Puerto Rican Futures
From Amanda Guzman
We conclude our series with Natasha Fernandez-Preston, a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley who uses contemporary archaeology to study twentieth and twenty-first century Puerto Rican food ways and practices through archival research, landscape mapping and participant observation.
She enters the class conversation as we pick up with the reflection question from our previous speaker about how we would hope to see Puerto Rican culture represented at the forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C. This conversation brings us to the theme of Puerto Rican futurity. On the issue of the future of the island's political status, we observed the current debates around two congressional bills, H.R. 1522 and H.R. 2070 which respectively call for Puerto Rican statehood and a status convention. On the issue of the future of cultural memorialization, we analyzed the recently unveiled Hurricane Maria Memorial In New York City and statue of anthropologist, Ricardo Alegria in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Fernandez-Preston offers us an alternative way to engage Puerto Rican futurity through the issue of food sovereignty which she defines for us as "the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems." With this, the local ability to grow an agricultural practice and sustain oneself, distanced from the historical legacies of government and corporate influence, is posited as an achievable contemporary vision of a self-determined island future.
Her historical overview of the decline of agricultural landscapes in Puerto Rico and the rise of the supermarket industry alongside major food companies like Goya recalls past class conversation about the photographic representation of rural island life in Katzman's presentation and the Operation Bootstrap-era modernization of the island economy coupled with widespread recruitment of Puerto Rican migrants for farm labor in states like Connecticut in Rosario's presentation.
Fernandez-Preston outlines post-Hurricane Maria grass-roots initiatives - in the face of state failure and food insecurity as a result of a dependence on a U.S. dominated supply chain (85% of all food consumed on the island is imported) - with the emergence of community kitchens and agroecology farms. Such initiatives recall our earliest speaker presentations on Puerto Rican indigeneity by Curet and Doyle as they are grounded in ecological relationships and ancestral cultural traditions that return to past knowledge and practices in building resilience towards future disaster.
- Amanda Guzman
To learn more about Natasha and her work:
To learn more about Puerto Rican grass-roots food intiatives:
Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico
Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica
Proyecto Agroecológico El Josco Bravo
El Departamento de la Comida
Indexing work completed by Trinity undergraduates, Alicia Camuy and Michael Fernandez. To access the indexing chapters for this talk, click the icon at the top left of the video.