This history book explore the political, economic, social and cultural facets of Puerto Rico since 1898, when the United States invaded the island. The intended audience of this book are both students and readers in general that are interested in learning about the history of Puerto Rico and how U.S. invasion impacted the island. This book is written in a clear, concise and coherent matter. The book is composed of fifteen chapters and its contents is divide in to two periods, before and after World War ɪɪ. According to Ayala and Bernabe, “Each epoch exhibits two distinguishable phases: an initial period of economic expansion…dominant political parties, and labor organizations are put in place, and a succeeding phase of economic slowdown in which established structures and institutions are subject to increased stress”(2).
The book begins with a discussion of how the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and the fact that little opposition was encounter. Some of the immediate changes in Puerto Rico were the separation between church and state, freedom of speech, rise of labor movement, revival of important economic sectors such as the sugar industry, the organization of political parties such as the Partido Federal and Partido Republicano and the Foraker act of 1900. The Foraker act is particularly important because it ended the military government imposed by the U.S. and established a civilian government, and imposed a tariffs on goods coming from the island. Ayala and Bernabe argue that “through the Foraker Act, Congress both affirmed U.S. rule over Puerto Rico and defined the island as foreign territory”(26).
The invasion of the U.S. cause a drastic change in the economy of Puerto Rico. Once the Foraker Act of 1900 allowed Puerto Ricans to trade with the U.S. freely, the sugar industry, tobacco and needlework industries grew enormously. Ayala and Bernabe argued against the conclusion made by Carmen Gonzalez Munoz that the Foraker Act did not represented a colonial system, rather it was a “space of negotiation”; to this Ayala and Bernabe responded that “in fact, dependent colonial bourgeoisies have existed and prospered in many places. This does not negate the existence of colonialism, nor does it dilute the phenomenon to a mere ‘space of negotiation’” (40). Furthermore, the issues of landless laborers are raised and the authors use the data provided by the census to indicate that the reduction in farms was not significant, that in fact it increased after 1898.
The authors then turn to the political and social in Puerto Rico struggle between 1900 and 1930. The major political struggle existed between the Partido Republicano and the Partido Union over the question of the island status. The Partido Republicano advocated for statehood. On the other hand, the Partido Union wanted autonomy and eventually total independence. Ayala and Bernabe did an excellent job in discussing political figures that were active in the struggle...