Most Puerto Ricans Check 'White' On The Census. But Why? : Code Switch Many Puerto Ricans grow up being taught that they're a mixture of three races: black, white and indigenous. But on the U.S. census, a majority of Puerto Ricans choose "white" as their only race. On this episode, we're looking into why that is, and the group of people trying to change it.

Puerto Rico, Island Of Racial Harmony?

Puerto Rico, Island Of Racial Harmony?

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Guanina Cotto for NPR
A black woman looks in the mirror and sees a lighter-skinned woman reflected back.
Guanina Cotto for NPR

What is your race?

It's a question the federal government asks us every 10 years at census time. But in the year 2000, that was a new question for the residents of Puerto Rico. For half a century before then, the U.S. territory's government had used its own, local census questionnaire – which did not ask about race.

And so this new question took a lot of people on the island by surprise. The way they answered it shocked many Puerto Ricans, and revealed a lot about Puerto Rico's relationship with race, colonialism and the United States.

In this episode of the Code Switch podcast, we'll dive in to try to understand why, on an island shaped by its African heritage and a long history of racial mixture, a vast majority of people tell the Census Bureau that they are white alone. We'll also hear what being largely invisible in the data has meant for black Puerto Ricans, and why some of them are mobilizing around the 2020 Census to try to change that.