Vieques, Puerto Rico paper

Quick note to log that I have uploaded a PDF of my article on “Vieques, Puerto Rico: From Devastation to Conservation and Back Again”, published in Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review. It’s old but I was just re-reading it as I prepare a fellowship application, and realized that given the current Puerto Rico government’s drive to commodify all that the military has constructed as pristine tropical nature, especially at the site of Roosevelt Roads, there could be some newfound interest. Besides, it’s been published for so long that it’s time that it show up on the web. Here it is:  17.1 TDSR_Arbonafinal

• Citation Info:

Arbona, Javier. “Vieques, Puerto Rico: From Devastation to Conservation and Back Again.” Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review. Volume XVII, Number 1. 2005. (Berkeley: The International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments.)

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4 thoughts on “Vieques, Puerto Rico paper

  1. Javier,

    Great essay. Very well researched and insightful. I think that the debates that played out in that struggle both at a geo-political and socioeconomic level were left unresolved. In fact, they have only become more polarized after the Navy’s departure in 2003. Not so long ago there was a memo leaked that informed how the right-wing Fortu~o government was rethinking of leasing Vieques land to the Navy. Outrageous! In any case, I as a participant of the mobilizations and youth organizer it is good to come back and read a piece that connects it that what I am as an adult- an architect.

    I have some comments and criticism:

    1. You assume that the left at that moment in 2005 was assuming a romantic stance when it came to the aftermath of how to deal with a Navy-free Vieques. From my understanding the dynamic was more comple than that. In fact, a good document that can strengthen your essay can be having an understanding of how the debates within the movement played out at the time. I wont go into it, but basically there was a right wing dominated by labor bureaucrats and religious leaders and a radical left led by some rank and file militant unions and some socialist groups mainly based in the University of Puerto Rico. At the center were people like Tito Kayak and other environmentalist groups A good article to read can be the Rafael Bernabe debates with Carlos Pabon. But my point is that these questions were not fixed a priory and in fact developed as the movement gained victories or faced defeats and set backs.

    2. I think the essay frames up the following question: How have these practices of US Gov apply to the politics of Puerto Rico at large, to other US colonies and to its policies of Environmental Preservation at the Continental USA? There is still much to be explored, but I think one central theme that might emerge is the role of the US State as an instrument that regulates the environmental for the interest of a class that only sees commodified resources in the environment.

    3. Finally, have you read Usmail by Pedro Juan Soto? Such a great book, a classic and it definitely portrays that historical narrative that you very eloquently point out as being erased.

    1. Gracias Héctor. Super good comments and very helpful. Maybe I should just briefly say in my own defense that much of this research was conducted when I was a master’s student in an architecture department. Knowing what I know now, after going through a few years of training in the social sciences, I would definitely NOT represent the protest movement as so monolithic and I grant that I do so in this essay.

      As for point 2, yeah, there is a world of work that needs to be done on the regulation of nature and the environment at the level of the island of PR….

      Sí… Usmail. Haven’t re-read it since high school!

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