A Centro contingent of researchers traveled to Mexico for the 39th annual conference of the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA), an independent professional organization devoted to the promotion of Caribbean studies from a multidisciplinary, multicultural point of view.
Centro researchers focused on Puerto Rico, leading a panel titled Puerto Rican Ambivalence in the Caribbean and the U.S. at the CSA 39th annual conference, which was held from May 26 to 30 in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán and largest city of the Yucatán Peninsula.
From the perspective of history, sociology, political science and literary and cultural theory, the Centro panel explored how racial, colonial, national and pan-ethnic identities are deployed in Puerto Rico, the larger Caribbean and the United States as Puerto Ricans travel between geographic, institutional, cultural and political settings.
Carlos Vargas-Ramos, panel chairman, said it was significant for Centro to participate in this Caribbean conference. “The circumstances of Puerto Rico’s reality are within the scope of interest of the CSA and the scholars that participate in this conference,” he said. “Centro’s participation in such a conference contributes to enriching the experience of the Caribbean people in the Caribbean and around the world.”
A research associate at Centro working on the impact of migration on Puerto Rican political behavior, political attitudes and orientations, Vargas-Ramos focused his talk on “Race-Based Residential Segregation in Puerto Rico, 2000-2010.”
Other panelists were: Harry Franqui-Rivera, a research associate and military historian, who spoke on “Puerto Rican Whiteness: Service and Race Under the American Empire,” and Consuelo Martinez-Reyes, Centro’s postdoctoral research assistant who focuses on analyzing literary, theatrical and TV representations of Puerto Ricans growing up in New York City. She spoke on “Marketing Pan-Latino Identity in Fragoso’s and Prida’s La Era Latina,” a play written by Spanish Caribbean authors and performed in New York City for a pan-ethnic spectatorship. Panelist Edgardo Meléndez, a professor in the Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College whose research interests include Puerto Rican and Latino politics in the United States and politics in Puerto Rico, spoke on “Transnational or Colonial? Puerto Rican Migration in the United States.” They all are CSA members.
Dwaine Plaza, CSA president, said the CSA conference offers “a premier forum presenting the best of Caribbean research, thought, and praxis from an eclectic mix of Caribbean scholars, activists, practitioners, allied professionals and commentators who are among the best in their respective domains of Caribbean enterprise.” This year’s conference, he said, questioned the theme of “mixing without combining” as it is manifested in the social sciences and humanities literature, in the political claims of leaders, in economic manifestoes, the minds of religious and educational leaders, in popular culture, art and folklore, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
CSA is the primary association for scholars and practitioners working on the Caribbean Region (including Central America and the Caribbean Coast of South America). Its members come from the Caribbean Region, North America, South America, Central America, Europe and elsewhere. Yet more than half of its members live in the United States, many of them teaching at U.S. universities and colleges. Founded in 1974, the CSA now has more than 1100 members.
The association serves a critical function for scholars providing one of the only venues for persons working on the Caribbean to come together to share their work, to engage in collaborative endeavors, to exchange ideas, to meet each other, and to develop the field of Caribbean studies. It has become potentially one of the most important vehicles for researching, analyzing and documenting the growing significant presence of populations of Caribbean descent in United States, Canada, and Europe. Members have leading roles in the Caribbean, most notably in public service and in academia.
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