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Caribbean, Latin American & Latino Studies

Masters of Arts in Humanities in Caribbean and Latin/o American Studies (CLAS)
A Multi-Sited Pre-Professional Program in Advanced Studies and Research

José F. Buscaglia

Program Director

José F. Buscaglia-Salgado (born 1964) is a philosopher, scholar, university administrator and public intellectual. His work moves across the disciplinary boundaries of aesthetics, architecture, critical theory, history, literature, cultural and policy studies in the Caribbean, the Atlantic World and beyond. One of his major responsibilities as Program Director is taking our students abroad and managing all aspects of our operations in Mexico and Spain.


Buscaglia, or “Profe” as he is affectionately known by our students, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is the son of the Puerto Rican sculptor José Buscaglia-Guillermety, and grandson to Rafael Buscaglia Rivera, a lawyer, banker, politician and founder of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico. He is married to María L. Pesquera-Salvá, a Spanish teacher, professional dancer and Zumba instructor. Their son, Javier A. Buscaglia-Pesquera is an architect in Chicago.

As an American from the Caribbean Islands, or Antillean, Buscaglia can trace his ancestry to almost every region of the world. His Pan-African heritage includes North African, Malian, Ghanaian and Bantu; his Native American lineage is predominantly Arawak/Taino; his European ancestors came mostly from the Iberian and Italian peninsulas, as well as Greece, England, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. He also has in his family background European Jewish, Caucasian, Near Eastern and Central Asian.

In his early formative years he attended school in San Juan (Colegio Marista 1969-71; Colegio San José 1976-1979), Madrid, Spain (San Estanislao de Kotska, el Castillo 1971-1976) and Lexington, Massachusetts (Lexington High School 1979-1982). During his high school years he was active in the opposition to the US War in Central America, serving as a volunteer in the Central American Solidarity Association (Cambridge, MA). He also worked for one year at Harvard University, as research assistant to professor Julio Samuel Valenzuela, currently at Notre Dame.

At Princeton University  he studied under acclaimed Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American scholar Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, to whom he was research assistant for three years. In 1984 he spent a semester studying abroad in Bogotá, Colombia and in Managua, Nicaragua, where he experienced the early stages of the Sandinista Revolution in power. He received his BA in History and Latin American Studies in 1986. His Masters in Architecture (1995), MA in Comparative Literature (1997), and PhD in Comparative Literature with a specialization in Critical Theory (1998) are  from the  University at Buffalo.

Before entering academia Buscaglia worked as an investigative journalist and editorial writer in Puerto Rico (1987-1991) being one of the youngest persons ever to have a regular column of political commentary in El Nuevo Día, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the nation. In 1987 he testified before the subcommittee of the 105th US Congress on the “United States – Puerto Rico Political Status Act” (H.R. 856) calling for the end to the US occupation of his native country.

Academic career

Buscaglia began teaching as an instructor in the University at Buffalo in 1993, becoming a Visiting Assistant Professor in the departments of Architecture (1995) and Modern Languages (1997). He was Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures from 2001 to his obtainment of early tenure in 2005. In 2008 he became Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies and in 2013 he was promoted to Full Professor in the Department of Transnational Studies.

Since the start of his academic career professor Buscaglia has been an ardent advocate of international education and study abroad. Every year since 1995 he has taken undergraduate as well as graduate students in summer and semester-long programs to Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Spain and Morocco. His pioneering programs in Cuba ran continuously from 1997 to 2007. From 2001 to 2007 he was the first professor from an institution of higher education in the United States, since the revolution of 1959, to teach a regularly scheduled seminar (Caribbean Thought) every year at the University of Havana (Faculty of Arts and Letters). He has also taught courses at the Autonomous University of Yucatan (Faculty of Anthropological Sciences), Mexico and the University of Salamanca (Cursos Internacionales), Spain.

In the University at Buffalo, Buscaglia was the Director of the Puerto Rican Studies Program (1997-1998), the first such program in history. Under his tutelage, the Program in Puerto Rican Studies was expanded and transformed into the  Caribbean Studies Program (1998-2000). He is the founder of the Masters Program in Caribbean Cultural Studies which he has directed since 2000. That was the first ever joint-degree granting program ever established between a US and a Cuban university. Buscaglia was the chief of the UB delegation during the negotiations that produced the agreement (1998-2002). The UB-UH masters program ran from 2000 to 2008. In 2009 the geographic and disciplinary horizons of the program were broadened and enriched by the inclusion of the current partner institutions in Mexico and Spain.

Professor Buscaglia is a member of the editorial board of the journals CR: The New Centennial Review (US), Culture & History Digital Journal (Spain), Dirasat Hispanicas (Tunisia) and Diálogos Latinoamericanos (Denmark). He is also a founding member of the Latino Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Scholarly interests, publications and awards

Reflecting his educational background, professor Buscaglia’s work  is deeply trans-disciplinary, dealing primarily with the history of ideas, ideologies and aesthetics, public space and the body, iconography and the imaginary in the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, the Atlantic World and Europe. His work, though at times profoundly theoretical, is solidly grounded in archival research and fieldwork.

Undoing EmpireHis first book, Undoing Empire, Race, and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003) coins the neologism of mulataje as a practice of thinking and being that, since the 16th Century, has continuously attempted to undo the calculations of racialism. It also reclaims the term Usonian to refer to the peoples, national ideology and neo-imperial tradition of the United States of America.

