A White Professor Pretended to be a Puerto Rican Woman From The Bronx

Yesterday the activist community was met with the bombshell news that a local activist and professor of African American studies who claimed to be an afrolatina Puerto Rican woman from The Bronx was in fact a white, Jewish woman.

Jess La Bombera was not in fact from The Bronx but Jessica A. Krug from Kansas City.

Krug revealed her years of deception in a blog post yesterday on Medium where she wrote:

“For the better part of my adult life, every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies.

Not just any lies.

Jessica Krug aka Jess La Bombera when we met last year at the Puerto Rican festival in East Harlem /©Welcome2TheBronx

To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.

I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring.

People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love.

The bombshell immediately made headlines across not just the country but made it to the international news cycle in this connected world we live in.

For most of the day I was occupied with work and had forgotten to read the story until a friend messaged me with the link and her picture popped up.

My face clearly showed my lack of enthusiasm around her.

I froze. I realized that I think I may have met her at some point and when my friend told me she was a salsa teacher I immediately remembered from where.

Last year I attended the annual Puerto Rican festival in East Harlem with some friends and a close friend of mine introduced us.

She was dancing salsa with a Puerto Rican flag hanging from her shorts and, well, seemed like one of us.

Krug never identified herself as an Afro Boricua to me but she did say she was Puerto Rican from The Bronx living in East Harlem.

I never questioned her accent for it sounded pretty authentic to me (maybe it was the two nutcrackers I had in me but I digress) but there was something indeed off about her and I was turned off by the energy she projected so I tried to limit my interactions with her.

Krug talked to me about being a salsa dance teacher and after watching her dance I thought she was pulling my leg because she wasn’t really that good of a salsa dancer to be an instructor but I digress yet again.

To me, she was Puerto Rican and didn’t seem otherwise. Even if she said her last name was Krug I wouldn’t have thought twice about it given the history of colonization in Puerto Rico.

A few months later we ran into each other again at another festival but I quickly parted ways as I didn’t want to be around that off energy she gave.

Fast forward to the present day and my gut instinct about her was right although I would never have imagined it was something so violent as claiming a heritage that isn’t yours especially in academia.

As a white woman, her theft of an Afro Latina identity is violence. That’s not up for discussion.

How many grants and opportunities did she steal by passing as such? How many other REAL Afro Latinas missed out on a crucial opportunity to advance their careers because of this vulture appropriating a culture that is not hers?

We already know that oftentimes Afrolatinos are overlooked in favor of whiter or lighter presenting Latinos in every aspect of society so this isn’t a stretch but a fact that theft of opportunities did occur.

This incident also opens up another discussion which is as to what exactly does a Puerto Rican look like.

I’ve seen a lot of ignorant comments across social media stating, “Oh she’s definitely not Puerto Rican, look at her!” but the fact of the matter is that we are not a monolithic people where we all share the same traits.

In Puerto Rican culture we’re taught that we’re a mixture of and descendants of three races: White, African, and the Taino indignenous people who inhabited Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

But that is one of the biggest myths because we’re not all this pure mixture of the three.

A Puerto Rican can as easily be White appearing as they can be Black, or Taino presenting or a mixture of all.

We’re not what Hollywood and the media portrays us to be but immensely more diverse than what you may think.

There’s so much to unpack and discuss here.

People trusted Krug and let her into their spaces and lives, spaces that are sacred and like a mythical vampire she drained the life from these relationships she built upon a foundation of deception only to better herself and her own livelihood.

At least George Washington University is now investigating the fraud that is Jessica Krug but the damage is done and although she’ll forever be a pariah, she’ll likely continue to make a living perhaps with a book deal like all the frauds before her.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.