Panel Discussion: U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico and Beyond

September 26, 2023

In recognition of the 125th anniversary of the Hispanic-American War of 1898, join us for a conversation about the largely unspoken legacy of US imperialism in Puerto Rico and former colonies. The panel will be moderated by Alana Casanova-Burgess (co-creator, host, and producer of WNYC Studios’ La Brega: Stories of the Puerto Rican Experience – a NY Times “Best Podcast of 2021”), and includes Javier Antonio González (CABORCA Artistic Director), Melissa Calderón (Visual Artist) and Matthew Nicdao (Research Associate at CENTRO). They will reflect not only on the shadow of colonialism, which looms over some of the bloodiest events on US soil, but the traces of political, cultural, and artistic resistance made manifest across generations and diasporas.

This panel is presented on the occasion of CABORCA's Zoetrope, presented by Abrons Arts Center 14 September–8 October.

Co-presented with CENTRO, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Image by Marcos Toledo


About Caborca

Caborca is a bilingual ensemble working in theater and film under the direction of Javier Antonio González since 2009. The company’s 14 artists from Puerto Rico, USA, China, and Korea draw on disciplinary backgrounds in theater, visual arts, postmodern dance, environmental design, and music. Holding particular space among the Puerto Rican diaspora, Caborca continually reinvents their practices to produce reflections on colonial power.

About Alana Casanova-Burgess

Alana Casanova-Burgess is the host of the bilingual podcast La Brega from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios, hailed as one of the “Best Podcasts of 2021” by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Previously, she was a reporter and producer for WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show and On the Media. In 2021, she received an Exceptional Journalism Award from the Women’s Media Center for her work on La Brega. She was also part of a team that won the Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for Blindspot: Tulsa Burning, a six-part podcast about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Her reporting has been featured in The Guardian, The New Yorker, 99% Invisible, Planet Money, Throughline, and Latino USA, among other radio shows and podcasts.

About Javier Antonio González

Javier Antonio González is a playwright, director, and filmmaker from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico and the founding artistic director of CABORCA. Selected works include Zoetrope; Distant Star (adapted from Roberto Bolaño); Open up, Hadrian; and award winning feature film, The Entitlement. Publications include Encuentro: Latinx Performance for the New American Theater (Northwestern University Press), Plays and Playwrights 2011 (New York Theatre Experience), Revista Conjunto (Casa de las Américas, Cuba), and The Puerto Rico Review. Van Lier Directing Fellow and  member of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group.

About Matthew Nicdao

Matthew Nicdao recently received his PhD in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at NYU. His research centers on race and nation formation(s) as expressed in the literary and visual cultures of nineteenth-century Spanish empire in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. His research interests include anti-colonial thought and praxis, critical ethnic studies, comparative racializations, and literary and visual cultural production. During his residency at CENTRO, he will be preparing his first manuscript—tentatively titled, Dissensus at the Edges of Empire—as well as working on two projects: one which examines the life and works of nineteenth-century Afro-Puerto Rican writer Eleuterio Derkes (including a translation of one his shorter texts) and another which analyzes artist Pepón Osorio’s 1991 installation piece The Wake (El Velorio).

About Melissa Calderón

Self-taught multimedia artist Melissa Calderón creates bodies of conceptual work exploring social and political landscapes, drawing upon historical and philosophical references to power, fragility, and perception. She has exhibited at El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum, The Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Portland Museum of Art, The Schomburg Center, ICP, and Reunión in Puerto Rico, among others. Her work was recently included in Latinx Art: Artists, Markets, and Politics by Arlene Davila. In 2019, Calderón completed NYC’s first new monument, Para Roberto, dedicated to Roberto Clemente, permanently installed in the Bronx where she was born and raised.


Founded in 1973 by a coalition of students, faculty, and activists, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO) is the largest university-based research institute, library, and archive dedicated to the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. We provide support to students, scholars, artists, and members of the community at large across and beyond New York. We produce original research, films, books, and educational tools and are the home of The Centro Journal—the premiere academic journal of Puerto Rican Studies. Our aim is to create actionable and accessible scholarship to strengthen, broaden, and reimagine the field of Puerto Rican studies.


This production of Zoetrope is produced with generous support from the Café Royal Foundation