Puerto Rico's preeminent historian, and five collaborators, have filled a longstanding gap with an adequate-to-splendid...


PUERTO RICO: A Political and Cultural Odyssey

Puerto Rico's preeminent historian, and five collaborators, have filled a longstanding gap with an adequate-to-splendid history of the island ""for Americans."" Morales Carrión himself briefly but eloquently taps the Indian legacy. For the period of Spanish rule, he gives way to four of his colleagues, who provide textbook-y accounts (factual fill-ins, but little more) of Puerto Rico as a military outpost and smuggler's paradise through most of the 18th century; as a royalist bastion during the Latin American revolutions; as a thriving and cohesive plantation society on the brink of self-government when, following Cuba's rebellion from Spain, the Americans landed. (Not quite, as it happens, for the first time.) Then, Morales resumes--and the narrative takes on dramatic and interpretive shadings; there are sources notes and quotes; there are shaping ideas. ""Puerto Ricans who did not side with the Washington governors would be considered anti-American. . . . The American appointees felt that Puerto Ricans should stop their politicking, tinged with a high degree of personalismo, which they found distasteful. They embraced, therefore, a rather naive idea that the best way to promote the US style of democracy was to teach that partisan activity, job-hunting and jockeying for power, typical of US politics, were somehow harmful to Puerto Rican development, and constituted an undesirable pressure disturbing the good role of the tutor. It was the application of a double standard."" The tension between ""American colonial tutelage,"" on the one hand, and Puerto Rican political conflict on the other--eased by reforms under Wilson and good governors under Hoover--prevailed until the impoverished island again assumed military importance in World War II. Then, the ""cafe poet""/grass-roots organizer Munoz Matin, and the ""fervent New Dealer"" Rexford Tugwell, conjoined--to point the way toward Operation Commonwealth and Operation Bootstrap. Since the Munoz era, Morales concludes, external cross-currents and internal squabbles have made consensus almost impossible. A compact summary of Puerto Rican cultural history, by another hand, is appended--letting the last emphasis fall, appropriately, on cultural identity. Altogether, the troubled US/Puerto Rican relationship is traced with emotional resonance and intellectual fiber.

Pub Date: June 20, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983