Boricuas in the City Digital Project: Preserving Puerto Rican Memory and Space in New York City

In class we had to design our own grant proposals for a digital humanities project. Below is a brief explanation for my proposed project.



The notion that Puerto Rican history is only available through an elective course in higher education speaks volumes to the erasure of Puerto Rican history from the dominant U.S. history and narrative. Although Puerto Rican history can be accessed on the internet with a google search, at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Archives at Hunter College, and has been exhibited in museums, Puerto Rican history is not perceived as American history despite the island being a territory for over a hundred years. This relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States has marked Puerto Rico a part of the United States, so why is Puerto Rican history not considered a part American history? A meditation on this question begs the question: why is Puerto Rican history excluded from the conceptualization of the American nation?

This project aims to conduct a history of the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side- home to the Nuyorican Poets Literary movement and a materialization of the Puerto Rican presence in New York City. As of right now, the history of the Nuyorican Poets Café is scarce in academic scholarship, nonetheless in the field of Public Humanities or Digital Humanities. In addition, this project is intended to undo historical erasure and to control the ways in which histories of marginalized peoples and communities are told by centering the project around an oral history of Puerto Rican migration, race, culture, and identity in New York City within digital humanities scholarship.

Because the history of the Nuyorican Poets Café and the Nuyorican literary movement is inherently about Puerto Rican life in the city of New York, this project would conduct an oral history of Puerto Ricans in New York City. The oral histories will focus on migration patterns, generational difference, and the intersection of race, class, and gender to obtain a cultural study of what it means to be Puerto Rican in New York city, and by extension– the United States. The mapping of these stories will show lines of flight- of leaving, returning, and the pit stops along the way, that will visually capture how Puerto Ricans came to New York City. These lines could be really simple and create one direct connection from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York City for first-generation migrants, and they could also be really complex showing points of return or other cities as destinations for migrants before eventually settling in New York City. Regardless of generation, Puerto Ricans moved within and out of different New York City neighborhoods due to gentrification, employment, community, etc. Ultimately, migration is messy and inherently becomes a story about citizenship, race, gender, class, and the intersection of these markers of identity.


Digital Project:

I map the oral histories of the NYPL’s oral history project as a prototype for my project. It can be found here:

Picture source:

About ohh_kei

I'm a New Jerseyan who loves to read, write, dance, hike, and learn. As the daughter of Puerto Rican migrants, I enjoy learning about different peoples and cultures. I look for narratives of migrants/immigrants that discuss struggles within immigration, identity formation, assimilation and being bi-cultural in the United States. I currently am pursuing my PhD in American Studies at Rutgers University.
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