A Grounded Identidad: Making New Lives in Chicago's Puerto Rican Neighborhoods

Synopsis

Chicago is home to the third-largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States, but scholarship on the city rarely accounts for their presence. This book is part of an effort to include Puerto Ricans in Chicago's history. Rúa traces Puerto Ricans' construction of identity in a narrative that begins in 1945, when a small group of University of Puerto Rico graduates earned scholarships to attend the University of Chicago and a private employment agency recruited Puerto Rican domestics and foundry workers. They arrived from an island colony where they had held U.S. citizenship and where most thought of themselves as "white." But in Chicago, Puerto Ricans were considered "colored" and their citizenship was second class. They seemed to share few of the rights other Chicagoans took for granted. In her analysis of the following six decades--during which Chicago witnessed urban renewal, loss of neighborhoods, emergence of multiracial coalitions, waves of protest movements, and everyday commemorations of death and life--Rúa explores the ways in which Puerto Ricans have negotiated their identity as Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and U.S. citizens.

Through a variety of sources, including oral history interviews, ethnographic observation, archival research, and textual criticism,A Grounded Identidadattempts to redress this oversight of traditional scholarship on Chicago by presenting not only Puerto Ricans' reconstitution from colonial subjects to second-class citizens, but also by examining the implications of this political reality on the ways in which Puerto Ricans have been racially imagined and positioned in comparison to blacks, whites, and Mexicans over time.