Nueva York, Diaspora City- Juan Flores

Juan Flores was a Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and director of Latino Studies at New York University. He was considered a leading pioneer, scholar, and expert in Latin American and Nuyorican culture.

Latinos_in_New_York_Communities_in_Transition

An Overview on “Nueva York, Diaspora City: Latinos Between and Beyond”

In his essay, Juan Flores uses the fact that Nueva York is the most diverse large-scale Latinx city in the US to think and propose a complex and intercultural definition of diaspora. Flores discusses Latinx cultural ascendance and analyzes how mainstream media capitalize on Latinx pop trends. He also pays attention to the way politicians increasingly try to appeal to the Latinx vote (39-40).

Flores nonetheless argues that “in the case of US Latinos, celebrity status and the ceremonial fanfare are clearly part of the mirage, serving effectively to camouflage the structured inequality and domination which accounts for their diasporic reality in the first place…The spectacular success stories of the few serve only to mask the ongoing reality of racism, economic misery, and political disenfranchisement endured by most Latinos, who moved northward from their homelands only because of persistent inequalities.” (441)

Along with writer Junot Diaz, Flores questions pan-Latino identity labels, especially those who create a false association between Latinxs and whiteness. For Diaz and Flores, more than language or religion, the daily reality of racism and discrimination is more relevant to understand the Latinx experience. “Discrimination regarding educational opportunities and at the hands of the criminal justice system, for example, is what unites Latinos beyond the multiple cultural variations, along with the strategies developed to confront these social inequalities.” (442)

Flores then argues that it is central to consider the relation of Latinos to blackness and the interrelated history of Latinos and Afro-diasporic groups. He interprets the right-wing, conservative fear of Latin American migrants, but also the media fascination with light-skinned Latinx stars, as an anti-blackness stand. (443)

This reflection drives Flores to assert that the Latino community is “a process rather than a circumscribed social entity, and its formation entails complex and often converging interactions with other, purportedly “non-Latino” groups such as African Americans and American Indians… Beyond geopolitical ties, awakened cultural heritages and congruencies also engage Latinos in more abstract but no less pronounced diasporic affiliations.” (445-6)

One of Flores’ conclusions is that “living multiple diasporic realities simultaneously is more common than not among the city’s Latinos, as many find themselves sharing that reality with members of the Caribbean or African or broader “Latino” diasporas.” (446)

 

Keywords

1. Diaspora– the diaspora concept has proven to be an extremely useful and convenient one for taking account of multiple Latino realities in our times, especially as those realities have become more complex over the past generation of growth, dispersal, and internal diversity. For one thing, it helps disengage Latinidad from an automatic association with immigration, at least in the conventional understanding of that phenomenon as a disconnection from the background country and culture.

It was clear that many Latina/os were not simply casting aside their inherited ways and accommodating themselves to the new setting. Many were not even here to stay, and most retained strong affective ties to their home cultures, preserving them and reinventing them in highly creative ways.

Latinos typically and willingly led bicultural and border-crossing lives.

Diaspora is an eminently dynamic, situational category, demanding the analysis not so much of the “immigrant group” itself but of the ongoing relation or interaction between each group and its country or region of origin, and between that group and others with which it comes into close social contact (447-8).

2. Overlapping and/or multiple diasporas– the notion accounts for the rich bridging between and among diasporic groupings and the frequent sense of an individual or community belonging to more than one diasporic configuration at the same time, for example, Dominican, Caribbean, Latino, and African. (448)

3. Diaspora City– an urban setting saturated by interacting and interlocking diasporic communities, including those among Latino populations from all over Latin America and the Caribbean (439).

It is a sociocultural location that is perhaps most accurately characterized as a demographic grid or matrix of transnational communities co-inhabiting a single geographically circumscribed city (446).

Nueva York is rich with this innovative cultural possibilities, and as the newfound home of so many people from so many Latin American countries, it now serves as a seminal ground for the rethinking and reimagining of America. (448)

 

Two Diasporic Case Studies

“N****r Reecan Blues”

Willie Perdomo is an award-winning poet, spoken-word performer, educator, and editor.

 

“Ode to the Diasporican”

Mariposa Fernández is a performer, spoken-word poet, educator, and activist.

 

ONLINE ENGAGEMENT (Deadline 5/3 until 11:59 PM)

Instructions:

Pick ONE poem and in the comment section below, write a response (225-words minimum) based on ONE of the following questions:

1. How the following quote by Juan Flores applies to the situation described by Willie Perdomo in his poem?

“The rampant “racial profiling” and waves of police brutality are directed against both African American and Latino victims, with no color distinctions of this kind playing a decisive role. For the fact is that, in many inner-city situations, there is no such difference, and it is not possible to “tell them apart.” What the hegemonic, consumer version of Latino ethnicity obscures is that many Latinos are black, especially according to the codes operative in the United States. And what is more, while this consumer version tends to racialize Latinos towards whiteness, much in tune with the racist baggage of Latin American and Caribbean home cultures, on the streets and in the dominant social institutions “brown” is close enough to black to be suspect.

