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.