Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Spanish

Major Professor

Dolly J. Young

Committee Members

Sébastien Dubreil, Rudyard J. Alcocer

Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between language, personal identity, and culture among members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Puerto Rico represents a unique situation socially and politically because of its colonial relationship with the United States. This relationship has facilitated a continuous circular migration to and from the mainland U.S. over the last century. As of 2012, the diasporic community now represents a greater population than those who remain on the island. While nationalistic debates in Puerto Rico have traditionally excluded this group (collectively dubbed “neoricans” or “nuyoricans”), their recent contributions to literature and Puerto Rican cultural theory, as well as their sheer numbers have led many to reconsider traditional views about Puerto Rican identity. I first examine recent theories about definitions and constructions of identity and culture. This analysis specifically focuses on the role that language plays, both integrally and functionally, in identity constructs among bilingual communities and racial minorities. Next, I briefly discuss the historical context of Puerto Rican migration and debates about national identity. These debates have traditionally included language as a central factor, which becomes problematic when multiple generations of “nuyoricans” with varying Spanish language abilities are taken into consideration. Finally, I present an analysis of interviews with second generation “nuyoricans” who returned to the island in late adolescence or adulthood to live and work. In this analysis, I look at their perceptions of identity and culture and attempt to draw connections between their personal experiences and the perspectives presented in the literature.

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