Birth Control Movement/Sterilization
Azize-Vargas, Yamila, and Luis A. Avilés. “Abortion in Puerto Rico: The Limits of Colonial Legality. Reproductive Health Matters.” Reproductive Health Matters 5.9 (1997): 56-65. Print.
This is a political-economic study of reproductive practices in Puerto Rico based on a 1991-92 survey of women who attended private abortion clinics. Azize-Vargas provides the historical background to the legalization of abortion in Puerto Rico following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade despite opposition towards it. She identifies this as an example of the colonial subordination of Puerto Rico to the U.S., which subjugated Puerto Rico to U.S. rulings. In particular, religious and political conservatives framed this as a type of colonial oppression. Azize-Vargas also examines why Puerto Rico has a low rate of abortions and concludes this is because of high rates of sterilization and birth control methods, a dominant anti-choice rhetoric, a misconception that abortions are illegal, high costs, and lack of providers and geographic access.
Overall, she argues that Puerto Rican abortion policy is related to its colonial situation. Furthermore, Azize-Vargas argues that colonial legailty of abortion has not guaranteed access to abortion rights. She suggests addressing the hurdles which prevent access to safe abortions. In addition, Azize-Vargas effectively discusses the ways class affects access to reproductive rights.
Briggs, Laura. “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 10.2 (1998): 30. Print.
This article examined the relation between nationalism and pronatalism, which was used to oppose the birth control movement by mainland feminists, conservative Catholic clergy and politicians, and mainland and insular nationalists. However, insular feminists of the 1920s critiqued a notion of nationalism in which women’s fertility was representative of the nation and supported sterilization. U.S. feminists erased Puerto Rican feminism in their opposition towards sterilization while victimizing Puerto Rican women. Moreover, opponents of sterilization claimed that there was a genocidal forced sterilization campaign of the poor underway.
Briggs effectively argues how various studies provided no evidence of a genocidal campaign through sterilization and instead concluded that more affluent women were sterilized and did not feel forced to undergo this procedure. Thus, Briggs argues the narrative of forced sterilization was constructed from a masculinist nationalist perspective, which silenced and undermined the efforts of Puerto Rican feminists. She critiques Puerto Rican mainland and insular feminism but does not expand on their accomplishments. Therefore, she provides a negative representation of Puerto Rican feminism.
Colón-Warren, Alice E., and Idsa Alegría-Ortega. “Shattering the Illusion of Development: The Changing Status of Women and Challenges for the Feminist Movement in Puerto Rico.” Feminist Review 59 (1998):101-117. Print.
This essay is a gendered analysis of the industrialization policies of Puerto Rico by the U.S. The authors discuss the negative consequences of these policies on gender relations and equality. They also provide a thorough history of feminist movements in Puerto Rico from the 1930s to the 1990s. The authors examine the issues these movements sought to address such as reproductive rights, labor rights, violence against women, and better health care. They discuss the ways these movements mobilized and helped shape legal reform. The authors also examine the ways women’s rights have improved and suggestions for further improvement.
Colon-Warren and Algeria-Ortega efficiently provide an extensive history of women’s political participation on the island. They acknowledge current organizations that are actively engaged in lobbying for legal reform. While these authors discuss progressive changes, they conclude that Puerto Rico’s model of development continues to reinforce structural inequality. In addition, it impacts other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean who tend to follow in suit.
Nelson, Jennifer A. “‘Abortions Under Community Control’: Feminism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Reproduction among New York City’s Young Lords.” Journal of Women’s History 13.1 (2001): 157. Print.
This historical analysis examines the politics of the Young Lords Party in New York City during the 1970’s. This political group was comprised of racially diverse Puerto Ricans who incorporated feminism and nationalism into their agenda. The development of their feminist ideology occurred following gender conflicts among its leadership. Young Lord women were influenced by the women’s liberation movement and declared no sex strikes within its organization. When male members broke rules regarding extraorginzation sexual relations, they were demoted and women used their new authority to revise their platform. They reclaimed the concept of machismo and redefined it as gender equality. They critiqued white feminism and sexism within political movements. Lastly, they advocated for reproductive rights and an end to sterilization abuse, which was seen as a form of genocide.
Nelson effectively examines the ways Puerto Rican women utilized their positions of power within the Young Lords to address issues facing women of color. These women acknowledged the significant role of third world women within liberation movements. Nelson also thoroughly explains the various types of reproductive rights they fought for, which critiqued the low quality of health care available to women of color. She discusses how the women’s liberation movement made the radical politics of the Young Lords possible.
