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Puerto Rico in the American Century

A History since 1898

César J. Ayala and Rafael Bernabe

Publication Year: 2007

Offering a comprehensive overview of Puerto Rico's history and evolution since the installation of U.S. rule, Ayala and Bernabe connect the island's economic, political, cultural, and social past of residents of the island as well as the many Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. The authors discuss a wide range of topics, including literary and cultural debates and social and labor struggles that previous histories have neglected. Ayala and Bernabe argue that the inability of Puerto Rico to shake its colonial legacy reveals the limits of free-market capitalism.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-13

In 1941, publisher Henry Luce announced the coming of the American Century from the pages of Life magazine. The moment symbolically marked the rise of the United States as a global power. It has been pointed out many times that American influence as proclaimed by Luce in 1941 and as built by U.S...

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ONE: 1898—Background and Immediate Consequences

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pp. 14-32

On May 25,1898, former secretary of the navy and future president Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Senator Henry Cabot Lodge urging him not to let the war with Spain end without seizing Puerto Rico for the United States: "I earnestly hope that no truce will be granted and that peace will only be made...

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TWO: Reshaping Puerto Rico's Economy, 1898–1934

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pp. 33-51

The first transformation of the Puerto Rican economy during the American Century took place in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War. After a brief transition period, the Foraker Act of 1900 allowed for unrestricted trade between Puerto Rico and the United States. "An economic...

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THREE: Political and Social Struggles in a New Colonial Context, 1900–1930

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pp. 52-73

In 1899, the two political parties that had been organized soon after the onset of U.S. rule—the Partido Federal and the Partido Republicano—called for the transformation of Puerto Rico into a state of the United States. Their programs reflected the hope of the Puerto Rican possessing classes of joining...

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FOUR: Americanization and Its Discontents, 1898–1929

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pp. 74-94

The nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of a sense of cultural distinctiveness and national consciousness in Puerto Rico. This was a graded and uneven process. The largely island-born dispossessed majority must have increasingly seen Spanish merchants and bureaucrats as belonging...

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FIVE: Economic Depression and Political Crisis: The Turbulent Thirties

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pp. 95-116

The depression of the world capitalist economy in the 19303 shook Puerto Rican society to the core. No structure instituted after 1898 was spared: the sugar industry, political parties, and the labor movement all went into crisis. The dominance of the Partido Union, renamed Partido Liberal, was...

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SIX: Cultural Debates in an Epoch of Crisis: National Interpretations in the Thirties

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pp. 117-135

The 19303 coincided with the corning of age of a group of men and women of letters who redefined the Puerto Rican intellectual landscape in a lasting way. They came to be known as the generation del treinta. What is most distinctive about this cohort is the urgency with which it debated the question of Puerto...

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SEVEN: Turning Point in the Forties: Rise of the Partido Popular Democrático

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pp. 136-161

The period between 1938 and 1948 marked the beginning of a new epoch in Puerto Rican politics. It was dominated by the rise of the Parti do Popular Democratico and by the struggle of diverse currents within it to determine its orientation. The end result of this process was the consolidation of a new...

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EIGHT: Birth of the Estado Libre Asociado

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pp. 162-178

Since 1945, Luis Muftoz Marin had argued that the status issue should be resolved in a special election or plebiscite. But during the electoral campaign of 1948, in which he was to be elected governor for the first of four terms, he put this idea aside. He now asked voters to endorse a new status through their...

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NINE: Transformation and Relocation: Puerto Rico's Operation Bootstrap

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pp. 179-200

Both politically and economically, the evolution of Puerto Rico after 1945 is a study in continuity and discontinuity. Politically, the creation of the Estado Libre Asociado marked a significant reformulation of the claims to legitimacy of the insular government within a persistent colonial framework. Similarly...

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TEN: Politics and Culture in the Epoch of PPD Hegemony

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pp. 201-222

By 1960, the Partido Popular Democratico and Luis Muftoz Marin were at the height of their popularity. Economic growth was improving the living standards of many Puerto Ricans. The more offending aspects of colonial rule, such as presidentially appointed American governors or the imposition of English...

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ELEVEN: PPD Hegemony Undermined: From Mobilization to Recession, 1960–1975

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pp. 223-246

The 19603 are remembered around the world as a moment of insurgent social movements, sudden cultural shifts, and, in many cases, political fracture at the top. Puerto Ricans on the island and beyond were part of that general trend. By 1965, the life of most Puerto Ricans had been deeply altered by the economic...

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TWELVE: Rethinking the Past, Betting on the Future: Cultural Debates from the Sixties to the Eighties

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pp. 247-266

The rise of new student, labor, antiwar, environmental, and independence currents in the late 19603 and the economic sea change of the early 19703 had their counterpart within the long-running debate on Puerto Rico's history and identity. In a manner reminiscent of the rise of the...

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THIRTEEN: Economic Stagnation and Political Deadlock, 1976–1992

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pp. 267-290

The 1974-75 recession had a lasting impact on Puerto Rico. It marked the end of the rapid postwar expansion. Real yearly gross national product growth fell from7 percent in the 19603 to 3.3 percent in the 19703 to 2.1 percent in the 19803. The official unemployment rate had never dipped below 10 percent, but by...

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FOURTEEN: Politics and Social Conflict in the Epoch of Neoliberalism, 1992–2004

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pp. 291-315

In Puerto Rico, the 19903 were years of sharpened political and social conflict. After eight years of Partido Popular Democratico administration, the prostatehood Partido Nuevo Progresista won the elections of 1992. The new governor, Pedro Rossello, was committed to a new push for statehood. This led him...

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FIFTEEN: Neonationalism, Postmodernism, and Other Debates

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pp. 316-334

A brief overview of the Puerto Rican literary and cultural landscape since the late 19803 cannot do justice to the many individual contributions and debates that have shaped it. What we can do here is sketch a map locating the main tendencies, touching on some interventions, without in anyway implying...

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pp. 335-342

The history of Puerto Rico in the American Century breaks down into four periods, which closely coincide with the phases of the U.S. and world capitalist economies since the mid-iSgos. (See Table I.I in the introduction.) Puerto Rico, as a possession of but not part of the United States, has been pulled along by its...


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pp. 343-382

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Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 383-398

There are hundreds of books and articles on Puerto Rico since 1898. To list the works cited in this book would take more space than we have at our disposal. We have selected around 250 titles from those that have been more helpful to us and that we feel may help others. We have not privileged those texts with which we agree but rather those that...


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pp. 399-428

E-ISBN-13: 9781469605609
E-ISBN-10: 1469605600
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807859544
Print-ISBN-10: 0807859540

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2007