Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2000


As a matter of law, Puerto Rico has been a colony for an uninterrupted period of over five hundred years. In modern times, colonialism—the status of a polity with a definable territory that lacks sovereignty because legal/political authority is exercised by a peoples distinguishable from the inhabitants of the colonized region—is the only legal status that the isla (island) has known. This Article posits that Puerto Rico's colonial status—particularly its intrinsic legal and social constructs of second-class citizenship for Puerto Ricans—is incompatible with contemporary law or a sensible theory of justice and morality.

Puerto Ricans, as United States citizens by operation of law, are both normative, i.e., dominant, and "Other" because of their puertorriqueñismo (the state of being Puerto Rican). They are culturally normative in la isla and legally and culturally "Other," relative to the "Americans". This Article articulates a theory of Puerto Rican cultural nationhood that is largely based on ethnicity. In linking ethnicity and citizenship it is imperative, however, to avoid the evils of ethnic strife and balkanization, while celebrating rather than imposing difference; community consciousness cannot degenerate into fascism.