A Grounded Identidad: Making New Lives in Chicago's Puerto Rican Neighborhoods

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9780199760268: A Grounded Identidad: Making New Lives in Chicago's Puerto Rican Neighborhoods
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Chicago is home to the third-largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States, but scholarship on the city rarely accounts for their presence. This book is part of an effort to include Puerto Ricans in Chicago's history. Rúa traces Puerto Ricans' construction of identity in a narrative that begins in 1945, when a small group of University of Puerto Rico graduates earned scholarships to attend the University of Chicago and a private employment agency recruited Puerto Rican domestics and foundry workers. They arrived from an island colony where they had held U.S. citizenship and where most thought of themselves as "white." But in Chicago, Puerto Ricans were considered "colored" and their citizenship was second class. They seemed to share few of the rights other Chicagoans took for granted. In her analysis of the following six decades--during which Chicago witnessed urban renewal, loss of neighborhoods, emergence of multiracial coalitions, waves of protest movements, and everyday commemorations of death and life--Rúa explores the ways in which Puerto Ricans have negotiated their identity as Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and U.S. citizens.

Through a variety of sources, including oral history interviews, ethnographic observation, archival research, and textual criticism, A Grounded Identidad attempts to redress this oversight of traditional scholarship on Chicago by presenting not only Puerto Ricans' reconstitution from colonial subjects to second-class citizens, but also by examining the implications of this political reality on the ways in which Puerto Ricans have been racially imagined and positioned in comparison to blacks, whites, and Mexicans over time.

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About the Author:


Mérida M. Rúa is Associate Professor of Latina/o Studies and American Studies at Williams College.

Review:


"Rúa's research adds nuance to available accounts of the Puerto Rican story in Chicago...This book challenges accounts of the city that reduce Chicago to racial binaries. In doing so, this book contributes to the growing body of work that seeks to document Chicago as a historical site of Latinidad. This native daughter has deployed the care and insight of both history and anthropology offering an account that is nuanced, rich and deeply theoretical. The city has grounded her own 'identidad' as the granddaughter of Puerto Rican migrants, but now she has crafted for herself another 'identidad,' the actor-witness-storyteller...Mérida Rúa's account has contributed to reconstructing Chicago as a complex ethnoracial, multilingual Latino city."--Latino Studies


"A Grounded Identidad is a deeply researched book that makes important contributions to our understanding of Puerto Rican history and identity and to Chicago's history. It is a model for urban historians and will be of interest to a wide-range of scholars, as well as a welcome addition to undergraduate and graduate classes in urban history, ethnic studies, Latina/o studies and American Studies and courses engaging in ethnography, oral history, memory and identity."--History: Reviews of New Books


"Historians looking for a coherent, chronological narrative of Puerto Rican history not find it, for this is more a meditation on Puerto Rican identity than a traditional monograph. Instead, readers will find an intentionally introspective, interdisciplinary interpretation of the second-largest Puerto Rican population in the nation. A Grounded Identidad will surely generate many questions about Puerto Ricans and their sociopolitical status in the United States, and it opens an ample path for future research."--Journal of American History


"Mérida Rúa's Grounded Identidad is a stellar work of interdisciplinary research that thoughtfully documents the lives of early Puerto Rican migrants to Chicago, the the 1950s through the present. Developing her thesis through a rare combination of archival research, life histories, and authorial self-reflection, Rúa is develops an ethno-history of Puerto Rican Chicago that is beautifully written and intellectually rigorous. Mérida Rúa's Grounded Identidad should be required reading in undergraduate and graduate courses in interdisciplinary programs."--Centro Journal


"Rúa's beautifully crafter rendering of the ongoing Puerto Rican struggle to create un pedacito de la patria (a piece of the motherland) in Chicago fills a gaping hole in documenting the first wave of Puerto Rican migrants known as los pioneros (pioneers). The recurring themes of loss, displacement, discrimination, hope, and transformation are captured in the memories and reflections recalled by Rúa's 'interlocutors' and 'informants' to construct a nuanced narrative chronicling the social issues that continue to persist in Puerto Rican Chicago. Rúa masterfully weaves the multiple threads of individual voices and personal experiences through the fabric of macro level social issues including second-class citizenship status, a legacy of displacement, and the limiting effects of racialized identities."--Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


"Part history, part ethnography, part memoir, and part methodological rumination, A Grounded Identidad is a marvelous achievement. Drawing on the voices of ordinary people at every turn, Mérida Rúa offers a beautifully written, deeply researched, and moving account of the making and remaking of Puerto Rican Chicago."--Thomas A. Guglielmo, George Washington University


"An elegant and moving narrative of memory, loss, triumph and place-making by Puerto Ricans, as well as other Latinas/os in Chicago from the late 1940s to the present. This interdisciplinary book makes innovative and important scholarly contributions in a way that will be accessible to scholars and community members alike. Responsible, reciprocal, and well-researched."--Gina Perez, Associate Professor of Comparative American Studies, Oberlin College


"Rúa skillfully incorporates her ethnographic research - such as her observations - to clearly show that the past is inextricably linked to the present, even as space and relationships have changed over the years. With reference to major events affecting Puerto Ricans and other people of color in Chicago, Rúa clearly shows how identity is interconnected with time and place. [T]his interdisciplinary work makes an important contribution to existing studies on Puerto Rican immigration."--Journal of American Studies


"This book challenges accounts of the city that reduce Chicago to racial binaries. In doing so, this book contributes to the growing body of work that seeks to document Chicago as a
historical site of Latinidad."--Latino Studies


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