In Nueva York in particular, where the prevalent Latino presence and sensibility remains Caribbean, this counterposition to blackness is often disconcerting at best, and many Puerto Rican and Dominican youth have responded by reaffirming a sense of belonging to an African diaspora. Indeed, for Puerto Ricans, this perspective entails not only emphasizing Afro-Boricua heritages but also, because of the decades-long experience of close social interaction with African Americans in New York, an identification and solidarity with American blacks perhaps unmatched by any other group.”  (Flores 445)

*Please, avoid using racial slurs in your answer.

2. Explain the following quote by Juan Flores through Mariposa’s poem, that is, using the poem as an example.

“Mariposa gives voice to the sentiments of many young Puerto Ricans, and of many Latinos in general, in their defiance of a territorially and socially confined understanding of cultural belonging. Place of birth and immediate lived experience do not wholly define cultural identification, which in this view has more to do with political and social experience, and with personally chosen ascription.” (Flores 445)

9 thoughts on “Nueva York, Diaspora City- Juan Flores

  1. Sabrina Tellez
    Professor Robles
    Latino/a/x Diasporas
    First presentation:

    Choose, research, and analyze a text from the syllabus. Present your breakdown based on the following questions (7-10 minutes):

    Text:

    “The idea of diaspora refers to exactly that kind of social experience, which is simply beyond the theoretical scope of the traditional study of immigration or exile. Diaspora is an eminently dynamic, situational category, demanding the analysis not so much of the “immigrant group” itself but of the ongoing relation or interaction between each group and its country or region of origin, and between that group and others with which it comes into close social contact. The more elaborated notion of “overlapping” or “multiple” diasporas accounts for the rich bridging between and among diasporic groupings and the frequent sense of an individual or community belonging to more than one diasporic configuration at the same time, for example, Dominican, Caribbean, Latino, and African”

    1. What are the central concerns of this writer?
    The central concerns of the writer of “New York, Diaspora City: Latinos Between and Beyond” is the power of diasporas as a connection through social experiences of diasporic groups. Juan Flores, the writer, believes that the idea of a diaspora is the sharing of experiences that goes “beyond the theoretical scope” of traditional perspectives of the migrant/exile experience. Flores describes diasporas as more of a “situational category” that represents the “ongoing relation or interaction” between groups of people and their home country. The author believes that this “overlapping” of shared experiences gives these groups of people, specifically Latinx people, a sense of belonging to multiple diasporic groups, all at the same time.

    2. What form/ literary style does she/he/they utilizes to convey these themes or concerns?

    The main literary form/ style that Flores uses to convey these concerns of the importance of the diasporic experiences of Latinos in the United States, specifically those in New York is through an expository piece but as well as a narrative and descriptive piece. “New York, Diaspora City: Latinos Between and Beyond” describes the diasporic experiences many Latinos share today (onoging racism and struggle with identity) by providing context of how New York was like when there was an influx in Latinx migration into the US. He includes parts in his essay, describing how the mainstream Latinx celebrities represent only one side of the full experience of what it means to be a Latinx person in the US. He states that the “success stories” mask the realities many Latinx people face today; the “ongoing reality of racism, economic misery and political disenfranchisement”.

    3. Analyze one specific section by your chosen writer that best communicates what you identified in 1 and 2 above.

    “The more elaborated notion of “overlapping” or “multiple” diasporas accounts for the rich bridging between and among diasporic groupings and the frequent sense of an individual or community belonging to more than one diasporic configuration at the same time”

    Analysis: The idea of a diaspora derives from the “overlapping” and “multiple” realities and experiences that communities share, and in this case , the Latinx diasporas, individually and together. Despite the various ethnic groups of Latinx people, in the US, diasporas are formed over communities bonding through experiences such as shared language, interest in music, cultural customs and much more. However, what makes it a diaspora is the bridging between these different communities, being Puerto Ricans, Columbians Mexicans, Guatemalens and etc, all sharing an experience at the same time.

    4. How does this writer complement the concerns of the other writers read in class?
    The writer, Juan Flores, and his work complements the concerns of other writers that we have discussed in class by emphasizing the importance of the realities of our experiences as Latinx people in the US. His piece only reaches the surface of the struggles and shared diasporic experiences we face but focuses on the power of those shared realities within the community.

    5. Pose a critical question to the group.
    What are some impacts that you have witnessed or experienced of having diasporic communities? Has it led to a stronger bond within these communities?

