Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States

By Teresa Amott; Julie Matthaei | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
YO MISMA MI RUFA1

(I Was My Own Path)

Puerto Rican Women

Río Grande de Loíza! Río grande. Llanto grande.
El más grande de todos nuestros llantos isleños,
si no fuera más grande el que de mí se sale
por los ojos del alma para mi esclavo pueblo
.

Río Grande de Loíza! Great river. Great tear.
The greatest of all our island tears,
but for the tears that flow out of me
through the eyes of my soul for my enslaved people.

-- Julia de Burgos, "Río Grande de Loíza"2

Puerto Rico is a small island in the Caribbean Sea--between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands--whose lush tropical vegetation and beautiful beaches lead its inhabitants to call it Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment) and Perla del Caribe (Pearl of the Caribbean). Puerto Ricans have lived under colonial domination for five centuries, first by Spain and then by the United States. The fertile lands of the island were exploited by both colonial powers, and its indigenous inhabitants were enslaved and exterminated. Today, three million Puerto Ricans remain on the island, impoverished by their legacy of colonialism, while two million live in the United States. The economic history of Puerto Rican women has been buffeted by external political and economic forces. Still, in the words of their poet Julia de Burgos, they have pursued their own paths, struggling to a distinct Puerto Rican women's identity in the face of colonialism, repression and poverty. 3

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