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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: War Against All Puerto Ricans

War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony - Nelson A Denis


I've been trying to read more non-fiction in recent years, but I'm highly selective on what I pick up. War Against All Puerto Ricans is my most recent selection. Having married into a Puerto Rican family, I thought knowing a little more about Puerto Rican history could be beneficial (especially if that history is completely unknown and counter to my in-laws patriotic American fervor *wink, wink*). I learned quite a bit.

War Against All Puerto Ricans certainly gives us an image of America's territorial island that has largely been covered up. Some of us may know how Puerto Rico was a conquest of the Spanish-American War. Some may recall that the assassination attempt on President Harry Truman was made by Puerto Rican nationalists. Aside from these two details, few contemporaries likely know the ripples of discontent that have surrounded relations between Puerto Rico and its powerful overseer. Most do not know of the massacres that occurred on Puerto Rican streets, civilians mowed down for merely talking of independence. They do not remember when possessing a Puerto Rican flag would land you in jail for anywhere from two months to ten years. They are unaware of the sterilization programs that systematically reduced the numbers of “an inferior race” from an island the United States wished to possess largely for its military advantage and corporate possibilities. They do not know of the war that started and was quickly snuffed by the might of the United States, resulting in the first bombing of American civilians by the U.S. Military. And they've probably never heard of Pedro Albizu Campos, president of the Nationalist Party, and Puerto Rico's answer to Che Guevara, Simón Bolívar, et cetera. Nor of the years Campos spent in prison, subjected to experimentation, i.e. total body irradiation.

War Against All Puerto Ricans tells this story, albeit a bit jumbled and repetitive. Like many non-fiction works, War Against... doesn't have quite enough material to fill its length and could be condensed for the sake of a streamlined narrative. That aside, Nelson A. Denis' book provides a history that needs to be told and not forgotten. It is a fairly complete, justly one-sided narrative, that shows ample research and passion. A highly recommended read for Puerto Ricans wanting to know more about their history and history buffs with a strong interest in the abuse by colonial powers.