Thursday, August 19, 2004

Racism in Puerto Rico

Most deny it, few see it and even fewer admit to its existence. But racism can be seen in all aspects of Puerto Rican society. It isn't as apparent as the class division that exists on the island. But then again, it can be argued that color is the defining factor of classes.

From childhood, we are sold the idea that Puerto Ricans are a mix-race comprised of Spanish, African and Indigenous roots. For the most part it's true, but do the institutions relfect this reality? The next time you think about racism in Puerto Rico, ask yourself these few questions:
1) Are 80% of Puerto Ricans really "white (light-skin)"? When I walk the streets of San Juan, are 8 of the 10 people I see "white"?
2) How many "black (dark-skin)" people do I see walking the halls of Plaza Las Americas? On the contrary, how many "white" people do I see walking down Paseo de Diego in Rio Piedras?
3) How many representatives in the Puerto Rican House are "black"? (To see for youself, click here.)
4) How many senators in the Puerto Rican Senate are "black"?
5) In this year's elections, how many candidates are "black"?
6) When was the last time Puerto Rico had an influential "black" leader? (Barbosa, Albizu Campos, Don Chu?)
7) How many "blacks" live in gated communities, urbanizaciones?

Makes you wonder about our society, right?

22 comments:

CopaStaticLove said...

Mijo, I just happen to stumble onto your blogg, and boy, I haven't met anyone in a looooooooooooooong time, that shares my views about my isla on so many different levels. I am so sick and tired of watching the spanish speaking networks and have their news anchors (i.e Denise Oyer-UNIVISION NYC to entertainment show hosts (Cristina) be light skinned. It is a shame, that even our own people cannot get it together. I was born in PR and moved to the US when I was 8 years-old pero de corazon, nunca he dejado de amar a mi isla u anorar el dia que regrese a vivir a ella. Currently, I would like to go back to medical school and study in PR, for I guess maybe some of the same reasons why you left NY to go to school in PR. I want to be able to take in all of my historical roots, travel, enjoy the things of my patria that I have missed out on by living here. I wish you luck in law school and am so glad to see that our generation continues to fight for our rights, continues to let their voices be heard, and continues to exert our so called 1st Amendment right of "Freedom of Speech". Hope to hear from ya! Hasta pronto...Paz para Vieques! ;-) Alma

telephonebooth said...

just a little something to add. when i was growing up, my puerto rican peers would ask me, "what are you?" i would proudly say puerto rican and dominican. They would respond with , "so thats where you get your nappy hair!" the irony is, from my mother(puerto rican,) is where i get my features and hair texture. i guess ignorance is bliss.

Anonymous said...

OMG, are you for real??? Soy de Ponce and I have never notice that problem. I can see how lighter tones are more common in the media. As far as the racist Puerto Ricans??? I dont see it. I am now living in Chicago and I have lived and travel all over the US. I do notice that cultural experiences vary by location. I am the darkest in my family and they love it. But like we say "Ponce es Ponce y el resto es...." LOL

David said...

Hi, I lived in NYC and I was told by a Puerto Rican that I look so Puerto Rican that I should be on posters advertising Puerto Rico. The funny thing is, I am black. But because I have straight hair and light skin and so-called Mediterranean features I get put there. The guy even told me that it's a shame that I have to try to "be down with the brothers".

I've always been annoyed with how Puerto-Ricans imitate black culture yet will deny being black, or will try to act like they are one step above black people, dominicans, and what not.

I have a dominican friend who reminds me how easy I have it being lighter skinned that I get treated better in some situations in NYC around latinos... HE is the Latino... I am the black guy... but because of my lighter skin... yes he is right. So the skin color prejudice is there. The anti-black sentiments are there.

And for "Anonymous" thats exactly what I'm talking about. You have "no idea" and so either these people on here are making this up, or you've been living in denial. That denial is just as bad as the racism itself.

How many of those hillary votes were due to that skin color. Come on... get real guys. I've seen P.R. TV and the blonde obsession is really sad.

