For my research topic, I would like to explore something related to the Puerto Rican independence movement post-1945. Something interesting within that broader topic might be the contemporary independence movement in the wake of PROMESA and Hurricane Maria, or at least since 2000. Another interesting thing would be looking at the repression of the independence movement as a part of COINTELPRO. The nationalist revolts of 1950 also interest me. I think these are all interesting and important topics because the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico is a unique one which impacts the other relationships the US has with Latin America. Current US-Puerto Rican relations are massively impacted by this history, and the Puerto Rican community within the mainland US has been impacted by these events. If we want to understand the complex relationship between the US and Puerto Rico we must understand those who have rejected this relationship and have fought for an independent path for the island. This is an ongoing relationship that will continue to be shaped by this history
McCook, Stuart. “The World Was My Garden: Tropical Botany and Cosmopolitanism in American Science, 1898-1935.” 499-507. The University of Wisconsin Press.
Historian Stuart McCook examines American tropical botany during the period between 1898 and 1935. He argues that during this time period, American botany became increasingly focused on the tropics in a shift from a previous focus on the continental US. This reflects a broader shift from a nationalist focus to a cosmopolitan one in other areas of American life and society, a shift brought about by the rise of the American empire. McCook reviews the of American research stations in the tropics and the influence of the federal government in promoting tropical botany to make his argument.
Navarro-Rivera, Pablo. “The Imperial Enterprise and Educational Policies in Colonial Puerto Rico.” 163-174. The University of Wisconsin Press.
Historian Pablo Navarro-Rivera examines the education system set up by the United States in Puerto Rico during the early period of its rule of the island. Navarro-Rivera argues that the US pursued a policy of assimilation and Americanization, and constructed and used the Puerto Rican education system as a means to this end. As evidence, Navarro-Rivera examines the instances of Puerto Rican students being sent to the Carlisle Indian industrial School, using the accounts and letters of these students as sources.
For the primary source analysis I read document 20, by John Clifford Brown. This document consists of excerpts from Brown’s diary, which he kept while serving as a common soldier in the Army during the Filipino-American war. An interesting thing to note about this document is Brown’s background as a graduate of MIT. This is the not the work of an ordinary grunt who enlisted because the family farm was failing. This is the work of someone who was fairly privileged, and could easily have 1) stayed at home to personal profit or 2) gotten a commission.
Why then, did Brown enlist and serve as a common soldier in the Philippines? One part of the document that sheds light on this is under the entry for November 21, in which he wishes that the war was not ending and shows that he has thought of the whole experience as a grand adventure (79). He praises the climate and the physical activity, “the hardships, the excitement, the change” (79). He seems to think of it as like a grand Boy Scout outing. An experience that will take him, a college graduate with soft hands, and turn him into a grizzled man. This connects to contemporary trends of hyper-masculinity that were most famously being embodied by Teddy Roosevelt.
Another interesting thing to note is Brown’s racial attitudes. The later part of the document consists of Brown’s racist musings about Filipinos and his comparison of them with African-Americans. He denigrates Filipino society as unable to support itself without the backing of whites, and Filipinos as “childish” (79). In the June 12 entry he compares a Filipino woman to a dog (80). In the June 25 entry, in comparing Filipinos with African-Americans he expresses the belief that they are at the same level of so-called “racial development”, but Filipinos have slightly more promise of advancement (80). These racist sentiments provide insight into the mindset of the broader American public at the time. Combined with his previously expressed masculinity, a picture of Brown’s motivations and broader ideological currents present at the turn of the century emerges.
Document 20 provides insight into the personal motivations behind the author’s service, as well as a look into broader ideological trends within American society at the end of the 19th century that shaped its interactions with the rest of the world.
I read the Wikipedia article Latin America-US Relations. Overall, it did a pretty decent job of sketching a broad chronological overview of the subject, linking to articles about specific moments from the history of Latin American-US relations. However, it did seem to place more of an emphasis on the US as an agent interacting with Latin America, not the US and Latin America as different actors interacting with each other as equals. Perhaps that is somewhat unavoidable, given that it is covering one country’s interaction with an entire region, making it easier to construct a narrative with a focus on the one country, not the many. This imbalance in focus does not, however, appear to translate into pro-US bias. Overall, the article does try to be evenhanded and not portray the US in a positive or negative light.
The article could be better sourced. There are several different instances of paragraphs where assertions are made without evidence. For instance, the article asserts that “Some modern observers have argued that if World War I had not lessened American enthusiasm for international activity these interventions might have led to the formation of an expanded U.S. colonial empire” (Banana Wars paragraph 2) without any citation of this argument being made in so much as a blog post, much less a reputable work of history (not that good historians would publish such speculation). The citations that are present are pretty decent, though one link is dead and flagged as such. The Further Reading section is fairly large and contains a good amount of good sources.
I understand the difficulties of writing a good overview that fully covers all topics over roughly two and a half centuries of history, but one issue with the article is an incompleteness. The article briefly discusses US involvement in Venezuelan and Chilean independence (without citations), but not the independence of the other countries of Latin America. It covers the Cold War in Latin America but does not go into specifics about intervention in Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and so on beyond maybe a sentence. These all deserve their own subheading under a “Cold War” section.
The article also has issues with its writing and flow, mainly relating to the incompleteness mention in the previous paragraph. Topics are brought up one after another without apparent connection between them. This is more of a problem in the earlier part of the article than the more recent events. Besides that, the article’s last section, Academic Research, is present without any explanation of its relevance and spends its opening paragraph discussing one historian’s overview of the study of Latin American-US relations. This section sticks out like a sore thumb, serving no apparent purpose and being unincorporated into the larger article.
Overall, the article is a decent enough historical overview, but suffers from an incompleteness, lack of sources in some areas, coherence, and an overemphasis on the US as a historical actor.
My name is Liam and I am a first-year student from Raleigh, North Carolina. I am thinking of majoring in history, and I am excited to learn more about the history of interaction between the United States and the rest of America. In particular, I am interested in learning about the rise of Latin American social movements in response to the U.S.’s economic and political presence in the region. I am also interested in learning about how U.S. foreign policy affects Latin American immigration patterns.