Remez, L. “Puerto Rico: Contraceptive Use is High, Sterilization is the Most Popular Method.” Family Planning Perspectives 31.1 (1999): 47,48 2p. Print.
This article summarized the data from the 1995-1996 Survey of Reproductive Health conducted in Puerto Rico, which represented six health regions and included 5,944 women between the ages of 15 and 44. It discussed percentages regarding women’s marital status, education level, employment rates, reception of governmental assistance, contraceptive use and fertility. The survey showed that 78% of Puerto Rican women used methods of contraception if they were in a consensual union and that the most common form of it was female sterilization. 59% of women using a birth control method had been sterilized through procedures like tubal ligation, which was common among those with no more than 6 years of schooling. In addition, the data found that while 61% of women with six or fewer years of education have been sterilized, the proportion drops among those with some college. The survey also included statistics on domestic violence, which found that 38% of women had been physically or emotionally abused by a partner and 48% had been physically harmed during a quarrel with a partner.
This article provided a lot of information about women in Puerto Rico, but did not expand on the factors that might influence them. It does not provide any suggestions for solutions to social issues or disparities. Therefore, it lacks any critical assessment of the data or any relational factors at work.
Migration & Diaspora
Puerto Rican NY Settlements
Gold, Roberta. “‘I Had Not Seen Women Like That Before’: Intergenerational Feminism in New York City’s Tenant Movement.” Feminist Studies 35.2 (2009): 387-415. Print.
This article is a historical and political analysis of the New York City tenant movement, which occurred in unison with the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Gold examines the ways female leaders became political mentors to younger volunteers. In addition, she discusses how this movement’s organizers were multiracial and working-class. They lobbied for rent control, public housing, and building code enforcement. Gold also explores the contributions of the Young Lords Party to this movement, which included distribution of lead testing kits and tenant takeover of abandoned buildings in the Bronx.
Gold effectively critiqued policies of urban renewal, which spurred the movement because it led to the demolition of working-class neighborhoods. She also compares the racial and class differences between first and second generation organizations, who were affiliated with first and second wave feminism. Lastly, she discusses how these various female led organizations united at the Housing Crimes Trial, which displayed women’s ability to mobilize despite differences.
Rodriguez, Clara E., Virginia Sánchez Korrol, and José Oscar. Alers. “Survival of Puerto Rican Women in New York before World War II.” The Puerto Rican Struggle: Essays on Survival in the U.S. New York, NY: Puerto Rican Migration Research Consortium, 1980. 47-57. Print.
This essay analyzed the roles of Puerto Rican women in New York enclaves during the 1920’s to 1930’s. It used data from the 1925 New York State Census and 75 oral interviews. Women were seen as transnational links between Puerto Rico and New York and they produced information networks, which helped preserve Puerto Rican ethnicity, language, and culture. These information networks also helped recent Puerto Rican migrants acclimate and settle into New York. While 42% of women listed their occupation as housewives, 29% worked outside of the home. The types of labor Puerto Rican women had access to were factory work, child care, lodging, and other home enterprises such as piecework. They sought labor to supplement family income, especially if they were part of the lower class, and were paid less than men.
While this essay emphasized the importance of these women’s roles in the home and in the workforce, it did not fully expand on Puerto Rican women’s ability to mobilize. For example, it acknowledged grass root systems and information networks created by women, but concluded by stating these women neither demanded nor were given the opportunity to control strategic resources. It also ignored any political preferences or involvement.
Rodriguez, Clara E., Virginia Sánchez Korrol, and José Oscar. Alers. “Work and Family: The Recent Struggle of Puerto Rican Females.” The Puerto Rican Struggle: Essays on Survival in the U.S. New York, NY: Puerto Rican Migration Research Consortium, 1980. 58-73. Print.
This essay analyzed data from Censuses from 1950-1970 in order to determine trends regarding the decline in Puerto Rican female labor-force participation and increase in female headed families. It compared various races and ethnicities to Puerto Rican demographics. One of the major findings discusses how access to education affects labor participation. For example, shifts in labor skill levels affected Puerto Rican women disproportionately due the loss of low skilled jobs while favoring more educated whites. Therefore, it outlined the intersectional factors that affect labor opportunities.
The research in this essay critically assessed racial/ethnic, regional, and class differences within a comparative analysis of labor force participation. It also critiqued the popular explanation of labor participation difference as being related to the traditional Hispanic family structure. While it provided structural factors for the decline in Puerto Rican female labor participation, it did not provide information about why Puerto Rican female households were increasing.
