Department of History

Aura Jirau Arroyo

  • Graduate

About Me:

I am a historian of political identity and social mobilization in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before coming to Pitt, I acquired a BA in History of the Americas at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. My experiences going through a student strike in Río Piedras and researching my dissertation in the aftermath of Hurricane María shaped my approach to higher education and the historian’s profession. They enhanced my commitment to fostering collaborations among various sectors of a University’s community and increased my awareness of the researcher’s role in the spaces they study. My current project historicizes mid-twentieth century student activism at my undergraduate Alma Mater, analyzing its connections to the Puerto Rican government’s developmentalist policies and other political movements off-campus.


Latin American History
World History
Comparative Student Movements
Twentieth Century Puerto Rican History

Teaching Experience:

HIST 0700 World History (Standalone Instructor, Summer 2019, Fall 2020)
HIST 1691 Latino History (Standalone Instructor, Summer 2020)
HIST 0687 The United States in the Middle East (TF for Luke Peterson, Spring 2017)
HIST 0601 United States 1877 to the Present (TF for Liann Tsoukas, Fall 2016)
HIST 0301 Imperial Russia, 1865-1917 (TA for Scott Smith, Spring 2016)
HIST 0101 Western Civilization II (TA for Leslie Hammond, Fall 2015)

Representative Publications

 “Envisioning New Intellectual Futures: Critical Puerto Rican Studies Analyze the Verano del 19,” Centro Voices (August 13, 2020)
“Guillotines, Illusionism and Protest in Contemporary Puerto Rico,” Latino Rebels (January 24, 2020)
“Strike Pedagogy: Student Resistance to Puerto Rico’s Economic Hassles,” Perspectives Daily (August 31, 2018)
“Storming Through Research: Historical Production in Post-María Puerto Rico,” Perspectives Daily (July 19, 2018)

Research Interests

PhD Dissertation Topic:

Preliminary Title: Campus, Conflict, and Island Transformations: The People of the UPR-Río Piedras, 1952-1981

Committee Members: Dr. Lara Putnam (Chair), Dr. George Reid Andrews, Dr. Laura Gotkowitz, Dr. Aldo Lauria Santiago (Rutgers University – New Brunswick)

My dissertation historicizes student activism in Puerto Rico’s largest public university, the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus from 1952-1981. It investigates trajectories of political organizing in Río Piedras in relation to the archipelago’s post-1952 developmentalist agendas, and the development of the Nueva Lucha por la Independencia (New Struggle for Independence) and pro-statehood party politics that showed dissatisfaction with the colonial status quo. Through a combination of archival and oral sources, I show that university students were actors in the construction of rhetoric and collective action that contested Puerto Rico’s political structures during the mid-twentieth century. My research sheds light on how political organizing in Río Piedras initiated activist trajectories that sometimes last until the present, resulting in the construction of vanguardist narratives that imagine the university as a leading force in struggles against US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Moreover, it offers a novel lens to analyze the impact of US-American interventionism and the Cold War in Puerto Rico, and how they were contested by its peoples.