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Between Power, Relationships and Landscape in Puerto Rico’s Coffee Sector

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Title: Between Power, Relationships and Landscape in Puerto Rico’s Coffee Sector
Author: Walker, Justina
Department: Collaborative International Development Studies
Program: Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Advisor: McCook, Stuart
Abstract: Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017 and devastated the island’s agricultural industries, most notably the coffee sector. Since the hurricane, there has been growing public and private sector interest in replanting coffee trees and revitalizing the coffee industry. Both the public and private sectors have contributed to the replanting of Puerto Rico’s coffee lands in various development projects. Many actors have become involved in the replanting activities, but with limited collaboration and excessive bureaucracy. This thesis investigates how power in Puerto Rico’s coffeelands has been renegotiated due to the multi-sectoral replanting project and the implications of this power reorganization on the future sustainability of Puerto Rico’s coffee landscape. Through a qualitative analysis using Actor-Network theory, I posit that Puerto Rico’s coffeelands are experiencing a reorganization of power between human and nonhuman actors and have become the site of political and social tension. Since their early stages, the coffee sector revitalization efforts have been fractured and bureaucratic, and the introduction of new coffee seeds has intensified this. Public and private actors operate within a complex network of power relations and frequently work at odds or against each other. I conclude the thesis with recommendations for greater collaboration between actors and future coffee varietal selections for farmers.
Date: 2021
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