The Identity of a Black Puerto Rican Essay

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The Identity of a Black Puerto Rican

When the United States invaded and took over Puerto Rico in 1898, race relations acquired yet another facet. "At the beginning of the century, President McKinley carried out military interventions in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines with U.S. corporate interests in mind (Schirmer)" Like Spain, the United States also intended to use Puerto Rico to its own advantage. In his project, David Bernstein states, "The United States used its power to restrict Puerto Rican trade, from which Whites in America and Puerto Rico prosperred heavily. Black and other non-White Puerto Ricans were exploited under both colonial regimes." However, the overt racism in the United States widened the gap between
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The elites had long shunned the real jíbaro in the past, but the United States’ racism caused them to form their own racial identity, fictitious as it was. An example of this in The House on the Lagoon involves Buenaventura and his constant referrals to his peasant roots. He said to Isabel,"People from Extremadura are primitive and hardy.(Ferre 211)" This is a clear example of result of American influence on the elites in Puerto Rico. The glorification of the jíbaro provided a means of justifying their importance. According to Guerra:

By re-creating a jíbaro whose simplicity, dedication, and purity of thought and deed they appreciated, intellectuals mythically shaped a new identity for themselves and their society out of the very cultural material with which they had traditionally felt empowered. That is, because the jíbaro’s whiteness, spiritual sanctity, and Hispanic cultural roots resonated with those aspects of themselves that their status required, an elevation of the jíbaro to the heart of the Puerto Rican national identity did not in any way threaten or even question their own perceived superiority and the standards by which a group’s social acceptability were judged. In fact, it merely served to reconfirm both. (Guerra 92-93)

This demonstrates how the racial identity developed by the

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