Hector Luis Alamo reviews Nelson A. Denis’ War against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony (Nation Books, 2015) and its recent launch in New York. Historian José López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, presented the book. Nelson A. Denis, attorney, writer, film director and former editorial director of El Diario, was former New York State Assemblyman (1997-2001). A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Denis has written for a wide variety of newspapers and journals. Denis also wrote and directed the feature film Vote For Me!
Here are excerpts with links to the full review and additional information below:
I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the tables at Nellies packed on a Friday afternoon. There probably hasn’t been a history book anticipated more within the Puerto Rican community, at least in my lifetime, than Nelson A. Denis’ War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony (Nation Books). Everyone was there to hear Denis discuss his book. [. . .]
The guests in attendance were a veritable who’s who of Puerto Rican politics. Poet Eduardo Arocho, a native son of Humboldt Park, sat at a table with Lourdes Lugo, the former principal of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School and niece of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. New York Assemblyman José Rivera had flown in with Denis the night before and was manning a camcorder. The president of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, Mark Anthony Bimbela, sat a small table next to the podium.
Near the front door stood Ricardo Jiménez, who had been imprisoned for nearly 20 years for seditious conspiracy as a member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, a paramilitary group dedicated to the immediate and unconditional independence of Puerto Rico.
Presiding over the entire event as usual was Prof. José López, local historian, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, former professor of mine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the unofficial “mayor of Division Street.”
Prof. López began his introduction by saying he’d sat next to Denis on the plane from New York and got to know him as a man with a “deep sense of scholarship and analysis.” Denis himself would tell the audience that his research for the book began as far back as 1973, when as a student at Harvard he was shocked to discovered that, among the 3 million books at Widener Library, not one was on Pedro Albizu Campos — the titan of Puerto Rican history and, among all other things, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School. His frustration led Denis to conduct his own research, and in 1977 the Harvard Political Review published a cover story written by him.
[. . .] Yet despite Denis’ attempts at evenhandedness, there’s no denying that what he has written is a manifesto, a people’s history of Puerto Rico, meant to anger, disgust, sadden and incite. Denis packs 258 pages (plus another 71 pages of notes) with detailed accounts of government corruption, police abuse, Wall Street greed, scientific experimentation, politicking, graft, racism, wholesale slaughter, surveillance, assassinations, eugenics, propaganda, espionage, forgery and falsification — all within the span of half a century, and on an island no bigger than Connecticut.
War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of how the U.S. government invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and, during the course of an occupation persisting to this day, has looked to quietly but systematically sink it and its inhabitants into the sea through exploitation, repression and cultural death.[. . .]
With War Against All Puerto Ricans, Nelson Denis doesn’t just give us history. He gives us history on fire. This is a thoroughly researched indictment of over a century of U.S. policy toward one small island. Here we have a full-throated eulogy of brave heroes, men and women of conviction, who devoted every drop of their blood to a people and a principle.
For purchasing information, see http://www.amazon.com/War-Against-All-Puerto-Ricans/dp/1568585012
Also see the author’s page here: https://nelsondenis.wordpress.com/home/