Section 1

Historical Context

Basic information regarding Puerto Rico’s political and economic history as an “unincorporated territory.”

In order to fully grasp the island’s

current struggles of crisis and disaster, this section provides basic information regarding Puerto Rico’s political and economic history. For instance, one subsection explores the origins and effects of the political status as an “unincorporated territory.” This colonial and imperial doctrine maintains Puerto Rico as a separate and unequal territory. Proof of this is the fact that Puerto Rico’s economy was developed, not as a diversified economy with sustainable growth patterns, but as an economy of dependence.

Operation Bootstrap, discussed critically by various sources in the subsection related to development, is a key example of a policy meant to promote industrial progress, but that only served U.S. interests. Thus, Puerto Rico has had an inefficient economic model, which fostered the public debt, yet it continues to depend on the United States’ policies for solutions to the financial collapse.

Even though many revolutionary movements have failed, and U.S. citizenship is often central to Puerto Ricans’ political motivations, from this liminal political status emerged not assimilation, but a Puerto Rican culture and identity that is often at odds with the law. Some authors also review U.S. domination in relation to gender and biopolitics.

1898 and the Un-Incorporation of Puerto Rico

Charles R. Venator-Santiago “Yes, Puerto Ricans are American citizens” The Conversation March 22, 2017.

Christina Duffy Ponsa-Kraus and Burke Marshall, eds., Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution (Duke University Press, 2001).

Bartholomew Sparrow, The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire (University Press of Kansas, 2006).

Gerald L. Neuman and Tomiko Brown-Nagin, eds.,  Reconsidering the Insular Cases: The Past and Future of the American Empire (Harvard University Press, 2015).

José Trías Monge, Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World (Yale University Press, 1997).

US Colonialism and Puerto Rican Identity

Efrén Rivera Ramos, The Legal Construction of Identity: The Judicial and Social Legacy of American Colonialism in Puerto Rico (American Psychological Association, 2001).

César J. Ayala and Rafael Bernabe, Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History Since 1898 (UNC Press, 2007).

Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (University of California Press, 2002).

Jorge Duany, The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States (UNC Press, 2002).

Ramón Grosfoguel, Colonial Subjects: Puerto Ricans in a Global Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

Edwin Meléndez and Edgardo Meléndez, eds., Colonial Dilemma: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Puerto Rico (South End Press, 1993).

Pablo Delano, “A New Museum for an Old Colony, Puerto Rico“, The New York Times, 2017.

Peter James Hudson, Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean, University of Chicago Press, 2017.


Ramón Bosque-Pérez and José Javier Colón Morrea, eds., Puerto Rico Under Colonial Rule: Political Persecution and the Quest for Human Rights (SUNY Press, 2006).

Pedro Cabán, Constructing A Colonial People: Puerto Rico And The United States, 1898-1932 (Westview Press, 2001).

Isar Godreau, Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico (University of Illinois Press, 2015).

Hilda Lloréns, Imaging the Great Puerto Rican Family: Framing Nation, Race, and Gender During the American Century (Lexington Books, 2014).

Pedro Malavet, America’s Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict between the United States and Puerto Rico (NYU Press, 2007).

Katherine T. McCaffrey,  Military Power and Popular Protest: The US Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico (Rutgers University Press, 2002).

Nancy Morris, Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity (ABC-CLIO, 1995).

Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Ramón Grosfoguel, eds., Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism (University of Minnesota Press, 1997).

Jorge Juan Rodríguez V, “The Colonial Gospel in Puerto Rico,” The Christian Century, January 3, 2017.

Charles R. Venator-Santiago, Puerto Rico and the Origins of US Global Empire: The Disembodied Shade (Routledge, 2015).

Development and its Discontents

José I. Fusté, “Repeating Islands of Debt: Historicizing the Transcolonial Relationality of Puerto Rico’s Economic CrisisRadical History Review (2017)

Pedro Cabán “Puerto Rico’s long fall from ‘shining star’ to the ‘Greece’ of the Caribbean” The Conversation June 12, 2015

Sherrie L. Baver, The Political Economy of Colonialism: The State and Industrialization in Puerto Rico (Praeger, 1993).

Déborah Berman Santana, Kicking Off the Bootstraps: Environment, Development, and Community Power in Puerto Rico (University of Arizona Press, 1996).

Frank Bonilla and Ricardo Campos, Industry and Idleness (‪Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, 1986).

Diane Lourdes Dick, “U.S. Tax Imperialism in Puerto Rico,” American University Law Review (2015).

James Dietz, Economic History of Puerto Rico: Institutional Change and Capitalist Development (Princeton University Press, 1986).

Emilio Pantojas-García, Development Strategies as Ideology: Puerto Rico’s Export-Led Industrialization Experience (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990).

Argeo T. Quiñones-Pérez and Ian J. Seda-Irizarry, “Wealth Extraction, Governmental Servitude, and Social Disintegration in Colonial Puerto Rico,” New Politics (2016).


Mi santa mirada Directed by Álvaro Aponte Centeno, 15 mins, 2012

Pogreso, Directed by José Morales, 66 mins, 2006

Operation Bootstrap / Operación Manos a la obra, 59 mins, 1983


Rafael Bernabe, “Puerto Rico’s New Era: A Crisis in Crisis Management,” NACLA Report on the Americas (2007).

Frank Bonilla and Ricardo Campos, “A Wealth of Poor: Puerto Ricans in the New Economic Order,” Daedalus (1981).

Pedro A. Cabán, “The Colonial State and Capitalist Expansion in Puerto Rico: An Historical Overview,” Boletín del Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (1989).

Héctor Cordero-Guzmán, “The Production and Reproduction of Poverty in Puerto Rico,” Poverty in Puerto Rico: A Socioeconomic and Demographic Analysis with Data from the Puerto Rico Community Survey (Inter American University of Puerto Rico, 2016)

James Dietz, Puerto Rico: Negotiating Development and Change (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003).

Helen Icken Safa, The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico: A Study in Development and Inequality (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1974).

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