Julia de Burgos
Arroyo, Jossianna. “Living the Political: Julia de Burgos and Lolita Lebrón.” Centro Journal 26.2 (2014): 128-55. Print.
This essay is a literary analysis of the works of Julia de Burgos and Lolita Lebron, who were two female Puerto Rican national icons and poets. Arroyo examines their biographies and representations within academia, newsprint and other literary sources. She also analyzes their political activism and deconstructs the feminine death drive to further expand on types of agency and navigation within their poetry.
This paper is for specialists and is very theoretical. It lacks empirical support for its conclusions, especially when making connections between poetry and the politics of queer space. Arroyo successfully provides thorough political and historical backgrounds of each poet’s life and work. She also reviews the political contributions both women have made and acknowledges their influence on Puerto Rican literature, history, and culture. However, Arroyo fails to critique traditional depictions of women within the discourse of nationalism. For example, she discusses the trope of motherhood as a positive but later contradicts this by examining the ways judgments on motherhood were used by the media to attack the image of Julia de Burgos.
Feinsod, Harris. “Between Dissidence and Good Neighbor Diplomacy: Reading Julia de Burgos with the FBI.” Centro Journal 26.2 (2014): 98-127. Print.
This literary analysis examines Julia de Burgos’ anthology of poetry as translated and characterized by the FBI. The FBI started an investigation of her work and employment under the Hatch Act and deemed her work to be subversive political activity and expressions of dissident Nationalism. Her positions at Pueblos Hispanos and CIAA were also investigated and she was ultimately fired from federal employment.
Feinsod effectively compares translations of de Burgos’ poetry to examine what the FBI categorized as politically subversive and failed to recognize as cultural lexicons of race and class. Therefore, he critiques the translations produced by the FBI and in doing so, provided his own more accurate analysis of nationalist aspects of her poetry. Furthermore, Feinsod notes that Muriel Rukeyser, who was a white American feminist, was not fired from her job, which he argues exposes the different ways the government dealt with Puerto Rican nationalists. Lastly, he successfully demonstrates the way anticolonial poetry threatened the professional careers of de Burgos and other Latino poets.
Perez-Rosario, Vanessa. “Julia de Burgos’ Writing for Pueblos Hispanos: Journalism as Puerto Rican Cultural and Political Transnational Practice.” Centro Journal 25.2 (2013): 4-27. Print.
This essay is a literary and historical analysis of Julia de Burgos contributions to the Puerto Rican press during the 1940s. Perez-Rosario examines the major role de Burgos played within politics as the editor of Pueblos Hispanos. She argues that de Burgos educated Latino migrants in New York City and served as a transnational link. She also discusses the political affiliations of writers evident in their publications. For example, Perez-Rosario analyzes a poem written by de Burgos, which conveys her nationalist ideals.
Perez-Rosario successfully exposes the ways de Burgos opposed and critiqued Hispanism’s notions of assimilation, as well as, human rights violations such as despotic governments in Latin America. She also acknowledges that other Puerto Rican women were contributing to Spanish press prior to de Burgos. Furthermore, she discusses Spanish press catered to the middle class Hispanic bourgeoisie, which illuminates how class informed journalism at this time.
Rangel, Cecilia Enjuto. “Weaving National and Gender Politics: A Transatlantic Reading of Rosalía de Castro’s and Julia de Burgos’s Poetic Projects.” Centro Journal 26.2 (2014): 156-91. Print.
This essay is a literary analysis of the poetic works of Julia de Burgos and Rosalia de Castro, who were nationalist icons. Rangel employs a Transatlantic reading of their poetry in order to compose a feminist critique which deviates from dominant nationalist conceptions of authenticity and sorrowful motherhood. She argues that de Burgos and Castro defy patriarchal nationalist discourses through the metaphors of the ocean and other fluid and transitive properties of water. Furthermore, Rangel provides the political, social, and historical context, which informed the representations of Puerto Rican women writers. For example, she observes that women writers are called by their first names within academia and those that transgressed social roles have been accused of being hysterical.
Rangel effectively examines how de Burgos and Castro supported gender equality and multiracial identities. She analyzes how their work addressed their marginality as women and favored women’s rights. Rangel also successfully expresses the ways de Burgos and Castro acknowledged the contradictions and paradoxes of being both a feminist and a nationalist. For example, these poets compared sexism to political oppression. Moreover, she assesses the ways these icons are claimed or coopted by different groups and movements, which shifts the representations and the interpretations of their work. Therefore, Rangel thoroughly deconstructs the ways women’s production of knowledge is excluded or silenced within history, politics, and literature.
