Academic Events

The economic and political consequences of colonialism in Puerto Rico

7 June 2023, Convened by Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva

Latin American Centre, 1 Church Walk, Oxford OX2 6LY

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SpeakerEdwin Irizarry-Mora, University of Puerto Rico

Time: 16:30 (Wednesday, 7th week, Trinity 2023)


In the early twentieth century, after the U.S. military occupation of 1898, Puerto Rico and Cuba were considered strategic strongholds in the Caribbean and the first decades of that century confirmed that both nations would not only play an essential role from the strategic-military point of view for the interests of the United States in the region but would also become large centres of sugar production to meet the demand of the North American market.

After the stage of sugarcane mono-cultivation, from the late 1940s to the present, Puerto Rico became a manufacturing industrial enclave whose production would be exported to the United States. This was possible by employing cheap labour and establishing a tax regime with insurmountable advantages for the metropolis's manufacturing, commercial and financial capital. This "development model" has been implemented based on the colonial relationship between the two countries. The particularities of this relationship differentiate Puerto Rico from the rest of its neighbours in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This presentation will discuss the main aspects of the economic and political situation that has prevailed in Puerto Rico for decades. After this panoramic view, the scenario that stays in the present and the possibilities of culminating the colonial relationship due to recent events, both in Washington and San Juan, will be discussed.

About the speaker:

Edwin Irizarry-Mora is a Professor of Economics at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez campus. His research focuses on economic development planning, globalization, and environmental and natural resource management. In addition, in collaboration with the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), he is researching the political economy of emigration from Puerto Rico. His book Economy of Puerto Rico: Trends and Prospects was published by Thomson Learning in 2001, with an updated edition published by McGraw-Hill in 2011. The book is a popular textbook about the economy of Puerto Rico in courses. He holds a PhD in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.

In addition to his academic achievements, Professor Irizarry-Mora is an active politician and a former Secretary General and Governor Candidate of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.