cover image  Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation, and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico

Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation, and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico

Ed Morales. Bold Type, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-56858-899-5

Journalist Morales (Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture) begins this eye-opening economic and political history by asserting that when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, the Category 5 storm did more than down power lines and flatten homes—it “laid bare the racist colonialism with which the United States has often administered” the island. Morales traces the history of that colonialism to the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court rulings issued in 1901 that codified Puerto Rico’s status as an unincorporated territory, and to the 1917 Jones Act, which granted Puerto Ricans a limited form of U.S. citizenship while exempting the island’s bonds from federal, local, and state taxes, effectively setting the stage for the rampant speculation that helped to create the debt crisis a century later. Morales’s high-level economic analysis will be heavy lifting for nonexperts, but he argues persuasively that federal interventions such as Operation Bootstrap, a mid-century program to industrialize the local economy, and the 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which created a White House–appointed board to oversee the island’s debt restructuring, have been disastrous for Puerto Ricans. Morales’s preferred solution is “independence with reparations”; his technical yet impassioned polemic will persuade those with a keen interest in the subject. (Sept.)