The Young Lords Party
Enck-Wanzer, Darrel. “A Radical Democratic Style? Tradition, Hybridity, and Intersectionality.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 11.3 (2008): 459-465. Print.
This essay is a political analysis of the Young Lords Party through a radical democratic perspective. Enck-Wanzer describes democracy as an aesthetic enterprise similar to the law and examines the three features of a radical democratic aesthetic. He argues that this kind of aesthetic is indicated by tradition, hybridity, and intersectionality. Then, Enck-Wanzer utilizes the Young Lords Party as a case study of this aesthetic.
He adequately emphasizes the significance of intersectional analysis of identity politics, which he argues the Young Lords demonstrated. Enck-Wanzer describes the history and contributions of the Young Lords Party but fails at specifying the important role of its Puerto Rican female leaders. While he acknowledges its antisexist ideology, he never discusses the history behind this development. Therefore, he misses a key piece of its radical formation and erases the role of women in the construction of its radical aesthetic.
Negron-Muntaner, Frances. “The Look of Sovereignty: Style and Politics in the Young Lords.” Centro Journal 27.1 (2015): 4-33. Print.
This essay is a political and historical analysis of the formation and contributions of the Young Lords Party. Negron-Muntaner focuses on the appearance of sovereignty as a style and the refashioning of the public image of Puerto Ricans by the Young Lords. She argues this played a major role in their success. Negron-Muntaner also discusses the ways they used mass media and dramatic performances to address various issues facing Puerto Ricans in New York City. She concludes by examining their decline, which followed a new focus on pro-independence agenda. As the Young Lords brought their organization to Puerto Rico, conflicts emerged between two different conceptions of sovereignty, which illuminated differences of class and national belonging.
Negron-Muntaner effectively deconstructs the ways the Young Lords focused on restyling the body and images of Puerto Ricans but emphasizes and applies a masculine narrative to most of their political activism. Through a comparison to the Black Panthers, she argues that clothing such as leather jackets, sovereign acts of protest, and guns are exclusively masculine aesthetics, strategies, and symbols of power. Negron-Muntaner also refers to third world revolutionary aesthetics as another source of influence and characterizes them as masculine as well. However, she later claims that despite their revolutionary rhetoric, the Young Lords did not use force or seek military control. Negron-Muntaner briefly discusses the gender conflicts which arose from the machismo prevalent in the Young Lords Party and the reshaping of their platform by women. Lastly, she successfully discusses the limits of their new pro-independence agenda, which dismantled their prior anti-sexist and anti-racist radical politics. Thus, while Negron Muntaner acknowledges that the Young Lords produced liberating politics which allowed Puerto Ricans to inhabit multiple identities, she makes her point by focusing on the success and failures of male leadership, aesthetics, and tactics. Therefore, she minimizes the triumph of female intervention within the movement.
Race & Class
Martinez-San Miguel, Yolanda. “Deconstructing Puerto Ricanness through Sexuality: Female Counternarratives on Puerto Rican Identity (1894-1934).” Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1997. 127-39. Print.
This essay is a literary analysis of texts written between 1890 and 1934 about Puerto Rican national identity, which provide female counternarratives and a new metaphorical representation of the body. These texts challenged dominant narratives about Puerto Rican identity which reduced women to their reproductive function, erased women, and questioned women’s ability to comprehend national concerns. Moreover, the texts examined challenged the canon as being centered on the Hispanic, white, heterosexual, male subject.
This analysis exposed the ways class and gender influenced an author’s perspective. For example, there was a difference between the working sector and the hegemonic sectors. The working sector stressed women’s autonomy over their bodies and made radical ideas about sexuality a main focus. Furthermore, a multiplicity of voices and subject positions made it difficult for a coherent Puerto Rican identity to be totalized. Therefore, not one single female perspective proposed an alternative conception of the nation.
Jiménez-Muñoz, Gladys M. “Carmen María Colón Pellot: On ‘Womanhood’ and ‘Race’ in Puerto Rico during the Interwar Period.” CR: The New Centennial Review 3.3 (2003): 71-91. Print.
This literary analysis looks at the intersection of gender and race within the poetic works of Colon Pellot and Puerto Rican historiography. Jimenez-Munoz specifically examines the interwar period, which was between 1898 and 1940. She discusses how Colon Pellot critiqued white criollo women’s privileges, which included sexual liberty. In addition, Colon Pellot identified as mulata in her poetry, but is identified as Black by other authors of her time. Jimenez-Munoz argues that her desire to enter a primarily masculinist and racist national discourse about gender and race led to these identity contradictions. In order for Collon Pellot’s voice to be rendered legitimate, she might have felt the need to align herself closer to the criollo white intellectuals of the time. She also effectively illuminates the ways Colon Pellot experienced sexuality due to her race and gender. For example, mulatas were hypersexualized and were pressured to repress their sexuality.
