La Monoestrellada and the Display of Identity Politics in Puerto Rico: Cultural Activism and Placemaking in "78 Pueblos y 1 Bandera"

Authors: José Díaz-Garayúa*, California State University - Stanislaus, Brenda L Ortiz Loyola, California State University, Stanislaus
Topics: Latin America, Cultural Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: Colonialism, Cultural Politics of Place, Latinx Geographies, Puerto Rico
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8226, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


“La monoestrellada” (the one-star flag) of Puerto Rico has been the most prominent piece of material culture in the island’s landscape since its legalization in 1952 when the U.S. government allowed Puerto Ricans to use it. The flag has been used in protests and revolts during both Spanish (to 1898) and American rule (after 1898). Similarly, the flag has been used by athletes and cultural ambassadors at international events. The "monoestrellada" is used as a tool in the political arena, and as an identity maker. Today, the flag is being used to express national pride across the island despite Puerto Rico’s colonial status, economic crisis, and experiencing a devastating hurricane (María). An initiative of one person has grown into a more elaborate organization of volunteers to paint the Puerto Rican flag in every one of the 78 towns and cities of Puerto Rico. This practice has invigorated internal tourism and has facilitated social interactions. This paper will show how social interactions can be displays of informal events as well as contemporary demonstrations of cultural nationalism. It also constitutes a constantly present challenge to the colonial status and the practices of the Financial Oversight and Management Board appointed by the U.S. government to remedy Puerto Rico’s current economic crisis.

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