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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Maurice Wade

Second Advisor

Donna Dale-Marcano


This thesis attempts to understand Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States as obscured behind the façade of Commonwealth. It is, therefore, a study in two parts, the first of which examines the legal construction of Puerto Rico from its acquisition in the Treaty of Paris and through the Supreme Court Insular Cases of the early 20th Century. This includes an exploration of the ethno-juridical construction of Puerto Rico as an, ‘unincorporated territory.’ The political creation and switch to Commonwealth in the 1950’s completes the legal picture of Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States. This legal construction and history centers around an idea of Puerto Rico as ‘foreign in a domestic sense,’ as somehow attached to the United States but too dissimilar to be incorporated into the United States, i.e. a colony. Therefore, the second part of this study focuses on political and cultural responses to a construction of Puerto Rico as ‘foreign in a domestic sense.’ The political party system and plebiscites are determined to be ineffective at dealing with the colonial dilemma, as these have little effect on US Congress which holds ultimate authority over any legal changes in the status of the Island. Cultural nationalism, long seen as Puerto Rico’s unique resistance to the U.S., while helpful in combating the complete cultural negation experienced by the colonized, is shown to ultimately mask the colonial dilemma. Both of these political and cultural systems serve to obscure the colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. Accessible to members of the Trinity community only.