Marisol LeBrón is an assistant professor in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. An interdisciplinary scholar working across American Studies, Latinx Studies, and Feminist Studies her research and teaching focus on social inequality, policing, violence, and protest movements in Puerto Rico and U.S. communities of color. She is the author of "Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico" (University of California Press, 2019), which examines the growth of punitive governance in contemporary Puerto Rico.
Loíza, a low-income and predominantly Afro-Puerto Rican town and municipality just outside of the capital city of San Juan, has long been plagued by racist and violent policing practices. The siege-like conditions that police created in many of Loíza’s public housing complexes and neighborhoods have done little to stem high rates of violence and crime in the area, and, to the contrary, have directly contributed to the general sense of insecurity that many residents feel. Tired of seeing how both police violence and gang violence were creating harm and death in the community, Taller Salud, a feminist public health organization based in Loíza, decided to take action. In this talk, I look at Taller Salud’s program Acuerdo de Paz, which has worked to develop systems of community accountability and mediation as a way of working outside of the punitive structures that tend to exacerbate violence and insecurity in Loíza. I position Taller Salud’s Acuerdo de Paz initiative as just one example of a growing movement in Puerto Rico that is rejecting punitive governance and trying to create alternative visions of justice that do not rely on the intensification of conditions of vulnerability for already marginalized communities.