Primarily on account of this book, Buscaglia was honored with the 2013  Nicolás Guillén Prize for Philosophical Literature bestowed by the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA). Past recipients of this award include Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez and other major Caribbean writers such as Wilson Harris, Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz. According to the selection committee of the CPA, the award was given “for the overall impact of his work as a literary critic, public intellectual, and institution builder. The committee paid special attention to the influence of his book Undoing Empire, Race, and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean, which has already influenced scholars across the globe since its publication in 2003.”

InfortuniosHis most recent book is a critical edition of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora’s 1690 account of piracy and captivity Infortunios de Alonso Ramírez (Madrid: Polifemo/CSIC, 2011). After a century of scholarship on the work, Buscaglia has been first to prove that the story is based on a real person, having found Ramirez’s marriage certificate and having located the precise site of his shipwreck in the Bacalar Coast of Yucatan. Following in the tradition of Caribbean discourse, the substantive prologue, extensive critical essay and copious notes (over 600) to the 1690 edition, are a treatise on the multi-disciplinary possibilities of research and critical thinking across the humanities, the arts, architecture, geography, navigation, religion, politics and the social sciences. The work builds on the research findings revealed in his introduction to Historias del Seno Mexicano (Havana, Cuba: Casa de las Américas, 2009) where Buscaglia was the first to prove the existence of Alonso Ramírez as a true historical figure by furnishing concrete evidence that included Ramírez’s marriage certificate and extensive documents relating to his capture by English pirates off the coast of Manila. Together with the major discoveries he made in two separate expeditions to the Coast of Bacalar, leading to the identification of the Ramírez’s shipwreck site, these are the most significant findings in more than a century of scholarship on the book.

Of this work on the Infortunios de Alonso Ramírez professor César Salgado (University of Texas at Austin) has said: “Buscaglia reaches in this edition a more exhaustive level of archival, geographic, hydrographic and even archaeological research than that reached up to the present time by the other renowned scholars who have worked on Sigüenza (among whom are titans such as Irving Leonard and Elías Trabulse).” He goes on to add: “The magnitude of what Buscaglia has attained with this edition of the Infortunios is comparable with the philological and archival work conducted over the years by researchers from Cintio Vitier to Enrique Sáinz to settle the disputed history of the celebrated first Cuban poem, Espejo de paciencia (1608). It is comparable to the tremendous cartographic, archaeological, hydrographic, ethno-historical, archival and exegetic work done by Rolena Adorno and Enrique Pupo Walker to authorize their excellent and timely critical editions of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios (1542). Nevertheless, I find the closest example of what Buscaglia achieves in the work of the philologue, archaeologist and Hellenic mariner of the early 20th Century, Victor Bérard. . . whose monumental research proved the existence of a poet by the name of Homer. I believe and I am confident that Buscaglia’s edition could well provide the equivalent benefits to colonial studies and studies of the American imaginary.”

As a public intellectual, one of Professor Buscaglia’s latest contributions to the geopolitical debate on the future of the Caribbean is “El Caribe al final de la Era Usoniana: Hacia un nuevo modelo de confederación” (The Caribbean at the End of the Usonian Age: Towards a New Model of Confederation), (Aguaita, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 2011).

Articles online

The Misfortunes of Alonso Ramírez (1690) and the Duplicitous Complicity Between the Narrator, the Writer, and the Censor,” Dissidences, Hispanic Journal of Theory and Criticism, 1.1 (September 2005).

Infortunios de Alonso Ramírez (1690), o del naugfragio que le abrió a América el mundo (Misfortunes of Alonso Ramírez (1690), or On the Shipwreck that Opened the World to America), La Habana Elegante, 50 (Fall-Winter 2011).

Yo que soy el Diputado de esta Ysla y su Representante': causas, consecuencias y alcance de la disputa entre el diputado de la Junta Central Suprema, Ramón Power, y el capitán general Salvador Meléndez en torno al mando supremo en la Isla de Puerto Rico, octubre-noviembre de 1809” (“I, Being this Island’s Deputy and its Representative”: Causes, Consequences and Legacy of the Dispute between the Deputy to the Junta Central Suprema, Ramón Power, and the Captain General Salvador Meléndez Concerning the Supreme Command of the Island of Puerto Rico, October-November 1809), La Habana Elegante, 54 (Fall-Winter 2013).

Los alarifes de Santo Domingo: la historia oculta de los musulmanes que construyeron la primera ciudad europea en América” (The Alarifes of Santo Domingo: the Hidden History of the Muslim Masters Who Build the First European City in America), Dirasat Hispánicas, Tunis, Tunisia, 1(2014): 43-54.

Other interests

Buscaglia is an avid sailor, having been initiated into the maritime arts and trades as a young man by his maternal grandfather, Frank Salgado Landrón, a descendant of the Irish-Scottish sailor and ship builder John Lanrdum O’Neil who settled in Puerto Rico during the second half of the 18th Century. He has sailed extensively on lakes Erie and Ontario and cruised all over the Caribbean Sea, from Cuba to the Grenadines, and in the Bahamas. He also enjoys skiing, scuba diving, fishing, hunting, carpentry, automotive and engine mechanics, as well as playing the Spanish guitar. His dream is one day to sail across the Atlantic Ocean following the old route of the Spanish galleons from Havana to Seville.

Contact information

Program in Caribbean and Latin/o American Studies
Department of Transnational Studies
712 Clemens Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260-4620
Phone: (716) 645-3664