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  2. Juan Flores’s quote and Mariposa Fernández’s poem depicts the struggles many young Puerto Ricans and Latinx individuals face today, of feeling as if their “place of birth and immediate” life experiences define their cultural identification, for example, as Mariposa explains in her poem of being told she’s not Boricua because she wasn’t born on the island of puerto Rico, but instead the Bronx. However, Flores defines the “cultural belonging” or sense of identity as being more than just where someone lives and how their experiences but as well as their political and social experiences as who they are. Mariposa’s poem describes those social and political aspects that contribute to one’s cultural belonging, such as the struggles of Puerto Rico being seen as solely a place for vacations, as an island that was “paradise that we only saw in pictures”. She identifies being Boricua with having a “state of mind, a state of heart, a state of soul”. Her heart fills with ‘orgullo”, knowing she is Boricua and is constantly reminded by her “cara puertorriqueña”, “pelo vivo”, “manos morenas”. At the end of her poem, Mariposa states that she might have not been born in Puerto Rico but that “Puerto Rico nació en mi”, meaning it was born inside of her because of the ancestral ties and struggles that she carries when identifying with being Puerto Rican. This is essentially what Flores argues of what it means to “culturally belong” to a community or culture or peoples. It is the sharing of not only struggles that the peoples go through but as well as the emotional and historical connections people have to their origins.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Question 1

    This quote by Juan Flores applies to what Willie Perdomo describes because it discusses that there is no difference between Black and Latino people. Perdomo’s poem is about his identity and how people are constantly questioning his ethnicity. People don’t know what to categorize him as even though he is Puerto Rican, and both a Latino and Black male. People seem to always want others to choose what they are even when they are of mixed race. This is an example of what Flores talks about when he says “What the hegemonic, consumer version of Latino ethnicity obscures is that many Latinos are black, especially according to the codes operative in the United States. And what is more, while this consumer version tends to racialize Latinos towards whiteness,..” because in America there are two versions of Latino people. There’s the ‘ideal’ version of whiteness, or non-blackness, and reality,which is that Latinos are a mix of races. For this reason when a Latino is black, or brown people don’t see them as Latino. To them they don’t fit what a Latino is meant to look like so they question them and make them feel as if they’re wrong somehow when discussing their race. What Flores and Perdomo are saying is that it’s possible to be both Black and Latino, so people should not have to choose which one they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1. How the following quote by Juan Flores applies to the situation described by Willie Perdomo in his poem?

    In his poem, Willie Perdomo speaks about the relationship between the Latino communities and other minorities in the United States, specifically the African American community. His underlying theme is that in America, the two groups are treated in the same way. He says, “I’m you. You me. We the same. Can’t you feel our veins drinking the same blood?”(Perdomo video, 0:18-0:23), in order to demonstrate just how little differentiation there is. Flores says something very similar on page 443 and I quote- “there is no such difference, and it is not possible to ‘tell them apart’”, again referring to Latinos and African Americans in America. Perdomo later says in his poem, “I don’t care what you say, you black”(1:14-1:17), which Flores repeats almost word for word on page 443 of his article, “many Latinos are black, especially according to the codes operative in the United States”. Both Flores and Perdomo are commenting on a situation where there is no distinction between the two groups. Both groups are almost merged, lumped together, without differences in their history, peoples, language, culture, and so on not taken into account. Regardless of their differences, both groups struggle with things like racial profiling and police brutality due to the American social system. Because of the socioeconomic statuses and struggles that they share, many Latinos relate to their African heritage, “reaffirming a sense of belonging to an African diaspora”(Flores 443) which Perdomo makes evident in his poem.

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  5. In Wille Perdomo’s spoken word, he explains how people often confuse his race with either being Black or Latino. Outsiders do not realize that if you are Puerto Rican then you are both Black and Latino and Perdomo provides examples of the constant confusing questions he receives from people based on his race. In the spoken word, Perdomo tells his professor he is from Harlem and the professor then asks if he is Black. Perdomo proceeds to say “no, but you know we all the same…” This ties into the quote from Juan Flores because although being Latino is its own race, many Latinos identify with being/ having a part of African heritage due to their roots and what they have experienced in life. “…while this consumer version tends to racialize Latinos towards whiteness, much in tune with the racist baggage of Latin American and Caribbean home cultures, on the streets and in the dominant social institutions “brown” is close enough to black to be suspect” (Flores, 445). This quote explains how Blacks and Latinos experience the same situations in life such as police brutality and racial profiling and that is due to the color of their skin. Flores explains how being brown is basically being black because of this and as a Latino you should not have to constantly be asked about your race because you are both. Puerto Ricans emphasize being Afro- Boriqua as a big part of their identify and they are proud to represent that. They feel they have a strong connection with American Blacks because they’ve experienced the same things in life.

