Published March 30, 2021
In recognition of Women's History Month, we're proud to celebrate the distinguished women of UB's School of Architecture and Planning and their boundary-breaking contributions to gender equity.
Meet Carol Ramos-Gerena
Carol E. Ramos-Gerena is a PhD student and Arthur A Schomburg Fellow at the University at Buffalo. She is also a member of the UB Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab (UB Food Lab).
Prior to joining UB, Carol completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez Campus (UPRM), and her Environmental Planning master’s degree at the Graduate School of Planning at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras (UPR-RP). While attending school in UPR-RP, Carol wrote her thesis on sustainable planning of agroecological initiatives in K-12 public schools in Puerto Rico. She is interested in food system planning, agroecology, land use policies, and food sovereignty. Carol has worked in governmental and non-governmental organizations that support community development projects in her country.
Over the past 10 years, she has been a promoter of agroecology and a collaborator of environmental restoration in abandoned buildings and underused plots near public housings and public schools in Puerto Rico. In her spare time Carol enjoys drawing, jogging, supporting projects in Puerto Rico, urban farming, watching movies, and hearing Afrolatinoamerican music.
Carol Ramos reflects on intersectionality, gender equity, and positionality.
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, an archipelago in the Caribbean. The intersectionality framework is necessary to have a comprehensive conversation about Puerto Rico. In part, this is because we have around 6 million Puerto Ricans living in the US (“diáspora”) and around 3 million living in the archipelago (“locales”). Additionally, a long history of colonization is embedded in the experience of Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico has been colonized twice, first by Spain in 1493, then by the US in 1898; meaning that it has been taught for more than 527 years that it is ungovernable, financially irresponsible, inescapably dependent, a land for extractive resource activities, a space for experimentation (sterilizing women bodies without their consent and US military tactics in Vieques, for example), and obliged to be what it is not. Indeed, over 527 years, people in Puerto Rico end up learning and believing they must be like those in power by adopting their behaviors, beliefs and even their dreams. Then, Caribbean people living in a tropical archipelago start to desire to be and behave like a white, blond, male, English speaking, capitalist, conservative, middle class homeowner, car owner, individualistic, racist, classist, sexist, paternalistic, homophobic, transphobic, jingoistic, among others.
In that complexity, Puerto Ricans live very different lives depending on the overlap of individual and collective characteristics, which include but are not limited by gender, race, class, and gender identity. As a Puerto Rican light-brown skinned middle-class woman, and currently a first-year PhD student living in the US, I live through some contradictions. I am privileged and at the same time oppressed, and that is hard to explain without an intersectional framework. It also challenges my positionality when I assume the role of a researcher and writer. What does it mean to be Puerto Rican and to do research with Puerto Ricans in the archipelago, while being in the US and writing in English (like I am doing now)? I do not have a final answer yet, but I do feel and think that using the intersectionality framework allows for more honest, deep, and genuine conversations. Additionally, it can help oneself to acknowledge the privileges we have, and use them to build bridges of solidarity and collaboration.
Indeed, I see the intersectionality framework useful for advancing conversations about gender equity, as long as it is used to build bridges of solidarity, pride, joy, support. It will be useful as long as it is used to undo silence, build trust, share resources, motivate, care, and build networks; something that I hope to continue to learn and improve. Indeed, the different intersectional burdens we live need to be addressed when we talk about equity, but most importantly when we design the implementation of programs, plans and policies.
I aspire to continue to highlight the role and contributions of women in the transformation of the food system and land use policies. I want to highlight how care and food (attributed as female responsibilities) should and can be prioritized in how we plan cities and communities.
- Carol Ramos-Gerena
Name a woman leader/ professional, community advocate, and/or scholar whose contribution to the design and planning professions inspires you- and tell us why they inspire you?
I have been fortunate to have strong independent women in the field of planning, agriculture and education as my supervisors, colleagues, and friends. I am inspired and guided by their passion, commitment, and sense of responsibility by making health, justice, and collective well-being their life projects. Some of these women are Lyvia Rodríguez, Soledad Gaztambide, Katia Avilés (planners), Marissa Reyes, Ana E. Perez, Odette González, Gabriela Collazo (agroecological farmers), and Carmen Silva, Dalma Cartagena and Kiria Hurtado (teachers). All of them inspire my work, for their genuine and committed leadership to their communities and country. They balance all personal responsibilities, while advocating for what is just, necessary, and important for Puerto Rico, with lots of courage and love.
Through your research, creative practice, or professional work, how do you aspire to advance gender equity in the profession of urban planning?
Besides encouraging other women to study planning (particularly food system planning), I aspire to continue to highlight the role and contributions of women in the transformation of the food system and land use policies. I want to highlight how care and food (attributed as female responsibilities) should and can be prioritized in how we plan cities and communities. One way of facilitating this care-centered approach is to make sure women’s voices are heard, and that they are participating in the decision-making processes.