Identity politics as a positive force in political mobilization and access to power

Identity and Power

Puerto Rican Politics and the Challenge of Ethnicity

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Josť E. Cruz

On the surface, identity politics appears to promote polarization. To the contrary, political scientist Josť E. Cruz argues that, instead, fragmentation and instability are more likely to occur only when the differences are ignored and nonethnic strategies are employed. Cruz illustrates his claim by focusing on one group of Puerto Ricans and how they mobilized to demand accountability from political leaders in Hartford, Connecticut.

The activities of the Puerto Rican Political Action Committee from 1983 to 1991 illustrate the power of ethnic mobilization and strategy in an urban setting. Cruz examines their insistence on their right to be included in the political process in the context of both a typical mid-sized American city and the unique attributes of Hartford's predominantly white-collar population. At the same time, this study acknowledges the limitations of the exercise of such power in the political process.

Through extensive interviews Cruz brings to light the variety of ways in which politicians and political activists themselves view their own activities and achievements. This group of Puerto Rican activists attempted to penetrate the power structure of Hartford. Though their success was limited, their work constitutes a springboard for further change.



Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).



"This book's contribution lies in its analysis of the structural position of Puerto Ricans at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and of the process of empowerment through political activism. It challenges popular notions of identity politics as divisive and instead demonstrates how such an identity can serve as a tool for mobilization. It highlights Hartford's uniqueness at the same time that it provides us with lessons for other Puerto Rican, Latino, and ethnic communities throughout the U.S. Cruz makes an important contribution to the field of ethnic politics and community studies."
Vilma Ortiz, Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles

"In a provocative analysis of the Puerto Rican Political Action Committee of Connecticut, Josť Cruz has linked identity politics, political ambition, organizing, and intra-ethnic rivalry. This political intrigue takes place in Hartford, Connecticut, a city in demographic and economic transition that is trying to cope with its newest arrivals. A terrific book—thoughtful, informative and balanced. This case study should have a major impact on the study of Latino politics as well as the study of urban politics."
Wilbur C. Rich, Political Science, Wellesley College

"This rigorous examination of the political history of migrant Puerto Ricans evidences the role of identity politics in their empowerment."
The Journal of American History



Maps, Tables, and Photos
1. Introduction
2. Hartford: The City and Its Politics
3. Puerto Ricans in Hartford: From Settlement to Collective Behavior
4. From Collective Behavior to Brokered Representation
5. From Brokered Representation to Political Mobilization
6. Identity Politics: The Puerto Rican Political Action Committee of Connecticut
7. Identity and Power
8. Puerto Rican Politics and the Challenge of Ethnicity
Select Bibliography


About the Author(s)

Josť E. Cruz is Associate Professor of Political Science, State University of New York at Albany.

Subject Categories

Latino/a Studies
Political Science and Public Policy



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