Academic journal article Centro Journal

Not Fully Boricuas: Puerto Rican Intralatino/as in Chicago

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Not Fully Boricuas: Puerto Rican Intralatino/as in Chicago

Article excerpt

As early as 1994, MexiRican scholar Angie Chabram engaged in self-reflexive writing that acknowledged the "Rican that intersected" her Chicana self and urged scholars to explore further the "local transnational plurality" (what I will refer to as "domestic transnationalism") that characterizes the social identities and family interactions of MexiRicans and other Intralatino/as in the United States. In this article I heed Chabram's earlier call for examining "the complex ways in which they (Mexiricans) negotiate these differences in their daily lives" (1994). I critically examine the family experiences of ten second-generation Puerto Ricans in Chicago who are of two or more Latin American national heritages, that is, five MexiRicans; a Salvadoran/Puerto Rican; an Ecuadoran/Puerto Rican; a Dominican, Chicano and Puerto Rican; a Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Puerto Rican; and a Mexican, Puerto Rican and Irish. I analyze and interpret specific anecdotes related to their daily negotiations among two or more nationalities, the relational racializations that many of them have faced, and the horizontal hierarchies that frame their everyday lives, all of which I will explain in the pages that follow. While each Intralatino/a has an individual and unique family history that has restructured his/her Puerto Ricanness, they all struggled with reaffirming and recuperating a diasporic identity that remains an "absence/ presence" in their lives (Hall 1990).

These interviews took place between 2007-2012 in Chicago. All Intralatino/as were college students at the time. I recruited some of them in my Introduction to Latino Studies courses at University of Illinois at Chicago, but not all subjects were from UIC. They were all between the ages of 18 and 25. The interviews took place in my campus office and at another university campus, and they lasted between 90-120 minutes each. The questions, included in an appendix, served to trigger a diverse set of anecdotes and family histories that illustrated their personal negotiations with each national community. I conducted the interviews more as a conversation than as a question/answer format. While I did tell them that I was interested in understanding their multiple national identities, I did not share any specifics regarding the content of previous interviews. Yet I revealed to them that my family is MexiRican as an invitation for them to perceive me, the interviewer, not as an outsider who will judge their stories, but as a peer Latina who has shared the dilemmas of multiple nationalities in their family lives. I have shared the drafts of the chapters with some of the interviewees, with whom I am still in touch through social media, but I have only received feedback and follow up from one of them. After transcribing each interview, I reconstructed the family histories and events that they referred to in a narrative for each, which have become the primary evidence for my analysis. I have returned to the original interview transcripts to confirm details and to add more information as needed.1

All Intralatino/as interviewed had grown up in Latino Chicago during the 1990s, when Mexican demographic growth was gradually but clearly outnumbering Puerto Ricans and other Latino/a communities. If in 1970 the US Census counted 247,857 Spanish-speaking residents, out of which "43 percent were Mexican Americans at 83,000 and 32 percent were Puerto Ricans at 79,000" (Padilla 1985: 56), by the 1990s this stable balance between Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans had given way to higher numbers among Mexican-Americans, culminating in 2000, when Mexicans constituted 74.9 percent of Latino Chicago and Puerto Ricans had decreased to only 10.8 percent (Paral et al. 2004: 9).

Within this shifting demographic profile, how is Puerto Ricanness reaffirmed, undermined, reconstructed and reimagined by these Puerto Ricans who are not fully Boricuas while embodying multiple nationalities? How do they reclaim and perform their Boricua heritage in ways that make sense to them and that allow them to reaffirm their Latinidad simultaneously? …

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