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2019 Essential Boricua Reading List for the Holidays

Josue Mendez

Another year, another list of the perfect gifts for the Boricua Holiday Season. Look through our list of 2019 publications on all issues Puerto Rican - here and there. If you'd like more options, feel free to check our 2018 list


Meléndez, Edgardo. Patria: Puerto Rican Revolutionary Exiles in Late Nineteenth Century New York. New York, NY: Centro Press.

Patria examines the activities and ideals of Puerto Rican revolutionaries exiles in New York City at the end of the nineteenth century. The study is centered in the writings, news reports, and announcements by and about Puerto Ricans in the newspaper Patria, of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. The book looks at the political, organizational and ideological ties between Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionaries in exile, as well as the events surrounding the war of 1898. The analysis also offers a glimpse into the daily life and community of Puerto Rican exiles in late nineteenth-century New York City. This product is available for pre-order only.


Cruz, José E. Liberalism and Identity Politics: Puerto Rican Community Organizations and Collective Action in New York City. New York, NY: Centro Press. [ISBN: 9781945662089].

This book is a recollection and analysis of ethnic identity in Puerto Rican politics in New York City between 1960 and 1990. The book argues that Puerto Rican politics at the community level was a politics of identity rooted in liberal democratic values. Puerto Ricans provided an example, from the ground up, that transcended the alleged incompatibility between liberalism and identity politics. This relationship was not free of problems but it was workable, contrary to what other scholars have claimed. The book deploys its evidence in the form of a historical collage to suggest that through strategic and demand-protest activities Puerto Ricans articulated and promoted a liberal form of identity politics in which ethnic identity and the idea of group rights provided a platform for the production of both individual and collective goods. The book illustrates how Puerto Ricans in New York City sought participation, recognition, redress of grievances, and inclusion along liberal-democratic lines.



CENTRO Journal fall issue (vol. 31, no. 3 2019). New York, NY: Centro Press.

Erasing Race: Translating Out the “Afro” in René Marqués’s La carreta/The Oxcart (J. Bret Maney); Building Puerto Rico’s Anti-Colonial Literary Canon: Nilita Vientós Gastón’s Venture with Asomante (Enrique González-Conty); The Color Gradient of Economic Opportunity: Implications of Skin Tone Labor Market Segmentation for Puerto Ricans in the United States (M. Anne Visser); Beyond Good and Bad Fat: Understanding Puerto Rican Body Size Norms (Isa Rodríguez-Soto and Shir Lerman Ginzburg); The U.S. Alien Property Custodian vs. German Business in New York and Puerto Rico during the First World War (Humberto García-Muñiz)

Power Sotomayor, Jade, guest editor; Luis Rivera, Pablo, guest editor. CENTRO Journal vol. XXXI, no. 2, Summer 2019. New York, NY: Centro Press. [ISBN] 1538-6279.

CENTRO Journal summer issue (vol. 31, no. 2 2019): Special Issue on Puerto Rican Bomba Introduction: Puerto Rican Bomba: Syncopating Bodies, Histories, and Geographies (Jade Power Sotomayor and Pablo Luis Rivera); Centro y periferia: las identidades en el nuevo movimiento de la bomba puertorriqueña (Bárbara I. Abadía-Rexach); Topografía social y cultural de las músicas africanas y afrodescendientes en el archipiélago puertorriqueño: la historia de las músicas afrodiaspóricas en Puerto Rico como antinomia de la historia folklorizada de la bomba (Noel Allende-Goitía); Suelta el Moño: The Herstories of Change Agents and Perpetuators of Bomba Culture (Melanie Maldonado); Queering bomba: rupturas con lo heteronormativo en la bomba puertorriqueña (Mónica C. Lladó Ortega); “Water Overflows with Memory”: Bomba, Healing, and the Archival Oceanic (Ashley Coleman Taylor); La música como herramienta política de los condenados: un acercamiento a la bomba puertorriqueña (Juan Gudiño Cabrera); The Bombazo-Fandango: An Interview with Hector Luis Rivera (Jade Power- Sotomayor); Bomba goes to College—How is that Working Out? (Shannon Dudley); Inventario de la serie “Conversatorios sobre la Bomba y la Cultura Puertorriqueña” instituidos por la organización Restauración Cultural (Pablo Luis Rivera)

Centro Journal Vol. XXXI, no. 1, Spring 2019. New York, NY: Centro Press. [ISBN] 1538-6279.

CENTRO Journal spring issue (vol. 31, no. 1 2019): A Specific Beauty: Pablo Delano’s Photography in New York City, Hartford, and Santurce (Guillermo B. Irizarry); Adjustment Challenges: Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1938-1945. The Writings of Patria Aran Gosnell, Lawrence Chenault and Frances M. Donohue (David Luciano and Gabriel Haslip-Viera); Language and Empire: Elizabeth Kneipple’s Colonial History of Puerto Rico (Solsiree del Moral); Let Me Write it First, and I'll Tell You What it is Later: An Interview with Willie Perdomo (Ana Portnoy Brimmer); The Imperial Gaze: Tourism and Puerto Rico — A Review Essay (Luis Aponte-Parés)



I. Mercado, Carmen. Navigating Teacher Education in Complex and Uncertain Times: Connecting Communities of Practice in a Borderless World. Bloomsbury Academic. [ISBN: 978-1350069077].

