Three Books on Puerto Rico’s Statehood vs. Independence Debate

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Here is another post related to Puerto Rico’s recent referendum and ongoing discussion on its political status. [Many thanks to Michael O’Neal for bringing this item to our attention.] Concepción de León introduces The New York Times’ readers to three books that “shed light on the United States’ relationship with the commonwealth and the various visions of Puerto Rico’s future.”

PUERTO RICO: The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World (1997)
By José Trias Monge
228 pp.; Yale University Press

In this incisive look into Puerto Rico’s unresolved status, the legal scholar and former government official José Trias Monge discusses Puerto Rico’s 500-year history, focusing on its relationship with the United States. Arguing that the United States’ indecision on the issue has been detrimental to the island — poverty is rampant and political freedom is limited — he explores the different options for Puerto Rico’s future: statehood, independence, or enhanced commonwealth status. In his analysis of the three options, he invokes examples of other Caribbean islands, including United States territories that have achieved greater autonomy, while also looking at the American interests at stake. Monge is plain in his opinion that “decolonization” is the only way forward.

REQUIEM ON CERRO MARAVILLA: The Police Murders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Government Coverup (1987)
By Manuel Suarez
278 pp.; Waterfront Press

On July 25, 1978, two supporters of Puerto Rican independence, Carlos Enrique Soto Arrivi and Arnaldo Dario Rosado, were killed by the police as they attempted to set fire to a communications tower located on the Cerro Maravilla Mountain in Puerto Rico. The official story claimed that the two deaths were the result of a shootout, but as more details came to light — after many hearings and court challenges — it was discovered that the two men had actually been lured to the site by an undercover officer and effectively executed while begging for mercy. The author places the event in the context of the debate over statehood versus independence, and convincingly implicates top government officials in the cover-up. Ten officers would eventually be charged for their roles in the murders, and in 1992, Drew S. Days III, who headed the Justice Department from 1977-80, issued a public apology for what he came to believe was an F.B.I. cover-up of the case.

THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON (1995)
By Rosario Ferré
407 pp.; Farrar, Straus & Giroux

This novel by one of Puerto Rico’s leading writers, whose father was a politician on the side of statehood, this novel is ostensibly a family epic of the Mendizabal family, but it also portrays the dissenting political views that divide many families in Puerto Rico. Told from the perspectives of both Isabel Mendizabal and her husband, Quintin, the book is a novel within a novel. Isabel takes on the task of memorializing the couple’s family history, but when Quintin finds her manuscript, he imbues the story with his corrections and perspective. “The House on the Lagoon” is a commentary on family, politics and how “the truth” is recorded.

For original article, see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/books/review/newsbook-puerto-rico-statehood-debate.html

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