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Jessica Plaza


Professor Xavier F. Totti

15 December 2009

Answer #1

Dear editor,

I would like to strongly disagree with the unconstructive appraisals made towards the new

Puerto Rican Barbie. I would first like to define Race and Identity. Identity embodies who we

are; it can be define through gender, age, class, religion, etc. Similar to race, ethnic identities

entail distinctions in cultural traditions. Race is a term exploited throughout history to ultimately

define a person; generally relaying on their physical appearance. The use of such term has led to

pessimistic consequences such as the classification of individuals into diverse social, economic

and educational groups in society. Such representations can consequently embrace one individual

in a group or eliminate it from a group. These depictions rely on the individuals’ physical

appearance: eyes` shape, skin color, etc. Thus, creating images and stereotypes to eradicate an

individual from a social class and place him/her in another (African American Slaves).

Commercialization can either undervalue or highlight the representation of a group; in

this case it would be the Puerto Rican culture. It all relies on the way an individual views his/her

race and delineates his/her identity. However such terms have been ultimately used by our

ancestors to label an individual or classify them as vital or non-vital to the culture. With this said,

you can conclude that the unconstructive used of such terms have created social tension in which

one disputes to consequently identify an individual of a racial group.

The Puerto Rican Barbie was made for kids between the ages of three to eleven. The first
unconstructive reaction towards the Barbie was its physical appearance. In which she was

described as extremely Anglo. Using this term to characterize the Barbie as white is simply

forming a stereo-type. Many individuals don’t want to be judge by others yet they differentiate

others in their physical appearances; in this case a doll. Puerto Ricans in the mainland state that

they are constantly battling stereo-types and such doll creates another. However, aren’t they

stereo-typing the doll as well? Aren’t they concentrating on the dolls physical appearance to

dispute over on how it is highly distant from what a Puerto Rican actually looks like? They are

well aware that the traditional culture relies on three ethnic groups: Tainos, Spaniards and

African. There is not set or definite look for a Puerto Rican on the mainland or the Island.

Perhaps the clothes they wear, however such apparel changes from generation to generation.

The basic idea is that those who don’t want to be judge rely on the definition of Race to

identify others due to their physical characteristics. They tend to place images on how

individuals are supposed to look; this illustrates the negative use of the term Race. Others

characterize Barbie as a representation of a constricted view for women; in which she lacks

intellectual activities. This illustrates the negative physical and social terminology of Race.

Constantly relying on someone’s physical appearance and their actions to determine the class

they should be situated in. The Puerto Rican Barbie is a toy; her actions only have a negative

effect on us adults. Children aren’t concern if Barbie career is successful or vice-versa. It is us

adults that seem to rely on someone’s profession to ultimately place them in a social class


Additionally, its physical figure has created tension among paternal figures in which they

say it promotes unhealthy eating habits. Perhaps if the Barbie was to be redesign as an obese

individual, these individuals would still have something to say relating to the risk of unhealthy

eating habits. Moreover, they criticize her body parts as being too small or too big. Once again,
demonstrating how many rely on physical appearances to formulate a judgment. Additionally, to

consequently identify someone from an specific culture.

However, I would like to suggest that the historical information of the Puerto Rican

culture includes the three main ethnic groups that have ultimately made the traditional Puerto

Rican culture: African, Tainos and Spaniards. The information on Puerto Rico’s historical

content should include all three with the same equality, in which all are vital to the traditions and

customs that many follow today. This will instead promote equality in which these ethnics

groups will be embrace and value by the public.


Jessica Plaza


Mestizaje as defined by many as the harmonious integration of races: Tainos, African and

Spanish. It is a general Latin American principle that suggests that national identities are the

creation of the harmonious blending of the three ethnic groups. Implicit in the principles of
mestizaje is the conception that one of the ethnic groups is dominant which is the Spanish

heritage. The conception of blanqueamiento is resistant by signifying the predilection of being

from Spanish decent and placing these individuals over others.

“Race” is frequently use by various individuals to define the racial ethnicity of another.

Most of the time, we rely on someone’s physical appearance to come to this conclusion.

