Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation, and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico

Bold Type: Hachette. Sept. 2019. 352p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781568588995. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781568588988. HIST
The unincorporated U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is a political, economic, and social conundrum. Or, as Morales (Living in Spanglish) argues in his new nonfiction epic on the archipelago—it’s a fantasy. This work is ambitious, intimidating, and beautiful. With detailed historical research, well-supported arguments, and the occasional sparkling anecdote, the author deconstructs Puerto Rico’s legacy as “the oldest colony.” Yet a colony’s history cannot be understood without examining its colonizer, and detailing the rapidly changing situation on the islands, Morales glimpses a bellwether for what is to come if neoliberalism is left to run its course. His investigation dives into the policies that positioned the area to churn out wealth for foreign investment while leaving very little to support its own infrastructures and people. By getting granular with the facts of this “dispossession,” Morales does an outstanding job of illustrating how the “racialized logic of capitalism” works—and doesn’t—on the islands.
VERDICT This book will be particularly important to readers with a connection to Puerto Rico and useful and thought-provoking to anyone else seeking to understand capitalism’s past, present, and future.

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