“Crisis and Celebration in a Puerto Rican Town”

LASA 2021

Each July, Loíza, Puerto Rico prepares to celebrate their patron saint: Santiago Apóstol. La fiesta de Santiago (la fiesta) pans several days and includes special masses said in honor of Santiago, street processions, special musical performances, and more. It is a time of communal celebration that has recently had to deal with new and ongoing crises. In 2018, still in the midst of rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane María, Loiceños would not be stopped from celebrating la fiesta. One year later, la fiesta was marked by political unrest and calls for then-governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign. Most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Loiceños had to yet again deal with crisis during la fiesta. Bringing my own ethnographic research together with what Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón call the “aftershocks of disaster,” I argue that celebration is a form of dealing with crisis that does not seek to resolve it but seeks joy in spite of it. Moreover, using Bonilla and LeBrón, “celebration in spite of” goes beyond a resilience narrative, which implicitly suggests things can carry on as usual. Instead of resilience, “celebration,” how I use it in this paper, is a form of futurity that recognizes the devastation of the past but does not allow that to be the final word. Thus, celebration does not offer a specific vision of the future but instead speaks against the past and present.

PowerPoint slides (.pdf)


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