Chicago is the home to the third-largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States, but scholarship on the city rarely accounts for Puerto Ricans. This book is part of a revisionary effort to include Puerto Ricans in the history of Chicago. Rua explores the multiple meanings of latinidad (a shared sense of identity among people of Latin American and Caribbean descent) from a historical and ethnographic perspective by examining daily lives. She shows that Puerto Ricans in Chicago have continually constructed, restructured, and transformed place through discourses and experiences of rejection and belonging, despair and hope. Rua traces Puerto Ricans' construction of identity in a narrative that begins in 1945, when a small group of University of Puerto Rico graduates earned scholarships to attend the University of Chicago as a private employment agency recruited Puerto Rican domestics and foundry workers. These people formed the foundation of Chicago's contemporary Puerto Rican community.
In the following six decades, Chicago witnessed urban renewal, loss of neighborhoods, emergence of multiracial coalitions, waves of protest movements, and celebrations of life within which Puerto Ricans negotiated their identity, as Puerto Ricans, as Latinos, and as U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans arriving in the U.S. had come from an island colony, but they had had the status of U.S. citizens, and most considered themselves, and were considered to be, "white." And yet, their brownness was considered "colored," and their citizenship was second class. They seemed to share few of the rights other Chicagoans took for granted. Memory and place and loss and identity seemed interconnected. Were those of Puerto Rican descent historical anomalies of the vestiges of empire? Or genuine American citizens? What is the link for Puerto Ricans, other than the Spanish language, to other Latinos, citizens as well as undocumented migrants and documented ones?
Through a variety of sources, including oral history interviews, ethnographic observations, archival research, and textual criticism, A Grounded Identidad attempts to redress the oversight of traditional scholarship on Chicago by presenting the example of Puerto Ricans, their reconstruction from colonial subjects to second-class citizens, and the implications of this political reality on how they have been racially imagined and positioned vis-a-vis blacks, whites, and Mexicans over time.