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Last Name
University of Pittsburgh
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Political identity, student activism, social movements, transnational radicalism
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About Me

Aura S. Jirau is a historian of political identity and social mobilization in the Greater United States and Latin America. She is currently completing her PhD in History at the University of Pittsburgh. Focusing on Puerto Rico, she is interested in the construction of anti-colonial political rhetoric and the development of collective organizing against the archipelago’s present-day political status.


Her current research analyzes mid-twentieth century student activism in Puerto Rico’s largest university, the University of Puerto-Rico-Río Piedras, from 1952-1981. This period saw the consolidation of the Estado Libre Asociado (Commonwealth/ELA) as Puerto Rico’s political status, and both a rise in statehood’s popularity as an alternative and the development of the Nueva Lucha por la Independencia (New Struggle for Independence) as alternatives to the ELA’s developmentalist projects. Through a combination of archival and oral sources, Jirau found that student organizations turned the Río Piedras campus into a microcosm of the main political collectives that questioned the ELA status off-campus. Pro-independence student activists framed their institutional demands as part of broader claims in favor of Puerto Rican decolonization. Still, their novel engagement with Third World liberation movements and Left politics did not exempt them from the influence of Nationalist tendencies that preceded them. This research also shows how political organizing in the Río Piedras campus initiated activists into trajectories that sometimes last until the present, leading to the construction of vanguardist narratives that imagine the university as a leading force in struggles against US colonialism in Puerto Rico.

Recent Publications

“Envisioning New Intellectual Futures: Critical Puerto Rican Studies Analyze the Verano del 19,” Centro Voices (August 13, 2020)

“Guillotines, Illusionism and Protest in Contemporary Puerto Rico,” Latino Rebels (January 24, 2020)

“Strike Pedagogy: Student Resistance to Puerto Rico’s Economic Hassles,” Perspectives Daily (August 31, 2018)

“Storming Through Research: Historical Production in Post-María Puerto Rico,” Perspectives Daily (July 19, 2018)

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Puerto Rico, United States
Expertise by Geography
Caribbean, Latin America, United States
Expertise by Chronology
20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Children & Youth, Colonialism, Higher Ed, Politics, Rebellion & Revolution