Puerto Rico's Colonial Status and Bad Bunny's Anti-Colonial Artistry

Section Synopsis: Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1952, Puerto Rico officially became an Estado Libre Asociado, or Free Associated State, with the ratification of the island’s new constitution. While ELA status granted Puerto Rico some autonomy over some matters on the island, it ultimately left the United States federal government in charge of most key decisions and solidified the colonial relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. The current crises in Puerto Rico thus stem from this longer colonial history.


Puerto Rico in the American Century presents the history of Puerto Rico from 1898, when Puerto Rico became a US territory initiating the beginning of American colonization. César Ayala and Rafael Bernabe cover the political, cultural, and economic history of Puerto Rico since 1898. Chapters like “1 1898—Background and Immediate Consequences” and “8 Birth of the Estado Libre Asociado” provide information on the legal status of Puerto Rico.

This article puts the history of Puerto Rico’s economic and legal conditions in conversation with those of Native American nations and lands inside the United States, as well as other US territories such as Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Although Puerto Rico is often looked at in isolation, Fusté shows that when looking at other territories we get a bigger picture that puts into perspective the extent of American imperialism.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, media outlets referred to Puerto Ricans as “fellow Americans” in their coverage of the storm’s aftermath. In this article, Frances Negrón-Muntaner argues that rhetorically including Puerto Ricans as Americans is not enough to help Puerto Rico as they are not entitled to the full privileges of American citizenship despite legally being citizens.

In “Puerto Rico, U.S.A.: Possessed and Unwanted” Juan Gonzalez outlines the hardships that Puerto Rico’s colonial status has caused for its people through an analysis of their economic, military, and political history.  He argues in favor of changing Puerto Rico’s political status under the United States focusing on what he terms an “associated republic” Being an associated republic would allow Puerto Rico to be a separate nation but remain in a close, voluntary relationship with the United States including dual American and Puerto Rican citizenship for people born in Puerto Rico, a common currency, and no immigration barriers.

In this work, LeBrón outlines the deep relationship between law enforcement forces in Puerto Rico and in the United States mainland which was often spearheaded by Puerto Rican political elites. From La Morzada in the 1940s and 1950s which targeted independence activists to protect the new commonwealth status that was adapted from the Smith Act which targeted communists and anarchists on the mainland to collaboration between local law enforcement and the FBI’s COINTELPRO program to surveil political dissidents, the Puerto Rican elite and mainland policing forces have been strong allies in the repression of Puerto Ricans.