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Environmental Justice and Puerto Rico: Historical Roots and Contemporary Issues



Amrani, Iman. “'We Grow up Breathing Music': How Puerto Rico Became a Pop Superpower.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 July 2018,

Everhart, Katherine. “Cultura-Identidad: The Use of Art in the University of Puerto Rico Student Movement, 2010.” Humanity & Society, vol. 36, no. 3, Aug. 2012, pp. 198–219, doi:10.1177/0160597612451243.
Glasser, Ruth. My Music Is My Flag Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities ; 1917 - 1940. Univ. of California Press, 2000.

Johnson, Catalina Maria. “ILe Uses Puerto Rican History To Focus On 'Odio'.” NPR, NPR, 15 Aug. 2018,

Mahtani, Melissa. “'Despacito' Singer: Puerto Rico Needs Your Help.” CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Oct. 2017,

McCaffrey, Katherine T. Military Power and Popular Protest: the U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Snow, Kate, and Kelly Wallace. “Bush Says Navy Will Quit Bombing Vieques.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2001,

Tourism and Imperialism; Sarah Hyden

Merrill, Dennis (2001). Negotiating Cold War Paradise: U.S. Tourism, Economic Planning, and Cultural Modernity in Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico. Diplomatic History, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring 2001), pp. 179-214. Published by Oxford University Press. Retrieved from Accessed: 24-04-2019 21:59 UTC

Garcia, Gervasio Luis (2000). I am the Other: Puerto Rico in the Eyes of North Americans, 1898. The Journal of American History, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jun., 2000), pp. 39-64. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians. Retrieved from Accessed: 24-04-2019 04:03 UTC

Rosa, Richard (2001). Business as Pleasure: Culture, Tourism, and Nation in Puerto Rico in the 1930s. Nepantla: Views from South, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2001, pp. 449-488 (Article) Published by Duke University Press.

Swords, Alicia and Ronald L. Mize (2008). Beyond Tourist Gazes and Performances U.S. Consumption of Land and Labor in Puerto Rican and Mexican Destinations. LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 160, Vol. 35 No. 3, May 2008 53-69 DOI: 10.1177/0094582X08315790.

Caronan, Faye C. (2005). Colonial Consumption and Colonial Hierarchies in Representations of Philippine and Puerto Rican Tourism. Philippine Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1, Representations (2005), pp. 32-58. Published by Ateneo de Manila University. Retrieved from Accessed: 29-04-2019 22:04 UTC.
Bump, Philip. "No, the handling of Hurrican Maria was not an unsung success." Washington Post, September 11, 2018.

Talty, Alexandra (2018). How Puerto Rico Is Using Tourism To Rebuild After Hurricane Maria. Forbes.

America's Historical Newspapers database

Puerto Rico in American Consciousness: Chloe Kersh

"Fair Puerto Rico" Dallas Morning News, November 11, 1894
"Is This Another Cuba? The Island of Puerto Rico and How Spain Controls Its Overtaxed People" The Evening News, April 30, 1898
"Puerto Rico Island Its Present Strategic Value to the United States" Columbus Daily Enquirer, May 17, 1898
"The Destruction in Puerto Rico" The State, September 3, 1899
"Help for Puerto Rico" Dallas Morning News, September 9, 1940

Water (Victoria):

Bullard, Robert D. The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution. Sierra Club Books, 2005.

As the foundation of our class's discussions on environmental justice, this book will be used to define and outline the environmental justice framework for the purpose of identifying the issues in Puerto Rico's water crisis.
Hersher, Rebecca. “Puerto Rico's Tap Water Often Goes Untested, Raising Fears About Lead Contamination.” NPR, NPR, 20 Sept. 2018 

This article illustrates how dire the water quality situation is for Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. It explains exactly how the hurricane physically damaged their water supply, and lists various pollutants, biological hazards, and health effects that result. Additionally, it explains the infrastructure challenges within Puerto Rico, but also the infrastructure funding issues that are taking place back in D.C. This article will prove very helpful with discussing water quality issues after the Hurricane, especially because it includes personal accounts and reveals the more socio-political nature of this environmental issue.  

EPA. “The Government of Puerto Rico Repays Clean Water and Drinking Water Fund Debt.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 20 Feb. 2019, 

This news release from the EPA documents Puerto Rico's government recent debt repay for their clean drinking water SRF (state resolving fund). This is not only helpful for documenting recent developments, the new article also provides background into the 2016 financial crisis, where the territory declared bankruptcy--which had large implications for its clean water operations. 

FEMA. “FEMA Approves $20 Million to Provide Security for Water Service Facilities in Puerto Rico.” FEMA Approves $20 Million to Provide Security for Water Service Facilities in Puerto Rico |, 28 Aug. 2018, .

This news release reports on FEMA's response to Puerto Rico's water supply crisis after Hurricane Maria. It is a helpful official reporting on exactly how much has been allocated as public assistance funds to Puerto Rico's Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA). 

