Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Studies- Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Dario Euraque

Second Advisor

Janet Bauer


As an effect of globalization, the disparity between the richer and poorer nations grows increasingly larger. Colonialism marginalized many poorer, “developing” nations, two of which are Cuba and Puerto Rico. In economic development scholarship on former colonial nations, Cuba and Puerto Rico are rarely focused on as a central point of comparison. I believe that these two islands prove to be particularly interesting to compare due to their distinct colonial trajectories, which are unique within the realm of all former Spanish colonies in the Americas and from each other. I believe the distinctive character of their colonial development translates into the current economic development and development issues each island faces today. To frame my study I apply the colonial typologies of Jürgen Osterhammel in the analysis of Cuba and Puerto Rico’s history of economic development and colonialism. I conclude that upon reaching sovereignty, Cuba was in a much better position to compete within the global market than Puerto Rico because it was a much more valuable colonial possession due to its more strategic location and larger productive capacity. Under colonialism, Cuba experienced a more intense expansion and modernization of industry, which made it a more powerful economy upon gaining sovereignty. Puerto Rico is a more vulnerable developing economy because its capacity for development is inherently limited by the dependent structures ingrained under full colonialism and institutionalized in its political status. This study seeks to explore the implications of distinct types of colonialism and how they impact development.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.