Anonymous said...

"I've always been annoyed with how Puerto-Ricans imitate black culture yet will deny being black, or will try to act like they are one step above black people, dominicans, and what not.

I have a dominican friend who reminds me how easy I have it being lighter skinned that I get treated better in some situations in NYC around latinos... HE is the Latino... I am the black guy... but because of my lighter skin... yes he is right. So the skin color prejudice is there. The anti-black sentiments are there."

OMG, finally someone else who gets it. I'm from U.S. and went to visit PR because I was thinking about going to school there. People there treated be like I was crap, stupid, and beneath them. (btw I came across the rudest people ever)

I got bumped in the hallways, cut in line, and generally harassed. Apparently, everyone thought I was Puerto Rican, but when they found out that I was American the whole situation changed. People smiled at me, their demeanors changed, and everything.

I guess that's the secret "password" if you're black (and not lighter) and in the country. It's a shame! I never thought racism would be worse in PR than in the south in the U.S. At least people here try to be politically correct about it. (but racism is still wrong regardless)

Luis A. De Jesus R. said...

Racism in Latin America is a terrible problem and it appears to be internally justified along cultural and even socio-economic lines that go way back to the Spanish conquest of the what today is known as Mexico, Central America, and South of America.

I am of Puertorican descent living in Mexico where the dark to white ratio is probably 9 to 1. Mexico still has a large undiluted population of native Indian tribes --some don't even speak Spanish. The rest is mainly mixed with features ranging in the dark-skinned, almond-shaped, and dark thick coarse hair usually associated with Indian ethnicity. Nonetheless, look at T.V. commercials in Mexico, T.V. broadcasts; Mexican soap operas, and most contemporary mainstream actors on T.V. and on film. Racism is blatant and it's common knowledge that you can't get certain jobs if you don't look European.

The Mexicans suffer a severe identify crisis within and without. When it comes to Puertoricans and Cubans they belittle them as being blacks that don't know how to talk Spanish. For them, Ricky Martin and other Puertoricans --who are white-- are statistical flukes.

I was exploring this matter about demographic composition in Mexico and was not surprised to find that based on history and related immigration influx to the Island of Puerto Rico since the Spanish conquest there have been dramatic shifts. Here is one link, but I don't know if it is peer-reviewed information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Puerto_Rico. This totally throws the Mexican stereotype of at least Puertoricans on its head. Puerto Rico is mostly white, but does this justify racism? NO!!!

It comes down to upbringing and education. People in Puerto Rico who are discriminated against need to take action when such cases can be proven. This discussion is not only badly needed in Puerto Rico but needs to be brought up in the Latin American community in general. There are parts of Latin America where whites have never mixed with the natives and the practice continues to this day. Some of those whites come to the USA and want to treat other Latinos as they did their counterparts back home --shame on them for their ignorance, but can they be blamed when it was always like that for them?

I grew up in New York and in spite of being mistaken for a Jew --and many other times for Italian-- I went out with Afro-American girls most of the time. I like Anglo-whites, but for me black is very, very beautiful. My father is white --Puertorican-- of Spanish descent. In fact, he was able to trace his lineage to Spaniards in Santander, Spain. My mother is mixed: her father from Spain and his wife (my great grandmother) a cousin of his with mixed Indian/Spanish heritage. Most in my mother's family are dark-skinned and most in my father's side of the family are white. I guess this may have helped develop my preferences and tolerances.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico demographics is very complicated. Get your Y or mtdna checked if only to understand where your ancestors came from (lineage). Do the National Genographic test if only out of curiosity. Treat each individual by your experience with them. Forget about skin color, hair texture. It's silly. Sure there's racism in every continent. You can't eradicate that, only your own personal attitude towards it.

Sasukia said...

