Barbara I Abadia-Rexach
— M.A., Communications, University of Puerto Rico; Ph.D. Candidate in Social Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
" ... y fui toda en mí como fue en mí la vida..., Julia de Burgos "
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Dissertation Title: Saluting the Drum! Diaspora & Intersectionalities in Puerto Rican Bomba Music
Author of: Musicalizando la raza. La racialización en Puerto Rico a través de la música. (Ediciones Puerto, 2012).
Drawing upon Critical Race and racialization theories, this research aims at providing a different approach to “The New Puerto Rican Bomba Movement”. Bomba is a musical genre of African roots developed in Puerto Rico upon the arrival of African populations during the slave trade in the sixteenth century. In the last two decades, a proliferation of Bomba groups and schools performing and teaching this peculiar rhythm has taken place. Through the study of Bomba, I seek to contribute to the understanding of racial dynamics in Puerto Rico, and their intersectionalities with class, gender, and national discourses.
Throughout extended participant observation of Bomba performances, unstructured and structured interviews to Bomba musicians, teachers, and students, and archival research, my purpose is to question and explore constructions of race in Puerto Rican music, and show how processes of racialization operate both socially and politically in the island. In this sense, Bomba will allow me to analyze how Puerto Rican national identity has been constructed in recent years, which elements have been adopted as a national heritage and which have been forgotten or rejected. At the same time, it will shed light on how national discourse aligns or deviates from current social conditions and racial relationships.
Through the case study of “The new Puerto Rican Bomba Movement”, I attempt to unravel two interrelated paradoxes taking place: (1) despite hegemonic discourses on Puerto Rican nationalism, which portray the Puerto Rican subject as mixed, most Puerto Ricans self-identify racially as white or Black. (2) Based on the assumption of a racially mixed national subject, Puerto Rico reaffirms itself as a racial democracy, “The great Puerto Rican family”. This discourse constrasts with daily speeches and practices that emphasize racial exclusions and inequalities.
Paradoxically, despite the fact that Puerto Ricans are considered a racially mixed nation, in the 2000 Census, 80.5% self indentified as white, whereas 8% chose to identify as Black. A decade later, the results of the 2010 Census showed that 12.4% of the population identified as Black and 75.8% as white.