The use of this term has pessimistically affected individuals in the past as well as in today‘s

world. For instance, slavery was based on the terminology of race. In The Lessons of Slavery ,

the authors explicate “that one racial segment of the population used “race” to exploit and

dehumanize another sector of the population for more than 300 tears in the Americas.” (116)

Additionally, the illogical nature of the concept “race” as stated in the American Anthropological

Association Statement on “Race” has been used by Europeans during the 19th century “…to rank

one another and to justify social, economic, and political inequalities among their people.” Thus,

it classifies people into diverse social classes in order to view then as a critical part of the Puerto

Rican community and culture

In school systems, many do not acknowledge their African ancestry; viewing such group

as lower than any other. As stated in The Lessons of Slavery, “Researches of national ideologies

of mestizaje in Latin America and the Caribbean have underscored how notions of race mixture

operate within the specific structures of power that often exclude blacks, deny racism and

invalidate demands for social justice against discrimination.” (115) In a school research, many

noticed the lack acknowledgment for the African history in Puerto Rico’s culture. Many students

did not classify themselves as black; in this case some disliked being call prieto. The teacher

even asked “How would you treat a black student that came to the classroom?”, ultimately

suggesting that none of the kids viewed themselves as black.

Duany argues that “the popular racial categories used by Puerto Ricans on the Island and
in the Diaspora proceeds from dominant American social codes.” (259) Additionally, he

mentions the two main categories: Black and White. Various Puerto Ricans on the Island

considered themselves as white, although they were associated with an African ancestry.

Whereas some consider themselves as “other” which “mirrored their Hispanic identity.” (259)

This is demonstrating how African Ancestry is strategically obliterated from the Puerto Rico’s

social remembrance. In the census of 2000, only 8 percent of the general population recognized

themselves as black, whereas 80 percent identified themselves as white. Consequently,

illustrating how the term race vague racial democracy, it segregates a community negatively

forming diverse groups based on the terminology of race. Thus, promoting judgments base on

physical characteristics (skin color, eyes’ shape, hair) to conclude whether a person belongs to a

specific racial group. As stated by Duany, “… both systems are historically and culturally

grounded into racist ideologies originating in colonialism and slavery.”

In The Lessons of Slavery, the authors argue that such ideology is applied in school

accordingly uttering that “Slavery cannot be completely silenced from public school lessons

because it serves as the foundation for one of the island’s “three roots of cultural nationalism.”

(117) It lacks in depicting the concept of Puerto Rico’s history, it entirely obliterates the history

behind slavery and consequently their contributions to the Puerto Rican culture. The authors

proceed by suggesting that “as long as school practices continue to teach slavery in ways that

represent blackness as an atypical 19th century victimized and essentialized identity, Puerto Rican

children are not likely to raise their heads from underneath their jackets to embrace their African

heritage, let alone challenge racial oppression.” (131)

As Godreau argues Slippery Semantic shouldn’t obscure “racial reality,” it can instead be

formed into a “historically informed speech strategy” (27) used by individuals to adjudicate the

versatile outcomes that “racial hierarchies have upon social encounters.” (27) In such case,
conversations among individuals might re-establish classificatory structures of ethnic groups.

Triumph does not always rely on the speaker, but on how such points were illustrated and

ultimately perceived by others. Hence, explicating that many might become engage in a

discussion whose focus is “race,” these individuals will attempt to evade and consequently

duplicate limitations. However, Slippery Semantic is not an escape from “race,” it is instead a

way to deal with the issues linguistically but not necessarily resolving it. As Godreau inquires,

“how can we incorporate the lessons learned into an antiracist agenda that empowers and doesn’t

alienate those who so skillfully try to maneuver their semantic effects.” (28)

Perhaps, Godreau preposition will take a positive step on the school system; introducing

the acknowledgement of the importance of recognizing Tainos and Africans into our culture.

Hence, such point must be dominantly clear to influence in praising their culture entirely. To

introduce such egalitarian ideas we must preserve honesty. Allowing children to find out that

those African individuals were slave is not necessarily being entirely sincere. We should provide

these children with factual information, there suffrage through such discrimination. Emphasize

on the idea that Spaniards viewed them as non-intellectual individuals. In addition, we must

include the crucial reality of the abuse they underwent.

For instance, show a time line, in which African Americans were ultimately mixing with

Spanish individuals. The first picture will illustrate a picture of a young African American

woman with her family (Parents and siblings). The next picture will show the same African

woman married to a Spanish individual. Eventually go down this timeline, and constantly lighten

the skin color of this family’s generation. Then the last picture will show a white/trigueno child

in the same classroom these kids are witnessing the timeline. Thus, looking down at the time line

we are able to see that we all come from African ancestors.

An alternative idea will be to bring a light skin visitor into the classroom and have
him/her elucidate his/her culture. He/she will have items, play music, and have a class

participation session which will lead the students to embrace the culture. For instance, dance to

the music, taste the food, use the items that this culture used in the past. Ultimately, allowing the

student to welcome this unknown and exhilarating customs. At the end of the activity, this

individual will tell the students that he/she brought her grandparents (which taught he/her about

the culture) to speak more about this culture. Subsequently, two African American individuals

will walk in and allow the kids to apprehend the African contributions towards the Puerto Rican

culture and how it is ultimately enjoyable and fundamental.