I stumbled across this blog, because I have to do an essay about racism in Puerto Rico. We've been talking about this subject for the past two classes now. I agree that there is racism in Puerto Rico, but racism exist everywhere not only here. Yes we are rude and tough and mean, but that's how most of us were brought up. But if you go to other places like new york, and stuff people would bump you and walk all over you. Some even cut in line. YOU SEE THAT EVERYWHERE. That has nothing to do with racism though just with morals and values. My point is that yes racism does exist in PuertoRico but it also exist everywhere else. So don't try to deny or hide it by Saying how bad Puertoricans are or how racist they are, cause everyone got a little bit of that inside em. Desde mi Isla.

Anonymous said...

"I never thought racism would be worse in PR than in the south in the U.S."

You do know that technically, Puerto Rico is in the south in the US, right? LOL, Just messing around, I know what you're saying though.
I have to say, as much as I hate ignorance and think it usually leads to racism, when people of different ethnicities share a community, like NYC as a great example, I wish they were all ignorant of their family's origin and background. Heritage inspires some to try to live up to it, but it makes other people think they were born better than others, or have built-in excuses for some behaviors (Ever see people act like it's fine to "live down to" a negative stereotype?) and built-in enemies. People need to forget where they're from and remember where they're at, especially here in America. This is supposed to be the melting pot, I wish we could all act like it, you know?
But things have been getting better for a long time. Someday everybody will be such a blend of races that racism won't be possible. I look forward to the day the only race is "human".
Of course, people will just pick a different reason to treat each other bad if they want to...but we gotta keep faith.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you for having the guts to talk about a subject that in PR is tabooo. It really pisses me off when people starts to justify the racism in PR, some say it is everywerhe, so that means we have to tolerate it here???? No, and is time for us to start talking about it, because discrmination in PR is the worst I have seen.

realistic said...

Yeah racism exist everywhere so we should look away and keep walking, taht is why racism case has been reported in Aibonito, where students are harrased because of their skin color, or not allowed to have lunch because they are black or insulted because they are black, oh but racism is everywhere is fine. F---ng ignorants.

Anonymous said...

what is wrong if 80 percent of puerto rico's population is whte?. I happen to be a puerto rican whose family came from corsica an spain. apparently theese "boriccuas" are trying to distort the history of p.r. they have no indentity and culture.

Anonymous said...

unfortunetly indians/tainos were wirped off by spanish over 500 years agp. So how could these boricuas in ny claim this blood. this shows you the ignorance and lack of culture they have. they have no indentity and historical facts. and we that live in the mainland must constantly explain to our fellow americans the true facts.

Anonymous said...

In that case I will suggest for you to check the internet and you will see the last finding Indian finding in Loiza, which proves that the indians were no wiped out as early as everybody thinks.
Puerto Ricans are not 80% white. We all know that, but there is a very interesting study about how puerto ricans who live in the USA vehemently deny our african ancestry.
Puerto Rico is waaayyy behind about racism is about, dont think I am right?? Just look at tv, insults for blacks are open and nobody seems to care, and I can go on and on about it.

Anonymous said...

For those who thinks there is no racism in PR,let me give you an example, Ruth Fernandez just died, everybody went to the funeral and said beautiful things about her, now, what institution, name or school will have her name??????? none, thank you!!! but when Jose Miguel Agrelot died, they make the arrangements and the coliseum have his name.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing! I am half PR/Dominican, but by all appearances I am black. My husband is white and LOVES PR. He loves the respect and attention he gets from Puerto Ricans even though he doesn't get when I tell him that it is because he is white. Most of his friends are elitist white Puerto Ricans who always have to do a "double-take" when he presents me to them.
We will be moving there in August and he received the shock of his life during a recent lunch date we had with one of his friends over there. He asked him to meet me about a possible job. His friend and his sister spent about 20 minutes staring at my "natural hair" or afro. He fails to realize that Puerto Ricans are much more racist than the states and that while things will be much easier for him there for me, I will have to prove myself that much more.
I try to show him while we are there. If you look in the paper, political posters, advertisement and even my 2 year old's favorite cartoon, NONE have more than a few notches of pigmentation. But he doesn't get it. He says why does it matter. Thankfully we will be living in Condado with a large American population but I'm interested to see what my experiences will be like starting in August.

