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The Effect Of American Colonialism On Puerto Rico's Identity

2677 words - 11 pages

The Effect of American Colonialism on Puerto Rico's Identity

The Pandora’s box of information that I have discovered about Puerto Rico under early U.S rule provide some fascinating details on the background of contradictions that characterize debates on the political, economic and social issues concerning the island. Since its invasion in 1898, the United States has shaped the policies of the island according to its own discretion in spite of the people of Puerto Rico. The country did not have time to shed the skin of Spanish colonial rule before the United States set foot on the island to add its own layer of imperial legacy. The island was taken as a compromise to end the Spanish American War. How the newly acquired territory would take shape, and some of the local and international influences that might have contributed to the evolution of the Puerto Rican political, social and economical structure are some of the issues that I hope to address. As is customary an attempted commentary of this sort cannot be complete without the subject of identity, after all, this issue seems to be at the core of the status of the island.

While Puerto Rico was being held under the care of the department of War, the political leaders in the United States capital pondered how to legislate the policies of the new possessions. The Treaty of Paris that was drafted as a means to end the Spanish American War had declared the new possessions, (The Philippines, Hawaii and Puerto Rico among others) colonies of the United States of America. Decisions made by the U.S. regarding one of these countries would evidently influence the policies towards the other. Although they were acquired during the same period of time, the legislation would vary according to the different social, political and economic characters of each island. And, according to Guerra these "overseas territories acquired [by the U.S. in 1898] represented the new frontier to be pacified, conquered and stylized to fit U.S political, business and ideological interests in new ways." (Guerra, 49)

There were many considerations and debates about the U.S. policies towards Puerto Rico. They however did not include Puerto Ricans, as the local governmental structure left in place by the former colonial power was simply brushed aside by the new owners. The United States Congress now had the ultimate power to determine the political and economic fate of the island. Fernandez succinctly sums up the situation at that time, "Puerto Rico was stranded in a sea of ambiguity, racism, good intentions, whimsy, audacity, contradiction, indifference and political compromise." (Fernandez, 2) Why didn’t the Puerto Rican people take action against such blatant disregard for their island and its culture?

Despite having political representation in the Spanish parliament Puerto Ricans were not necessarily satisfied with Spain’s governmental policies, and furthermore they did not have any semblance of uniformed social or...

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