Catastrophe, Contradictions, and Decoloniality: Caribbean Perspectives for a Global Scale

Edited by Wilfredo J. Burgos Matos and Sophia Monegro

The Caribbean has been one of the most sustained epicenters of coloniality in the Americas for various centuries. The aftermaths of such interrelationship with the world has been central to a myriad of works whose intentions are devoted to offering multiple possibilities of being. In this section, our reviewers highlighted six productions of this geography, both on the islands and its diasporas. Ranging from race, performance, music, sociology, and cultural studies in general, each piece presented here imagines a Caribbean, whose thought and cultural productions, confer much towards rethinking global situations of race and class disparities. As such, we present through these texts, a written geography of possibilities for the intellectual nurturing of those most affected by the weight of colonialism, catastrophe, and archival contradictions, erasures, and silences.

We open this section with the everchanging and re- signifying forces of the ocean. Mónica Ocasio Vega reviewed Valerie Loichot’s Water Graves, which examines the relation between life, death, and water. From events such as the Parsley Massacre and the Middle Passage, to catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina, Ocasio Vega presents a Loichot that reads spaces through the lens of the unritualor the obstruction of the sacred. More specifically, she focuses her study on the bodies of water of the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico to analyze the aesthetic practices born in the absence of death rituals in such forgotten spaces of otherness.

Ocasio Vega’s engaging review is followed by Sophia Monegro’s review of the novel Dominicana by Angie Cruz. Monegro indicates that Dominicana introduces a singular yet culturally commonplace story into the Dominican-American literary canon by putting in conversation Dominican history, diasporic longing, transnational consciousness, and domestic violence through the story of fifteen-year- old Ana Canción, an immigrant child bride. Monegro will transport you into a Dominican- American story that attests to the evolving landscapes of Caribbean geopolitics after the mid- 20th century and what they meant for gender roles, belonging, and the definition of womanhood in a broad sense with New York City as the epicenter of such narrative. By exposing Angie Cruz’s commitment to contribute to the shifting notions of Latinidad and its literary tropes, our reviewer and co-section editor opens up a door for new perspectives in Latinx Studies at large.

We then continue with Pedro Javier Rolón’s review of Aftershocks of Disaster, a selection gathered by Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón in the wake of hurricane María in Puerto Rico. The collection of essays which includes traditional academics, activists, and artists, as Rolón points out, “permits pain, reflection, remembrance, and critique to coexist in polyphony, without employing the hierarchical divides that would only reproduce the coloniality of knowledge.” Rolón gave us the chance to feel and hear a plethora of voices that engage in the rethinking of Puerto Rico through disaster capitalism and imperialism. All these aspects can very well be transported to other landscapes such as the Middle East and back into the United States and its racialized geographies of otherness in places such as Louisiana after Katrina. The ability to connect such jarring narratives of tangible pain into words of decolonial imaginings, make Rolón’s intellectual contribution a viable reality to release the Caribbean, one word at a time, from the utopia of liberation and humanness.

In terms of visual and sonorous narratives of Caribbeanness, Wendyliz Martínez wrote a piece on the comic series Borinqueña, authored by Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez. This collection features an Afro-Indigenous Latina, Marisol de la Luz, who is selected by the indigenous spirits of Puerto Rico to defend the island. The series is reminiscent of the superhero comic tradition with familiar panel styles and sequencing of the story and attempts to bridge the various histories that exist in Puerto Rico with a black woman (the protagonist) as the main protector of her people. On a sonic note, John Bimbiras authored a review of Puerto Rico y su plena: nuevas fuentes para estudio, anew book about the origins and practices of the Puerto Rican plena, an Afro-rhythm that narrates the legacies of plantations ecologies and sensibilities. Through a series of essays, anecdotes, poetry, photographs, and illustrations, Puerto Rico y su plena “weaves together a compelling narrative about the genre and how it came to be such a potent symbol of Puerto Rican national identity.”

Lastly, our section closes with Gabriella Rodríguez’s piece on Hazel Carby’s Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands. This book exposes the life of Carby, a British woman of Jamaican and Welsh heritage, and her own history of empire. Rodríguez delves deep into the meanings of racial difference between the English Caribbean and its diasporic complexities in the United Kingdom.

Without a doubt, here we deliver promising words for averting colonial legacies. Each line produced by our authors is a testament to the continuous knowledge production that involves different notions of globality with the Caribbean as an axis of universal futurity. We are sure that each review will give you a renewed sense of what the embodied knowledge and thought produced from such geographies—the islands, Circum-Caribbean, and its diasporas—, can contribute to a global struggle where constant erasure of Black, Brown, Indigenous, distinctly-abled, and Queer island folks is in the making. May these words by our reviewers be part of the evidence of resistance to oblivion. May these words count as the will to freedom and the right to joy.