Laskow, Sarah. “The Hidden Problems With Puerto Rico's Water Supply.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 10 Apr. 2018 

This article briefly details the history of Puerto Rico’s water crises--beginning in the 80s--, and its relationship with the EPA, including its labeling as a Superfund site. It then goes on to explain the havoc that Hurricane Maria wrecked on Puerto Rico’s groundwater sources, detailing the specific water quality issues that arose. This article will be helpful to gain a concise understanding of the water issues that have existed in Puerto Rico in previous history and recent history.

Milman, Oliver. “Another Flint? Why Puerto Ricans No Longer Trust Water after the Hurricane.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Aug. 2018

This is a more personal account of the water crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and provides narratives by a Puerto Rican mother and father. In each interview, the residents describe the qualitative characteristics of the water, and how they manage to cope in daily life without clean drinking water. This article will provide, then, a case study of what life is like—in regards to water— in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria.

Sullivan, Laura. “How Puerto Rico's Debt Created A Perfect Storm Before The Storm.” NPR, NPR, 2 May 2018.
This article reports on the Puerto Rican financial crisis that began in 2016, but it also explains how several infrastructure components were deteriorating and/or underfunded long before that. This helps provide context to how Hurricane Maria exacerbated these already existing conditions, and how the pre-existing debt caused such a lag in reconstruction after the hurricane.

UNC Chapel Hill. “Who Is Supplying the Water in Puerto Rico?” Environmental Finance Blog, 19 Nov. 2015

This article comes from UNC Chapel Hill’s Environmental Finance Center, and reports on their efforts to fund workshops on financial management for small water providers in Puerto Rico. Although this is a very specific example, this blog post reflects the attention and resources that non-governmental American groups have provided Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Additionally, it provides information on which groups provide Puerto Rico’s drinking water in the beginning of the article.
Oil Spills (Victoria):
Gelabert, Pedro A. “Puerto Rico's Oil Spill Relationship with Environmental Law.” Corporation for the Conservation of the San Juan Bay Estuary. 

This presentation given by the Chairman of the Corporation for the Conservation of the San Juan Bay Estuary gives a brief history on oil spills near and around Puerto Rico, and how the government and EPA has responded to each. It also provides legal proceedings that have taken place, effects of petroleum spills on marine life, and proper protocol for clean-up. This will be very useful for our work, as it concisely summarizes all of the major oil spills, legal action, and clean-ups that have occurred in Puerto Rico.


This is a link to NOAA’s incident news, which lists all of the oil spills that have happened near or around Puerto Rico. It provides a brief summary of the spill, location of the spill, and response and clean-up efforts. This database will be a helpful and convenient resource that we can use to access all of the information on Puerto Rico’s oil spills.  

The Times Print Archive. “Big Oil Spill Off Puerto Rico Fouls Beach at Height of Tourist Season.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Jan. 1994,

This is a 1994 New York Times article that was published shortly after a major oil spill occurred along the coast of Puerto Rico. It mainly focuses on the negative effects that such an incident caused to their tourism industry: an important lens as tourism was a major revenue for Puerto Rico at the time. It also gives descriptions of the conditions of the beaches after the spill—smell, appearance, public sentiments, etc—which provide an account of how devastating these events are to so many people, environmental features, and industries.

