Luis A. Figueroa–Martínez is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and core faculty in the Urban Studies Program and the Cities first-year gateway program at Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies.
His scholarly interests range widely. His initial research focused on slavery, post-slavery and race in Puerto Rico. It resulted in the book Sugar, Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico, co-published in 2005 by The University of North Carolina Press and Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Recipient of an essay award in 2006 from the Puerto Rico Chapter of the PEN Club International, this book examines the transition from slavery to post-emancipation on the island by looking closely at the southeastern Guayama region, the sugar plantation zone most dependent on African slave labor in Puerto Rico in the 1800s.
Figueroa-Martínez’s work in the field of documentary film production includes serving as scholar and script consultant for “Puerto Rican Passages” (1995), on the Puerto Rican migration to Connecticut; and as scholarly consultant and co-producer (uncredited) for “Ritmo de Pueblo” (2001), a film exploring the role of music in Puerto Rican culture on the island and the diaspora. Both films premiered on Connecticut Public Television and were later broadcast on other PBS affiliates. In addition, he directed and produced two short films on issues of race, gender and sexuality at Trinity College: “Umoja House: Coming to Grips with Diversity” (2003) and “Halloween on Vernon Street” (2006). A third, related short film is currently in its pre-production phase.
Beginning in the 2000s, Figueroa-Martínez’s research shifted to urban history and urban studies, initially as a member of Trinity’s Hartford Studies Project, led at the time by Susan Pennybacker, who was then the Borden W. Painter, Jr., ’58/H’95 Professor of European History at Trinity, and is currently the Chalmers W. Poston Distinguished Professor of European History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This project was funded principally with grants from the Rockefeller and Kellogg foundations.
Figueroa-Martínez is currently completing a manuscript on urbanism, suburbanization, and colonial modernity in San Juan, Puerto Rico since the 1930s, centered on Avenida Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hato Rey.
His new research centers on urban politics, race, class and dance music culture in Hartford and New York City since the late 1980s.
Prior to joining Trinity College, Figueroa–Martínez was an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Associate Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, as well as co-founder of UConn’s Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, which were merged in 2012 to become El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies.
Born in Ponce, and raised in Coamo, Puerto Rico, Figueroa-Martínez earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in Latin American History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under Steve J. Stern, Florencia E. Mallon, Thomas E. Skidmore, and Francisco Scarano; and his B.A. in General (Interdisciplinary) Studies at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras.