The Puerto Rican Diaspora to the United States: A Postcolonial Migration? (2009)

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Presenter: Jorge Duany, University of Puerto Rico

In 1953, the General Assembly of the United Nations removed Puerto Rico from its list of “non-self-governing territories.” However, the exact nature of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States has been intensely disputed since the creation of the Commonwealth. Moreover, Puerto Ricans in the United States have been dubbed “colonial immigrants” because they are U.S. citizens who can travel freely between the Island and the mainland but are not fully covered by the American Constitution on the Island. This paper examines the impact of colonial and “postcolonial” policies on the massive displacement of the Puerto Rican population to the U.S. mainland after World War II. In particular, it surveys the historical origins, settlement patterns, community organization, identity politics, and cultural practices of the Puerto Rican diaspora. In the end, the Puerto Rican diaspora occupies an ambiguous space between colonial and postcolonial population movements. This ambiguity is the long-term historical consequence of the oxymoronic legal doctrine declaring that Puerto Rico “belongs to but is not a part of the United States.”