Puerto Rico Winter Institute

2017: Fragmented Borders: Transnationalism, inequality and citizenship

January 7-17, 2017

The two-week annual Puerto Rico Winter Institute (PRWI) will take place in January 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 2017 Institute is a collaboration between Harvard University and the Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), organized by Professor Pedro Reina Perez (UPR) and Professors David Carrasco, María Luisa Parra, and Mayra Rivera Rivera (Harvard). 

Transnational relations between the United States and the Spanish Caribbean have shaped contemporary notions of identity, culture and citizenship on both sides of the equation. Questions of legal status, economic inequality and cultural agency are resolved in close relationship to each community, both on the mainland and in each country. While Puerto Ricans possess a powerful tool for mobility in their US citizenship, it is not an insurance policy against poverty, corruption or mismanagement. Decaying natural resources, often affected by a lack of adequate planning, mismanagement, and climate change also come into play affecting communities, many of which are poor and underrepresented. To avoid displacement residents seek ways to increase participation in decision-making and become advocates for the protection of their environment. 

Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States faces severe economic challenges that have fueled a large exodus to the mainland as people seek shelter from uncertainty, thus bridging markets and reshaping borders and countries. Traditional relations between birthplace and residence, identity and citizenship, borders and boundaries are considered anew.

How do current migration patterns change cultural conceptions of race, gender and identity? How are civic values shaped by this experience? How do cross-border fertilizations enable new forms of political agency? Which are the main environmental challenges facing citizens and their communities? How are solutions explored? 

These questions will be presented in a comparative perspective while visiting Proyecto ENLACE, one of Puerto Rico's leading community-based organizations, which was recently granted the UN's 2015 World Habitats Award. Its community land trust is helping to transform an informal settlement around a polluted and flood-prone river channel into a sustainable community, providing a new model to transform informal settlements in cities without risking the alienation of the original residents. 

The Puerto Rico Winter Institute is generously supported by the Wilbur Marvin Foundation. Students chosen to participate will receive funding for airfare, lodging (at URI), a daily stipend, and local transportation. Cultural activities will also be provided.


14 students will be selected to participate in the seminar (7 from each institution). Undergraduate and graduate students are both eligible to apply. Preference will be given to graduate students, and/or students whose research interests best align with the themes of the seminar. Fluency in Spanish is highly desirable. 

Each student will write a paper focused on selected topics. A project blog will feature the writings of participants, together with photos and video.


Harvard student application deadlineOctober 17, 2016 @ 11:59 PM

A 500-word personal statement stating area of expertise, research interest(s),  potential contribution(s) to the outcomes of the seminar and time to graduation is required of all candidates. 

Students will apply using CARAT through the funding source: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies: Puerto Rico Winter Institute 2017.


Please contact Pedro Reina-Pérez at: preina@fas.harvard.edu