Skip to main content
Cover for Sunbelt Diaspora

Sunbelt Diaspora

Race, Class, and Latino Politics in Puerto Rican Orlando (Historia USA)

Patricia Silver


List Price: 45.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Puerto Ricans make up half of Orlando-area Latinos, arriving from Puerto Rico as well as from other long-established diaspora communities to a place where Latino politics has long been about Cubans in Miami. Together with other Latinos from multiple places, Puerto Ricans bring diverse experiences of race and class to this Sunbelt city. Tracing the emergence of the Puerto Rican and Latino presence in Orlando from the 1940s through an ethnographic moment of twenty-first-century electoral redistricting, Sunbelt Diaspora provides a timely prism for viewing how differences of race, class, and place play out in struggles to claim political, social, and economic ground for Latinos.

Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic, oral history, and archival research, Patricia Silver situates her findings in Orlando’s historically black-white racial landscape, post-1960s claims to “color-blindness,” and neoliberal celebrations of individualism. Through the voices of diverse participants, Silver brings anthropological attention to the question of how social difference affects collective identification and political practice. Sunbelt Diaspora asks what constitutes community and how criteria for membership and legitimate representation are negotiated.

Praise For Sunbelt Diaspora: Race, Class, and Latino Politics in Puerto Rican Orlando (Historia USA)

Silver offers a groundbreaking perspective on the recent social history and politics of [Orlando] by unravelling the dynamics of race, class and place-making in the development of a heterogeneous community...The true value of this book is its ability to scrutinize the unseen sociopolitical realities that shape Puerto Ricans and other Latinxs’ efforts for community organization and political participation in this new place. Silver has made an impressive contribution to fields of Latinx migration and politics by focusing on the recent history of the understudied area of central Florida. Researchers, students, and a wider audience will be fully satisfied with the vivid life histories of this well-written book.
— The Independent Scholar

Throughout Sunbelt Diaspora, Silver demonstrates how Puerto Ricans and, more generally, other Latinos have affirmed their presence in spite of their circumscribed political and social positioning in the imagined community of the United States, Florida, and Orlando...The expanse of data collected and examined in this study, combined with an insider-outsider perspective integrated throughout and critiques informed from perspectives in Puerto Rican and Latino studies make Sunbelt Diaspora an original contribution to the literature on Latinos in the region and provide a space for this work to engage in dialogue with comparative studies on Latinos in traditional and nontraditional urban destinations.
— US Latina & Latino Oral History Journal

Sunbelt Diaspora is an extremely well-written and insightful book about Puerto Ricans in Orlando, Florida, the state with the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans stateside. It is also a compelling account of the Puertoricanization of Orlando, how this has meshed with the larger Latino/a community, and the politics of race, ethnicity, class, and place in determining political representation amidst widespread demographic changes in a southern town. This is a must read for scholars of Puerto Rican migration and diasporic communities as well as race and ethnic relations.
— CENTRO Journal

Silver’s work is a must-read for those interested in the history of Latinos and Puerto Ricans in Florida...It captures the complexity of the intersection of different racial/ethnic identities, class relations, and memories of place...The important lessons contained in this book are going to be vital for understanding the process by which the continuous resettlement of Puerto Ricans to less traditional Latino destinations such as Georgia, the Carolinas, and elsewhere are going to impact their identity, social inclusion, and political power.
— Latino Studies

There is an unfortunate tendency among many academics to homogenize the racial experiences and identities of Puerto Rican migrants as well as Latin
American immigrants. Silver’s study bucks this trend...This is the first significant academic monograph to focus on this fast-growing community in Central Florida, and it will be of great interest to scholars from various disciplines. This is a readable book that will also be appropriate for graduate and undergraduate students.
— American Historical Review

Silver fills an important gap in social scientific knowledge by providing a rich analysis of an important yet underexamined case...a key contribution of Sunbelt Diaspora, which is supported by its methodological and analytical approach, is its engagement with intersecting histories, 'messiness of difference,' 'contradictory relations' in the examination of place-making, and political community formation in a new and southern destination.
— Journal of Anthropological Research

University of Texas Press, 9781477320457, 320pp.

Publication Date: April 15, 2020

About the Author

Patricia Silver is an anthropologist affiliated with the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. For more than a decade, she has conducted ethnographic, oral history, and archival research about Puerto Rican experiences in Orlando, with an emphasis on sociocultural heterogeneity and collective identification. Silver holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from American University. She has published her findings in numerous academic journals and authored expert testimony as part of a 2014 federal case against Orange County, Florida, for diluting the Latino vote during redistricting.