From Subjects to Citizens: The University of Puerto Rico and the Citizenship Revolution in the Greater United States, 1898-1935
Frazier, Chad D
Benton-Cohen, Katherine A
To understand how the United States has sustained its rule over Puerto Rico since the Spanish War over 120 years ago, this dissertation focuses on the growth of the University of Puerto Rico from its origins as a public normal school with fewer than thirty faculty and students to its emergence as a public research university that commanded respect far beyond their homeland’s territorial limits. While scholars have typically overlooked the role of the UPR in Puerto Rico’s long, unhappy history as a US colony, my research in the Library of Congress and the National Archives, as well as twenty-five other repositories across the continental United States and Puerto Rico, reveals that the university’s development intersected with a number of trends in twentieth-century US culture, politics, and law that I collectively refer to as "the citizenship revolution." Between 1898 and 1933, the citizenship revolution spurred the UPR to construct dormitories, diversify its curriculum, expand its administrative staff, and recruit instructors with graduate degrees from US and European universities.I show that the citizenship revolution gradually transformed the UPR into a nursery for a new colonial elite, which embraced a distinctive conception of citizenship that generally valued social rights such as the right to a dignified standard of living more highly than the right to vote, the right to stand for public office, or the right to due process of law. While treasuring their homeland’s linguistic and cultural heritage as a former Spanish colony, they accepted that its economic development required the federal government’s continued goodwill and financial support. In 1933, after the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the United States, this new colonial elite chose to partner with his administration to develop policies designed to simultaneously raise the standard of living for rural working-class Puerto Ricans and erode popular support for radical anti-US political groups. In so doing, they solidified US imperial rule in Puerto Rico and transformed citizenship—a concept that scholars typically associate with positive developments such as the extension of voting rights to women and people of color—into a powerful tool of empire.
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