Panel Discussion

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 2:10 PM
Madison Room A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Mónica Jiménez, University of Texas at Austin
In the early 20th Century Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leader Pedro Albizu Campos argued that the US’ presence in Puerto Rico was an unlawful occupation because Spain had granted the island autonomy in 1897 before the arrival of the United States. To his thinking it was Puerto Rico and not Spain that had the right to decide the island’s destiny after the Spanish American War. In response to Albizu Campos’ argument the US government maintained that autonomy was not tantamount to sovereignty. My presentation addresses the historic conflagration of sovereignty and autonomy that has plagued the island’s history with the United States. I argue that despite the slippage between sovereignty and autonomy in Albizu Campos’ argument nevertheless there are lessons for us in his understanding of the legality of Spain’s transfer of the island to the United States. Especially in the present moment when the question of Puerto Rico’s future is so precarious, perhaps there are lessons for us in revisiting nationalist understandings of law, sovereignty and Congress’ authority over the island.