Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Barbara J. Wilcots, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Maik Nwosu

Third Advisor

Eric Gould

Fourth Advisor

Javier Torre


Caribbean, Colorism, Dominican Republic, Latinx, Puerto Rico, Race


This dissertation explores the impact of colorism on Spanish Caribbean literature--more specifically, works of fiction and memoir by both island and diaspora writers from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Colorism, or discrimination based on the shading of skin, manifests itself in Spanish Caribbean literature in a variety of ways. It is often used as a marker of class and/or class difference; it may reflect and/or play a part in shaping cultural standards of beauty or attractiveness; and it signifies the entrenched complexities of the Spanish Caribbean's history of conquest and colonization. Colorism appears in these texts as both a carryover from Latin America's problematic histories with race (in terms of slavery and racial mixing) and as an indicator of the problematic constructions of race existing (in the past and present) both on these islands and in the United States. Race, constructions of race, and racism have all played a complex role in the histories of these island nations, and it seems only fitting to address as many of these histories as is possible.

This project is divided into two major sections, one on the Dominican Republic and one on Puerto Rico, with a general and theoretical introduction that frames the work within Critical Race Theory and both Caribbean and Latino/a literary studies. The history of Spanish colonialism and a general denial and/or denigration of the African component to the ethnic heritage of these communities results in a construction of race based on a color-continuum model, rather than a binary model; this racial schema, along with Dominican and Puerto Rican concerns with whiteness, skin tone, and "European" phenotypic features, and their denial/denigration of an African heritage, shapes and influences the works of Dominican writers Julia Alvarez, Junot Díaz, Nelly Rosario, Angie Cruz, Loida Maritza Pérez, and Annecy Báez, and Puerto Rican writers Rosario Ferré, Ana Lydia Vega, Mayra Santos-Febres, Esmeralda Santiago, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Piri Thomas, and Edgardo Vega Yunqué. The project concludes by drawing connections between Dominican and Puerto Rican experiences and supposing possible impacts of the growing Latino/a population on the racial and cultural makeup of the United States.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Malinda Marie Williams


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

200 p.


Literature, Caribbean literature, Latin American literature