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Negotiating Empire

The Cultural Politics of Schools in Puerto Rico, 1898–1952

Solsiree del Moral

Publication Year: 2013

After the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, the new unincorporated territory sought to define its future. Seeking to shape the next generation and generate popular support for colonial rule, U.S. officials looked to education as a key venue for promoting the benefits of Americanization. At the same time, public schools became a site where Puerto Rican teachers, parents, and students could formulate and advance their own projects for building citizenship. In Negotiating Empire, Solsiree del Moral demonstrates how these colonial intermediaries aimed for regeneration and progress through education.
    Rather than seeing U.S. empire in Puerto Rico during this period as a contest between two sharply polarized groups, del Moral views their interaction as a process of negotiation. Although educators and families rejected some tenets of Americanization, such as English-language instruction, they also redefined and appropriated others to their benefit to increase literacy and skills required for better occupations and social mobility. Pushing their citizenship-building vision through the schools, Puerto Ricans negotiated a different school project—one that was reformist yet radical, modern yet traditional, colonial yet nationalist.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

When I discuss my research with friends, colleagues, and students, inevitably, at some point in the conversation, I declare unapologetically: “Puerto Rico is the center of the world!” A historian of empire must consider the case of Puerto Rico. “The oldest colony in the world,” Puerto Rico has much to offer historical understandings of Spanish colonialism in the Caribbean and the United States as ...

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Introduction: Hacer patria

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pp. 3-23

During the first week of December in 1920, teachers, parents, and students came together to celebrate the progress and promise of schools. Local committees organized conferences, exhibitions, and parades that acknowledged schools as “a great factor in the progressive action of the people of Puerto Rico.”1 In Mayagüez, teachers and staff of the Reform School held a parade and school festival in the ...

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Chapter 1. The Politics of Empire, Education, and Race

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pp. 24-57

The spectacle of clashing political projects shaped the historical moment that was turn-of-the-century Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican liberals in the late nineteenth century successfully negotiated a reformed colonial relationship with the declining Spanish empire. Spanish imperial authority in the Caribbean was deteriorating as Puerto Rican liberal reformers and Cuban radical revolutionaries struggled ...

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Chapter 2. El magisterio (the Teachers)

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pp. 58-90

US officials, informed by racial ideologies about nonwhite peoples in the mainland and territories, intended to consolidate and centralize the colonial school project. However, local teachers, educators, politicians, and intellectuals forced US officials to negotiate those intentions. Documenting literacy through census statistics, keeping track of the number of new classrooms ...

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Chapter 3. Citizenship, Gender, and Schools

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pp. 91-119

In 1917 the US Congress approved legislation for Puerto Rico and other territories that embodied the practices of “imperial formations,” providing another example for how the United States as a modern empire “blurred genres of rule and partial sovereignties” as it “created new subjects . . . under uncertain domains of jurisdiction and ad hoc exemptions from the law on the basis of race ...

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Chapter 4. Testing for Citizenship in the Diaspora

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pp. 120-149

The Puerto Rican diaspora of the early twentieth century was a product of US imperial practices in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The new colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States facilitated the immigration of Puerto Rican labor to the metropole, to Hawaii, Florida, and throughout the Northeast.1 Although the “great migration” of Puerto Ricans to the United States ...

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Chapter 5. Parents and Students Claim Their Rights

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pp. 150-177

The decade of the 1940s marked a new historical moment in the relationship between colonial state building, schools, and citizens. The colonial school system continued to expand. Communities witnessed the building of more schools, hiring of more teachers, and enrollment of more students. However, at the same time, a larger total number of school-age children were not able to attend school. ...

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Conclusion: Education, Nation, and Empire

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pp. 178-184

Twentieth-century Latin American nation-building projects looked to schools and teachers.1 The practice of defining national identities, forging citizens, and establishing the relationship between citizen and state required the collaboration of teachers and schools. It was in the classroom that teachers—civil servants in - corporated into federal governments—daily practiced nation building. Schools ...


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pp. 185-202


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pp. 203-215


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pp. 217-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780299289331
E-ISBN-10: 0299289338
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299289348
Print-ISBN-10: 0299289346

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 13 b/w photos, 5 tables
Publication Year: 2013