Puerto Rico Winter Institute

Program Overview

The Puerto Rico Winter Institute (PRWI) is a 10-day graduate seminar in collaboration with the College of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras (UPR). The program is led by UPR Professor Pedro Reina Perez. 

The program aims to:

  • Establish a new, mutually productive exchange between Faculty and students from Harvard University and the University of Puerto Rico, in an annual seminar

  • Foster conversation on themes of common interest for Puerto Rico that will lead to collaborations (publications, symposia, academic exchanges)

  • Engender awareness and understanding of Puerto Rico and its present condition to produce new scholarship and expand academic ventures

  • Take advantage of San Juan as a center of academic and intellectual activity at the crossroads of the hemisphere

  • Enhance understanding among faculty and students through teaching and outreach activities

2020 Program Description

Fragmented Borders: Citizenship, Inequality and Transnationalism
When Culture Cries: The Politics of Creativity, Emotion and Resistance 

This year’s track will examine the events surrounding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rosselló after three weeks of citizen protests in San Juan, following a personal scandal. The public outcry for his ouster was characterized by a series of creative interventions that involved people of all walks of life with one goal in common: demanding accountability and justice. This cultural response has elicited intense academic interest to understand, not only its origin, but the hidden dimensions of colonial resistance as well.

As Puerto Rico enters uncharted waters in its bankruptcy proceedings under the PROMESA Act, the vulnerabilities of austerity and diminished public services raises concerns, given its colonial ties to the United States. Resistance in the face of destitution is inevitable. In the Puerto Rican context, why is culture a vehicle for identity? How is it constructed? How was it expressed during the summer of 2019?

Transnational relations between the United States and the Spanish Caribbean have shaped contemporary notions of identity, culture and citizenship in both sides of the equation. Questions of legal status, economic inequality and cultural agency are resolved in close relationship to each community, both in the mainland and in their home 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 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 boundaries. Traditional relations between birthplace and residence, identity and citizenship, borders and boundaries are presented anew.

Program Dates

  • January 3 - 14, 2020


20 students will be selected to participate in the seminar (10 from Harvard University, 10 from UPR). 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.

Application Requirements

  • A completed application form via Centralized Application for Research and Travel (CARAT). Please search for "DRCLAS 2020 Puerto Rico Winter Institute" to locate the application. Please be sure you are applying through the correct application, specific for undergraduates or graduates. 

  • A personal statement (500 words written in English stating your: area of expertise, research interest(s), potential contribution(s) to the outcomes of the seminar, time to graduation (year of study))

  • Updated resume

Program Costs & Availablity of Funding

The PRWI 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.


Contact Pedro Reina-Pérez or Rachel Murray-Crawford