The Man Who Stole Puerto Rico

A000116“When we think of robber barons, the usual suspects include John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt. But one robber baron has gone underappreciated: the man who stole Puerto Rico.” So writes Nelson A. Denis, who explores the role of Charles Herbert Allen in Puerto Rico in the early twentieth century. He says: “By the time Allen left Puerto Rico, the entire island was a crime scene.” [Many thanks to Michael O’Neal for bringing this item to our attention.]

His name is Charles Herbert Allen, the first U.S. civilian governor of Puerto Rico. He served only 17 months, but that was all he needed to perform one of the most spectacular crimes of the 20th century. By the time Allen left Puerto Rico, the entire island was a crime scene.

Allen hailed from Lowell, Massachusetts—famous for child labor and textile mill sweatshops. Though he never served in the armed services, he loved to dress in military regalia and have people address him as “colonel.”

[. . .] He arrived in Puerto Rico on April 27, 1900 like a Roman conqueror with a naval cannon salute, the 11th U.S. Infantry Band and a division of armed soldiers behind him. He marched through San Juan and into the Governor’s mansion.

The mansion was gift-wrapped. Allen delivered his inaugural address behind the largest, most imperial flags that Puerto Ricans had ever seen. [. . .] By 1907 Allen’s syndicate, the American Sugar Refining Company, owned or controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust. By 1910 Allen was Treasurer of the American Sugar Refining Company, by 1913 he was its President and by 1915 he sat on its Board of Directors.

By 1930, Allen and U.S. banking interests had converted 45 percent of all arable land in Puerto Rico into sugar plantations. These bank syndicates also owned the insular postal system, the entire coastal railroad and the international seaport of San Juan. [. . .]

For full article, see

4 thoughts on “The Man Who Stole Puerto Rico

  1. There is no scholarly work here. Nelson Denis can’t tell the difference between fact and opinion. Agrarian and Economist historians completely disagree with his article.

    1. Really? so you mean that US historians who have shoved lies down our throats all our lived so agree with this? SHOCKING.

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