A Conversation on the Racial Formation and Colonialism in Puerto Rico with Marisol LeBrón and Ileana Rodriguez-Silva

This event was part of the

Beyond Borders, Across Boundaries: Black and LatinX Knowledge Formations speaker series

presented by

Mellon Intersections Group on Global Blackness and Latinx Identity

October 10th at 5pm in Ustler Hall Atrium


This talk was lead with two leading scholars whose research has advanced and complicated our understanding of Puerto Rico. Each scholar will present a piece of their work and then will be in conversation with each other and event attendees.

Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico 

The rise and consolidation of punitive governance in Puerto Rico has reproduced hierarchies based on race, class, spatial location, gender, sexuality, and citizenship. In this talk, I detail how punitive governance functions through the reification of already existing hierarchies of value at work in the archipelago, which largely target those Puerto Ricans who find themselves at the margins. In particular, I demonstrate the ways in which punitive governance plays a central role in producing and reinforcing discriminatory understandings of race, which associate Black and dark-skinned Puerto Ricans with crime and subsequently expose them to greater levels of exclusion and harm. Revealing how policing and other punitive technologies produce and reproduce race in Puerto Rico is a necessary task, as Puerto Rico is often imagined as a “racial democracy” free of the kinds of violence and animus associated with race relations in the United States.

Marisol LeBrón is an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in race, policing, and political activism in Puerto Rico and U.S. communities of color. She is an Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico and, along with Yarimar Bonilla, co-editor of Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm. Marisol is also one of the co-creators of the Puerto Rico Syllabus, a digital resource for understanding the Puerto Rican debt crisis.


“Ciudadanía Cimarrona: Black Puerto Rican Thought and Activism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.”

This presentation is a preliminary sketch of a project that analyzes the content, collaborations, and networks that sustained and were built around the weekly journal Pancho Ibero (1917-1920), edited by Black Puerto Rican journalist, politician, and musician Luis Felipe Dessús. The project’s objectives are multiple. It unearths the contours of a Puerto Rican Black middle class and explores the formation of multiple Black publics. Most important, it also seeks to uncover a much larger story about how racialized struggles and the constant demands to rearticulate and assert Black humanity have fundamentally shaped the foundations of key institutions and practices at the heart of today’s Puerto Rican national and/or anti-colonial projects.

Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva is Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History in the Department of History at the University of Washington, where she also holds the Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professorship and serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. She is the author of the award-winning book Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialism, and National Identities in Puerto Rico. Her new research investigates middle-class formation during the early Cold-War decades in Puerto Rico.



This event is organized by the Mellon Intersections Group on Global Blackness and Latinx Identity with support from the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, George A. Smathers Libraries, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research, Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for African American Studies, Club Creole, and the UF chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact: humanities-center@ufl.edu or Prof. Manoucheka Celeste (celeste@ufl.edu).