The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 53, Issue 2

Article 2
“Una niña humilde y de color”: Sources for the History of an Afro-Puerto Rican Childhood

Solsiree del Moral


This essay explores some of the historical sources available in the case of one young, rural, black girl in mid-century Puerto Rico. When Herminia
(pseudonym) was eleven years old, the colonial state – in the form of social
workers – invaded her life. That intrusion into the young girl’s home and
community generated paperwork, such as correspondence and social work case studies. The first part of this essay explores these social welfare documents (as well as census records) and the story they tell about black childhoods in Puerto Rico. The second half sets aside the social workers’ version of Herminia’s life story and instead explore her childhood in relation to her extended family and their long history in rural Western Puerto Rico. A variety of religious and civil records allows the historian of childhood to apply a broader lens to Herminia’s story in particular, as well as to the stories of other rural black children in Puerto Rico.