23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood
Robles, Frances. “23% Of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 June 2017,
The 2017 referendum on statehood was the 5th in Puerto Rico’s history. Only 23% of the voting population participated and 97% voted for statehood, a sign that only one party voted. This issue is highly controversial in Puerto Rico, where they are denied the right to vote and pay taxes but are “citizens”. The referendums tend to have biased wording according to the party in power, and many Puerto Ricans don’t vote on this issue or vote “none of the above”. With statehood, Puerto Rico would receive income and corporate taxes to fund social programs that have left Puerto Rico bankrupt. Puerto Rico would also have representatives in Congress with voting ability and the right to vote for President. Those against statehood argue that with statehood, Puerto Rico is at risk for losing its culture, language, and identity. Some think that it is a useless idea to discuss because with half the per capita income of the nation’s poorest state, Mississippi, and its bankruptcy proceedings underway, congress is unlikely to vote Puerto Rico in. This is important to our discussion of environmental justice issues in Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico’s status as a territory is part of the reason it has struggled to clean up Superfund sites, effectively treat waste, and provide potable water to every citizen. 
Puerto Rico Overwhelmingly Votes On U.S. Statehood In Nonbinding Referendum
Dwyer, Colin. “Puerto Rico Overwhelmingly Votes On U.S. Statehood In Nonbinding Referendum.” NPR, NPR, 11 June 2017,
Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly for statehood, but turnout was very low due to a boycott by opposition groups. The government in power argues that statehood would help with Puerto Rico’s debt, but opposition parties are in favor of independence or remaining a territory. Congress won’t act on this referendum because the GOP leaning congressional representatives would not want to let in democrat leaning Puerto Rico and getting the island back on its feet would require more federal spending. Puerto Ricans are treated as second class citizens which causes poor environmental protections from the federal government. Statehood or independence might make environmental problems easier to solve. 
Puerto Rico Territory Profile and Energy Estimates
“Puerto Rico Territory Energy Profile Analysis .” U.S. Energy Information Administration Independent Statistics and Analysis, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 19 July 2018,
Puerto Rico relies on energy from a multitude of sources. Puerto Rico's energy consumption per capita is one-third of the US’ per capita consumption, and its energy intensity is less than two-thirds of the states' energy intensity.About 3/4ths of the energy used in Puerto Rico comes from petroleum products, but they have no viable reserves on the island, so all petroleum is imported. Puerto Rico has plans to transition away from petroleum sources but bankruptcy has slowed this process. All the natural gas is also imported. There is talk of natural gas pipelines being built on the island, but the public is opposed. The island has no coal production and only one coal-fired electricity plant, which was damaged in Maria.  In 2017, about 2% of Puerto Rico’s electricity came from renewable energy sources, with two-fifths of that from wind and nearly as much from solar.The rest comes from hydropower and landfill gas facilities. Solar is growing fast on the island, PERPA, Puerto Rico’s energy company, has been expanding its renewable energy sources and Puerto Rico has set a goal to have 20% renewable energy by 2035. This is important to note because energy is costly and because Puerto Rico is importing much of theirs, they are paying more than necessary. Additionally, petroleum products and coal plants are major polluters and greenhouse gas emitters. Puerto Rico has a vested interest in relying on more sustainable energy sources. 
After Pollution Crisis, Puerto Rico To Eliminate All Coal Power Next Year
Ellsmoor, James. “After Pollution Crisis, Puerto Rico To Eliminate All Coal Power Next Year.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Apr. 2019,
Following the passage of PS 1121 which sets goals to get Puerto Rico to 100% renewables by 2050, Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced that Puerto Rico would end coal usage by 2020. Renewable energy is expected to take a larger market share. Gov. Rosselló announced that he expects renewables to take up 40% market share by 2025. Puerto Rico is looking to become more self-sufficient with energy after Maria left 100% of the island without power and climate change is expected to increase storms in number and intensity. Coal is responsible for 17% of power, and the AES coal plant has previously dumped over two tons of coal ash on the island creating water and air pollution and posing health risks to residents. In the short term, the island will rely more on natural gas until renewables can consolidate. This is important because Puerto Rican power plants have been mismanaged by corrupt PERPA and less reliance on imported petroleum will be crucial for environmental justice efforts on the island. 
Waste Siting
The Puerto Rican Town Left to Stew in Toxic Waste
Funes, Yessenia. “The Puerto Rican Town Left to Stew in Toxic Waste.” Earther, Gizmodo, 5 Apr. 2018,
The Superfund site, Battery Recycling Company, a 16-acre former lead smelting facility, lies just outside Arecibo, where it has toxic levels of heavy metals causing asthma and cancer at higher rates in Arecibo than elsewhere. Scientists worry maria could have spread the toxins across the island. The plant did not properly control and regulate the battery recycling which can be very dangerous and didn’t require emloyees to wear protection. The recycling process converted all this into, on average, nearly 2,000 gallons of lead-filled dust each day, which sat in containers that were left open. As a result of this dust and other emissions, the entire site is now contaminated with lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals.The Puerto Rican Environmental Quality Board, the EPA, and the CDC all knew about the contamination and lead poisioning that was occurring here but did not act on there findings. The site was labeled a Superfund site in 2017 and cleanup began shortly after but was interrupted by Irma and Maria. The EPA may have to remove nearly 30,000 cubic yards of soil and asphalt contaminated with lead, arsenic, and antimony, in addition to leftover slag, or toxic waste, from when the plant was in operation. Stormwater runoff from the site has previously contaminated a nearby wetland and migrated into an irrigation channel leading to the Caño Tiburones Natural Reserve, home to threatened and endangered species, yet the EPA claims there was no runoff from Maria, despite several feet of flooding. Independent scientists believe the contrary. 
Desperate Puerto Ricans line up for water — at a hazardous-waste site
Hernández, Arelis R., and Brady Dennis. “Desperate Puerto Ricans Line up for Water - at a Hazardous-Waste Site.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Oct. 2017,
Following Maria, many people in Puerto Rico did not have access to potable water, so they resorted to drinking, unknowingly, out of wells in Superfund sites, most notably, Dorado Groundwater Contamination Superfund site, designates by the EPA as one of the nation’s most toxic sites. Toxins that cause liver damage and cancer have been found at the site. Testing showed that groundwater contamination at the site was below the legal threshold in some wells but not in others. The entire area was included in the Superfund site boundaries as a “precautionary measure” because groundwater contamination can move over time
The EPA upon learning that residents were drinking from the site began working with the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure water trucks are reaching nearby neighborhoods.

U.S. Military Impact on Public Health in Puerto Rico

Boudreau, Abbie. “Island Residents Sue U.S., Saying Military Made Them Sick.” CNN, Cable News Network, 1 Feb. 2010,

This article details a legal battle between citizens of Vieques and the United States regarding contamination purportedly resulting from U.S. Navy testing in the area. This case adds a level of legitimacy to the claims. This is a valuable source because it escalates the issue and provides new information from experts working on the legal case.


