Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Wendy Luttrell

Committee Members

Stephen Brier

Michelle Fine

Johanna Fernández

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Humane Education | Indigenous Education | Secondary Education | Special Education and Teaching


Puerto Ricans, Diaspora, Taíno, Afro-Boricua, Decolonization, Liberatory Educational Spaces


This oral history project focuses on the liberatory educational experiences of Puerto Rican millennials in the diaspora. Participants shared stories that surfaced and interrogated the history of colonial oppression and illuminated threads that still inform the educational experiences of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. The material fact and implications of an educational system rooted in colonialism and enduring coloniality quickly asserted itself as a major consideration; the inextricable linking of liberatory and agentic educational experiences to self-knowledge predicated on knowing/understanding one’s intersectional identity fully was unmistakable. The ravages of the Covid pandemic joined with neoliberalism, poverty, xenophobia, ableism, sexism, anti-Blackness, homophobia, the school to prison pipeline, and other forms of marginalization/banishment of students in our educational systems, have brought us to this critical juncture where the dismantling of these tentacles of oppression need to be met head on with a clear understanding that education should not be a project of assimilation and subjugation but an undertaking where students grow to know and understand their complex and intersectional selves, their communities, the world at large and their place in it.

This oral history project did not set out to interrogate the contours of colonialism, or provide a genealogy of the Puerto Rican identity. It was undertaken to surface accounts of liberatory educational experiences, as identified by Puerto Rican millennials in the diaspora. Overwhelmingly, participants pointed to the material fact of the colonial status of the island, the enduring and deep connection between the inhabitants of the island and Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, the impact of circular migration, the trauma (generational, collective, individual, intersectional) and aspects of coloniality that are all inextricably braided into the Puerto Rican identity and create webs of oppression. The answer to my research question, “How do we define liberatory educational experiences?” was resounding: Liberation came when oppression was revealed in all of its nuances and contours and access to an understanding of one’s identity - knowing one’s history, one’s relationship to their family, community, to the world at large - was liberation. Educational spaces that allow for these revelatory experiences to happen are emancipatory.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Monday, June 02, 2025

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