Puerto Rico and its Diaspora
Cross-listed as AMST252 / LATS252
On September 20, 2018, Maria—a category four hurricane made landfall on Puerto Rico. The most powerful storm to hit the island since 1932, Maria caused widespread catastrophic damage on a land already suffering from the devastating effects of a decades-long economic recession. Three months after the hurricane, half the island remained without power, water service yet to be reestablished in many areas, and aid distribution inadequate and inconsistent. The hurricane and its aftermath brought mainstream U.S. attention to Puerto Rico and its diaspora, while simultaneously calling attention to the island’s status and relationship to the United States. This hybrid onsite-Skype-travel course is for students interested in learning about the historical, social, and political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. We will examine, for example, the political status of Puerto Rico, migration, race, social movements, and expressive cultural forms that have emerged as a result of this asymmetrical relationship. Through the study of the impact and legacy of U.S. policies on the island, we will also consider how the fiscal and humanitarian crisis and proposed solutions affect the daily collective lives of the people in the U.S. territory and the diaspora. This course is a unique collaboration between Vassar, Williams, and the UPR. To enroll in this course, students must commit to participating in an alternative spring break/community engagement project in Puerto Rico and flexible with possible changes in class time when Skyping with students from the University of Puerto Rico. We will gather in Puerto Rico to meet with peers from UPR and for an alternative spring break collaboration, interfacing with various community organizations that have taken up vital social, medical, and economic roles vacated by the United States. Taller Salud, PECES, and Casa Pueblo are among the organizations in Puerto Rico that students may work with as a part of the course’s community engagement component.
The Class: Type: seminar; to enroll in this course, students must commit to participating in an alternative spring break/community engagement learning project in Puerto Rico
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, short writing exercises, group work/project, a midterm essay (5-7 pages), and a final essay (10-12 pages)
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: students should have some fluency with the Spanish language
Enrollment Preference: should be first- and second-years, students considering an American Studies major or Latina/o Studies concentration; AMST majors and LATS concentrators.
Distributions: Division II;
Attributes: AMST Comp Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Diaspora; AMST Space and Place Electives; EXPE Experiential Education Courses; LATS Core Electives
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- LATS 252 - 01 (S) SEM Puerto Rico and its Diaspora