Archaeologists To Ben Carson: Ancient Egyptians Wrote Down Why The Pyramids Were Built

Egyptian archaeologist Abdelgawad Harrbi speaks to the press inside the tomb of Iymery. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, November 4, marked 93 years to the day that the tomb of King Tutankhamen was opened in Egypt, revealing spectacular artifacts and a magnificent mummy of the boy king.  The celebration was somewhat marred, at least here in the U.S., by a leading Republican candidate for president, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who confirmed a statement he’d made in 1998 — that he believes the Egyptian pyramids were grain silos, not tombs.

The collective reaction from archaeologists and historians, who have command of literally centuries’ worth of research into the artifacts and literature of the ancient Egyptians, is… Wait, what now?

Carson said in his 1998 talk at Andrews University, a Seventh-Day Adventist-affiliated university, “And when you look at the way that the pyramids were made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for various reasons.  And various of scientists [sic] have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how, you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.’”

 Just to be clear, no scientists think that aliens built the pyramids. There is a small but vocal contingent of people who believe in pseudoarchaeological explanations, but archaeologists have dismantled those harebrained theories at every possible turn. (See, for example, my piece, “What Archaeologists Really Think about Ancient Aliens, Lost Colonies, and Fingerprints of the Gods.”)  So while it may look good for Carson to deny alien involvement in pyramid building, he also attributes them to some dude who may or may not have existed rather than, well, the ancient Egyptians.

As a Seventh-Day Adventist, Carson appears to subscribe to the idea that the book of Genesis is literal history.  And therefore that the Joseph of the Old Testament, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, built the pyramids to store grain during the seven years of abundance mentioned in Genesis.  As Carson specifically said in the 1998 talk, “My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain.”

My favorite tweet on this comes from ecologist Jacquelyn Gill:

We know what the pyramids were built for because the ancient Egyptians tell us what they were built for (see, for example, the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts).  Denying ancient people the capability of building monumental structures is not new, though, and not confined to Egypt — plenty of people over the years have denied that Native Americans could have built the massive earthwork mounds across the U.S. and that the Maya could have built their pyramids without help from aliens, Europeans, or a higher religious power.

It might be nice to think that Carson has learned since his talk, nearly two decades ago, more about the ancient Egyptian civilization.  But no; Carson affirmed this belief in Joseph and his amazing technicolor grain silo to CBS News last night, doubling down on a profound, willful ignorance of science.

In the end, does it really matter what Carson thinks about the Egyptian pyramids?  There will always be science deniers, there will always be people swayed by pseudoarchaeology, and there will always be people who believe what they want no matter the facts.  It does matter, though, because Carson is vying for the job of representing the United States. So it matters that Carson casually rejects hundreds of years’ worth of research because in denying science, he throws the U.S. back into the past.  It matters that he brazenly denies the Egyptian people their rightful history because this marginalizes an entire culture and makes the U.S. look like an ignorant bully.

Aside from the massive, collective sigh that has gone out among my colleagues’ Facebook FB -0.93% and Twitter TWTR +0.00% feeds over the Carson brouhaha, there have also been links shared to honor the history of the Egyptian people, my favorite of which is this series of color photos of the discovery of the tomb of King Tut in 1922. There’s no denying that humans are — and have always been — very clever at using and creating their environment and culture.  So let’s stop pretending more complicated explanations are needed for the creation of ancient monuments.

[Update: 11/6 – Since many commenters have asked for more specific explanations of the consensus on the purpose for the pyramids, I am going to post some links here.  Science Alert – Here’s How Scientists Know The Pyramids Were Built to Store Pharaohs, Not Grain.  AP/Yahoo News – Experts Dismiss Carson’s Belief Pyramids Used to Store Grain.]



America may be in a reinforcing feedback loop of growing inequality and Republican rule


There is a debate emerging on these pages (and elsewhere) as to whether the Democrats are in deep trouble.

Vox’s Matt Yglesias thinks they are. Not only, he notes, do Republicans now hold majorities in the US House and the Senate, but the GOP also now has unified control of 25 state legislatures, while Dems control only seven. More significantly, Republicans are using their power. They are going after unions, which have traditionally been a key organizing force for Democrats. And they are enacting stricter voting rules, which tend to disenfranchise those voters most likely to vote for Democrats.

Political scientist Phil Klinkner has disagreed, arguing that there is a natural, almost “thermostatic” ebb and flow to partisan fortunes in America. When one party controls the White House, public opinion naturally moves against that party. Put a Republican in the White House, he argues, and voters across the country will readjust to favor Democrats.

Who is right? It depends on whether you think American democracy operates primarily by balancing feedback loops (in which partisan electoral victories are always short-lived because they provoke an equal but opposite reaction) or primarily by reinforcing feedback loops (in which electoral victories translate into policy victories that can cement long-term advantages).

