Discourses of Race and Ethnicity perpetuated through Monuments and Statues in Puerto Rico

Authors: Ana Sanchez-Rivera*, University of Maryland-College Park
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Historical Geography
Keywords: Monuments, Statues, Places, Puerto Rico, Identity, Race
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Indigenous and Afro-Descendent movements in Latin American countries have been fighting against monuments and statues that perpetuate euro-centric views of history. However, Puerto Rico seems to go against this movement when in 2017, launched a Christopher Columbus’ statue 138-feet higher than the Statue of Liberty. The Island was selected as a case study because in 1948 the government decided to re-define “Puerto Ricannes” after recognizing the cultural influences the US was having on the population. Although it highlighted three groups as representatives of the culture -i.e., Tainos (Native-Indians), Spaniards (colonizers) and Africans (slaves)-, it selected the “Jíbaro” -a light-skinned peasant from the mountains- as the main representative of the “real” Puerto Rican. Today, even though PR is understood as a racially diverse place, over 75% of the population selects White as their race in the US Census. This study combines the findings from the researchers’ previous work and explores the impact that public statues and monuments in Puerto Rico may have on the way the population identifies with the groups involved in the Island first colonization. The research uses Mixed Methods to interpret data collected in four communities. The results are analyzed using binary logistic regression model on over two-hundred-and-ninety surveys and an interpretation of the results discussing the type and amount of monuments dedicated to the groups in the Island. Findings suggest the identity construction the government has created around Puerto Rico as a place, actively informs participant responses to questions about their ethnic, national and racial identities.

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