"In 1898, the United States took control of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, intending to use it as a base for strategic naval operations. Most of the island’s 900,000 inhabitants welcomed the end of Spanish rule. But they were divided about the U.S. presence. Some hoped links with the United States would lead to increased trade and prosperity; others wanted total independence. Some who initially welcomed the United States quickly became disillusioned. Severo Tulier, a small farmer from Vega Baja, had to sell his farm in 1899; he worked first as a field laborer, and then moved to San Juan to learn a trade. He described the conditions of life among farm workers to Henry K. Carroll, the special commissioner for the United States to Puerto Rico, who interviewed hundreds of Puerto Ricans as part of his effort to formulate U.S. policy for governing the island."
"In 1898 the United States acquired Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island 1,000 miles southeast of Miami, after victory in the Spanish-Cuban-American War. After an initial military occupation, the United States granted Puerto Rico limited local autonomy. In 1917, the U.S. responded to local pressure for independence by declaring Puerto Ricans citizens of the United States—a “gift” that many Puerto Ricans resented. Large, corporate-financed sugar plantations transformed Puerto Rico’s agricultural economy and displaced thousands of subsistence farmers from their own land, forcing them into the rural wage labor force. These dramatic changes in the rural economy in the years before World War I pushed unemployment levels in Puerto Rico to crisis proportions. At the same time, American entry into the war created labor shortages in many industries on the mainland. This Labor Department bulletin from May 1918 set out plans for bringing more than 10,000 Puerto Rican laborers to the U.S. to work on war-related projects."
"In 1918, a U.S. Employment Service Bulletin estimated that 75,000 unemployed laborers in Puerto Rico were available for work in the United States. The War Department agreed to transport workers to labor camps in the United States where they would be housed and fed while working on government construction contracts at defense plants and military bases. Many of these work camps, however, subjected the new migrants to harsh conditions and even forced labor, which Rafael Marchán described in his 1918 deposition to the commissioner of Puerto Rico. Workers like Marchán appealed to the U.S. government to improve sanitary conditions, provide adequate food, and stop widespread beatings at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 1918 and 1919, almost one hundred Puerto Rican migrants died in Arkansas labor camps."
"... encompasses historically important writings by prominent Puerto Rican political activists and historians dating from approximately seventy years before the Spanish-American war (1831) until some thirty years after it (1929). Texts from the postwar period include the only English-language works in the collection. Among these are soldiers' reminiscences about the conflict and short histories designed to acquaint an American audience with Puerto Rico in the earliest years of its affiliation with the United States." Library of Congress
"This presentation provides resources and documents about the Spanish-American War, the period before the war, and some of the fascinating people who participated in the fighting or commented about it. Information about Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the United States is provided in chronologies, bibliographies, and a variety of pictorial and textual material from bilingual sources, supplemented by an overview essay about the war and the period." Library of Congress
"In 1917 the United States declared the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, a U.S. posession since 1898, to be citizens of the United States—a “gift” that many Puerto Ricans resented. Seeing an untapped source of inexpensive labor, the U.S. Labor Department worked with industry to facilitate the migration of Puerto Rican workers to America. During the First World War the War Department agreed to transport Puerto Rican workers to labor camps in the United States where they would be housed and fed while working on government construction contracts at defense plants and military bases, many of which subjected the new migrants to harsh conditions and even forced labor. Rafael Marchán was one of a group of Puerto Rican workers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina who protested to the commissioner of Puerto Rico over the intolerable conditions in the work camp. He gave this deposition in Washington, D.C., in October 1918."
"In February 1899, British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.” In this poem, Kipling urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations. Published in the February, 1899 issue of McClure’s Magazine, the poem coincided with the beginning of the Philippine-American War and U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty that placed Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines under American control. Theodore Roosevelt, soon to become vice-president and then president, copied the poem and sent it to his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, commenting that it was “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.” Not everyone was as favorably impressed as Roosevelt. The racialized notion of the “White Man’s burden” became a euphemism for imperialism, and many anti-imperialists couched their opposition in reaction to the phrase."