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Visiting Author To Discuss Book On Puerto Rico

Published: September 15, 2015

Author Nelson A. Denis, a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, will visit CSULB on Saturday, Oct. 17, as part of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies’ initiative “Universidad de la Familia” to discuss his new book titled War Against All Puerto Ricans. The talk will be held in Lecture Hall 151 from 9 a.m.-noon. Students are encouraged to bring their parents as guests.

War Against All Puerto Ricans is a powerful, tragic and untold history of U.S. intervention into the politics of Puerto Rico. From the U.S. invasion in 1898 to the modern-day struggle for self-determination, Denis provides a panoramic history of an island once referred to by the New York Times as a significant “commercial value…it would be much better for [Puerto Rico] to come at once under the beneficent sway of these United States than to engage in doubtful experiments at self-government.”

“For almost a decade Puerto Rico has been hit by social and economic upheaval. In recent years, and especially 2015, the crushing debt of $73 billion has created a political crisis which as usual is pivoting around Puerto Rico’s 117-year relationship as a colony/possession of the United States,” said Victor Rodriguez, a professor in CSULB’s Department of Chicano and Latino Studies. “While the mainstream media describes Puerto Rico with euphemisms as ‘commonwealth’ or ‘territory,’ the reality is that Puerto Rico is neither. As defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The history of relationship and the conflicts that are again beginning to arise is told by this new book by Mr. Nelson Denis.”

Denis has served as a New York State Assemblyman (1996-2000) and has written for the New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday and Harvard Political Review. He was the editorial director of El Diario, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the nation, and won the Best Editorial Writing award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

In addition, Denis wrote and directed the feature film “Vote For Me!,” which premiered in the Tribeca Film Festival. His screenplays have won awards from the New York State Council on the Arts and New York Foundation for the Arts.

Based on oral histories, personal interviews, eyewitness accounts, congressional testimony, and recently de-classified FBI files, War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of a revolution integral to Puerto Rican history, but virtually unknown to the American public: the Puerto Rican independence revolt of 1950. After more than 50 years of military occupation and colonial rule, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico staged an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the United States. Violence swept through Puerto Rico: Nationalists were sent to kill President Harry Truman, gunfights roared in eight towns, police stations and post offices were burned down. In order to suppress the uprising, the U.S. Army deployed thousands of troops and bombarded two towns, marking the first time in history that the U.S. bombed its own citizens.

Nelson Denis
Nelson Denis

In telling this story, Denis traces the lives of the key figures that shaped, directed and destroyed the revolution, including Pedro Albizu Campos, president of the Nationalist Party and leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement, who was eventually imprisoned and died under mysterious circumstances. It is an unflinching account of the gunfights, prison riots, political intrigue, FBI and CIA covert activity, and mass hysteria that accompanied this tumultuous period in Puerto Rican history.

“The confluence of the debt crisis and the more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans who have left the island has created a marked interest in narratives that provide a context,” said Rodriguez. “That is what Mr. Nelson Denis has been able to do. The fact that he has wrote scripts and produced movies and his experience as a journalist and New York State Assemblyman has produced a book that has become a best seller on Amazon and even in bookstores in Puerto Rico, despite the fact the book was written in English. In late November a Spanish version of the book will be published. The controversial topic has become a social phenomenon that sociologists call ‘social contagion.’ Its seemingly startling story has in fact added to the popularity of this book although it also has created many detractors who complain about its tone.”

For additional information, e-mail Rodriguez.

–Shayne Schroeder