Reconstructing racial identity: ethnicity, color, and class among Dominicans in the United States and Puerto Rico Article

Duany, J. (1998). Reconstructing racial identity: ethnicity, color, and class among Dominicans in the United States and Puerto Rico . 25(3), 147-172. 10.1177/0094582X9802500308

cited authors

  • Duany, J

fiu authors


  • I will argue that the massive exodus from the Dominican Republic has culturally redefined th emigrants' racial identity. Whereas North Amricans classify most Caribbean immigrants as black , Dominicans tend to perceive themselves as white, Hispanic, or other (including the folk term indio, to be discussed later). This contradiction between the public perception and the self-concept of Dominican migrants is one of their key problems in adapting to North American society. In Puerto Rico, although traditional system of racial classification is similar to that of the Dominican Republic, most Dominican immigrants are viewed as blacks or colored (in local lore, prietos, morenos, and triguenos). Thus, in both receiving countries, Dominicans face the intense stigmatization, stereoptyping, prejudice, and discrimination to which all people of African origin are subjected. The argument is organized in four main parts. First, I will briefly review the extensive literature on race relations in the Caribbean and the US, with special attention to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. This background will help to clarify the different ideological constructions of radial identity in the sending and receiving countries. Second, I will summarize two field studies I directd among Dominican immigrants in the US and in Puerto Rico. These studies will provide empirical support for the claim that migration has restructured the cultural conceptions of racial identity among Dominicans living abroad. Third, I will compare the Dominican communities of Washington Heights in New York City and Santurce, Puerto Rico. The data will reveal different patterns of racial and ethnic segregation, prejudice and discrimination, cultural adaptation, and identity, despite the similarity of man of the mgirants' ssocioeconomic characteristics. Finally, I will assess the incorporation of Dominicans into North American and Puerto Rican societies and its potential impact on the Dominican Republic. My main thesis is that the radialization of Dominican immigrants in the US and Puerto Rico has reinforced the persistence of an ethnic identity against the prevailing racial order and has largely confined them to the secondary segment of the labor and housing markets.

publication date

  • January 1, 1998

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 147

end page

  • 172


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