Citizenship in Contexts: How Puerto Ricans are Transforming Race and Politics in Florida
How does a political relationship designed to maintain Puerto Ricans at the periphery produce a group that is now at the center of national politics? My current book project capitalizes on the rise of Florida as Puerto Ricans' new primary destination to answer this question. In the past ten years, over five-hundred thousand Puerto Ricans left Puerto Rico, making this exodus comparable to the Puerto Rican "Great Migration" of the 1950s. Instead of New York, Florida is now the leading destination for both island and stateside Puerto Ricans. In fact, at 1.1 million, Florida's Puerto Rican population rivals New York's long-standing Puerto Rican community. Moreover, Puerto Ricans are now Florida's second-largest Latino group.
The shift away from traditional destinations in the Northeast and Midwest to the South means Puerto Ricans have settled in a vastly different racial and political context. This research draws on 12 months of participant observation and 112 in-depth interviews with Puerto Ricans in Orlando, Florida to theorize contemporary Puerto Rican migration and incorporation, inter/intra group relations, and the institution of U.S. citizenship. In Citizenship in Contexts, I develop the concept of colonial racialized citizenship to provide a framework for understanding Puerto Ricans' unequal political relationship with the state, group level relations that are racialized, and Puerto Ricans' growing significance as political actors and political entrepreneurs in Florida. Overall, Citizenship in Contexts contends that through various acts of agency, Florida Puerto Ricans have become a potentially transformative electorate in the largest swing state of the nation and critical to the national politics.