If you’ve ever visited Old San Juan, you’ll know why Puerto Rico is called the Island of Enchantment. The aura that permeates the old city fills the soul with a sense of warmth and nostalgia. I’ve visited the island twice spending time in various cities across the island and climbing the rocks at the El Yunque rain forest. The many friends that currently live there are some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met and the cuisine is one of the best you’ll find in the western hemisphere. Founded in 1509, Old San Juan is a major tourist attraction for travelers from all parts of the world. United States citizens have a unique connection to the island in that no passport is needed and American currency is the standard. The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States is perhaps the most complex and unique in all of the Caribbean. The island, ceded to the United States by Spain at the Treaty of Paris in 1898, has been in a state of steady economic decline resulting in a surge in crime rates and unemployment. The deteriorating conditions threaten to turn the island into a shell of its former self. The future of the island is a critical issue for Washington and as of today no clear-cut solution is in place.
Nelson Denis’ book is the go to source for the real story of the occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States government and the brutal, inhumane and deplorable actions of U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement officials appointed to the island to maintain order and enforce the policies of businessmen here in the continental United States. To the chagrin of natives of the island, the then Governor, Luis Munoz Marin, served as a puppet of the United States permitting policy makers in Washington free rein to control the island’s economics and politics. The imperialist tactics of the United States were not accepted by everyone and in the book we are introduced to the legendary figures of Vidal Santiago Diaz and Pedro Albizu Campos, who were life long advocates of Puerto Rican independence. The island has a deep cultural history, from its early beginnings with the Taino Indians, nearly decimated following the voyages of Columbus, to the fight for freed from Spain led by Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances, the late and great Roberto Clemente to many other celebrities, scholars and activists. The future of the island is uncertain, and our relationship with our neighbor in the Caribbean is under constant strain. But at the very least, our government owes this small island the care and attention that it needs and deserves.