Lamento Borincano, one of the honorary national anthems of Puerto Rico by famed composer Rafael Hernández, tells the narrative of a jíbaro that optimistically moves from the countryside to the city, only to find more exploitation and indifference. The “lament” described in this beloved 1920s song has come to symbolize the colonized experience of the catastrophic in Puerto Rico. The 50th anniversary of the turmoil of 1968 can precisely open a space to properly contextualize the current urgent conversation on Puerto Rico as a site of the catastrophic, devastated by the vulnerability to natural disasters engendered in turn by a long-lived colonial past. The symposium “Lamento Borincano: Puerto Rican Sites of the Catastrophic, 1968/2018” will aim to address the postcolonial symbolic “failed move to the city” by exploring sites of catastrophic memory, such as Río Piedras as a space for violent retaliation to student resistance, Vieques as a military base during Puerto Rican participation in the Vietnam War, or the current urban blackouts as a site for desolation. The focus on sites of memory will aim to unveil the repercussions of disenfranchisement and exploitation in the narrative of the catastrophic in Puerto Rico.
The 1968/2018 Cities on the Edge series is co-sponsored by the Princeton Mellon Initiative and the Humanities Council.