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What Does the Music of Puerto Rico Teach Us About Racism?

Written by: Jaime Serrat



There are some that would argue that the preoccupation with race that is prevalent in the United States and many other countries, does not extend to Puerto Rico. They would deny that racism exists in Puerto Rico, but the unfortunate fact is that the virulent social malaise of racism does indeed exist on the island.

While it may not appear as overtly or pervasively as it does in the United States or other places, it is because racism is manifested in a different, much subtler way in Puerto Rico.

Race and racism has been an integral part of politics, religion, economics, and culture in Puerto Rico since it colonization by the Spaniards in 1493.

Playing dominoes; race unimportant

Understanding the race relations of Puerto Ricans, both in Puerto Rico and the United States, must begin with an appreciation of the three groups of peoples that made up what we now know as Puerto Ricans, the:

  • indigenous Taíno indians
  • Spanish conquistadores and settlers
  • Africans imported to the island as slaves

We must understand the unique cultural contributions of each group as well as their respective view of themselves as a separate "race". With this foundation, we will able to appreciate the nature of racism through the music of Puerto Rico.

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