The University of Wisconsin Press

Negotiating Empire
The Cultural Politics of Schools in Puerto Rico, 1898–1952
Solsiree del Moral

A new look at Puerto Rican approaches to public education in colonial schools during the first half of the twentieth century

After the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, the new unincorporated territory sought to define its future. Seeking to shape the next generation and generate popular support for colonial rule, U.S. officials looked to education as a key venue for promoting the benefits of Americanization. At the same time, public schools became a site where Puerto Rican teachers, parents, and students could formulate and advance their own projects for building citizenship. In Negotiating Empire, Solsiree del Moral demonstrates how these colonial intermediaries aimed for regeneration and progress through education.
Rather than seeing U.S. empire in Puerto Rico during this period as a contest between two sharply polarized groups, del Moral views their interaction as a process of negotiation. Although educators and families rejected some tenets of Americanization, such as English-language instruction, they also redefined and appropriated others to their benefit to increase literacy and skills required for better occupations and social mobility. Pushing their citizenship-building vision through the schools, Puerto Ricans negotiated a different school project—one that was reformist yet radical, modern yet traditional, colonial yet nationalist.

“Del Moral’s basic premise is that public school teachers acted as intermediaries between the colonial state and the local population, and in the process elaborated their own views of the island’s national identity. She raises original and significant questions, addresses them through extensive archival research, and develops a well-structured argument.”—Jorge Duany, author of Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States

Solsiree del Moral is assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at Pennsylvania State University.


“Thought provoking and will contribute to the so important debate on imperialism and its impact on colonial societies like Puerto Rico.”

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Of Related Interest, from The Americas series:

Cover of San Juan is a warm photo of a San Juan doorway, cream walls, white engaged pillars, old wood.San Juan
Memoir of a City
Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá
Translated by Peter Grandbois
oreword by Antonio Skármeta

An evocative, personal guide to Puerto Rico's capital city

The cover of Julia's books is a montage of image of old San Juan
San Juan
Ciudad Soñada
Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá
Introduction by Antonio Skarmeta
A Spanish-language travel guide and memoir of San Juan, Puerto Rico

February 2013
LC: 2012017511 F
242 pp.   6 x 9  
13 b/w photos, 5 tables

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28934-8
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“Excellent scholarship guided by a sharp critical perspective on issues of class, colonialism, race, and gender. The rigorous focus on issues of schooling, public education, and pedagogy makes this a highly informative and engaging study.”
—Juan Flores, author of From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity


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Updated January 13, 2013

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