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  6. 1.
    Willie Perdomo, talks about how many people question his ethnicity. For example he explains in his poem a discussion he’s had “Hey Willie, what are you man? Are you black or Puerto Rican? I am, I’m you! You, me, we the same! Can’t you feel our veins drinking the same blood?” From that you see he discusses that there is no difference between black or latino people. Perdomo’s poem is about how people classify him even though he is Puerto Rican and also a Latino and Black man. Perdomo also explains another conversation about his ethnicity with his professor “So Willie, where are you from? I’m from Harlem. Oh! Are you black Willie? No, but you know we all the same and…(the professor cuts him off) did you know our basketball team is nationally ranked?” From this you see Perdomo deals with a lot of people questioning his ethnicity rudely. What Flores talks about when he says “For the fact is that, in many inner-city situations, there is no such difference….. Latinos towards whiteness”, is that Latinos are a mix of races and if a Latino is brown or black, people don’t see them as Latinos. To ignorant people they would assume that a Latino is meant to look a certain type of way and would question them or make them feel as if they are wrong when a person who doesn’t fit the “certain Latino look” is talking about how they are Latino.

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  7. Mariposa’s poem describes a typical Nueyorican. She wrote this poem to express her feeling of being stuck between two Puerto Rican and American cultures. Not only the Latino community related to this poem, but other communities also experienced similar experiences.
    “Some people say that I’m not the real thing
    Boricua, that is
    cause I wasn’t born on the enchanted island
    cause I was born on the mainland
    north of Spanish Harlem
    cause I was born in the Bronx … ”
    This quote in the poem states that people do not see Mariposa as a Puerto Rican just because she was not born in Puerto Rico but in the Bronx. Because I was born and raised in my country, I did not have the same experience with Mariposa. But I have a Mexican-American friends who have been through similar things. She is abandoned by her home country. They do not accept her into the community just because she speaks English and were born in America. The place of birth and immediate lived experience do not determine our cultural identity. Therefore, people born and raised in the US do not wholly belong there. Just like Mariposa, despite being born and raised in Spanish Harlem, Puerto Rico island is always existed in her heart- “No nací en Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico nacío en mi.” Both Juan Flores’s quote and Mariposa’s poem emphasize that our birthplace does not define our cultural identity.

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  8. 2. Explain the following quote by Juan Flores through Mariposa’s poem, that is, using the poem as an example.

    “Mariposa gives voice to the sentiments of many young Puerto Ricans, and of many Latinos in general, in their defiance of a territorially and socially confined understanding of cultural belonging. Place of birth and immediate lived experience do not wholly define cultural identification, which in this view has more to do with political and social experience, and with personally chosen ascription.” (Flores 445)

    Mariposa’s poem speaks about experiences of Latinos who may not have been born the same place that their parents were born, or they may not live in place. Flores says that “Place of birth and immediate lived experience do not wholly define cultural identification.” Mariposa speaks about her experience because she was born and raised in New York, and because of that people do not see her as the “real thing.” This is an experience people from all over the world face. Being born in New York does not mean that you subscribe to New York or American ideals. You may have been born here but your family is not, and because of that you were raised with different ideals. Mariposa says, “Being Boricua is a state of mind a state of heart.” This connects with what Flores is saying because ultimately it is up to the individual to decide what culture they want to adopt. In Mariposa’s case she could have subjected herself to American culture, but instead she has subjected to what it means to be a Puerto Rican who was born and raised in America.

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  9. Question #2
    It’s very common for people to think that Latinos must undergo a checklist in order to be considered Latinx. Mariposa’s poem helped explain what Juan Flores meant in this quote. A person can have their own personally chosen ascription of what it is like to be Latinx. In Mariposa’s poem she mentions “Mira mi cara Puertorriquena, a mi pelo vivo, a mis manos morenas, mira mi corazón que se llena de orgullo,” the physical features are the first impression anyone can get to have an idea of where you came from. But it doesn’t stop there. Once you get to know a person and let them know a little bit about your story they would shift their way of thinking. Mariposa says “some people say I’m not the real thing, Boriqua, that is cause I wasn’t born on the enchanted island… Some people think that I’m not bonafied cause my playground was a concrete jungle…” Mariposa explains how her place of birth and immediate lived experience doesn’t “wholly define cultural identification” in the eyes of others. They think that if she wasn’t born there she must not be familiar with Puerto Rican culture. Another line in Mariposa’s poem which really pinpoints her ideas was “Being Boriqua is a state of mind, a state of heart, a state of soul…” Mariposa is well aware that political, social experience and a personally chosen ascription is what makes you Boriqua. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t born there or even visited your parents homeland, because if you understand what your country is and has to offer is enough for you to know where you belong.

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