Duany, a Puerto Rican intellectual now based at Florida International University, was an inspired choice to write a primer on an island that an important 1901 U.S. Supreme Court ruling described as “belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.” Duany reviews Puerto Rico’s political history, its economic booms and busts, and, most brilliantly, its bountiful cultural production. He argues persuasively that, although it lacks full sovereignty, Puerto Rico meets most of the criteria for being considered a nation-state, including a shared territory, language, and history. A national identity has survived through the Spanish language and through distinctly Puerto Rican art and culture, despite the imposition of U.S. commercial capitalism. But the island’s economy is performing poorly, a result of fiscal mismanagement, relatively high labor costs, and the loss of federal tax subsidies. Meanwhile, the population has declined because of massive emigration. In 2016, the U.S. Congress enacted the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act to deal with the island’s severe debt crisis. Although it promised financial relief, the legislation was a blow to the island’s sovereignty.
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