Luis A. De Jesus R. said...

Racisim is a reality wherever we go. Its roots extend way back to the human propensity to group in tribes. Nationalism today is just, or probably more, harmful than racisim in and of itself. We've replaced flags for tatoos, symbols, or language that would differentiate us from another group. There is one human race, there is no Black race, no White race, much less a Hispanic race. You can teach the aforementioned, but the true realization of who we are as humans comes from experience and from an inner revealing of who we are as individuals and are place in society. Race is sadly a tool many individuals use to address their own perceived shortcomings by conveying a sense of superiority when dealing with others they feel or "think" are less than they are because of skin color, or the nation or state they were born in. This facet of nationality is one I have had more experience with living abroad. It is not uncommon to hear comments here in Mexico that degrade or make fun of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or Central Americans, and South Americans. The common remarks follow ethnocentric character where it is believed that the home nation is "more culturally" enriched or has a better command and use of the Spanish language, as examples. It's a shame that after eons of human history and technological progress that has made the world a smaller place, we have yet to learn --as Dr. M. Luther once said-- to get along as brothers.

Anonymous said...

THEIR ARE A FEW THINGS THAT THE PEOPLE OR PUERTO RICO NEED TO COME TO TERMS WITH.

LET ME FIRST SAY THAT BOTH MY PARENTS ARE FROM LITTLE CUBA (PUERTO RICO) AND I AM OVER 50 YEARS OF AGE. I HAVE LIVED ON THE ISLAND, AND HAVE CORPORATE AND TOP TEAR FINANCIAL DEALINGS ON THE ISLAND. I AM OVER 50 RELATIVES THAT I RELATE TO ON THE ISLAND, AND ALL OF THEM CAN NOT ADMIT TO THEMSELVES WHAT THE TRUE SITUATION IS ON THE ISLAND. THEY KNOW THE TRUTH, BUT JUST CAN'T BE TRUTHFUL ABOUT IT.

1) THE ISLAND OF PUERTO RICO IS CONTROLLED BY MOSTLY CUBANS THAT OWN MOST MEDIA OUTLETS IN PUERTO RICO ,FLORIDA AND MANY OTHER AREA'S AROUND THE UNITED STATES. ONE SUCH AN EXAMPLE IS RAUL ALARCON WHO OWNS AND CONTROLS A COUPLE OF THINGS. LOOK INTO IT YOURSELF. IN PUERTO RICO CUBANS HAVE SET UP TAX CHEAT HEAVENS,AND CONTROL THE MONEY IN MOST ELECTIONS IN PUERTO RICO. DO NOT FORGET THAT AT THIS POINT MANY OF THE CUBAN EXILES ON THE ISLAND ARE THIRD OR FOURTH GENERATION SO CALLED PUERTO RICANS.

2) IN MOST PUERTO RICANS FAMILIES YOU WILL FIND A STORY ABOUT ONE OF THEIR RELATIVES WITH GOLDEN GOOD HAIR AND SOME KIND OF COLORED EYES OTHER THEN BLACK , LIKE MOST PUERTO RICANS. THIS IS PART OF THE RACIST CULTURE THAT IS PASSED DOWN BY MOST PUERTO RICAN FAMILIES. PER CAPITA, PUERTO RICANS ARE ONE OF THE MOST RACIST AND IGNORANT CULTURES ON EARTH. ABOUT 30 PERCENT OF
PUERTO RICO IS STILL WHITE. THE REST ARE BLACK AND BROWN AND TRY TO SAY THE THE QUALITY OF THEIR NON NAPPY HAIR , SAVES THEM.

