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Peer Reviewed Publications

This study examines how Puerto Ricans in Florida make sense of the immigration debate, how they formulate their position on the debate, and how their immigration attitudes impact their political choices. I draw on 75 in-depth interviews I conducted in Orlando, Florida during the 2016 presidential election. I find most respondents express supportive attitudes toward undocumented immigration, yet, how they articulate their position is telling. Specifically, respondents deploy mainstream narratives of immigrant deservingness/undeservingness; and a coalescing of Latino group consciousness, and in some instances a sense of connected political futures, influence their views. I also find Puerto Ricans’ immigration views provide insight into their 2016 vote for president. This study contributes to immigration, race, and Latino scholarship by uncovering nuance and complexity of Latinos’ contemporary politics. In doing so, it captures the emergence of a different strand of Latinidad and Latino politics in the largest swing state of the U.S.

Whether Latinos in the United States are an ethnic or a racial group is extensively debated. Some propose Latinos are an ethnic group on their way to becoming white, others contend Latinos are a racialized group, and an alternate perspective posits Latinos are an ethnoracial group. This study intervenes in this debate by examining the identities of second- and 1.5-generation Central Americans in Los Angeles. Drawing on 27 in-depth interviews, I show Central Americans have an identity repertoire, which includes national origin, panethnic, racial, and minority identities. I also capture the the situations and reference groups that influence the deployment of ethnic and racial identities. These results suggest Central Americans develop an ethnoracial identity. I argue Central Americans' ethnoracial identity emerges from agency—subjective understandings of themselves and resisting invisibility in Mexican Los Angeles—and from structure—a racialized society, institutionally-created panethnic categories, and racially-based experiences.

Contemporary theorizing regarding citizenship emphasizes the legal and social significance of citizenship status. Citizenship awards individuals a formal status and exclusive rights while also granting them membership into a national community. This study investigates tenets of liberal citizenship by examining the meaning of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans. Drawing on 98 in-depth interviews with Puerto Ricans in Orlando, Florida, this study finds incongruences between theoretical understandings of citizenship and the experience of citizenship on the ground. Specifically, respondents define U.S. citizenship as a formal status and a set of rights; however, they express that their U.S. citizen status does not grant them membership into the American community. This study captures incompatibilities between legal and social dimensions of citizenship. I argue Puerto Ricans’ understandings of and experiences with U.S. citizenship stem from (1) the state’s marking Puerto Rico (as a place) and Puerto Ricans (as a people) as different and inferior and (2) racialization processes that conflate Latino with foreign and racial other. I advance the argument here that Puerto Ricans have a colonial/racialized citizenship constituted by unequal citizen status, differentiated citizen rights, and exclusion from the American national imaginary. As such, this study highlights the stratified structure of the institution of U.S. citizenship.

This article provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary review of the literature that examines the experiences of Salvadoran immigrants and their children in the US. It analyzes and synthesizes over 70 studies that investigate various dimensions of Salvadoran migration, including, the causes of US-bound migration, the context of reception Salvadorans encountered during distinct time periods, the settlement and incorporation of Salvadorans in various regions of the US, the effects of US laws on migrants and their families in the US and in El Salvador, and the political mobilization of Salvadorans. This article was published in the Latino Studies section of Oxford Bibliographies to showcase the diverse histories and issues that affect distinct Latino populations.


Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm, ravaged Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. All regions of the Island were affected due to Maria's trajectory and magnitude. The storm flooded Island communities, thousands of houses endured structural damage or were completely destroyed, and the storm devastated the Island's infrastructure. Island residents lacked access to public services and everyday essentials for months, including, food, potable water, and adequate medical services. Since Florida has become Puerto Ricans' primary mainland destination in recent decades, the state has attracted the largest proportion of Hurricane Maria evacuees. This study draws on resiliency and migration models to analyze the experiences of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. Data for this research come from 17 in-depth interviews and observations conducted in the Orlando Metropolitan Area from December 2017-January 2018. It examines how respondents and their families experienced Hurricane Maria and relief efforts, the survival strategies they deployed after the storm, their migration decision-making and journey to Florida, and their interpretations of governmental responses to the hurricane. This study demonstrates how populations that occupy an unequal political and territorial status experience a natural disaster, engage in recovery behavior, and experience displacement. This study concludes with policy recommendations for addressing the housing, employment, and healthcare needs of Hurricane Maria evacuees in Florida.

Book Chapters

Barrio Logan is the Mexican enclave of San Diego where Mexican heritage and identity are tightly interwoven into the community’s history and culture. Due to el Barrio’s dense immigrant presence, geographic location, and unique cultural environment, it may be assumed el Barrio provides a setting conducive for preserving the Spanish language. Indeed, Spanish is commonly used for different aspects of everyday life and in many instances, it is the lingua franca. However, the acculturation process in the US leads to the eventual loss of the ethnic language in many immigrant communities. Drawing on participant observations conducted at Chicano Park, local businesses and community events, and analysis of Census 2010 data, this study examines whether the vitality of Spanish language in Barrio Logan is strong enough to sustain its linguistic survival. Relying on Giles, Bourhis, and Taylor’s (1977) framework for assessing ethnolinguistic vitality, this study finds the younger generations of Barrio Logan are redefining what it means to be Mexican American. In el Barrio, it is possible to proclaim a Mexican heritage and identity without preserving the ethnic tongue. Thus, this study concludes that while Spanish is presently alive in Barrio Logan, it may not be strong enough to survive eventual displacement by English.

Valle, Ariana, J. 2009. “The Vitality of Spanish in Barrio Logan, San Diego,” In Multilingual San Diego: Portraits of Language Loss and Revitalization, pp. 37-53. Ed. Ana Celia Zentella. San Diego: University Readers Publication.

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