Lately we have seen several essays online plaintively complaining that history classes don’t mention one event or another in Puerto Rico’s history. It’s true that all those events get skipped, but it doesn’t mean what the authors claim it does. It’s not that schools in the States focus on one narrative and leave out the episodes that don’t support their political goals.
Puerto Rico is just generally ignored in classrooms across the nation.
Joy Hakim’s excellent A History of US says, “The United States took Puerto Rico as a territory.” It also lists Puerto Rico among the territories of the United States.
The American Nation, by John Garraty and Mark Carnes, says that “the U.S. completed the occupation of Puerto Rico” and lists it among the territories of the United States.
The Cowles History Groups American History just lists Puerto Rico among the territories.
So we were excited to see Oh, Freedom! A Conscious U.S. History Curriculum, a new social studies textbook intended for home study, which is focused on diverse experiences. “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion,” the book begins, “the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Oh, Freedom! was written with the goal of expressing the viewpoints of the rest of the people, not just the white settlers. It mentions Puerto Rico once, in Week 2, using readings from the book An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz. This book also mentions Puerto Rico once — in a list of territories of the United States using the phrase “invasion and occupation.” It is a different point of view, but no more thorough.
The section on Puerto Rico in Oh, Freedom! asks students to find Puerto Rico on a map and includes one discussion suggestion: “Talk about the dual status of Puerto Ricans.” This question seems misleading and confusing.
We are not criticizing Oh, Freedom! It is not a history textbook and is not presenting information as a history textbook should. It is just another example of the tendency to leave Puerto Rico out of history lessons — even in new, intentionally conscious teaching materials.
This is surely one reason that Members of Congress continue to claim that they need more information about Puerto Rico and that they haven’t thought about it yet. We have been a territory of the United States for more than a century. That ought to be long enough to make a decision.
Help educate your members of Congress. Reach out to them and explain the position of Puerto Rico and why statehood is important.