The economic and political consequences of colonialism in Puerto Rico

Speaker: Edwin Irizarry-Mora, Professor of Economics, University of Puerto Rico


In the early twentieth century, after the U.S. military occupation of 1898, Puerto Rico and Cuba were considered strategic strongholds in the Caribbean. The first decades of that century confirmed that both nations would not only play an important role from the strategic-military point of view for the interests of the United States in the region, but would also become large centres of sugar production to meet the demand of the North American market.

After the stage of sugarcane mono-cultivation, from the late 1940s to the present, Puerto Rico became a manufacturing industrial enclave, whose production would be exported to the United States. This was possible through the employment of cheap labour and, above all, through the establishment of a tax regime with insurmountable advantages for the manufacturing, commercial and financial capital of the metropolis. The implementation of this "development model" has been based on the colonial relationship between the two countries. The particularities of this relationship differentiate Puerto Rico from the rest of its neighbours in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This presentation will discuss the main aspects of the economic and political situation that has prevailed in Puerto Rico for decades. After this panoramic view, the scenario that prevails in the present and the possibilities of culminating the colonial relationship, as a result of recent events, both in Washington and in San Juan, will be discussed.


About the speaker

edwin irizarry mora

Edwin Irizarry-Mora is Professor of Economics at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez campus. His research focuses on issues of economic development planning, globalization, as well as environment and natural resource management. In collaboration with the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), he is currently conducting research on the political economy of emigration from Puerto Rico. His book Economy of Puerto Rico: Trends and Prospects, was published by Thomson Learning in 2001, with an updated edition published by McGraw-Hill in 2011. The book is a popular textbook in courses about the economy of Puerto Rico. He holds a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.

In addition to his academic achievements, Professor Irizarry-Mora is an active politician and a former Secretary General and Governor Candidate of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.