Carmen I. Mercado draws on four decades of seminal research and theory on how American children, who come from homes where languages other than English are spoken, learn to read and to write in school to reveal aspects of locally-responsive planning and adaptations that should be central to any teacher education program that hopes to serve its unique, local population base responsibly. Mercado uses a range of theoretical lenses particularly those surrounding critical theory, the approach designed to deconstruct power relationships in society, to capture and explain the complexities of the teaching-learning process making visible institutional, social and political influences clear.

Aparicio, Frances R. Negotiating Latinida: Interlatina/o Lives in Chicago. University of Illinois Press, 2019.

Longstanding Mexican and Puerto Rican populations have helped make people of mixed nationalities—MexiGuatamalans, CubanRicans, and others—an important part of Chicago's Latina/o scene. Intermarriage between Guatemalans, Colombians, and Cubans have further diversified this community-within-a-community. Yet we seldom consider the lives and works of these Intralatino/as when we discuss Latino/as in the United States.In Negotiating Latinidad, a cross-section of Chicago's second-generation Intralatino/as offer their experiences of negotiating between and among the national communities embedded in their families. Frances R. Aparicio's rich interviews reveal Intralatino/as proud of their multiplicity and particularly skilled at understanding difference and boundaries. Their narratives explore both the ongoing complexities of family life and the challenges of fitting into our larger society, in particular the struggle to claim a space—and a sense of belonging—in a Latina/o America that remains highly segmented in scholarship. The result is an emotionally powerful, theoretically rigorous exploration of culture, hybridity, and transnationalism that points the way forward for future scholarship on Intralatino/a identity.

Bonilla, Yarimar and Marisol LeBrón, editors. Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm. Haymarket Books, 2019.

The concept of "aftershocks" is used in the context of earthquakes to describe the jolts felt after the initial quake, but no disaster is a singular event. Aftershocks of Disaster examines the lasting effects of Hurricane Maria, not just the effects of the wind or the rain, but delving into what followed: state failure, social abandonment, capitalization on human misery, and the collective trauma produced by the botched response.

Cotto-Thornier, Guillermo. Manhattan Tropics / Trópico en Manhattan. Edited by J. Bret Maney and Cristina Pérez Jiménez. Translated by J. Bret Maney. Arte Público Press.

“Walking underground” for the first time in his life, Juan Marcos Villalobos, a freshly arrived migrant to New York City, offers his seat to a woman standing on the subway. Though his English isn’t up to her rude reply, he quickly realizes that good manners in Nueva York are quite different than in Puerto Rico! Juan Marcos is eager to continue his studies in the United States and rents a room from family friends living in El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem. Soon, he has a job wrapping packages at a department store that pays as much as he made teaching high school at home. As he interacts with the Puerto Rican community in New York, he witnesses the problems his compatriot's encounter, including discrimination, inadequate housing, jobs, and wages. Despite these problems, friendships and romances bloom and rivalries surface, leading to betrayal and even attempted murder! Originally published in 1951 as Trópico en Manhattan, it was the first novel to focus on the postwar influx of Puerto Ricans to New York. Cotto-Thorner’s use of code-switching, or “Spanglish,” reflects the characters’ bicultural reality and makes the novel a forerunner of Nuyorican writing and contemporary Latino literature. This new bilingual edition contains a first-ever English translation by J. Bret Maney that artfully captures the style and spirit of the original Spanish. The novel’s exploration of class, race, and gender—while demonstrating the community’s resilience and cultural pride—ensures its relevance today.

García-Crespo, Naida. Early Puerto Rican Cinema and Nation Building: National Sentiments, Transnational Realities, 1897–1940. Bucknell University Press, 2019.

Early Puerto Rican Cinema and Nation Building focuses on the processes of Puerto Rican national identity formation as seen through the historical development of cinema on the island between 1897 and 1940. Anchoring her work in archival sources in film technology, economy, and education, Naida García-Crespo argues that Puerto Rico’s position as a stateless nation allows for a fresh understanding of national cinema based on perceptions of productive cultural contributions rather than on citizenship or state structures. This book aims to contribute to recently expanding discussions of cultural networks by analyzing how Puerto Rican cinema navigates the problems arising from the connection and/or disjunction between nation and state. The author argues that Puerto Rico’s position as a stateless nation puts pressure on traditional conceptions of national cinema, which tend to rely on assumptions of state support or a bounded nation-state. She also contends that the cultural and business practices associated with early cinema reveal that transnationalism is an integral part of national identities and their development. García-Crespo shows throughout this book that the development and circulation of cinema in Puerto Rico illustrate how the “national” is built from transnational connections.  

Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse. Racial Migrations: New York City and the Revolutionary Politics of the Spanish Caribbean. Princeton Univeristy Press, 2019.

In the late nineteenth century, a small group of Cubans and Puerto Ricans of African descent settled in the segregated tenements of New York City. At an immigrant educational society in Greenwich Village, these early Afro-Latino New Yorkers taught themselves to be poets, journalists, and revolutionaries. At the same time, these individuals―including Rafael Serra, a cigar maker, writer, and politician; Sotero Figueroa, a typesetter, editor, and publisher; and Gertrudis Heredia, one of the first women of African descent to study midwifery at the University of Havana―built a political network and articulated an ideal of revolutionary nationalism centered on the projects of racial and social justice. These efforts were critical to the poet and diplomat José Martí’s writings about race and his bid for leadership among Cuban exiles, and to the later struggle to create space for black political participation in the Cuban Republic. In Racial Migrations, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof presents a vivid portrait of these largely forgotten migrant revolutionaries, weaving together their experiences of migrating while black, their relationships with African American civil rights leaders, and their evolving participation in nationalist political movements. By placing Afro-Latino New Yorkers at the center of the story, Hoffnung-Garskof offers a new interpretation of the revolutionary politics of the Spanish Caribbean, including the idea that Cuba could become a nation without racial divisions. A model of transnational and comparative research, Racial Migrations reveals the complexities of race-making within migrant communities and the power of small groups of immigrants to transform their home societies.

Lebrón, Marisol. Policing Life and Death :Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico. University of California Press, 2019.

In her exciting new book, Marisol LeBrón traces the rise of punitive governance in Puerto Rico over the course of the twentieth century and up to the present. Punitive governance emerged as a way for the Puerto Rican state to manage the deep and ongoing crises stemming from the archipelago’s incorporation into the United States as a colonial territory. A structuring component of everyday life for many Puerto Ricans, police power has reinforced social inequality and worsened conditions of vulnerability in marginalized communities. This book provides powerful examples of how Puerto Ricans negotiate and resist their subjection to increased levels of segregation, criminalization, discrimination, and harm. Policing Life and Death shows how Puerto Ricans are actively rejecting punitive solutions and working toward alternative understandings of safety and a more just future.

Lima, Lazaro. Being Brown: Sonia Sotomayor and the Latino Question. University of California Press, 2019.

Being Brown: Sonia Sotomayor and the Latino Question tells the story of the country’s first Latina Supreme Court Associate Justice’s rise to the pinnacle of American public life at a moment of profound demographic and political transformation. While Sotomayor’s confirmation appeared to signal the greater acceptance and inclusion of Latinos—the nation’s largest “minority-majority”—the uncritical embrace of her status as a “possibility model” and icon paradoxically erased the fact that her success was due to civil rights policies and safeguards that no longer existed. Being Brown analyzes Sotomayor’s story of success and accomplishment, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, in order to ask: What do we lose in democratic practice when we allow symbolic inclusion to supplant the work of meaningful political enfranchisement? In a historical moment of resurgent racism, unrelenting Latino bashing, and previously unimaginable “blood and soil” Nazism, Being Brown explains what we stand to lose when we allow democratic values to be trampled for the sake of political expediency, and demonstrates how understanding “the Latino question” can fortify democratic practice. Being Brown provides the historical vocabulary for understanding why the Latino body politic is central to the country’s future and why Sonia Sotomayor’s biography provides an important window into understanding America, and the country’s largest minority-majority, at this historical juncture. In the process, Being Brown counters “alternative facts” with historical precision and ethical clarity to invigorate the best of democratic practice at a historical moment when we need it most. 

Ruiz, Sandra. Ricanness: Enduring Time in Anticolonial Performance. NYU Press, 2019.

In 1954, Dolores “Lolita” Lebrón and other members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party led a revolutionary action on the chambers of Congress, firing several shots at the ceiling and calling for the independence of the island. Ricanness: Enduring Time in Anticolonial Performance begins with Lebrón’s vanguard act, distilling the relationship between Puerto Rican subjectivity, gender, sexuality, and revolutionary performance under colonial time. Ruiz argues that Ricanness—a continual performance of bodily endurance against US colonialism through different measures of time—uncovers what’s at stake politically for the often unwanted, anticolonial, racialized and sexualized enduring body. Moving among theatre, experimental video, revolutionary protest, photography, poetry, and durational performance art, Ricanness stages scenes in which the philosophical, social, and psychic come together at the site of aesthetics, against the colonization of time. Analyzing the work of artists and revolutionaries like ADÁL, Lebrón, Papo Colo, Pedro Pietri, and Ryan Rivera, Ricanness imagines a Rican future through the time travel extended in their aesthetic interventions, illustrating how they have reformulated time itself through nonlinear aesthetic practices.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices 120 December 2019.