Abstract

From the era of enslavement to contemporary structures of debt, governing entities and capital have denied state support to Puerto Ricans, demanding instead that payments flow from the archipelago first to Spain and then to the United States. While the US welfare state is notoriously stingy, even its limited benefits have never gone to Puerto Ricans on an equal basis to residents of the states. How, then, have Puerto Ricans been perennially accused of receiving too much welfare? This article argues that Puerto Rico marks the vanishing point of the coherence of the discourse of the “welfare queen” and reveals its underlying logic: it marks Black and impoverished people’s resistance, and the refusal to birth babies and raise children who are docile participants in the kind of labor force sought by capital. The “welfare queen,” generalized to the archipelago as a whole, marks rebellion and fugitivity.

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