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The Politics of Language in Puerto Rico

Amílcar Antonio Barreto

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Paper: $19.95
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"A significant contribution to the continuing contentious debate on the status of Puerto Rico. . . . In addition to archival resources, the author includes interviews with prominent Puerto Rican political leaders in and out of government to provide a historical and contemporary basis for understanding the language issue on the island."—Choice
 
"A welcome addition to the literature on American politics . . . because it broadens the debate concerning what Puerto Rico is actually all about."—American Political Science Review
 
"A systematic analysis of the factors that explain the Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) government’s decision of making Spanish the only official language of the island in 1991. . . . Shows how the autonomist governor Rafael Hernández Colón wanted to send a political message to Congress and to federal policymakers about the cultural and linguistic unfeasibility of statehood for Puerto Rico."—Centro Journal "
 
A [book] rich in detail and analysis, which anyone wanting to understand the language debate in Puerto Rico will find essential."—Arlene Davila, Syracuse University

This is the first book in English to analyze the controversial language policies passed by the Puerto Rican government in the 1990s. It is also the first to explore the connections between language and cultural identity and politics on the Caribbean island.
Shortly after the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, both English and Spanish became official languages of the territory. In 1991, the Puerto Rican government abolished bilingualism, claiming that "Spanish only" was necessary to protect the culture from North American influences. A few years later bilingualism was restored and English was promoted in public schools, with supporters asserting that the dual languages symbolized the island’s commitment to live in harmony with the United States.

While the islanders’ sense of ethnic pride was growing, economic dependency enticed them to maintain close ties to the United States. This book shows that officials in both San Juan and Washington, along with English-first groups, used the language laws as weapons in the battle over U.S.-Puerto Rican relations and the volatile debate over statehood. It will be of interest to linguists, political scientists, students of contemporary cultural politics, and political activists in discussions of nationalism in multilingual communities.

Amílcar Antonio Barreto is professor of cultures, societies, and global studies at Northeastern University. He is the author of several books, including Nationalism and Its Logical Foundations, and is coeditor of American Identity in the Age of Obama. 
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Barreto's book helps to bridge the gap between comparativists, who would attempt to understand commonwealth politics through the use of theories that stress factors such as dependency, ethnicity, and cultural nationalism, and the broad community of students of American politics. . . . A welcome addition to the literature on American politics not only because it takes the long-dominant Downsian approach to the study of legislative action seriously but also because it broadens the debate concerning what Puerto Rico is actually all about. --
--American Political Science Review

A significant contribution to the continuing contentious debate on the status of Puerto Rico ( commonwealth, statehood, independence). --
--Choice

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