What Does It Mean to be Puerto Rican? A Study on Puerto Rican National Identity Formation
Lopez, Brandon L.
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This paper explores the question 'what does it mean to be Puerto Rican' and uses it as an entry into an analysis of National Identity formation. The paper begins with a theoretical framework of the concept of the nation as well as major theories concerning how nations emerged, including the centrality of colonialism and a critique on the Eurocentric standards of the major theories of nation formation. The paper then offers a very brief historicist contextualization of the island and people of Puerto Rico from the time of Spanish colonial rule to the contemporary era. It then moves into an analysis of the responses given by 13 Puerto Rican participants and examines what Puerto Ricanness looks like and how Puerto Rican identity forms in the first place, through the answers given by participants. All of this is followed by the author’s insights into the question of what it means to be Puerto Rican and it leads to the conclusion that the nation-state system is insufficient as a worldwide form of social organization because it cannot empower a diversity of interests, which Puerto Rican identity is based on. The author ends by proposing some future research goals and possible next steps/suggestions. The second half of this paper is a section dedicated to the artworks of various participants who chose to submit their work to be featured. The artworks include poetry, tattoos, paintings, academic excerpts, and recipes. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate the power of art (anything that materially expresses the self) to communicate the essence of Puerto Rican identity as well as its power to shape and create Puerto Rican identity.
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