Raza e Identidad (Race and Identity) with Rosa Carrasquillo, associate professor of history
By Maura Sullivan Hill

Students examine the origins and development of racial and national identities in the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic, from a transnational and historical framework. The course focuses on the socio- historical phenomena that have shaped the Dominican Republic: Spanish colonialism, the Haitian Revolution, the American sugar empire and the Alliance for Progress economic initiative between the United States and Latin America. The class also explores migration between Caribbean countries and how that influences racial and national identities. This course is taught entirely in Spanish and includes a study tour to the Dominican Republic.

Course Objectives
The course aims to explore how Dominicans have historically built their own racial and national identity. Students will be able to identify, understand and analyze how the practices and contexts of colonialism, imperialism and globalization have shaped the Dominican Republic, as well as its influence in other areas of the world, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States.

Reading assignments, group discussions and class participation in Spanish; one paper; a travel diary and photo essay from the trip to the Dominican Republic; one examination

Required Texts
Dominican studies is a small, but growing, field in the United States, which means most writings on the topic are in Spanish. These texts are also expensive and difficult to purchase en masse, so Carrasquillo provides excerpts, chapters and articles from more than 25 books and an array of journal articles for the students. “In terms of history, there is very little translated into English and so, the course needed to be in Spanish, Carrasquillo says. She sees this as an advantage, because it allows “students to learn Dominican history as written by Dominicans.”

On the Day HCM Visited Class
This reporter tried her best to resurrect a rusty command of the Spanish language, while the 25 students around her spoke fluently and confidently in Spanish. The day’s agenda was a discussion of primary source material in small groups, then with Carrasquillo and the class as a whole. The first topic was a speech given by Pedro Santana, the first president of the Dominican Republic, though he ruled as a dictator. They also read a piece by Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founders of the Dominican Republic, who fought for its independence from Haiti in 1844. The readings and discussion focused on the development of a new national identity for the Dominican Republic, and how race was essential in its definition. The leaders of this movement were white men of the southeast who represented a liberal elite. Carrasquillo closed the class by playing the national anthem of the Dominican Republic and with a discussion about whether the lyrics reflected the 19th-century nation described in that day’s readings. The anthem, composed in 1843, proclaims “Hail, the nation who strong and intrepid/Into war launched itself set to die/When in a warring challenge to the death/Its chains of slavery still it cut off,” and the students discussed how the lyrics reflect the racial interests of the leaders.

Professor Bio
Carrasquillo graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with her undergraduate degree, then continued to graduate school at the University of Connecticut. She earned her Ph.D. in history and teaches courses in  Caribbean and Latin American history, including Colonial Latin America, Modern Latin America, Afro-Latin American Religions, popular culture in Latin America, Puerto Rican history and a course on the intellectual history of Latin America called “Rebels and  Radical Thinkers.” As a historian, she has published numerous articles and  two books about the culture and history of Puerto Rico. Her first book, published in 2006, looked at her peasant roots, Our Landless Patria: Marginal Citizenship and Race in Caguas, Puerto Rico, 1880- 1910. Her second book was published in 2014 and is a biography of Afro-Puerto Rican singer Ismael Rivera, titled The People’s Poet: Life and Myth of Ismael Rivera, an Afro-Caribbean Icon. Since 2004, Carrasquillo has been a member  of the Latino Education Institute Advisory Board in Worcester, an organization that advances the educational attainment of Latinos in the city. She is also part of the Latino  History Project of Worcester (LHP), a five-year initiative that works to document the Latino experience in Worcester by collecting documents, artifacts and oral interviews for a collection at the Worcester Historical Museum. She has been at the College since 2006 and, in 2013, received the Colleges of Worcester Consortium Faculty Community Engagement Award.

Professor Quote
Carrasquillo created this course based on student curiosity she encountered while teaching survey classes on Colonial and Modern Latin America. Many Holy Cross students who are Dominican wanted to know more about their own heritage. “When I am teaching the survey classes, I usually have to focus on the big trends in the area and that excludes the smaller countries, like the Dominican Republic,” she says. “I  had many students who kept asking me, ‘What about the Dominican Republic?’ and I had one student, Yomaira Lopez, who kept saying, ‘Professor, why don’t you take us there?’ So the class developed to fill the needs of the students.” Now, Carrasquillo does take her students to the Dominican Republic. Over spring break, Carrasquillo and her students visited the country for a week: They traveled to the border with Haiti and visited Solidaridad Fronteriza (Border Solidarity), a Jesuit organization that works with migrants; visited a  batey, the Haitian migrant communities that developed around sugar  plantations; and stayed with local Dominican families in the city of Santiago.

Alumni Quote
“I can proudly say that the Race and Identity course opened my eyes. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and I never questioned my personal customs or beliefs; they were just imposed on me,” said Yomaira Lopez ’14. “I had the opportunity to understand and analyze my experiences and learn more of my own culture. After this class, I felt more open to explore  my own race and also to share my life experiences with my peers.”  ■