Conflict & Justice

Racial attitudes in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's history is full of stories of conquest, slavery, and diversity. The history of color on this island nation is sometimes forced. This historian says Puerto Ricans are attached to Spanish and American influences, where color and race are ingrained in the country's system. He says there was a lot of crossing over between races, which resulted in a mixed nation, but that doesn't mean people were racist, and people often strived to marry the lighter complexions. This doctor talks about how he became aware of his lighter complexion from his brother when he was five, right after his father died. He says his aunt asked if she could adopt him but not his brother, who had darker skin and looked more like his mother. That doctor provided testimony for a new initiative by the University of Puerto Rico to combat color prejudice. This town is a largest community of dark people on the island and also one of the poorest. This 80 year old woman says when she grew up, she could play with other children of all different races, but now segregation is widespread on the island. This is one of the island's oldest and most prestigious gated communities. This engineer and long time resident says life here is good, as he takes a break from a tennis match. The neighborhood has everything except diversity of color. According to the university initiative, gated communities are home to very few or no dark skinned Puerto Ricans, and this doctor cites other areas of Puerto Rican culture that are exempt of diversity: Puerto Rican TV is loaded with white people. This is a fact that most Puerto Ricans don't acknowledge, and more than 86% of the population declares itself as white, even though most are of mixed ethnicity. The issue of Puerto Rican color is also complicated by those who live on and off the island. Many on the island regard themselves as white-European while those who live in the U.S. are generally of mixed ethnicity. This Puerto Rican radio personality says new controversies over race are prompting new conversations about race, and have also been the spark for initiatives like the university one. Many Puerto Ricans argue pride over mixed ethnicities will only ring true when it reaches into the corporate board rooms, private schools, and gated communities across the island.

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