Human Rights Violations in Puerto Rico: Agency from the Margins

Jacqueline Font-Guzmán

Creighton University

Yanira Alemán

University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez


Journal of Law & Social Challenges, 12:107-149, Spring 2010

Puerto Rico’s colonial status remains largely invisible to the international world. The discourse of “post colonialism” and the use of misleading euphemisms and legal labels, tend to cloud over the continued exercise of U.S. unilateral control over the island. The human rights violations this colonial status encompasses are even more absent from international agendas, global concern, or in-depth scholarly analysis. Besides being denied the right to self-determination, multiple other human rights infringements occur in Puerto Rico. This article uncovers and analyzes human rights violations Puerto Ricans have endured and continue to experience. These include complex citizenship issues, persecution and killing of nationalists, and- as the largest U.S. Navy practice site- turning the municipality of Vieques into a war zone. This article provides a detailed historical background of the relationship and dynamics between the United States and Puerto Rico, from 1898 to present day, including nuanced accounts about the creation of the 1952 Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and of the trajectory of the Puerto Rico issue before the United Nations. Also discussed is Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination and its increasing elusiveness. The varied ways in which many Puerto Ricans have transcended the massive limitations to which they are subjected, exercising agency to do so (such as “freeing” Vieques and keeping the past alive in the present through celebrations such as the Grito de Lares) are also addressed.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: Colonialism, Puerto Rico, Caribbean, Human Rights, Self-determination

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Date posted: August 2, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Font-Guzmán, Jacqueline and Alemán, Yanira, Human Rights Violations in Puerto Rico: Agency from the Margins (2010). Journal of Law & Social Challenges, 12:107-149, Spring 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2121735

Contact Information

Jacqueline Font-Guzmán (Contact Author)
Creighton University ( email )
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
United States
Yanira Alemán
University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez ( email )
Puerto Rico
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