Massol-Deyá, Arturo, et al. “Trace Elements Analysis in Forage Samples from a US Navy Bombing Range (Vieques, Puerto Rico).” MDPI, Molecular Diversity Preservation International, 14 Aug. 2005,

This report details the findings of an evaluation of heavy metal content in samples of vegetation done at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facilities in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The findings indicated the mobilization of unwanted elements through the food web, which is an undoubted environmental justice issue. This source is valuable because it scientifically backs a reported issue of military testing affecting the quality of health of citizens in Vieques.


Pelet, Valeria. “There's a Health Crisis on This Puerto Rican Island, but It's Impossible to Prove Why It's Happening.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 Sept. 2016,

This article details the health crisis in Vieques, Puerto Rico, which is thought to be caused by U.S. Navy testing. The article raises a particular quandary with the crisis: it is nearly impossible to place blame and garner federal help. This is because the government requires a certain standard of evidence to give relief, but the government also owns and controls the land on which the testing which caused the health problems occurred. This is a valuable resource because it adds another lens to environmental justice in Puerto Rico.

History of U.S. in Puerto Rico

Brás, Marisabel. “The Changing of the Guard: Puerto Rico in 1898.” The Changing of the Guard: Puerto Rico in 1898 - The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress),

This Library of Congress source summarizes the change of Puerto Rico from Spanish control to U.S. control. It is a valuable resource in its reliability and in that it talks about just how the U.S. gained control, which was not morally upright in every way.


Dietz, James L. Economic History of Puerto Rico: Institutional Change and Capitalist Development. Princeton University Press, 1993.

This book traces the history of capitalist development in Puerto Rico as the institutions which controlled the island changed and developed. This resource will be especially helpful in discussing the role of capitalism in environmental injustice on the island.


Little, Becky. “Puerto Rico's Complicated History with the United States.”, A&E Television Networks, 22 Sept. 2017, article discusses the history of U.S. involvement in Puerto Rico. This will be a helpful resource, as it allows us to look at the position Puerto Rico currently holds with respect to the United States and how that has changed.

"Destitution in Puerto Rico" is an article published by a Santa Fe newspaper in 1898. The article is evidently written by a U.S. citizen and portrays the people of Puerto Rico as desperate to escape the rule of Spain. This article firmly establishes the common narrative of US-PR relations: that of the savior (US) 'rescuing' Puerto Rico. It can be argued that this attitude was used to excuse the exploitation of Puerto Rico because perhaps 'anything' could be better than Spanish rule.

"Puerto Rico Island and its Present Strategic Value to the United States" is an article published in 1898 by the Columbus Daily Enquirer. It further establishes the perspective of the United States towards Puerto Rico. Trade, ports, commercial success, and strategic advantage over Spain are all cited as the reasons for the annexation of Puerto Rico. One can argue that this perspective persists and is seen in US treatment of the island today.

The Colonizing Mission of the U.S. in Puerto Rico

Pedro Caban, 2002 - University at Albany, State University of New York

Discusses the political processes that were used to determine the standing of US territories after they were acquired, and the imposition of new governing structures and laws over these populations following annexation from Spain. The mission to colonize and appropriate Puerto Rico is examined in relation to the broader goals of imperial power and how the US pursued it.

Taíno History and Revival - Megan Blackburn 

Curet, L. Antonio. "Indigenous Revival, Indigeneity, and the Jíbaro in Borikén." Centro Journal, vol. 27, no. 1, Spring 2015, pp. 206-247. EBSCOhost, 
"Daily Life." Taíno Museum, Accessed 12 May 2019. 

Kearns, Rick. “Indigenous Puerto Rico: DNA evidence upsets established history.” Indian Country Today, News Maven, 6 September, 2017,
This article gives the reader an in-depth look at the genetic breakdown of Puerto Ricans. Most Puerto Ricans have been told and accept that the local indigenous populations, the Taínos, were completely killed off in the 1600s by the Spanish. Recent research now shows that 61% of the modern Puerto Rican population have Amerindian ancestry. This article also outlines other waves of migration that might have contributed to the Amerindian ancestry.

Perez, Debbie, narrator. "I am Taíno. Dak'toká Taíno. An Interview with Alba Garcia." Borikén: A Puerto Rican Podcast, season 1, episode 1, Stitcher, 2 Oct. 2018,

"Puerto Rico." History, 21 Aug. 2018, Accessed 12 May 2019. 

Rivera, Magaly. "Puerto Rico's History." Welcome to Puerto Rico Accessed 12 May 2019. 

"Taíno Society." Florida Museum, University of Florida Accessed 12 May 2019. 

Indigenous Cultures

"The myth of indigenous Caribbean extinction: continuity and reclamation in Borikén (Puerto Rico)" is a book by Castanha that will inform our work on the lives of indigenous peoples in Borikén today. Castanha breaks down the myth that the Taíno were rendered extinct by the Spanish. Furthermore, Castanha talks in depth about the problematic narratives that surround the indigenous peoples. 

This article is an interview with the author of "The Myth..." described above. In this interview, the author delves into his personal experiences and motivations for writing his book, and discusses in more concise and plain language about the subject material of his work. This piece will be useful to add clear and present voice to our project.

