Drops of Inclusivity

Racial Formations and Meanings in Puerto Rican Society, 1898-1965

By Milagros Denis-Rosario

Subjects: History, Caribbean Studies, Black Studies, Cultural Studies, American Studies
Series: SUNY series, Afro-Latinx Futures
Hardcover : 9781438488691, 240 pages, July 2022
Paperback : 9781438488684, 240 pages, January 2023

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Illusion of Living in a Non-Racist Racist Society

1. A Revised Account of the New "Colored" Possession: 1898–1920

2. Reshaping Education, Race, and Citizenship: 1920–1930

3. The Twisted Evolution of National Identity: 1930–1940

4. Intersecting Race and Modernization: 1940–1950

5. Strategizing Modernity: 1950–1965

6. The Liga Opened Pandora's "Black" Box: 1950–1965

Epilogue: Drop by Drop


A critical view of race relations on the island of Puerto Rico from 1898 to 1965.


Drops of Inclusivity examines race and racism on the island of Puerto Rico by combining a wide-angle historical narrative with the individual stories of Black Puerto Ricans. While some of these Afro-Boricuas, such as Roberto Clemente and Ruth Fernández, are well known, others, such as Cecilia Orta and Juan Falú Zarzuela, have been largely forgotten, if remembered at all. Individually and collectively, their words and lives speak to the persistent power of racial hierarchies and responses to them across periods, from the Spanish-American War at the turn of the twentieth century to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit to the island in the early 1960s. Drawing on rich archival research, Milagros Denis-Rosario shows how Afro-Boricuas denounced, navigated, and negotiated racism in the fields of education, law enforcement, literature, music, the military, performance, politics, and more. Each instance of self-determination marks a gain in inclusivity—gota a gota, or drop by drop, as the saying goes in Puerto Rico. This study pays homage to them.

Milagros Denis-Rosario is Associate Professor of History in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York.


"…an engaging and important book … that contributes to the understanding of the process of race-making in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the Spanish Caribbean." — New West Indian Guide

"This is a concise, teachable book. It will make an important contribution in a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses such as Afro-Diaspora, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Puerto Rican studies courses, and disciplines such as history, African American studies, and American studies … Drops of Inclusivity adds a meaningful and complementary account to the existing scholarship about Puerto Rico's anti-Black racism, civil rights activism, and demands for social inclusion that Black Puerto Ricans have been waging all along." — H-Net Reviews (H-Caribbean)

"Drops of Inclusivity crucially underscores the agency of Black Puerto Ricans across different time periods and socioeconomic classes, including everyday people who filed lawsuits for discrimination, wrote letters to institutions, and navigated the education system. Their stories show how commonplace and systemic antiblack racism has always been despite depictions of Puerto Rico as a racial democracy. Most importantly, this book centers the varied ways Black Puerto Ricans have negotiated their position within Puerto Rican society, and organized around racial issues." — Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, author of Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico