Theses Doctoral

“Here to Stay”: New York Puerto Ricans and the Consolidation of Latino New York, 1931-1951

Perez Jimenez, Cristina Camille

This dissertation examines New York Puerto Ricans’ identifications as part of a Hispanic collectivity that saw itself as a permanent and integral sociocultural group of New York City between the years 1931 and 1951. It argues that a New York Latino identity emerged at this time across ethnic, racial and class lines through Spanish-speakers’ strategic appropriations of the era’s transnational frameworks, including proletarian fraternalism (chapter one), Pan-Americanism (chapter two), cosmopolitan aestheticism (chapter three) and anti-colonialism (chapter four). Whereas the coordinates of present-day Latino identities are generally traced back to the ‘invention’ of a Hispanic category in order to create voting or consumer blocs in the late twentieth century or, conversely, to the political and cultural ‘awakening’ of Hispanics during the countercultural decades of the sixties and seventies, this dissertation upsets these timelines by showing how a New York Latino identity materializes earlier than previously thought. Specifically, it explores how the sociopolitical conjuncture of the 1930s and 1940s, with the sweeping reforms of the New Deal, the unprecedented influence of socialist ideas on American culture, the antifascist fight and world war, and the consequent emergence of anti-colonial movements, provided a grammar for New York Puerto Ricans’ self-definitions as part of a pan-ethnic minority that was “here to stay” in New York. In so doing, this dissertation challenges depictions of early New York Puerto Rican communities as isolated or self-contained spaces, and inquires into the ways localized ethnic identities are modulated by national and international events. Reading works by New York Puerto Rican authors like Jesús Colón, Pedro Labarthe, Pedro Caballero, and Guillermo Cotto-Thorner, and drawing from historical documents and New York Spanish-language periodicals such as Artes y Letras, La Voz, Eco Antillano, Pueblos Hispanos and Liberación, this dissertation weaves sociocultural analysis, literary criticism and archival research to begin to redress the relative lack of scholarly attention given to the cultural productions of New York Hispanic communities prior to midcentury and thus provides historical moorings for the cultural expressions of Latino New York.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Negron-Muntaner, Frances
Horn, Maja
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 27, 2016