PROFESSOR DR. PETER CARLO BECERRA, CRES VISITING ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Dr. Peter Carlo Becerra preferred to sit outside as we discussed his arrival at TCU and all that preceded. The afternoon sun pushed temperatures to the brink of scathing, but shaded by a small tree between Rees-Jones Hall and the library, we left much of the heat to students as they passed through the small courtyard. As conversation progressed, the setting increasingly took on a metaphorical role in which Texas Christian University was Dr. Carlo Becerra’s shadowy haven from years of quick stops preceded by stability.
A New York native, Peter Carlo Becerra was born to parents who migrated from Puerto Rico in the 1950’s. He lived and studied in New York until the age of 33, when he returned to his family’s home island. There he lived for 16 years, taking on contracted faculty positions before staying with the University of Puerto Rico for a few years. Dr. Carlo Becerra teaches History and Latinx Studies courses. His scholarship ponders the impact of race and color difference on Puerto Rican migrants to New York City during the years between the World Wars through a reconstruction of the urban ecologies within which they resided, worked, and were even criminalized. He studies that spatially mediated nexus between crime, race, and labor. This work is not just academic fare, but “conceptual evidence” of his experience as a Nuyorican born in the Bronx. His work also explores “passing” in the Afri-Atlantic World, socio-historical methodologies, and the ontological constructs of social reality these infer. Dr. Carlo Becerra looks to transdisciplinary approaches as capable of unifying the sciences.
He was a casualty to massive budget cuts caused by a controversial fiscal plan approved for Puerto Rico in 2018. Dr. Carlo Becerra had bounced around since then, stating specifically: “I ended up in Richmond, Indiana, for a year and a half through COVID. I was applying for another gig and I got extended an offer for another 1-year contract over in Minnesota. And I was about to take it.” Just before he accepted, TCU called him for an interview, and proceeded to extend an offer that he couldn’t help but accept. “I thought Fort Worth would be better than some place up in Minnesota.” At the time of our interview, Dr. Carlo Becerra had only been in the city a few weeks, and expressed optimism when speaking on what he hopes to discover in Fort Worth, as well as what knowledge he aspires to share with his students.
Of the multiple courses that he’ll be covering for the CRES department, he was most excited to see the outcome of his teachings in the “Capitalism, Race, and Crime” course being offered in the fall semester. Much of the curriculum has connections to both his research and personal life, as his upbringing during a much more sinister time in New York City led him to conduct studies on the very subject matters of race and crime in his hometown, and their impact on the Puerto Rican demographic during the 20th century. “You know, I grew up expecting to be shot. It was a common experience. I was lucky enough to get out of it… And at some point, I started studying it,” said Dr. Carlo Becerra, elaborating on how his course ties back into his own experience. Furthermore, he noted that spaces for students to educate each other and people in their communities was pivotal for radical nationalist movements by Puerto Ricans and Chicanos in the past.
While being modest in saying that he didn’t see himself contributing to opening those spaces on TCU’s campus, he does believe that he has the chance to implant the concepts that would bring about such movement: “What I’d like to be able to do is to impress upon them, the idea that change is necessary, that they have to be change oriented. And that change means doing something, you know.” As Dr. Carlo Becerra uttered these words, the bell in Carr Chapel began to ring out, signifying the start of a new hour, and the closing of our conversation. In exchanging pleasantries, he inquired about local restaurants, and what kind of weather to expect as the year went on. While the news that the shade could only stifle the sun in short bursts was a bit disappointing, he seemed ready to settle in on a campus that had done more than enough to shelter him from a shifting education landscape.
“I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to be here, and to be part of this community, scholarship, and to be here in Fort Worth. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get to experience this little neck of the Southwest.”
Written By: Alonzo J. Rangel