La Brega

1. What Is La Brega?

In this kick-off episode, host Alana Casanova-Burgess sets out to define la brega and examine what its ubiquity among boricuas really means. A brega implies a challenge we can’t really solve, so you have to hustle to get around it. In Puerto Rico, Cheo Santiago runs a social media account called Adopta Un Hoyo, where people deal with the huge problem of potholes by painting their edges white and posting photographs of craters to the site. Because the roads are rarely fixed properly, the challenges of potholes (hoyos) and what people do to fix them or get around them is a metaphorical and literal brega in Puerto Rico. She talks with Cheo Santiago, who runs a social media account called Adopta Un Hoyo, to learn more about this particular problem, and with scholar and professor emeritus at Princeton, Arcadio Diaz Quiñonez. Some twenty years ago, he published an influential essay called “De Como y Cuándo Bregar”. The essay used the language of la brega as a lens to understand Puerto Rican history and politics and identity, arguing that there’s something about this word that unlocks a lot about who we are. Amidst potholes, protests and metaphors, Alana finds all the meanings that lie within “la brega”, how it sometimes asks too much of boricuas, and how the word has an innate sense of hope.

If you want to see the video of the water truck referenced in this episode, click here.

Arcadio Díaz Quiñones has a new online archive of his work, and you can learn more about it here. His essay, "De Cómo y Cuándo Bregar", can be found in the collection El Arte de Bregar.