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Department of Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies

Faculty - Teresita Levy

Teresita LevyE-mail Address:
Phone Number: 718-960-1165 
Office: Carman Hall, Room 290 
Rank: Associate Professor
Degrees and Sources of Degrees: B.A., Rollins Coll.; M.S., Long Island Univ.; M.A. and Ph.D., City Univ. of New York.

Academic Interests:

Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti

Teresita Levy earned her Ph.D. in History in 2007 from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and has been at Lehman since then.  Her book, Puerto Ricans in the Empire: Tobacco Growers and U.S. Colonialismwas published by Rutgers University Press in 2014.  In this book, Professor Levy explores tobacco leaf cultivation on the island, describing how small-scale, politically involved, independent landowners grew most of the tobacco in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican farmers successfully lobbied U.S. administrators in San Juan and Washington, participated in government-sponsored agricultural programs, solicited agricultural credit from governmental sources, and sought scientific education in a variety of public programs, all to boost their share of the tobacco-leaf market in the United States. Puerto Ricans demanded and won inclusion in the empire, in terms that were defined not only by the colonial power, but also by the colonized.  The experiences of tobacco growers in Puerto Rico demonstrate that Puerto Ricans were neither victims of an abusive empire nor docile observers of profound changes in their daily lives.

Professor Levy is currently at work on a new research project that examines the movement of people within Puerto Rico, from 1898 to 1940.  Among the phenomenal changes that occurred after the imposition of U.S. colonial authority in Puerto Rico in 1900, was the rapid expansion of an export economy centered on products attractive to the U.S. market, in particular sugar and tobacco. This expansion resulted in migration patterns consistent with the seasonal availability of economic opportunities: as the harvesting seasons changed, laborers migrated to where extra hands were needed. But the seasonal migration of agricultural workers between 1900 and 1940 has not been examined in detail, nor has it been analyzed within the context of the larger movement of people throughout the island. The historiography of Puerto Rico has treated these agricultural migrations as displacements, in which Puerto Rican landowners lost their land to usurping U.S. sugar or tobacco corporations or absentee owners.  Although this was indeed the case for some of the local sugar producers, there were great variations in migration patterns when examined within particular agricultural regions and at particular times.  Professor Levy’s new research argues that rather than a male-dominated seasonal migration of landless workers, internal migrations occurred mostly in family units and were motivated not only by the search for employment, but of a permanent settlement and land ownership.  Although all regions saw an increase in the numbers of families, the tobacco regions saw an increase in both families and in landowners between 1900 and 1940.

Professor Levy continues to be involved in the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the Graduate Center, where she advises students enrolled in the Master of Liberal Arts program.

Professor Levy teaches History of Puerto Rico, History of Latin America and the Caribbean I and II, and History of the Dominican Republic.