Poole, Robert M. “What Became of the Taíno?” Smithsonian, Smithsonian, October, 2011,
This article by the Smithsonian summarizes Taíno history pre- and post-Spanish invasion. It gives the reader a look at Taíno culture and how aspects of it thrive today in Puerto Rico and abroad. Additionally, the article describes how Taínos interacted with the earth and how “we have to give something back” to it.
Rob, Abdul. “Taíno: Indigenous Caribbeans.” Black History 365, Black History Month, 2 December, 2016,
This article provides a very informed and extensive history of Taíno populations across the Caribbean. It provides information of Taíno expansion across the Caribbean, interactions with the Spanish, proper terminology and modern Taínos. This article will be helpful for us to get a solid grasp on indigenous culture in Puerto Rico.

Taino. (2008). In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Retrieved from|CX3045302687&v=2.1&it=r&sid=summon
This encyclopedia entry provides a general overview of Taino history and culture. The Taino, a subgroup of the Arawak Indians, had a highly advanced culture, including a language, ceremonial dances, jewelry, weaving, sculpture, music, and more. Puerto Rican towns still carry many of the traditional Taino names, and words such as canoe and barbeque can be traced back to the Taino. The Taino were a peaceful group, and only engaged in conflict with the Caribs prior to contact with Europeans. With Spanish arrival in 1508, the Taino population was decimated by violence and disease. Though considered to be an extinct group by the Europeans, some Taino did remain, and today many Puerto Ricans claim Taino heritage. Recent years have seen a revival of Taino culture and traditions.

Coastal Erosion
United States Geological Survey. (1998). U.S. geological survey programs in Puerto Rico [PDF]. Retrieved from
This data from the USGS describes changes to the rate of coastal erosion in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Prior to 1977, the erosion rate was 0.5 +/- 0.3 meters per year. However, just a decade later this rate had jumped to 3.0 +/- 1.0 meters per year. The creation of a marina in 1983 and the continued removal of material from the marina’s entrance have likely contributed to the dramatic increase. Because of the rapid loss of coast, residents have attempted to construct a seawall, but this barrier is incomplete. This could result in further rapid destruction of the beach, which residents rely on for tourism for the economy.

Ezcurra, P., & Rivera-Collazo, I. C. (2018). An assessment of the impacts of climate change on Puerto Rico's cultural heritage with a case study on sea-level rise. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 32, 198-209.
This article explores how climate change will impact Puerto Rico, emphasizing the cultural impacts on heritage sites. The author argues that such landmarks form the basis of a cultural identity, and that the destruction of them can have severe psychological and sociocultural impacts. Puerto Rico will be impacted greatly by climate change due to its geography, and the most notable changes will occur in air temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, tropical storms and hurricanes, ocean acidification, sea surface temperature, and sea-level rise. Changes in coastal erosion are already quite noticeable in Puerto Rico: some areas lose up to 1 meter of coast annually, which will only increase as climate change worsens. This makes coastal heritage sites particularly vulnerable, and since most development and settlement in Puerto Rico occurs on the coast, this will have a profound impact on a huge number of heritage sites. A total of 1,185 of the island’s heritage sites lie below 20 meters in elevation, and 27 of those are currently impacted by our current tides.
Petri, A. E. (2017). Planned mega-hotel on iconic surfing beach sparks controversy. Retrieved from
This article describes the proposed Christopher Columbus Landing Resort, a 140-acre complex which would nearly cover the Playuela coastline. This coast is a major recreation spot for locals who enjoy surfing, fishing, snorkeling, and hiking. The coast is also home to several endangered species, including corals, turtles, and manatees. Runoff and waste disposal from the complex threaten the fragile ecosystem as well as several fresh water aquifers in the Playuela region. Locals have strongly resisted the development, as the untamed nature of the beach is what gives it its appeal.

Zapata, J. G. L. (2016). Christopher Columbus Landing Resort, a threat to our identity. Retrieved from
This article describes the value of Playuela and what is at stake with the development of the Christopher Columbus Landing Resort. The author details how the surfing in Playuela generates economic growth for Puerto Rico, providing up to $51.9 million for the town. The article also describes the archaeologic importance of the area, due to a cave on the coast containing the only known petroglyphs in the town of Aguadilla. Resistance to the construction is also noted in the article. Residents of the area have set up a camp at the entrance of the site in order to protest the complex.

Vazquez Domenech, V. M. (2017). Trench art against development in Playuela. Retrieved from

Zanocchi, P. (2016). Community surfers of Puerto Rico in struggle to save the waves of Aguadilla. Retrieved from

Blasor, L. (2017). Columbus Landing future on hold as court fight heats up. Retrieved from

Maantay, J. (2002). Mapping environmental injustices: Pitfalls and potential of Geographic Information Systems in assessing environmental health and equity. Environmental Justice, 110(2), 161-171.

