Petra Rivera-Rideau

Associate Professor of American Studies

Interdisciplinary scholar studying race and ethnic identities and popular culture in Latin America and U.S. Latina/o communities.

Broadly, my research examines the cultural politics of race in Latin American and Latinx communities. I am primarily interested in how ideas about Latinidad – or Latinx identities – are produced and circulate in US popular culture, especially popular music.

My first book, Remixing Reggaeton: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico, focused on how the rap-reggae musical hybrid reggaeton offers new ways of thinking about Puerto Rico's relationship to the broader African diaspora. I argue that reggaeton's black diasporic politics disrupt dominant narratives of Puerto Ricanness that stress the island's ties to Spain. I have also published articles about reggaeton in journals such as Popular Music & Society, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, and Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. My article “If I Were You: Tego Calderón’s Diasporic Interventions” (Small Axe) won the Blanca Silvestrini Prize for Best Article in Puerto Rican Studies from the Puerto Rico section of the Latin American Studies Association in 2019.

My second book, Fitness Fiesta!: Selling Latinx Culture through Zumba, is forthcoming with Duke University Press. This project asks why Zumba Fitness, and Latinx popular culture more generally, is so popular in the mainstream at the same time that anti-Latinx rhetoric and anti-immigration sentiment thrives in the U.S. I consider how the Zumba Fitness brand both reproduces stereotypes of Latinx cultures as fun, exotic, and sexy, while simultaneously and contradictorily dismissing structural inequality and racism.

I also co-edited Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas with Jennifer A. Jones and Tianna S. Paschel. This interdisciplinary volume combines academic analysis, personal reflections, interviews, and photography to examine how different ideas about blackness travel across Latin America, the Spanish Caribbean, and the United States.

I am working on a new book project about contemporary globalization of Latin music and the groundbreaking success of Spanish-language artists in the mainstream with my colleague Vanessa Díaz at Loyola Marymount University. Together, we created the Bad Bunny Syllabus, a website that provides resources that contextualize Bad Bunny’s success in relation to Puerto Rican politics, reggaetón histories, and Latin crossovers. I recently served as a consultant for the videos about the history of reggaetón that Bad Bunny incorporated into his historic Coachella headlining set. I also developed one of the first courses about Bad Bunny in the United States which I teach regularly: AMST 323: Bad Bunny: Race, Gender, and Empire in Reggaetón.

I frequently comment on reggaetón in the media, both in the US and internationally. My work has been featured in news outlets such as NPR, Agence France-Presse, El País (Spain), CBS News, and Rolling Stone. I have written for the Washington Post and PBS’s American Experience. Most recently, I wrote an accompanying essay that is archived with Daddy Yankee’s recording of “Gasolina” in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Generally, my courses consider the histories, cultures, and representations of Latinx communities from a transnational perspective. At Wellesley, I teach courses about Afro-Latinx identities, Latin music in the US, Latinx popular culture, and race and culture in Puerto Rico. I also developed an introductory Ethnic Studies course with my colleague Genevieve Clutario.

When I'm not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading fiction, going to the beach, and cooking new foods.


  • B.A., Harvard University
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley
  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley