The Modern Day Colony of Puerto Rico and the De

3 Credits
June 1 – 12, 2011
Paradise Reclaimed:
The Modern Day Colony of Puerto Rico and the De-Militarization of Vieques
The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has been a lynchpin of the world’s geopolitical balance since the Spanish colonization of the New World in the 1500s. A U.S.
possession since 1898, today, Puerto Rico provides a fascinating case-study of the
cultural and economic effects of 500 years of colonialism and military occupation. This
course gives students the opportunity to volunteer and study in rural communities,
learning first-hand about the Puerto Rican struggle for self-determination, cultural
autonomy, and environmental and economic sustainability. The cultural identity of
Puerto Rico is constantly evolving and is the product of Latino, Indigenous, African and
American popular cultures. This course studies the history, political economy, ecology,
and land use patterns of Puerto Rico to form a geographic survey of this modern day
In an attempt to better understand the effects of the colonial process the
largest part of the trip will be spent on the island of Vieques, just off the coast of the
main island. Until 2003, Vieques was --not only a tropical paradise-- but a U.S. Navy
bombing range and weapons-testing site. The Navy abandoned Vieques after sustained
popular protest and civilian occupation of the bombing range effectively stopped
military exercises. This was the first time in world history that a non-violent, solidarity
based political movement succeeded in ousting a U.S. military operation. On Vieques,
we will learn from the activists, students, grandmothers, and fishermen responsible for
the movement’s success, as well as scientists currently working to quantify the effects
of military-toxins on public health.
Other activities and topics include:
The Puerto Rican independence movement
Food Security and Agro-ecology. See what rural communities are doing to
reinvigorate agricultural sustainability
Tropical Ecology and Forest Management at Casa de la Selva, a tropical rain
forest reserve
Volunteer Work in the community of Patillas
Viejo San Juan. The oldest part of Puerto Rico’s capital has a village atmosphere
in an urban setting. Here students can explore one of the first Spanish forts in
the New World, visit a multitude of art and culture museums, giggle at the
hordes of cruise-ship tourists, and see world class Latin music.
 El Yunque. This mountainous, unlogged tract of rainforest is the only tropical
land managed by the U.S. Park Service and the setting for our hike deep into
the forest.
Course Learning Goals
To become familiar with the diverse natural and human ecology of Puerto
To learn about environmental, conservation and food security issues facing Puerto
To become familiar with Puerto Rico’s history and contemporary
popular culture
To understand the economic, social, and military dynamic between Puerto Rico and
the United States
To understand the environmental consequences of military operations
To use Puerto Rico as a case-study through which to view global socio-political and
economic issues
Academic Format and Requirements
Students are graded on the following:
Participation 30%
Pre-Trip and In-Trip Writing Assignments 30%
Post-trip Research Paper 40%
Required Readings
 The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History, edited by K. and O. Wagenheim,
Markus Weiner Publishers, 1999.
 The Disenchanted Island, by Ronald Fernandez, Greenwood , 1996.
 Islands of Resistance, by Mario Murillo, Seven Stories Press, 2001.
 The Line of the Sun, by Judith Ortiz Cofer, University of Georgia Press, 1991
In addition students will:
 Complete assigned readings prior to, and during, their time in Puerto Rico
 Complete a Final Research Paper
 Complete several short writing assignments prior to, and during, the trip (see
Pre-trip Analytical Writing Assignments
 Students are expected to complete the assigned text for this course before arriving
in Puerto Rico. Students will submit five 2-3 page analytical papers based on the
following study questions and the course text: The Disenchanted Island, by Ronald
Fernandez, Greenwood , 1996.
These five questions all refer to information found in Ronald Fernandez’s The
Disenchanted Island. You should cite examples from the book to help illustrate your
answers, citing the page number where the cited information is found. Each essay
should be 2-3 pages, 12 point double-spaced.
Students should attempt to answer the assigned study questions through logic,
illustrative examples from assigned readings, and personal analysis. Each essay will (1)
use at least five cited references from the text, (2) refer to and outline the main ideas
and arguments of the text, and (3) be followed by questions, commentary, analysis,
protests, opinions, or any combination of these.
How was Puerto Rico made an American possession after the Spanish-American
War? Be sure to refer to both economic and political tactics. What was the
Shout of Lares and how did it relateto U.S. colonialism? (Chapters 1 & 2).
Discuss the plantation economy of the early 1900s. How did it work? Who was
Pedro Albizu Campos? How did he organize against U.S. economic controls? (35)
How did Puerto Rico’s economy transform from an agricultural to an industrial
one? Why was the U.S. pushing this transformation? (4-7)
Discuss the situation on Vieques island in the context of U.S. foreign policy in
the Caribbean and Latin America. (6-9)
Outline the arguments for independence, statehood, and continued
commonwealth status for Puerto Rico. Your analysis should include quotes
from, Luis Muñoz Marín, Pedro Albizu Campos, Millard Tydings, and Joseph
In-Trip Writing Assignments- to be completed during your time in Puerto Rico
Answer each of the following three questions in 2-3 pages of 12 point, or 4-6 pages of
legible, hand written, double-spaced work.
1. Drawing on your reading, conversations, and observations, make a concise
argument for, or against, Puerto Rican independence. Back-up your argument with
at least four examples from the readings.
2. Discuss the role of agriculture in Puerto Rico; economically, historically, and
3. In The Line of the Sun, Judith Ortiz intensely describes the Santaria religion that she
experienced living in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Paterson, New Jersey. First,
compare and contrast Ortiz’s description with what you have personally learned
about contemporary Santaria. (The climactic scene of the novel takes place at a
Santaria ceremony). Second, describe what happens, and –most importantly—
what is the symbolic significance of this scene in regards to Puerto Rican culture in
the USA? Use examples from the novel to illustrate how Puerto Rican culture has
both changed and remained the same in the U.S.
4. Choose a piece of art that communicates a historical or political theme. Write
about it, being sure to provide historical context for your description.
5. In your first few days on the island come up with a question you would like
answered. Interview at least 5 people. Write down the answers you receive. Then,
in 2-3 pages, analyze the information you have collected. How do people’s answers
differ? Why?
Final Research Paper
The Final Research Paper should explore some aspect of The Modern Day Colony of
Puerto Rico and the De-Militarization of Vieques, a very broad and malleable theme.
Exactly what the final product will look like will be tailored to fit your needs and
interests. While the research project option can be designed to give you an
opportunity to express your learning through new and creative ways (different from
traditional research papers), this option also requires a written research paper.
The research paper should follow commonly accepted rules of academic scholarship
and be at least 8-10 pages. This paper will be due two weeks after your return from
Puerto Rico. Late work is not accepted.
Day 1- Arrive in San Juan late; go to hotel in Viejo San Juan; orientation meeting
2- am: walking tour of Viejo San Juan including El Morro and the Cultural Heritage
Museum; lunch; pm: Lecture- History of Puerto Rico and current events. pm: Santaria
drumming and dance seminar
3- To Casa de la Selva, a sustainable forestry and tropical ecology research station in
the rain forest outside of Patillas in the island’s southeast corner. This is our base for
the next three days; Walking tour and talk on tropical ecosystems and sustainable
forestry. Lecture- Puerto Rico, the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, and the birth of
4- Volunteer Work Day in Patillas helping a local family huricane-proof their home.
Lecture- The 20th Century: Manufacturing and the Fall of Agriculture
5- Volunteer Work Day in Patillas Lecture- Independence or Statehood? Discussing
Puerto Rico’s Political Status
6- Volunteer Work Day in Patillas; last night noche cultural
7- am- Forest hike in Patillas pm: drive to Fajardo; ferry to Vieques Lecture- the role of
Puerto Rico in U.S. Military Planning
8- am- free time; pm: talk with Bob Rabin and Carmen Valencia- The Navy and Popular
Protest in Vieques
9- Vieques work project; pm: visit the Phosphorescent Bay
10- Vieques work project; pm: beach time
11- am- Return to the main island and drive to El Yunque National Park; hike El Yunque
mountain; lunch. pm- to our Hotel on the beach in Luquillo; closing dinner.
12- Last day. Free time in the morning to shop, relax, or go to the beach