United States Census Bureau. (2018). QuickFacts: Aguadilla Municipio, Puerto Rico [Census data]. Retrieved from

Negotiating Cold War Paradise: U.S. Tourism, Economic Planning, and Cultural Modernity in Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico

DENNIS MERRILL, Diplomatic History Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring 2001), pp. 179-214 (36 pages) Published by: Oxford University Press.
A journal article discussing Puerto Rico's history of tourism, specifically in the 20th century for other US citizens. Increases in the size of the American middle class, affordability of air travel, communication technology, and vacation credits made tourism a greater part of modern culture. The perceptions of the identities of foreign cultures and emphasis on tourism is discussed through the lense of modernization of the Cold War.


How Puerto Rico is using Tourism to Rebuild after Hurricane Maria

Alexandra Talty, September 2018 - Forbes.
Tourism has been relied upon by industries in Puerto Rico as a way to stimulate the economy following the destruction of Hurricane Maria, especially in light of the lack of support the island has received from the US federal government. THere have been subsequent challenges to ensure that environmental damages do not worsen, and this article mentions a curious encouragement of ‘voluntourism’ focused on helping with clean-up.

Mapping Puerto Rico's Hurricane Migration With Mobile Phone Data
Martín Echenique and Luis Melgar, May 11 2018. CityLab.
This study examines cell phone data as a way of tracking movement to and from Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. US Federal data on migration is not as reliable following natural disasters and is even less so when it comes to non-state territories. There are trends that show more people returning to than leaving the island in the recent months following the hurricane. The article also includes animations showing visualizations of the research.

How Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies Separate Families in Puerto Rico

Mc Nelly Torres, January 16, 2019 - Centro de Periodismo Investigativo

This story examines the impact of anti-immigration policies on those who have migrated to Puerto Rico, mostly from other Caribbean or South American countries. The questionable practices by ICE have gotten increasingly more attention in America, but it is often less prevalent the way they operate in Puerto Rico as a US territory. The zero-tolerance policy set by the Trump administration has similarly disrupted the lives of immigrants who have been living in Puerto Rico for decades or more.

Taino Reclamation and Environmental Activism: Parallel Narratives (Josie MacLean)
1. Negotiation of ethnoracial configurations among Puerto Rican Taino Activists by Sherina Felicano-Santos
This paper explores the history of the re-discovery of Taino DNA heritage as well as an examination and analysis of current activism. It follow one advocate as she focuses on education and fighting long-engrained assumptions on the part of Puerto Ricans about their heritage. It also highlights the mechanisms activists have used in the reclamation.
2 and 3. Smithsonian Magazine Articles. The first, Bringing Taino People's History Back by Ranald Woodaman. The second, What Became of the Taino? by Robert M. Poole both helped trace the academic narrative surrounding Taino heritage and existence over many years.  
4. The Origins of Modern Environmental Activism in Puerto Rico in the 1960s by Carmen M Concepcion
This study creates a narrative timeline of the development of an environmentally conscious movement on the island. It delves into the complicated policy structures that led to governmental secrecy, conflict of interest and exploitative practices. Then it details the ways in which communities banded together to create environmental advocacy groups with which to protect themselves and their land as much as possible. 

Power plants
Mufson, S. (2017, September 21). Puerto Rico's power company was already bankrupt. Then Maria hit. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

Even before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was already bankrupt and still in the process of fixing the damages from Hurricane Irma. With the impacts of Hurricane Maria, many places lost electricity, and even if they still had electricity, the prices were more than twice the amount of Puerto Rico’s average prices, placing economic pressure on residents. Emigration rates are greater than immigration rates in Puerto Rico; PREPA has lost 30% of its residents, creating challenges to repairing the electricity infrastructure.

The article provides basic information about the unfavorable status of PREPA and the electricity situation in Puerto Rico. The information can help with understanding possible disproportionate impacts on people in certain areas or people with lower economic status. The article was published on April 17, 2019, so the information should be recent and applicable to today.

Puerto Rico Territory Energy Profile. (2018, June 19). Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration website:

Hurricanes Irma and Maria heavily damaged Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, resulting in electricity generation lowering to 60% of the amount in 2016. Some generators were not destroyed, but because large amounts of transmission and distribution lines were broken, electricity could not be distributed. It wasn’t until May 2018 when most people received electricity, but even then, 11 million were still waiting for electricity. Two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s energy is dependent on oil, which creates dependency on this mostly imported resource. The US, on the other hand, doesn’t use as much oil. The difference between energy resources of the two locations creates some challenges to energy in Puerto Rico.

Colleen Long Associated Press. (2017). Puerto Rico tourism craters in Maria's wake. Spokesman Review.
Previous to Hurricane Maria, tourism only accounted for 8% of Puerto Rico’s income and created jobs for 80.000 people, but it was one of the only sectors that was increasing in income while many other were decreasing. After Hurricane Maria, electricity issues created a barrier to tourism, but Puerto Rico hopes to quickly rebuild the industry.

Talty, A. (2018, September 30). How Puerto Rico is using tourism to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Forbes. Retrieved from
As of September 2018, already 90% of hotel inventories have been restored for tourism. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company, a governmental organization, heavily promoted tourism in Puerto Rico because it is seen as a faster way to rebuild Puerto Rico’s economy compared with other sectors such as agriculture. They have advertised for voluntourism and for travels to Puerto Rico, and efforts have resulted in flight arrival amounts like those before Hurricane Maria.

