English Honors Papers

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Marie Ostby

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The relationship between Puerto Rico and the continental US is rooted in imperialism, colonialism, and racism. The history of the island’s relationship with the continental U.S. began with enslavement and Spanish colonial rule transferred to the US after the Spanish-American war of 1898. Puerto Ricans have been categorized in the US diaspora in deeply colonial categorizations that stem from the island’s relationship to the mainland U.S. This work aims to decolonize Puerto Rican identity in the US diaspora by looking at the way poetry serves as a tool for recategorization of gender, race, and cultural binaries.

The poets I focus on in the two chapters, Sandra Maria Esteves and Martín Espada, are contemporary Nurorican poets. Nuyorican poetry provides a relationship between Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. which I will argue is created through the use of colonial memory, collective resilience, and historicization. Sandra Maria Esteves and Martin Espada recategorize racial, gender, and spiritual identity for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. diaspora. The first chapter is focused on different types of migration: physical, social, and spiritual, such as physical migration from Puerto Rico to the US, birth and lineage as a type of migration, and forced migration. Migration and maternal lineage are methods through which Esteves recategorizes womanhood and Puerto Rican diasporic identity. The second chapter depicts how Espada’s poems focus on paternal lineage which traces racial trauma, masculinity, and violence rooted firmly in specific diasporic locations in the U.S. I conclude by demonstrating how the two poets recategorize Puerto Rican identity grounded in familial and spiritual lineage, beginning in migration extending to the U.S. diaspora.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.