We must imply such ideas into the history being taught by the school systems.

Otherwise, we will be accountable of obliterating our ancestors and the roots of our traditions.

We should illustrate how they formed the current culture we embrace today and how valuable

they are to the culture itself.


Music plays a vital role in the dynamics of identity formation. In Cocolos and Rockeros,

we are able to see how individuals react to the different musical preferences towards the people

in Puerto Rico. Rockeros are identified as those who listen to the devil’s music. Cocolos on the

other hand are those listen to Puerto Rico’s traditional music which is salsa. They view

themselves are traditional Puerto Ricans whom are true to their roots. While salsa and rock are

simply music preferences, various tend to use such preference to classify individuals into diverse

social class systems. Cocolos are place in the lowest level of this class system while Rockeros

are perceived as individuals of higher standards. In this documentary, many individuals classified
Rockeros as the music for the younger generation in which they would eventually “mature” and

prefer salsa. This documentary ultimately entails how music can create and separate a culture

due to their preferences; their differences caused tension which led to negative judgments. By the

separation new identities were form, in this case the young adults’ generation created an image

relying on American music. Thus, declaring the effects of the musical symbolization among

Puerto Ricans. It ultimately created diverse groups whose views towards other individuals were


In From Mambo to Hip-Hop, we see the development of music throughout time and how

in general time itself has a vast effect on music. In the beginning of the documentary, many

individuals describe Mambo as vital during the 1970’s. Mambo was diverse in the sense that

numerous cultures listened to in New York. It created a fusing of the African American

community, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Boogaloo in the same form originated in New York

among Cuban and Puerto Rican teens. It was a fusion of African-American R&B, mambo and

soul. In Cha-Cha with a Backbeat, Juan Flores explains the ideology of Boogaloo’s musical

content, “Bang-Bang begins with a short piano vamp, which is then immediately joined by loud,

group handclapping and a few voices shouting excitedly by unintelligibly, and then by a large

crowd chanting in unison. Bi-bi,hah! Bi-bi,hah!” (81) The synthesis of such musical design

initiated the blend of diverse heritages entwining with each other.

In this event, we witnessed how music can ultimately bring diverse ethnicities together. It

creates a union among these individuals in which all have passion for music. Similar to Salsa,

many believe that the rise of new music eradicated this traditional composition. As stated in

Cha-Cha with a Backbeat, “The generation of Latinos emerging in the 1960’s, including the

musicians then in their ‘teens and ‘twenties, was reared on another musical culture as well.” (87)

Many view this as the foremost motive of the decline of music in the past such as Boogaloo,
“The Boogaloo didn’t die out. It was killed off by envious old bandleaders, a few dance

promoters and a popular Latin disc jockey.” (107) We have to keep in mind that as time passes,

musical preferences will amend due to the rise of new music bands, beats and melodies. This

does not necessarily mean that the former music has been obscure from history but it serves a

base for the birth of this modern music.

For instance a younger generation linked towards hip-hop during the 1970’s which was

popular in New York. Hip-Hop did not only give rise to the renowned break-dancing style but

also allowed individuals in Puerto Rico to delve into Spanish rap. In Puerto Rica many were

experiencing the rise of reggae which was a mix of the Jamaican and Panamanian music. As

reggae become popular during that time, Hip-Hop entered the music scene. By the 1990’s,

Puerto Ricans were performing their own “riddims” which led to the formation of the

underground rap or the reggae Spanish rap. Police acted against these individuals by arresting

them and confiscating their cassettes. Today, many mix Spanish rap with salsa, merengue and


Here perceive the blend of diverse heritages in music and the idea of holding on to

traditional music. The change in preferences does not necessarily mean that traditional music is

obliterated by present generations; it is simply enriching the culture by introducing new

melodies. New Identities have formed musical transitions, it has helped many to identify

themselves and ultimately express themselves physically and linguistically. Spanish rap can be

the key point for such idea; many Spanish artists use this music genre to express their beliefs and

emotions. It is not proper to elucidate that this music is not vital to the culture; it has

consequently enhance the culture by introducing modern and imaginative transformations. It has

permitted the youth to promote a new definition for their individuality by forming new styles for

their current generation. It has ultimately led the path to the musical freedom in which one can
express and prefer what they truly believe in. It has consequently developed the culture into a

more diverse community welcoming innovative and contemporary transitions.