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Reviews of The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History (Updated and Expanded 2020 Edition)

By 1973 when The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History was published the demand for texts and monographs, particularly in English, was frequent to supply the market for the recently established Puerto Rican study programs that were beginning to proliferate and consolidate, particularly in the east of the country. The reception was not long in coming. The reception of The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History in all circles was excellent.

The critique praised the quality, clarity and fluency of the writing, the format, content (divided into ten historical cycles), as well as the equanimity, balance, coherence, objectivity, and enlightening transitions that were preparing the reader for the subsequent topics. The versatility to capture and transmit the human and personal side behind each transformative historical-economic moment was appreciated. Rarely do critics and readers of anthological stories react with such gratitude, warmth, and appreciation as evidenced during the long circulation of a reference in English that, if at one point responded to a generational call and need, continues today to engage in a dialogue with the descendants and new generations of students, readers and historians of the diaspora and of the island.

As expected, it became required or recommended reading in multi-generational college courses. It was re-edited in 2008, and with some revisions it was republished in 2013. This year it reappears as an updated and enlarged edition.

This new edition is surprising for several reasons. The authorial consensus brings together the collaboration of three authorities. Kal Wagenheim, Dr. Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim, emeritus professor at Rutgers-Newark, were the original authors of the text and have been joined by the professor of history, from the Central Florida University, Dr. Luis Martínez Fernández.

The new section XI (“Crisis in Puerto Rico”), for which Dr. Martínez is responsible, updates the historical trajectory of the Puerto Ricans. It brings together thirteen revealing documents (primary sources, newspaper articles, scholarly essays, the 2012 plebiscite ballot and others), which provide a synthesis of the events that since 2006 have undermined the social, economic and political life of Puerto Ricans. When Professor Martínez Fernández classifies this historical period as one in “crisis”, he is not exaggerating. The serious economic and political disasters, unfortunately allied to recent atmospheric phenomena, emblematically highlighted all the ills of the island, underlining above all the fragility of all its infrastructural scaffolding and colonial state. Professor Martínez frames these calamities, that the anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla calls a swarm of disasters or the coloniality of the disaster, as catastrophes generated some by nature itself and others by politicians and rulers. Among the most relevant events are the elimination of Section 936, including an important contribution that demystifies the announced debacle after its eradication, the continuation of the endless political debate on the status, the crisis of the unpayable economic debt of 2015, the imposition from 2016 of a debt and budget oversight board, the post-Hurricane María disaster and its impact, the exodus of Puerto Ricans to Florida and the participation of women in the peaceful revolt of July 2019 against Governor Ricardo Roselló.

Professor Martínez continues, like the previous parts by the Wagenheim, a narrative characterized by an elegant and clear style, and his collection of documents, is accompanied by valuable notes and an important bibliography.

The three editors have been able to generate great educational value through the selected documents that capture the determination, resilience and creativity that have continuall defined the Puerto Rican people and how they have managed to respond strategically and artistically against colonialism, ineptitude, immorality and corruption of politicians and public servants, speculators and their associates, in order to survive the “fury” of so many types of “hurricanes” throughout their history.”

El Post Antillano

 

“This book reproduces and contextualizes the documents that are instrumental to the historical events… the book is very valuable. It provides a lot of information, some of it familiar, but a lot of it new… In the last section, edited by Luis Martínez-Fernández, groups together thirteen documents referencing Section 936, the Supreme Court decision that ratified the Island’s lack of sovereignty in ELA v. Sánchez Valle, and the text from the law PROMESA. The section also presents the situation of deaths following Hurricane Maria, the statistics after the massive exodus to Florida, and the descriptions of the protests against Governor Ricardo Rosselló. This book is enormously useful and timeless. It provides access to Puerto Rico’s important documents and assesses their effects.”

El Nuevo Día

 

“The updated and expanded edition of “The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History” includes a combination of documents and articles that touch upon some of the most important developments since 2006. Among those newly added historical elements include the financial crisis that exploded in 2015 and its consequences, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, the exodus to Florida, and the peaceful revolt of 2019.
A classic standard for students of Puerto Rican history, “The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History” continues to be an ideal curriculum textbook and reference. Impressively informative, expertly organized and presented, “The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History” should be a part of every personal, community, college, and university library collection.”

Midwest Book Review

 

This book offers a sweeping overview of roughly 500 years of Puerto Rican history through documents that have been carefully and skillfully chosen by two specialists in the field. The authors have organized the book into ten sections, based on chronological and thematic divisions. … The editors begin each section with a helpful and concise introduction that contextualizes the documents that follow; they have also included a brief explanation of each document. The result is a clear and compelling book that allows the reader to develop both a general sense of the key events that have shaped the last 500 years of Puerto Rican history as well as an in-depth appreciation of the processes and debates that defined them. … The variety of speakers presented in this book allows the reader to grasp how complex and conflicting the history of Puerto Rico, or of any nation for that matter, is. The editors are to be commended for their deep knowledge and creative use of sources… and the enormous contributions that this book makes to illustrating the richness of Puerto Rican history.”

— Margaret Power, Bulletin of Latin American Research

 

“An essential sourcebook for a better understanding of the Puerto Ricans. The editors believe that their experience as a people has been obscured by propaganda and that a subtle brand of colonialism still endures. They prove both points … Their book [has] a kaleidoscopic, fast-paced rhythm that makes it engrossing reading. It is a welcome addition both to Puerto Rican historicity and to American ethnological literature.”

— The New York Times

 

“An excellent ‘documentary history’ of Puerto Rico, its problems, present status, tensions and prospects.”

— The Nation