Sutter, J. D., & Hernandez, S. (2018, February 21). 'Exodus' from Puerto Rico: A visual guide. CNN. Retrieved from
Records show that an unprecedented number of people have been moving from Puerto Rico to the US during the past few years. Some might even call it an exodus because the population has been sharply decreasing, and it’s estimated that once the population left on the island reaches only 2.5 million, it won’t grow again.

The graphs provide clear visual data about how the population has been deceasing and where the people have moved to within the US. It also provides data on some of the economic programs in Puerto Rico, which gives more insight to the number of people affected and what types of help are needed.

Cabán, P. (2018, September 22). Puerto Rico's forever exodus. NACLA. Retrieved from
The article provides the history of Puerto Rico, including how recent events have created a disastrous situation to better explain why emigration rates have been so high. In recent years and since the hurricane, Puerto Rico has not attracted foreign investments, is having trouble accessing the US market, has been deepening in debts, and on top of that, both political parties have not helped Puerto Rico and its people.

Solar Energy in Puerto Rico
Chen, M. (2019, March 13). Confronting Puerto Rico's Coal-Ash Crisis. Retrieved from

Dana, R. (2017, December 11). Update: Solar Recovery in Puerto Rico. Retrieved from

Gallucci, M. (2018, March 12). Rebuilding Puerto Rico's Power Grid: The Inside Story. Retrieved from

Johnson, Tim. “Weary of Blackouts, More Puerto Ricans Are Turning to Solar Energy.” Mcclatchydc, McClatchy Washington Bureau, 29 Nov. 2018,

“IEEFA Puerto Rico: PREPA Privatization Will Not Create Competitive Market, Will Lead to More Dysfunction.” Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, 18 Apr. 2019,

Kaufman, A. C. (2019, May 12). On Puerto Rico's 'Forgotten Island,' Tesla's Busted Solar Panels Tell A Cautionary Tale. Retrieved from

Merchant, Emma Foehringer. “Puerto Rico Legislature Approves 100 Percent Renewable Energy Target.” Greentech Media, Greentech Media, 25 Mar. 2019,

Murphy, J. (2017, December 22). How long has Puerto Rico been without full power? Retrieved from

Quartz. (2019, January 25). Puerto Rico's solar energy insurrection. Retrieved from

Roselund, Christian. “Puerto Rico Plans Stop Short of the Grid of the Future.” Pv Magazine USA, 8 Feb. 2019,

Salinas. (2017, October 19). The story of Puerto Rico's power grid is the story of Puerto Rico. Retrieved from

"Aldrin/Dieldrin ." Toxic Substances Portal. March 03, 2011. Accessed May 01, 2019.
"Mercury and Health." World Health Organization. Accessed April 29, 2019.
"Papelera Puertorriqueña, Inc." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed April 29, 2019.
"Search for Superfund Sites Where You Live." EPA. September 13, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019.
"Tetrachloroethylene ." Toxic Substances Portal. March 03, 2011. Accessed May 01, 2019.
"Trichloroethylene." Toxic Substances Portal. March 03, 2011. Accessed May 01, 2019.
Toxaphene." Toxic Substances Portal. March 03, 2011. Accessed May 01, 2019.
Vega, C. M. V., Brown, P., Murphy, C., Figueroa, A., Cordero, J., & Alshawabkeh, A. (2016). Community Engagement and Research Translation in Puerto Rico’s Northern Karst Region: The PROTECT Superfund Research Program. NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, 26(3), 475–495. 
"2,3,7,8 -Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD, "dioxin")." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 01, 2019.


Calle, J. (2017, December 15). Puerto Rico Faces Serious Garbage Problem After Hurricane Maria. Retrieved from

EPA. (2016, May). Cayey Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Cayey, Puerto Rico (Landfill Study). Retrieved from

     EPA. (2016, September). EPA's Work to Address Puerto Rico Landfills (EPA

memo).Retrieved from


Mataloni, F., Badaloni, C., Golini, M. N., Bolignano, A., Bucci, S., Sozzi, R., . . . Ancona, C. (2016, May 24). Morbidity and mortality of people who live close to municipal waste landfills: A multisite cohort study. Retrieved from

McNicoll, B.  (2018, February 16). Puerto Rico's Trash Removal: A Big Mess Growing Bigger. Retrieved from, V. (2017, October 18). Puerto Rico’ Environmental Catastrophe.

Newkirk, V. (2017, October 18). Puerto Rico’ Environmental Catastrophe.

Siegel, R. (2017, December 14). After Maria, Puerto Rico Struggles Under The Weight Of Its Own Garbage. Retrieved from

Simmons, A. (2016, April 22). The world's trash crisis, and why many Americans are oblivious. Retrieved from

Willison, C. E., Phillip, Creary, M. S., & Greer, S. L. (2019, January 01). Quantifying inequities in US federal response to hurricane disaster in Texas and Florida compared with Puerto Rico. Retrieved from

Vieques Island: 


"Brief History, Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico.", Culpeles Communications.


