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A Brief History of a Diaspora Solidarity Movement, Three Years in the Making

by Centro Staff


Ahead of the upcoming Diaspora Summit III, which will take place on May 11-12, 2018, let’s recap the some of the past events that belong to Centro’s Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans series.

Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans (PR.PRs) was launched in response to the island’s debt crisis with the goal of uniting the nearly 9 million Boricuas living stateside and on the island (hence the name). The diaspora, in particular, would have the opportunity to convene and address the many issues related to the debt crisis, starting in April of 2016 when the first Diaspora Summit was held. Since then, a lot has happened, though the desire among members of this solidarity movement to be engaged and informed has remained intact. We’ve seen this firsthand over the course of the eight events belonging to the Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans series.

In the Fall of 2016, Centro held the second event of the PR.PRs series, a regional summit for the more than 600,000 Boricuas that reside in New England area. Moreover, the day-long event took place in Holyoke, MA, which has the largest percentage Puerto Rican population of any city outside of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, in turn, was an opportunity for local leaders and the community to meet and discuss the challenges unique to the New England Puerto Rican community, including an influx of new arrivals triggered by the economic crisis. [For a full video recap, see below]

Next, the series returned to the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work in East Harlem for a diaspora summit that encouraged cultural and community organizers to consider their role in using their respective platforms (e.g. annual parades, festivals, community events, etc.) to advocate on behalf of Puerto Rico and spread awareness of the debt crisis. This took place in December of 2016. A 2nd diaspora summit was held a few months later, in May of 2017, just days after the expiration of a debt moratorium of the island.

An LGBTQ summit was then held just before the start of summer. LGBT Ricans: El Encuentro was an opportunity for scholars, activists, and other members of the Puerto Rican LGBTQ community to convene at a moment when their contributions were being recognized by institutions such as The National Puerto Rican Day Parade, which had decided that the 2017 edition would celebrate the LGBTQ community and the recent court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico. LGBT Ricans, in turn, was a critical view toward what challenges lay ahead now that marriage equality had been achieved. (To see a full recap, watch the segment of Puerto Rican Voices below)

That was the last event before Hurricane Maria. With the storm, of course, came an even greater sense of urgency. In the weeks after the storm, Centro worked quickly to not only launch the Rebuild Puerto Rico initiative, but to organize three successive conferences addressing the host of new challenges posed by the recovery effort and massive stateside migration triggered by harsh conditions.

The program for an upcoming PRSA Symposium, for example, was reorganized to allow scholars an opportunity to present current research while also engaging in more timely conversations related to Hurricane Maria’s devastation. A Call For Papers was also included for an upcoming special issue of the CENTRO Journal that would be dedicated to topics related to the humanitarian, fiscal, economic, and political crises in Puerto Rico.

The symposium was followed by a Multimedia-makers & Actors Summit organized in partnership with Prime Latino Media Network, which took place in early November 2017. Later that month, Centro partnered with Cenadores PR, the National Puerto Rican Agenda, the NACOPRW-DC Chapter, and the UDC-David A. Clarke School of Law to organize a regional summit in Washington D.C. on the same weekend that thousands of Puerto Ricans traveled to the capital to protest the inadequate response to Hurricane Maria on the part of the federal government.

Now, with the start of hurricane season approaching, Centro will once again hold a timely Diaspora Summit, its third overall, on May 11-12. The theme will be Rebuild Puerto Rico, though the essential goal remains the same: to unite the diaspora and continue a solidarity movement three years in the making.

Join us for Diaspora Summit III. To RSVP, click here.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices 7 May 2018.