Scathing examination of American colonial policy in Puerto Rico, culminating in the violent, brief revolution of 1950 and its brutal suppression.
Filmmaker, former editorial director of El Diario and New York State Assemblyman Denis seethes at the injustices inflicted on the small island protectorate of Puerto Rico since it was seized from Spain during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and relegated to being a base for President Theodore Roosevelt’s “big stick” policy in the Caribbean. According to the prevalent racial policy of the time, Puerto Ricans were considered too ignorant and uncivilized for self-rule. Massive sugar cane–grinding mills run by American corporations would soon dot the tropical landscape, and the impoverished inhabitants were enlisted in the backbreaking labor of cutting and processing the cane for pennies a day. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the island a territory, not a state, and thus the U.S. Constitution did not apply, denying the workers any fair labor policies enjoyed by U.S. citizens. A Nationalist Party was formed at the same time, closely followed and infiltrated by the FBI, according to documents the author secured. The Ponce massacre of March 1937—when the police opened fire on unarmed cadets marching through the town square, killing 19 and wounding over 200 people—galvanized unrest and rebellion. In telling this gruesome and little-recorded history, Denis concentrates on the personalities involved: the corrupt governor Luis Muñoz Marín; the Harvard-educated Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos; the documentarian of the Nationalist cause, Juan Emilio Viguié; and the humble barber Vidal Santiago Díaz, whose Salón Boricua became the fulcrum of dissent and political organization. The 1950 rebellion concluded horrifically in violent death or imprisonment at San Juan’s notorious La Princesa prison. Denis produces compelling evidence of U.S. government–sponsored radiation and other medical experiments inflicted on prisoners.
A pointed, relentless chronicle of a despicable part of past American foreign policy.