Road Trip USA: It's a small world in Rhode Island
At just a hair over 1,200 square miles — 37 wide, 48 long and 14% underwater — Rhode Island is less than half the size of the county I grew up in in central Nebraska. By national standards, it is tiny. By the standards of a rural Nebraskan, it is the daily commute, the distance between neighbors, the stretch to the nearest gas station. To Carlos Garcia-Quijano, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island, born and raised in Puerto Rico, it’s the closest he’s come to his homeland since moving to the mainland.
“I grew up in an island environment, and an island society where everybody knows one another. The way things work socially and politically here, good and bad, is the most like Puerto Rico I’ve experienced,” he tells me, reclining behind his desk, framed by anthropological readers and popular titles like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Luis Sepulvida’s The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. Built like a swimmer, he’s wearing a dirt-brown T-shirt with a puma on the front and speaks with a thick Latino accent. “Here in Rhode Island, just like in Puerto Rico, almost anybody you meet, you know their cousin, and not a distant cousin — their first cousin.”