of “undeserving
poor,” see Katz (1993).
I first explored these contrasting approaches in Whalen (1994: 26–9, 42–8).
I started this critique of the “culture of poverty” in the introduction to my
dissertation, (Whalen 1994: 7–12). I then explored comparative dimensions with
African Americans in Whalen (2000), and gendered dimensions in Whalen (1998a).
Finally, I looked at local and gendered implications in Whalen (2001a: Chapter
Other task force members included Américo Badilllo, Sonia Bu, Héctor Colón,
José Angel Cruz, Gilbert de Jesus, Julio Luis Hernández, and Virginia Sánchez Korrol
(History Task Force 1979: 10).
For an important early essay on the role of labor recruitment and contract labor
[ 250 ]
programs, see Maldonado (1979).
Although Frank Thistlethwaite challenged the “American-centeredness” of
approaches that emphasized the “pull” or the attraction of the United States and
called for attention to the country of origin and the interconnectedness of the Atlantic
economy in 1960, push-pull models with their “laundry list of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors”
proved resilient (1964: 84). On shifting trends in immigration studies, see Yans-
McLaughlin (1990).
I argue that there are continuities between the “culture of poverty” and the more
recent use of the “underclass,” in Whalen (2000; 2001a: Chapter 7).
For two different examples, see Padilla (1967) and Thomas (1997 [1968]).
On the “new histories,” especially the new social history and the new labor history,
see Bernstein (1969); and Buhle and Buhle (1988).
The Oral History Task Force included Celia Alvarez, Rina Benmayor, Ana Juarbe, Félix
Ojeda, Carlos Sanabria, Amílcar Tirado, and Blanca Vázquez, with aid from Frank Bonilla and
Ricardo Campos of the History Task Force, and artists Cándida Alvarez and Néstor Otero.
Rodríguez and Sánchez Korrol (1980) is also illustrative. Both editors had
participated with Centro.
The second edition includes a chapter on the post-World War II era (Sánchez
Korrol 1994).
My primary initial dialogue with this scholarship focused here, on the causes of the
post-World War II migration and the rapid growth of communities outside of New
York City, specifically Philadelphia. See Whalen (2001a).
For an overview of the movement, see Torres and Velázquez (1998).
20 For an overview of international events and their impact on movements in the
United States, see Elbaum (2002).
This discussion of the Young Lords draws on my own work on the Young Lords in
Philadelphia (Whalen 1998b) and in New York City (Whalen 2001b).
The description of these offensives is based on Young Lords Party and Abramson (1971),
M. Melendez (2003), and two films,
¡Palante, Siempre Palante!
(1996) and
El Pueblo Se Levanta
(1968), as well as Laó (1994).
In addition to the articles cited throughout this chapter, for examples, there is a
documentary film on the Young Lords,
Palante, Siempre Palante!
(1996), and a recent
dissertation (Fernandez 2004). The exception perhaps is Torres and Velázquez (1998)
which focuses more on the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.
Their approaches were not mutually exclusive. Although not his focus, Rodríguez-
Morazzani noted that the “radical” generation was also shaped by “external political
developments,” and concluded, “For Puerto Rican radicals in New York, the legacy of
Black Nationalist Malcolm X was to occupy a place equal in importance to the of Don
Pedro Albizu Campos (leader of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico)” (1991–1992: 107–8).
For an earlier discussion, see Whalen (1999).
This discussion draws from Whalen (2001b).
“Young Lords Party 13 Point Program and Platform.”
This discussion draws on Whalen (2002).
The title of the original anthology is
All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men,
But Some of Us Are Brave
(Feminist Press, 1982).
“People’s Church in Philadelphia,”
, 20 November 1970.
Parallels seem to hold for other branches of the Young Lords. In Bridgeport,
Connecticut, the Young Lords chapter formed as a splinter group from an earlier
organization, the Spanish American Coalition. They confronted landlords’ abuses via
[ 251 ]
rent strikes, including a six-month strike in the building that housed their office, a
building marred by the lack of repairs, heat, and garbage removal. Following an arrest and
a riot in response, they won their rent strike. They challenged the local gas company’s
discriminatory policies as they affected both consumers and workers. Like other
chapters, they provided breakfast programs and lead poisoning testing, and confronted
police brutality. See Glasser (1997: 151).
Wilfredo Rojas and Juan Ramos, interview by author, 3 January 1996, Philadelphia,
See discussion in Whalen (1998b).
For a fuller discussion, see Whalen (1998b).
Wilfredo Rojas and Juan Ramos, interview by author, 3 January 1996, Philadelphia, PA.
“Unarmed Young Lords Seek to Boost Image of Puerto Ricans Here,”
, October 5, 1970; and Michael Kimmel, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Bebe!”
Philadelphia Magazine
(August 1971), 180.
“People’s Church in Philadelphia”; and Kimmel, “You’ve Come a Long Way,”
88, 174–5.
On New York City, see Sánchez Korrol (1994—second edition), and a documentary film
being made by Lillian Jimenez that focuses on educational activism, and the life and work of
Antonia Pantoja. On other communities, see Whalen and Vázquez (2005: Chapters 5, 6, 9).
An interest in Left politics could have influenced this focus, as Puerto Rican politics
in the interwar era was largely shaped by working-class socialists, especially cigar makers.
Two critical figures in Puerto Rican politics, Puerto Rican Nationalist Pedro Albizu
Campus and U.S. congressman Vito Marcantonio, had careers that barely bridged
into the postwar era. For example, in 1991–1992
’s two-part volume on
“Puerto Rican History and Politics” included articles on Albizu Campos and Marcantonio.
Articles addressing the 1960s and 1970s included Rodríguez-Moranzzani (1991–1992),
Negrón-Mutaner’s two-part essay on “Echoing Stonewall,” and personal accounts of
tours of duty in the Vietnam war. Other articles addressed politics in Puerto Rico and
contemporary political issues, such as the plebiscite and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
For an earlier assessment, see Sánchez and Stevens-Arroyo (1987).
Greater attention to immigration in Chicana/o Studies is reflected in Sánchez (1993)
and Gutiérrez (1995).
On the emergence of the historiography in AfricanAmerican Studies, see Trotter
(1991) and Kusmer (1986). On the more recent attention on the post-World War II
migration, see Kusmer and Trotter (2009).
An interesting gauge of the shift from internal colonialism in Chicana/o Studies
is found in Rodolfo Acuña’s fourth edition of
Occupied America
(2000), where more
emphasis is placed on a world systems approach.
On the evolving treatment of gender in Chicana/o historiography, see Ruiz
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