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Una mirada dialéctica a las representaciones discursivas de la invasión estadounidense a Puerto Rico en 1898

  • Author(s): Diaz-Velez, Jorge
  • Advisor(s): Del Valle, Ivonne
  • et al.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 ended Spain’s colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere, and represented the symbolic pinnacle of U.S. imperialism throughout the Caribbean and the Pacific. During this historical juncture, the U.S. launched the invasion of Puerto Rico and established itself as the governing power. My analysis of this defining event in Puerto Rico’s history focuses on the ‘discursive’ and ‘representational’ practices through which the dominant representations and interpretations of the Puerto Rican campaign were constructed. In revisiting the U.S. ‘imperial texts’ of ’98, most of which have not been studied extensively, it is my intent to approach these narratives critically, studying their ideological and political significance regarding the U.S. acquisition of Puerto Rico as a colony.

The ‘War of ’98’ has been typically represented as an inter-metropolitan conflict, thus relegating to a secondary place the contestatory discourses produced within the colonies. It is the purpose of my dissertation to examine ‘dialectically’ the cultural counter-discourse produced by the Puerto Rican Creole elite alongside the U.S. official discourses on Puerto Rico, concerning its colonial past under Spanish domination, the military occupation of the island, and its political and economical future under the American flag. With this purpose in mind, I chose to study four post-1898 Puerto Rican novels, specifically José Pérez Losada’s La patulea (1906) and El manglar (1907), and Ramón Juliá Marín’s Tierra adentro (1912) and La gleba (1913), all of which have been underestimated and understudied by literary scholars.

As a gesture of resistance in the face of the disruption of the old social order (that is, the old patterns of life, customs, traditions and standards of value) caused by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898, the island’s intellectual elite –most of which were descendant of the displaced coffee hacendado families– responded by fabricating an ideology-driven national imaginary and iconography that proposed a hispanophile, nostalgic, and romanticized rendering of the late-19th century coffee landscape (i.e. the pre-invasion period) as an idyllic locus amoenus, thus becoming an emblem of national and cultural identity and values against American capitalist imperialism, the ‘Americanization’ of Puerto Rico’s economy and political system, and the rapid expansion of U.S. corporate sugar interests.

This dissertation has two distinct yet complementary purposes: first, it examines critically the imperial/colonial power relations between the United States and Puerto Rico since 1898, while questioning the hegemonic discourses both by the Americans and the Puerto Rican cultural elite regarding Puerto Rico’s historical and political paths; secondly, it is an attempt to do justice to the literary works of two overlooked Puerto Rican novelists, approaching them critically on several levels (historical, literary, and ideological) and bringing their works out of the shadows and into today’s renewed debates around Puerto Rico’s unresolved colonial status and U.S. colonial practices still prevalent today.

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