Ph.D., History, University of Wisconsin
M.A., History, Columbia University
B.A., International Relations, Latin American Studies, and Spanish, University of Wisconsin
I am a historian of modern Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on Puerto Rico, the circum-Caribbean, and U.S. Colonialism.
U.S. Colonialism in the Caribbean
One of my research areas is U.S. overseas colonialism in the Caribbean and Caribbean diasporic communities in the United States. My first book, Negotiating Empire: The Cultural Politics of Schools in Puerto Rico, 1898-1952 (2013), is a history of colonial education, local teachers, and Americanization policies in Puerto Rico. Through the perspective of Puerto Rican teachers, I explore resistance to Americanization ideologies and practices in the island’s colonial public schools. I do not, however, romanticize teachers or resistance to U.S. colonialism. Instead, I examine how local teachers promoted a racialized, classed, and gendered citizenship-building project for their own students. At times local teachers’ visions strategically overlapped with those of U.S. colonial administrators, allowing for the reproduction of colonialism in the first half of the twentieth century. I also propose that local teachers forced colonial U.S. officials to adjust their vision of Americanization to local conditions.
Negotiating Empire is part of the critical empire scholarship that highlights how local actors engaged with U.S. colonialism in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The scholarship is critical of U.S. historiography that dismissed local histories and narrowly focused on U.S. ideology and policies, as well as Caribbean and Pacific histories that homogenized resistance and minimized historical tensions within colonial societies.
I have also published research articles on the topic of U.S. colonialism and education in Caribbean Studies, CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, the New West Indian Guide, the Radical History Review, and The American Historian.
Childhood, Crime and Punishment
My second book, titled, “Street Children, Crime, and Punishment in Puerto Rico, 1940-1965,” is a history of poor and working children, specifically street children, in mid-century Puerto Rico. Like other Caribbean and Latin American countries, Puerto Rico underwent a rapid process of industrialization, urbanization and modernization from the 1940s to the 1970s. This generated a massive migration of rural families from the countryside into larger cities such as San Juan, Ponce, and Mayagüez. Urban planners and state funding could not keep pace with hyper-urbanization and the recently arrived rural families faced unsafe housing in shantytowns, a lack of schools, limited health care, and few jobs. In turn, many poorer children spent days in the streets working – as fruit vendors, newspapers boys, and in other occupations – and supplemented family income. In addition, adolescents and teenage boys who ran away from home gathered in port cities and created a community of street children. I examine the processes by which the colonial state of Puerto Rico criminalized the presence of this combination of poor children in public streets and enacted a set of punitive polices that led to the incarceration of black and brown children in adult jails and prisons. The book project is supported by an ACLS fellowship.
I offer courses on the modern history of the Spanish Caribbean, U.S. Empire, and Afro-Latinos, with a focus on race, migration, diasporas, and nation.
Afro-Latinos/Afro-Latin America (American Studies 316/Black Studies 331)
History of the Hispanic Caribbean (American Studies 310)
History of Puerto Rico: Empire, Nation, & Diaspora (American Studies 317)
Introduction to Black Studies (Black Studies 111)
Introduction to U.S. Latinx Studies (American Studies 165)
Race and Nation: History of Hispaniola (American Studies 311/Black Studies 361)
Race and Revolution in Cuban History (American Studies/Black Studies 371)
Race and U.S. Empire: 1898 in the Caribbean and Pacific (American Studies 315)