Hours within landing in Puerto Rico I get an email from one of my contacts saying there is a panel on Puerto Rican Muslims happening that night close to where my cousin goes to school. Shocked at my luck I quickly got ready and made my way over there and met both of the contacts I had made while still in the states my first day here. I came during an interesting time to the island: the University of Puerto Rico student strike has affected many, even preventing high school students from completing this year due to their schools’ affiliation with the University. Also going on are the Central American and Caribbean Games this year located in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. It is interesting to see the combination of festivities and strikes.
I have noticed the island is full of graffiti and it is a popular form of expression, from pieces dedicated to Puerto Rican pride to those in opposition of Ley 7. Driving through the island most walls are covered in spray paint and I find myself staring out the window making plans to take out the car and take some pictures.
I am surprised I have actually found Muslim Hip Hop artists here. I was connected to one before coming to Puerto Rico and once here I went to a mosque to meet him for an interview and he introduced to a few more. Upon hearing what I was doing here they seemed pleasantly surprised and we all got into a conversation about my work and their art. They invited me to lunch at a halal fried chicken spot (which I didn’t even know existed in Puerto Rico).
I’ve realized the Muslim population that island Puerto Ricans are mostly exposed to are Palestinians not Afro-Americans like I thought. This complicates my initial hypothesis: I expected Rican Muslim Hip Hop artists to relate to the Afro-American community through Hip Hop and Islam but those on the island aren’t as exposed to an Afro-American Muslim community as Ricans are in the United States notably New York City (which my state-side informants are all from).
Omar Ramadan is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU