I believe that in order for students to gain insight into the complex relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States they must examine the Americanization of the island. This includes Jones Act of 1917, relief effort during The New Deal, and industrialization efforts during Operation Bootstrap. Before students began reading any literature, they are going to research the historical events in order to contextualize the literature. Students can find information and pictures on the Library of Congress websites in order to visualize the historical events as well. I want students to begin consider how Puerto Ricans felt about American occupation on the island during these time periods. I want them to question: What changes occurred on the island because of American occupation of the island? How were Americans received by Puerto Rican because of their occupation? How did these factors determine how Puerto Ricans would perceive the United States?
I also chose the chapter "The American Invasion of Macun" from Esmeralda Santiago's memoir When I was Puerto Rican for this part of the unit. I want the students to read an actual account of the Americanization of a Puerto Rican school from the perspective of a child. In this excerpt, the narrator observes changes occurring as Americanos come to the island to instruct parents and students about proper living conditions. The first stages of the Americanization begin in the classroom the narrator's teacher struggles to teach the students American geography and English by using the song "America the Beautiful". These slight changes do not seem to bother, the narrator, Negi. However, when all the mothers of Macun are instructed during a Saturday seminar on hygiene and nutrition, Negi begins to question the purpose of the Americanos in "ties and white shirts" who distribute toothpaste and food to the mothers.a1a It isn't until the school begins to provide Americanized breakfast do we see Negi's anger towards the changes occurring in her life. She refuses to complete a glass of milk she knows is sour and blurts out her opinion of Americanos to her teacher. She then runs home where she will fight the sickness from the milk for several days. Upon returning back school she discovers the elections are over and there is no more American food at her school.
This chapter will allow students to evaluate how American imposed itself on a rural area. As students read I want them to consider how it made the community feel to have Americans informing Puerto Rican women on how to raise their children.
Students will also read an essay by Esmeralda Santiago entitled "Island of Lost Causes". In this essay, Santiago examines the ambiguous state of current day Puerto Rico. She discusses the previous failed attempts at independence a nationalist leader who was also her uncle. She then discusses the current state of unemployment that plagues the island, crime rates, and the growing dialect of Spanglish grown out the Americanization of the island. She ends the essay by contending that it is Puerto Rico's inability to choose that between statehood and an independent nation that hinders the country.
This essay will allow students to evaluate whether or not they believe the Americanization of the island was effective. Students will be expected to write a response on the topic using the historical information they have studied in the beginning of the unit in order to support their claim.