In this scholarly essay, I explore how Mayra Santos-Febres and Amina Gautier create subversive representations of Black Puerto Rican women in their texts, and how both writers expand representations of the Black matriarch and nationhood. I also argue that both writers evoke problematic Black motherhood tropes to dismantle them. Mayra Santos Febres fictionalizes Isabel Luberza or “Isabel La Negra” to create a new, complicated mother of Puerto Rico who escews stereotypes and has agency and self-possession. Santos-Febres thus reclaims the stories of obscured Black Caribbean women like Isabel La Negra as her own and creates new national narratives. Gautier uses absent Black American mothers married to Puerto Rican men to show the nececssity of Black women in American and Caribbean spaces. Gautier explores the ramifications of the loss of the Black mother on the Puerto Rican family, and the myth of a true Puerto Rican motherland. I also argue that writing about the erasure of Black women as a Black woman is a kind of subversive act itself, as the Black woman’s narrative stands in as a societal mirror. Both writers show how these complex “fictional mothers” can serve as “fictive kin” to Black women searching for radical sites of home.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.