Skin color and other physical characteristics are used by residents in the island of Puerto Rico to identify themselves in terms of race. The terms trige–o, blanco and moreno are perceived by Puerto Ricans as racial classifications. Other aspects considered for racial identification are color, class, facial features and texture of hair, thus resulting in a variety of racial classifications that are not recognized in the North American society. Rodriguez explains that in Puerto Rico, not only is the racial classification very different from that of the United States, but that a black or white Puerto Rican, for instance, is not considered a distinguishable ethnic group..
Race as a form of identity is a recent concept in human history according to Audry Smedley of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Virginia Commonwealth University. The author goes on to say that race in American society has become equivalent and the dominant source of human identity, in many cases superseding all other aspects of identity. The problem Smedley sees with that is that no social ingredient in our understanding of race has allowed for mixed-racesexpressions of which are recognized by many Spanish-speaking cultures as in the Puerto Ricans trige–os and morenos.
This problem is highlighted by the misunderstood attempts in the American census to establish a mixed-race category. The result is that a large group of people is left feeling an absence of identity because they do not exist formally. These sentiments are echoed in many works of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., some of which will be utilized in the lessons of this unit.
The following lessons will allow teachers to incorporate elements of this narrative with the students’ activities included. Participants of the unit will be involved in reading, researching and writing reflection pieces that would demonstrate their understanding of the topic.