Geographies of the plantation in Puerto Rico: tracing the politics of Afro-Latinx participation in food production and activism

Authors: Ileana Diaz*, University of Waterloo
Topics: Historical Geography, Political Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Plantation geographies, Afro-Latinx, Latinx geographies, food, Puerto Rico
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The colonization of Puerto Rico in 1508 is inherently tied to the establishment of plantations which violently removed Indigenous Tainos from the land and confined the bodies of enslaved peoples within its boundaries. As a space, the plantation was subjected to cycles of booms and busts, and exterior political and economic influences. The plantation’s influence also extended beyond the physical space of production, forming unequal intimacies between Indigenous, Spanish and African descended peoples. The carceral nature of the plantation echoes in the food system, political life, and the production of race on the bodies of Puerto Ricans, all of which function in intersecting ways to discipline life on the island. Based on archival research and discourse analysis, this paper uses an intersectional feminist approach to investigate the gendered spatialities of plantation life, as presented in current and historical photographs, advertising, government publications and cultural products. I explore using the archive as a method for investigating and theorizing life in the plantation and ways in which the plantation organizes life today. Building on this, the paper also explores the tensions and possibilities of food activism and production in Puerto Rico, where the shadow of the plantation system remains. It explores the ways in which the plantation continues to shape gendered relationships to food and its production alongside the racial logics which inform Puerto Rico’s political relationship to the United States. By using historical geography and the archive, the paper brings Puerto Rico’s plantation past into understandings of its current food system.

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