By Michelle Tong
During fall break this semester, students enrolled in SPA 250 participated in a week-long trip to Puerto Rico. Led by Professor Christina Lee and Spanish and Portuguese graduate student Rodney Lebrón who co-teaches the course, the trip included opportunities for students to meet with Puerto Rican artists, political activists, as well as the chance to engage in interactive workshops.
“I was most excited to meet with influential artists and activists in Puerto Rico and participate in workshops with them,” said Luke Chan a sophomore. “I learned so much about their work, the meaning behind it, and the various identities in Puerto Rico through these conversations and interactions.”
From the visits to art installations and a Bomba dance workshop, students got a first-hand look into the dynamic facets of Puerto Rican culture.
“Everything we visited in Puerto Rico, we learned about before in class,” said Saareen Junaid, a junior. “We learned about Daniel Lind Ramos' art and his representations of Hurricane María's damage. We learned about la bomba and its history, its roots in Africa then through enslavement, and how its perception has changed through time.”
The activities during this trip also allowed for students to bond with their peers and made for a memorable experience. Chan recalled, “One of the highlights was participating in a theater workshop with Pedro Adorno Irizarry. It was a true bonding moment for me with the rest of the group, especially when we were asked to create our own dance performance.”
Junaid also mentioned, “The highlight of the trip was going out to dinners every night with each other and spending time becoming friends. The trip was amazing, but even more amazing was being able to enjoy it with everybody else and getting to know each other better.”
For Lébron, the experience to help lead this trip and co-teach SPA 250 played a major role in his overall graduate career: “Participating in conversations with various artists and political activists, like Daniel Lind-Ramos and Arturo Massol-Deyá, made me reflect deeply about my country. Without a doubt, having participated in this trip has helped me to develop as a graduate student.”
Overall, this opportunity to travel with their peers gave students the opportunity to immerse themselves in Puerto Rican culture and brought to life the topics and conversations that they had covered in class about constructs of identity in Spanish-speaking communities.
“The trip made what we learned and read about in class feel so much more real and imminent,” said Chan, “Going into the trip, I was unsure what to expect, but coming out, I gained a far more profound understanding of the course materials. This experience has made the class my most memorable so far at Princeton, and I learned far more through it than I have by reading any textbook in the past.
Photos courtesy of Christina Lee and Rodney Lebrón.