Cooper, Ryan. "Thanks to Obama, Puerto Rico might never recover from Irma." The Week, 15 Sept. 2017.


Elfrink, Tim. "Trump hits out at ‘crazed and incompetent’ Puerto Rican leaders after disaster bill fails." The Washington Post , 2 Apr. 2019.


Emerson, Sarah. "The Puerto Rican Island the US Military Destroyed Has Been Forgotten After Hurricane Maria." Vice , Motherboard , 20 Oct. 2017.


McCaffrey, Katherine. "Social Struggle against the U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Two Movements in History." JSTOR, Sage Publications, Inc, Jan. 2006.


Pelet, Valeria. "Puerto Rico’s Invisible Health Crisis." The Atlantic , 3 Sept. 2016.


Stein, Jeff, and Dennis Pichardo. "‘The colony within the colony’: Puerto Rico fumes as FEMA deliberates over remote hospital." The Washington Post , 6 May 2019.


*Also incorporated-

The Use of Art in Social Justice Movements - Osman Yasin
Painting Identity and Resistance: Muralism in Puerto Rico by Jarieth Natalia Merced
Everhart, Katherine. “Cultura-Identidad: The Use of Art in the University of Puerto Rico Student Movement, 2010.” Humanity & Society 36, no. 3 (August 2012): 198–219. doi:10.1177/0160597612451243.

Barclay, E., Campbell, A. F., & Irfan, U. (2018, September 20). Hurricane Maria: 4 ways the storm changed Puerto Rico — and the rest of America. Vox. Retrieved from
Since Hurricane Maria, politics around Puerto Rico have been changing. Puerto Ricans are dissatisfied with their own government and the Trump administration’s management of Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria and in general. Now, the most popular view is statehood for the Puerto Ricans left on the island, and also, there are substantially more Puerto Ricans in the US, especially Florida, with voting rights available to them.

Cabán, P. (2018, September 22). Puerto Rico's forever exodus. NACLA. Retrieved from
The article provides the history of Puerto Rico, including how recent events have created a disastrous situation to better explain why emigration rates have been so high. In recent years and since the hurricane, Puerto Rico has not attracted foreign investments, is having trouble accessing the US market, has been deepening in debts, and on top of that, both political parties have not helped Puerto Rico and its people.

Dvorak, P. (2018, September 10). Stay or go? A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico provides no easy answer. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
The majority of the people who migrated to the US are middle-class families who are not finding satisfying job opportunities in Puerto Rico. The emigration of middle-class families has resulted in an increase in the divide between the rich and poor in Puerto Rico, further isolating the poor in the territory. For some in Puerto Rico, the decision is to move or stay is challenging; the US provides more opportunities and stability but their heart belongs in Puerto Rico. This challenge is especially true for some of the wealthy.

Fuenes, Y. (2018, December 19). New census data shows exactly how many people left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Earther. Retrieved from
From July 2017-July 2018, Puerto Rico decreased 3.9% in population, which was double from the average in the past 7 years. Many people who left were leaving with their children, resulting in fewer children in school, causing more schools to close and more children to leave the island. Depopulation is creating a huge challenge for Puerto Rico because they need more money circulation and more people to invest in the region to build it back up again.

Hernández, A. (2018, March 6). Exodus from Puerto Rico grows as island struggles to rebound from Hurricane Maria. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
Puerto Rico has had challenges with its utility system, including PREPA debt and privatization; some residents even took the initiative to provide power to others. As Puerto Rico struggled after the hurricane, some families separated and many moved to the US permanently. Previously, circular migration was popular to and from Puerto Rico, but now, patterns of migration may have changed.

Montoya-Galvez, C. (2019, January 9). Top FBI official says there's a "crisis of violence" in Puerto Rico. CBS News. Retrieved from
Crime rates have increased in Puerto Rico, and the types of crimes have changed, too. Previous to Hurricane Maria, most crimes were related to corruption and money laundering, but now, the main issue is violence and drug trafficking. The governor requested for more assistance but it may be difficult, considering all the other challenges Puerto Rico is facing.

Newkirk, V. R. (2018, May 5). Puerto Rico enters a new age of austerity. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
May 5th of 2018, Puerto Ricans protested because they were unhappy with cuts in spending and they were even pepper sprayed and tear gassed violently by the enforcement officers. These events foreshadow possible austerity policies in the future.

Puerto Rico: The exodus after Hurricane Maria. (2018, September 21). CBS News. Retrieved from
Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was experiencing a brain drain, and now, it is more severe. 254 schools have closed since the hurricane, some because of hurricane damage, some because so few children were left.

Sutter, J. D., & Hernandez, S. (2018, February 21). 'Exodus' from Puerto Rico: A visual guide. CNN. Retrieved from
Records show that an unprecedented number of people have been moving from Puerto Rico to the US during the past few years. Some might even call it an exodus because the population has been sharply decreasing, and it’s estimated that once the population left on the island reaches only 2.5 million, it won’t grow again. The graphs provide clear visual data about how the population has been decreasing and where the people have moved to within the US. It also provides data on some of the economic programs in Puerto Rico, which gives more insight into the number of people affected and what types of help are needed.