3) THE ISLAND HAD A VERY STRONG TOURIST ATTRACTION FOR A LONG TIME. THIS IS WHY SINCE FOREVER THE HIGH RATE OF STATUTORY RAPE AND INCEST HAS BEEN KEPT QUIET BY THE PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT STATS.THE STRONGEST PART OF THE TOURIST DECLINE IS THAT THE HIGHEST DRUG TRAFFIC AND DRUG MURDER RATES ARE IN OUR LITTLE CUBA.

4) THE BASIC LIFE FORM ON THE ISLAND IS GOSSIP , AND STICKING YOUR NOSE INTO OTHER PEOPLES BUSINESS, BUT NOT LET THEM STICK THEIR NOSES INTO YOURS.

5) PUERTO RICANS DON'T EVEN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEPATISTIC WAYS OF MANY CULTURES LIKE ASIANS, JEWS , CUBANS AND MANY OTHER GROUPS THAT HAVE ENRICHED THEMSELVES IN THIS WAY BUT WILL NOT TALK ABOUT IT. PUERTO RICANS GO AGAINST EACH OTHER. THEY ALMOST NEVER HELP EACH OTHER, UNLESS YOU SPEAK THE RIGHT GOSSIP AND RACISM, AND THAT WON'T LAST.

6) JUST TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT REPRESENTS THESE PEOPLE BY LOOKING ALONG THE SIDES OF THE PUERTO RICAN DAY PARADE.

WHAT IS THEIR TO BE PROUD OF? THE PAST COUPLE OF BEAUTY CONTEST WINNERS, AND BOXERS THAT WERE. TRY FIVE MINUTES OF HONESTY. IT'S A JOKE. LET'S START BY TRYING TO ADMIT THAT WITHOUT THE UNITED STATES, PUERTO RICO WOULD NOT BE. JUST LIKE THE PUERTO RICAN PUBLIC HOUSING POPULATION HAS MORE KIDS , JUST TO KEEP THE BENEFITS GOING. THE ISLAND IS ACTUALLY 90 MILES BY 50 MILES, AND PUERTO RICANS (CUBANS) ARE PROBABLY NOT THE ONLY CULTURE THIS BAD, BUT DAME!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 60 year old man born in Puerto Rico. Color discrimination is a reality in us as it is among all people of color. Tell me Blacks in the USA do not discriminate among their own? It is something all people with a history of oppression have to heal. I'll tell you one thing. I never saw a cross burning in PR. Or the KKK, or people being hung from a tree for mixing the races. That I only saw here in the USA.

Anonymous said...

I am a dark skinned African-American woman who just visited Puerto Rico. I went with my senior citizen mother. The hotel was tracking our moves. Even my mother noticed this. When we had to get a taxi, they would have the "darker" Puerto Ricans give us a ride. I didn't even notice until my mother pointed it out. The tour bus took us through Louza where the black people live. It seems like Puerto Rico is very segregated, some of it having to do with class. The US is no different and no better. It was like the same treatment. However, there has been civil rights movement in the US which just makes African-Americans visible and provided protections unlike the rest of Latin-America.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion; it is more about the demographics then it is RACISM. Poverty is a disease , I hate to state the fact that poverty follows Afro American and Afro Latino, unfortunate but true. Anywhere in the US you find that the majority of the poor stricken nieghborhoods are that of Afro-am decent, same goes for the UK, all Caribbean islands etc. Black folk anywhere in the world have been given the disease of poverty that is deep rooted from slavery, almost passed on by DNA. I am Puerto Rican of Afro indo, spaniard decent. By looks I am undeniable Puerto Rican. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood so i have witnessed first hand how poverty effects the people.

I mean no disrespect to my black people, by any means, I am just stating facts that can be agreed by educated people of any race.

Miseducation is what is the problem with all the races of color...

Lastly, racism is excepted more than it is not!

Anonymous said...

There is no segregation in Puerto Rico. The only color that really matters is Green. There are more people of African descent on the east side of the island because hundreds of years ago that was where most of the plantations were and also the slave labor. Just like the USA, there are more Blacks say in Alabama than in New Mexico for the same reason.