Some Historical Context for the U.S. Response to Puerto Rico


As historian Marc-William Palen reminds us, Puerto Rico has always been in a “precarious position within the U.S. body politic.”  The history of the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is indispensable to understanding the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria.

Here is a taste of Palen’s Washington Post piece: “Decisions more than a century ago explain why the U.S. has failed Puerto Rico in its time of need.”

The decision made in the late 19th century to make Puerto Rico a colony without the full political equality of statehood is now crippling the island’s ability to recover from Maria. The Trump administration’s initial enforcement of the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from entering Puerto Rican ports, and the indifference of many Americans toward the plight of Puerto Ricans were born out of this nearly forgotten turn-of-the-century imperial decision. Americans must reconcile and rectify their imperial legacy, or Puerto Rico will continue to suffer.


Read the rest here.