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Puerto Rico, protests and revolution in historical perspective

Geoffroy de Laforcade


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In the eighteenth century, when the Bourbon dynasty in Spain enacted a policy of administrative reforms designed to strengthen its control over Spanish America, Puerto Ricans living outside of San Juan barely felt the presence of the colonial state. Puerto Rico was a peripheral outpost of the empire, of far less strategic value than Cuba, and had been dependent for centuries on the Audiencia of Santo Domingo. This link to administration of the Spanish state was severed in 1795 by the cessation of Santo Domingo to France. The following year, Spain took up arms on the side of revolutionary France, causing a military retaliation from Britain that took the form of attacks on the entire system of Spanish defense in the Caribbean, in particular the islands of Trinidad and Puerto Rico. In April 1797, the Puerto Rican resistance to occupation by the world's most powerful naval empire achieved an epic victory that galvanized the patriotism of creoles and caused Spain to tighten its control over the island. Thus an incipient discourse of national belonging or pride was articulated by the privileged elites of Puerto Rico, just as the colonial power extended its bureaucratic and military presence throughout the colony for the first time. The incident that triggered the independence process throughout the southern Americas was the invasion of Spain in 1808 by the armies of the French emperor ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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