JAPACS

EquaLibro

 

EquaLibro is a library of links dedicated to works of writing that offer readers of LA CHULETA CONGELÁ’ other essential information on Puerto Rico’s search for self-determination and citizenship equality. Each book offers a glimpse into some facet of Puerto Rico and all that makes the island territory a unique place on earth and particularly American politics. 

 

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EquaLibro #1: Puerto Rico: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World. (Trias Monge, 1997)

In a 1998 review, one Owen M. Fiss said of this book: “Jose Trias Monge has given us a stirring commemorative gift. It is a history of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States over the last 100 years. The book is not, mind you, history for history’s sake, but rather is imbued with a moral purpose: to invite, maybe even force, a reconsideration of the status issue. It is a call for an end to what Trias aptly calls America’s ‘unstudied indifference’ toward the status of Puerto Rico.

Trias’s writing is distinguished by the passion that infuses his argument, by his careful and balanced presentation of the array of contending positions, and by the generosity he shows towards the United States. In law schools, we often teach our students to be generous towards their adversaries–to always take the high road and consider their opponents’ argument in the best possible light, not as a matter of conscience, but of strategy. Maybe Trias is simply displaying a law-school lesson well learned, but my hunch is that something deeper and more important is involved. This, it seems to me, is the work of a man of good will.

An even more remarkable feature of the book is Trias’s use of the rhetoric of colonialism. The practice of referring to Puerto Rico as a ‘territory,’ which always struck me as an exercise in sugar-coating, is dropped, and in its place we find the full acknowledgment of Puerto Rico’s colonial status.”

 

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EquaLibro #2: Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity. (Morris, 1995)

“This book uses historical and interview data to trace the development of Puerto Rican identity in the 20th century. It analyzes how and why Puerto Ricans have maintained a clear sense of distinctiveness in the face of direct and indirect pressures on their identity. After gaining sovereignty over Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898, the United States undertook a sustained campaign to “Americanize” the island. Despite 50 years of active Americanization and another 40 years of continued United States sovereignty over the island, Puerto Ricans retain a sense of themselves as distinctly and proudly Puerto Rican.

This study examines the symbols of Puerto Rican identity, and their use in the complex politics of the island. It shows that identity is dynamic, it is experienced differently by individuals across Puerto Rican society, and that the key symbols of Puerto Rican identity have not remained static over time. Through the study of Puerto Rico, the book investigates and challenges the widely-heard argument that the inevitable result of the export of U.S. mass media and consumer culture throughout the world is the weakening of cultural identities in receiving societies. The book develops the idea that external pressure on collective identity may strengthen that identity rather than, as is often assumed, diminish it.”

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EquaLibro #3: America’s Colony: The Political and Cultural Conflict Between The United States and Puerto Rico. (Malavet, 2004)

Javier A. Couso, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile states: “Even before the political cataclysm produced by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the question of the persistency of imperial power in the era of globalization was the source of preoccupation for a large number of social scientists and legal scholars. In a paradigmatic example of the literature addressing this problem, Hardt and Negri, in EMPIRE (2001), stressed the non-territorial, de-centralized nature of contemporary forms of imperial power. In the aftermath of the U.S. response to that tragedy – which included the very territorial attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq – the question of imperialism is now even more pressing.

It is within this context that the book under review, AMERICA’S COLONY, by Pedro Malavet, represents a contribution to a debate that it seems it will be with us for a long time.  As the author points out, with its nearly four million inhabitants, Puerto Rico represents by far the most populated territorial possession of the United States – which also include the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Marianas, and American Samoa. More importantly, its current status leaves the population in a sort of political limbo, due to the diminished U.S. citizenship of those who live on the island.  By contrast, the 2.7 million Puerto Ricans residing in the U.S. ‘properly’ (that is, on the continent) enjoy the same rights as the rest of the American population.

Although Puerto Rico is officially a ‘free associated state’ of the United States, this apparently autonomous status hides the fact that the final word regarding the fate of the island ultimately lies with the American authorities, which makes the expression ‘colony’ a proper label for the island. In this work, Pedro Malavet offers an account of the historical origins and evolution of Puerto Rico’s subordination to the United States, as well as the options available to end this political treatment of what is truly a nation without sovereignty.”

 

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EquaLibro #4: Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History since 1898. (Ayala & Bernabe, 2007)

Dr. Gustavo A. Mellander (Ph.D. in Latin American History and former dean the University in Puerto Rico) reviews as follows: “It’s First American century began in 1898, when through no fault of its own it was conquered by United States forces. It went from an ignored Spanish colony discovered by Columbus in 1502 to a shaky alliance with a more powerful United States.

No wonder its history has been so complex. There have been many missteps and many fruitful successes along the way. But Puerto Ricans are a valiant and resourceful people. They created one of the most democratic areas in Latin America and made significant contributions to their island and to the United States in a number of fields. Its relative stable economy and growing middle class is the envy of many in Latin America.

The question of Puerto Rican status, should it be independent, a state or continue as a ‘commonwealth’ still bubbles under the surface. Many referenda have been held. Normally 48 percent vote for statehood, 48 percent vote for the existing commonwealth status and less that 3 percent for independence.

Rafael Bernabe has written a serious study and is balanced in his presentation of the various political and social trends that buffet the small island. Bernabe’s style is scholarly and his facts are accurate. Destined I assume for a university audience, it will be well received. I wish he would have written for a broader audience and captured some of the island’s color. He does drone on. So much more could have been chronicled. But … it is still a worthy read.”

 

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EquaLibro #5: The Supreme Court and Puerto Rico: The Doctrine of Separate and Unequal. (Torruella, 1985)

In this book, federal judge Juan R. Torruella–the first Puerto Rican to be appointed to the federal courts–exposes the sinister “reasoning” used by the U.S. Supreme Court justices in the infamous “Insular Cases,” which spanned between 1901 and 1922.

This is the authoritative exploration of a series of cases that have been appropriately compared to the Court’s decision in Plessy v. Furguson. Torruella provides the direct analysis of a federal judge, who happens to be of Puerto Rican descent, but does not provide any political solutions to the status problem because, as it is, he believes that “straightening” out the constitutional mess that previous justices of the Supreme Court have created would answer the largest question: whether the current unequal “Commonwealth” status can stand in perpetuity.

The most fascinating aspect of the book is Judge Torruella’s ability to navigate through the constitutional fog of the early Twentieth Century, which combined American imperialism and democratic values into a singularly important question: Does the U.S. Constitution apply (automatically) wherever American power goes? As Torruella notes in the book, at this time in U.S. history there was little to go by, so the Supreme Court filled in the gaps by imposing what it viewed as the prevailing arguments of its day. And thus the Supreme Court of the United States created an entirely new (second) class of citizenship.

This is a great read for anybody who wants to know about how Puerto Rico came to be the oldest colony in the world!

 

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