America's Colony

The Political and Cultural Conflict between the United States and Puerto Rico

242 pages

November, 2007

ISBN: 9780814757413



Also available in



Part of the Critical America series


Pedro A. Malavet is Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

All books by Pedro A Malavet

The precise legal nature of the relationship between the United States and the people of Puerto Rico was not explicitly determined in 1898 when the Treaty of Paris transferred sovereignty over Puerto Rico from Spain to the United States. Since then, many court cases, beginning in 1901, have been instrumental in defining this delicate relationship.

While the legislation has clearly established the nonexistence of Puerto Rican nationhood and lack of independent Puerto Rican citizenship, the debate over Puerto Rico's status continues to this day.

Malavet offers a critique of Puerto Rico’s current status as well as of its treatment by the U.S. legal and political systems. Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States, and Puerto Ricans living on this geographically separate island are subject to the United States’s legal and political authority. They are the largest group of U.S. citizens currently living under territorial status. Malavet argues that the Puerto Rican cultural nation experiences U.S. imperialism, which compromises both the island's sovereignty and Puerto Ricans’ citizenship rights. He analyzes the three alternatives to Puerto Rico's continued territorial status, examining the challenges manifest in each possibility, as well as illuminating what he believes to be the best course of action.


  • “Provides a new and needed approach to understanding the development and current status of Puerto Rico.”


  • “America’s Colony incisively analyzes the legal treatment of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory and the second class treatment of Puerto Ricans. This important book is sure to become an influential critical analysis of the subordination of Puerto Ricans, who contrary to popular opinion are U.S. citizens by birth. Denied representation in the U.S. Congress and the right to vote for President, it is no surprise that Puerto Ricans on the island are denied the education, public benefits, and basic rights that other U.S. citizens enjoy. Importantly, America's Colony traces the legal justification for such treatment, including the amazing U.S. Supreme Court cases from the early twentieth century — decisions that have remained law to this day — that the U.S. Constitution simply does not fully apply to the territory of Puerto Rico. For anyone interested in one of the last American colonies, and modern Puerto Rico, including the controversy over bomb testing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, Malavet’s book is essential reading.”

    —Kevin R. Johnson, University of California at Davis School of Law

  • “In an era increasingly concerned with democracy around the world, Malavet reminds us of the forgotten colony in our own backyard — Puerto Rico. Utilizing a Critical Race/Latino Theory perspective, Malavet make the legal case for a post-colonial future in which reparations will be owed.”

    —Adrien K. Wing, University of Iowa College of Law