Looking for books? Here are four (or six)

If you are looking for something to read during these times, here are four books related to Puerto Rico’s political status and to our citizenship:

Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire
Sam Erman is Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law
Cambridge University Press

The book lays out the story of how the US denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the country in 1898. As the US became an overseas empire, Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitution law: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood, and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. The book shows how, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents together with judges deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional meaning for a quarter of a century. The result is a history in which the US and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.

Still interested in this topic? Here is doctor Erman’s dissertation: Puerto Rico and the Promise of United States Citizenship: Struggles around Status in a New Empire, 1898-1917.

And if you still haven’t, read Dr Bartholomew H. Sparrow’s The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire (University Press of Kansas) so you can read some of the letters politicians and members of the US Supreme Court exchanged as to how the Court should rule regarding Puerto Ricans’ political rights.

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Named one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune, a Publishers Weekly best book of 2019, and a 2019 NPR Staff Pick, this is a history of the US overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire. People in the US are familiar with the idea that the US is an empire, exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—the US has governed? The book reveals forgotten episodes that cast US history in a new light, including how in Puerto Rico US doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the US Congress.

Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation, and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico
Ed Morales is a lecturer at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Bold Type Books

An accounting of Puerto Rico’s 122 years as a colony of the US. Since its acquisition by the US in 1898, Puerto Rico has served as a testing ground for the most aggressive and exploitative US economic, political, and social policies. The book traces how, over the years, Puerto Rico has served as a colonial satellite, a Cold War Caribbean showcase, a dumping ground for US manufactured goods, and a corporate tax shelter. The book also shows how Puerto Rico has become a blank canvas for mercenary experiments in disaster capitalism on the frontlines of climate change.

The book uses the aftermath of Hurricane Maria as a starting point. If you are interested in this topic, Naomi Klein’s The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists also analyses and denounces how US capital interests want to profit and impede a fair recovery for all Puerto Ricans.

Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law
James Q. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law in Yale Law School
Princeton University Press

The book discusses how US race law provided a blueprint for Nazi Germany. Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the US. Did the US regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The answer is yes. The book presents a detailed investigation of the US impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. The Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in US race policies, including the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917.

It is terrifying to read how the Nazis used the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917´s imposition of citizenship and its refusal to grant political powers because of racist considerations as an inspiration.

Do you have books to recommend? Let us know in the comments.


The place to learn about Puerto Rico, the U.S., and … what kind of relationship do they have, anyway?

Welcome to my website, where Puerto Rico’s law, economics, finance, and political status meet and greet. And sometimes argue with history.

I write about the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico for the reader who would like to know more about the chain that binds Puerto Rico to the U.S. (that’s the word the U.S. Supreme Court used!) without having to delve into academic treatises or historical volumes.

I believe analyses about Puerto Rico must consider the historical background of its constitutional development, as well as its relationship with the U.S.: Puerto Rico’s legal framework, constitutional boundaries, and political realities and limits are unique — even if some features seem similar to those of sovereigns or U.S. states.

I hope you enjoy your visits; let me know what you think.