The Hidden History of Puerto Rican Sterilization

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Escambrón Beach Club, 1940s. Photo: Jack Delano

Escambrón Beach Club, 1940s. Photo: Jack Delano

Due to PBS’ new documentary No Más Bebés, there is an upsurge of media about sterilization and reproductive justice vis-à-vis communities of color. Given the current political climate, this could not have come at a better time. I would argue that we cannot fully understand Puerto Rico’s current economic collapse, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the struggles of indigenous and undocumented communities without reflecting upon the not-so-distant history of eugenics as official state policy. We must acknowledge that the policing of Black, Chicanx, Indigenous, and Puerto Rican bodies were (and are) part and parcel to the U.S. government’s efforts to establish a white Utopia, in this continent and beyond. It was mass sterilization in the past and it is police murder, “border protection”, and militia land occupation now.

So, I implore you to take it upon yourself to do the research; it is a history that has been reported upon extensively, but is not widely known. As a start, I offer here the entire 1982 documentary film La Operación by Ana María García (in Spanish) on sterilization in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora. We cannot continue to transform our communities without the knowledge of the past grievances we seek to rectify.

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Xavi Burgos Peña

Xavi Burgos Peña is co-founder of La Respuesta magazine. He is a Boricua/ Dominicano of the Diaspora who has lived his life between New York City and Chicago. His professional experience is mostly in the area of community-building, including youth development, social marketing, and organizing against gentrification. His journalism credits include being editor and chief designer for Que Ondee Sola magazine, columnist for La Voz del Paseo Boricua newspaper, contributor to Gozamos magazine, and guest writer for Claridad newspaper in Puerto Rico. Contact: xavi@larespuestamedia.com 

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