Jimenez-Munoz critiques Puerto Rican historiography by providing various areas of research regarding gender and race, which have not been fully explored. She suggests further research into the intersection of gender, class, and race within this period of history. Thus, she discusses how women of color have been enormously ignored within Puerto Rican history and academic research.
Skinner, Lee Joan. “Identity, Nation, and Revolution in Latin America.” Journal of Women’s History 19.1 (2007): 224-33. Print.
In this book review, Skinner analyzes Roy Fequiere’s work on the relationship between gender and national construction and discourse within intellectual nationalist projects. She notes Roy Fequiere’s strength at drawing on an array of sources such as literary works, essays, literary journals, newspaper articles, and surveys. Most importantly, she reviews how Puerto Rican women were actively participating in reproducing conservative ideologies that perpetuated racist, classist, and sexist discourses.
Skinner effectively examines Roy-Fequiere’s analysis of Puerto Rico’s colonial history and the ways it informed identity constructions of race, class, and gender. In addition, she includes Roy-Fequiere’s discussion of the suffrage movement and the strategies white Puerto Rican women employed to acquire voice and agency. Therefore, Skinner discusses the way Roy-Fequiere’s book critically assesses dominantly white intellectual Puerto Rican discourse regarding national identity.
Statehood & Political Status
Cámara-Fuertes, Luis Raúl, and Olga I. Rosas-Cintrón. “Social and Ideological Bases of Status Support in Puerto Rico.” Caribbean Studies 32.2 (2004): 145-178. Print.
This study provided the historical background of the main political parties in Puerto Rico. It examined political party affiliation by analyzing ideological variables in correlation to social variables, which included security and pride. Through an autonomist perspective of data, Puerto Ricans were able to express national pride while wanting the economic security of being a U.S. citizen. However, Puerto Ricans who supported independence were not as concerned with security because they tended to be part of the educated elite. In contrast, supporters of statehood tended to be the urban poor who feared loss of citizenship and the economic benefits that come with it. Additionally, commonwealth supporters were cited as being mostly middle class.
Therefore, this study concluded that socioeconomic class was linked to political party preference. It also found that women tended to support commonwealth over the other statuses but did not provide any reasons why. This study exposed gender as an area which needs further research regarding political preferences.
Fajarado, Rosario. “Among Puerto Rico Residents with an Opinion, a Majority would Favor Statehood.” Caribbean Business 43.31 (2015): 24. Print.
This article examined a 2015 poll which addressed status preference. When asked in a yes or no question format regarding statehood, 60% of respondents favored statehood. When narrowed down to age, those aged 18-54 years old favored statehood by 69% as opposed to those over 55. In addition, those with lower socioeconomic status favored statehood by 65%. When this poll included respondents without an opinion, statehood preference decreased to 40%. Interestingly, women tended to not have an opinion when compared to men making a gender a varying factor again. This article also refers to another poll from 2012 which measures statehood preference at 53%. While this article does not go into depth as to the reasons behind these figures, it does mention economic issues as a factor for status preference.
Therefore, this study lacks further investigation into gender and class issues. It raises questions about how gender and class informs and impacts status preference. In addition, it does not address why there is a large portion of people who do not have an opinion about statehood preference.
Grosfoguel, Ramón. “The Divorce of Nationalist Discourses from the Puerto Rican People: A Sociohistorical Perspective.” Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1997. 57-76. Print
This chapter examines the 1993 referendum, which measured statehood support at 46%, commonwealth preference at 48% and independence voters at 4%. It examines the core-periphery relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States and how the U.S. has used Puerto Rico for military advantages and as a symbolic model. Moreover, the U.S. provided Puerto Rico with extensive federal assistance because of its military and symbolic importance. Grosfoguel discusses the important tie between having U.S. citizenship and its economic benefits, which may influence status preference. Additionally, he explores security concerns with post-independence which include authoritarian and exploitative rule and how it affects status preferences as well.
Grosfoguel effectively analyzes the neocolonial relationship between the U.S and Puerto Rico nation-state as potentially more exploitative with less economic benefits than its current commonwealth status. He challenges independence as an alternative option to commonwealth status and provides another model in the form of a democratic project. Therefore, he contributes a new model for Puerto Rico, which is more inclusive and radical.