Dr. Karen Beale | Sutton Science Center | 981-8166 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell | Anderson Hall | 981-8252 | email@example.com
The purpose of this course is for students to experience a culture that is very different from their own, but is actually a territory of the US and only 3 hours away by plane. The people of Puerto Rico represent a cultural and racial mix including but not limited to the native Taino Indians, Spaniards that invaded in the 15th century, and slaves imported from Africa. When Puerto Rico became a US territory in the late 1800s, US citizens began to move to the island. Also, the tropical environment lends to certain crops harvested for export such as sugar cane and coffee. Influences from each of these can be seen today in the food, the people, and cultural traditions. The intent of this course is to encourage students to develop an attitude of appreciation for the rich and varied history and culture of Puerto Rico that is different from their own.
Students will experience a US Territory that, in many ways, shares the same racial experience as the United States, yet with a decidedly Latin American and Spanish colonial flavor. Being Puerto Rican is to embrace one’s African, indigenous (Taíno), and Spanish heritage. With the exception of New York City and Miami, where else can a U.S. citizen go without a passport to experience Latino-Caribbean culture? Puerto Rico’s history and cultures cannot be separated from five hundred years of colonialism—the first four hundred by the Spanish and the last one hundred by the United States. Its history is unique in that it is the only Spanish speaking “nation” in the Western Hemisphere that did not—or has not yet—become a republic although it possesses a “state” government built upon republican principles (some on the island may want to dispute that).
Puerto Rico is an island of contrasts, contradictions, and enigmas: Burger King and lechoneras; Subway or mofongo (typical dish made of plantain); Wal-Mart and the mercado; Ricky Martin (Latin pop), Calle 13 (Puerto Rican rap), and the bomba (African, Taíno, Spanish musical mix); the dollar and the peso (dollars are sometimes referred to as a peso); no U.S. federal tax and no vote in Congress…the list goes on. Your U.S. cell phone will work on the island without international roaming charges and purchases are made in U.S. dollars, but the melodious rhythm of Spanish and the sounds and smells of Latin America surround you. You are a foreigner in an American territory.
Despite its small size, Puerto Rico possesses a wide variety of geographical, climatological, and linguistic contrasts that still contribute to a sense of regional identity. Because of the high mountains in the center of the island, ground transportation can be remarkably difficult between the islands three largest cities: San Juan in the north, Ponce in the south, and Mayagüez in the west. Historically speaking, this geographical barrier separated communities despite the island’s small size thus contributing to the creation of pockets of linguistic variances that underpin regional identities. Nevertheless, Puerto Ricans proudly share and emphasize their shared identity based upon the blending of the three principal cultural traditions found on the island: the Taíno Amerindians, the Africans, and the Spanish.
Although English is the official language of (federal) government, many Puerto Ricans are not bilingual and proudly embrace their Spanish-speaking heritage. For them—as with many Latin American nations with direct experience with the U.S.—language is a fundamental aspect of culture and English represents the language of the colonizer or the “Colossus of the North”. The political relationship to the United States is somewhat tenuous as Puerto Ricans frequently vote on a variety of referenda intended to shape the island’s future: (1) status quo, i.e. commonwealth of U.S. (2) statehood or (3) independence. Whatever Puerto Rico’s political destiny, the process of transculturation that marks the island’s past will continue to influence its future.
This trip will carry 3 experiential credits. Selected students will be enrolled during J-term 2014. There will be some course time in January, however the travel component will take place in May.
The price includes: Roundtrip airfare, local transportation, housing, 2 meals/day, field trips, international travel insurance, application fee, and deposit.
Not included: 2 meals/day, gifts, & personal expenses
*Please note that prices are tentative and may fluctuate based on variation in exchange rates, number of participants, price fluctuations in actual airfares and fuel surcharges, or administrative overhead