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Documenting a Puerto Rican Identity
Of all the former Spanish colonies in the Americas, Puerto Rico, the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, was the only territory that never gained its political independence. The years between 1800 and 1930, however, paved the way for the formation and development of its political institutions and national identity. The keys to the internal dynamics and the dramatic socio-economic...
Radicalism and Repression
Throughout most of the nineteenth century, Puerto Rico and Cuba remained the last two Spanish colonies in the Americas. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both islands had served as military posts in numerous wars between Spain and the other European powers for control of the region, and both served during the early 1800s as the final outposts in Spain's military strategies to regain...
Society and the Economy in Early-Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico
The first half of the 1800s witnessed unprecedented population growth in Puerto Rico. Most of the growth resulted from Spanish immigration as a Spanish subjects from other parts of the hemisphere--including troops and other peninsulares from former Spanish possessions that had recently achieved their independence--and refugees from adjacent Caribbean islands came to Puerto Rico. While Puerto Rico had approximately 183,000 inhabitants in 1812, it...
Political Trends in the Nineteenth Century
Amidst long periods of Spanish control and repression, there were brief times--largely coinciding with the ascendance of liberal governments in Spain--that brought liberal reforms to Puerto Rico. Most political reforms on the island took place between 1812 and 1814 and between 1869 and 1873. Local political leaders were highly influenced by the liberal ideas of the American Revolution (1776), the French Revolution (1789), and...
The Grito de Lares: The Rebellion of 1868
Frustrated by the lack of political and economic freedom, and enraged by the continuing repression on the island, Puerto Rico's pro-independence movement staged an armed rebellion in 1868. Known as the Grito de Lares (the "Cry of Lares"), the rebellion broke out on September 23, 1868. It was planned by a group led by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis, who on...
A Puerto Rican Literature
The period between 1868 and 1898 was crucial to the development of Puerto Rican political institutions: it witnessed a pro-independence rebellion, colonial reform, the establishment of the first national political parties, the abolition of slavery (in 1873), and a short-lived experiment in autonomy under Spanish rule. These events occurred at a time when Puerto Rico had become a heterogeneous society with a well-established national...
Politics and Reform in the Later Nineteenth Century
Between 1869 and 1873, a liberal government in Spain extended ample liberties to the Caribbean, including the rights of Cubans and Puerto Ricans to send representatives to the Spanish Cortes (parliament). Puerto Rico was given the status of Diputación Provincial(making the island a province of Spain) and the way was paved for the establishment of the first national political parties.
Party Consolidation and Civil Crisis
Between 1876 and 1898, the two liberal factions united around the goal of political autonomy for Puerto Rico, abandoning that of assimilation with Spain. During the mid-1880s, they developed a party platform calling for self-government and renamed their party the Partido Autonomista Puertorriqueño (Autonomous Puerto Rican Party). Meanwhile, in exile, the pro-independence movement planned several invasions, which never materialized for lack of funds and...
Autonomy and War
In 1897, in a desperate effort to hold on to its last two possessions in the Americas, Spain granted Cuba and Puerto Rico a broad array of rights including those under Title I of the Spanish Constitution, which bestowed all the rights of Spanish citizens and gave universal suffrage to all males more than twenty-five years old. Then on November 25, 1897, Spain approved...
Puerto Rico and the United States
Although Puerto Rico had just begun its experiment with self-government granted by the Spanish rulers in 1897, its citizens initially greeted the transfer of ultimate authority from Spain to the United States in 1898 with much enthusiasm because of the promise of the expansion of American democratic values and economic development. However, while the transfer led to dramatic socioeconomic transformation, Puerto Ricans' dreams of...
American Perceptions, Puerto Rican Realities
Between 1900 and 1930, mutual misperceptions and negative stereotypes took deep root both in Puerto Rico and in the United States. While the local Puerto Rican elite began to embrace American culture, American efforts to impose the English language in local schools met strong resistance, and the insensitivity and inconsiderateness Puerto Ricans experienced from the military and civilian authorities appointed to govern the island...
About the Author
Marisabel Brás, a Senior Analyst at the Department of Defense and formerly a member of the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, is the author of numerous articles on the history and politics of Puerto Rico and other areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.