Almost certainly, it’s a little bit of both. But the timelines on which these loops operate vary. Reinforcing feedback loops are likely to prevail for the immediate future, possibly even for decades. Balancing feedback loops operate over much larger timescales.

Or, shorter version: Yglesias is probably right. Democrats likely are in deep trouble for the next few decades, barring any unexpected changes.

The macrohistorical perspective

While party fortunes certainly do ebb and flow from election to election (and, yes, in some opposition to White House control, as per Klinkner and others), these ups and downs are secondary to a larger pattern in American politics. Traditionally, there has always been one dominant and one secondary party — a “sun” party and a “moon” party, as Samuel Lubell once famously labeled it.

And this dominance tends to last for a very long time. The below (borrowed) chart tells a straightforward story. Republicans had mostly solid control of Congress for about 70 years following the Civil War. Then Democrats had pretty solid control of Congress for 60 years.

Since the mid-1990s, things have been unusually up for grabs. The past two decades have been the most consistently competitive period in American history (which Frances Lee has convincingly argued is a key driver of our particularly nasty bout of partisanship).

But more and more evidence suggests that Republicans may come out as the long-term winners. As Thomas Schaller has convincingly argued, the GOP increasingly enjoys a structural advantage based on geography — suburban and rural areas, where Republicans do best, are overrepresented in Congress. Republican voters also turn out more reliably because of their stronger social networks.

Moreover, as Schaller notes, 39 of 50 US states hold gubernatorial elections in off-year or odd-numbered-year elections, when turnout is lower. John Judis has made some similar arguments about the long-term strength of Republicans.

But perhaps more significantly, Republicans are taking advantage of being in power to strengthen future electoral success.

Yglesias describes some of these strategies (weakening unions, raising hurdles to voting) in his piece. Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have also provided some excellent descriptions of the ways in which Republicans have used their electoral gains to strengthen their core constituencies (mostly the very well-off) while weakening Democrats’ core constituencies (those who are less well-off), increasing socioeconomic inequality in the process.


Hacker and Pierson additionally argue that voter ignorance has also helped Republicans, especially the most conservative Republicans. As they point out, there is considerable political science evidence that political messaging does mislead voters, undermining responsiveness. And, as both Schaller and Hacker and Pierson both point out, Republicans have figured out a brilliant smoke-and-mirrors strategy: Since Democrats are the party of big, especially federal, government, political dysfunction in Washington hurts Democrats. Republicans may be the instigators, but most voters don’t play close enough attention to politics to ascribe meaningful blame. They just see that they don’t like big, federal government, and Democrats are the party of big, federal government.

How voter ignorance helps the political right, across nations

Voter information is also at the core of another feedback theory, one that I’m going to spend a bit of time on here because it makes a compelling case for why our future may be more inequality and more Republican dominance, and how those two features are actually closely tied together.

This theory comes from political scientists Torben Iversen and David Soskice, and is laid out in a recent academic journal article, “Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies.”

Drawing on considerable data across 20 democracies, they identify two “Weberian ideal types” of democracies.

The first of these types, exemplified by Scandinavian countries like Sweden and, yes, Denmark, tends to have relative equality in educational opportunity and strong private sector unions. This leads to denser social networks that discuss politics, and as a result, even those who are less well-off tend to be pretty well-informed and engaged politically.

Thus, there tends to be a pretty strong relationship between socioeconomic status and ideological self-placement in these countries, with those who are worse off economically mostly identifying on the political left. These countries are also marked by high polarization, largely a product of a very informed electorate (high information and strong ideology tend to go together).

The second of these types, exemplified by the United States, has high levels of economic inequality and right-leaning politics. These countries have unequal educational opportunities between rich and poor and weak private sector unions. These two factors produce a public in which the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum tends have low levels of political engagement and very limited information.

As a result, their socioeconomic position tends to be a poorer predictor of ideological self-placement. Those individuals lower on the socioeconomic spectrum are much less likely to place themselves on the political left, as compared with the Scandinavian countries. The mass electorate also tends to be less polarized (at least based on self-reported ideology), which Iversen and Soskice argue is a sign of their low levels of political information. Other countries in this cluster are the UK, Ireland, and Greece.

Below is the visualization of their “micro-level” theory:

Source: Iversen and Soskice, "Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies"

Iversen and Soskice, “Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies.”

To summarize the picture above: Education and union membership contribute to knowledge, both directly and indirectly, by facilitating networks that stimulate more political discussion. Socioeconomic status also contributes to knowledge directly — wealthier individuals tend to be more well-informed.

Political knowledge is the key variable here. The more political knowledge an individual has, Iversen and Soskice argue, the more closely ideology and economic status go together.

“We find,” they write, “that political knowledge causes more polarized self-placements, but that political knowledge has a bigger effect on the left than on the right, and that the distribution of knowledge is biased in favor of the right.”

Put another way, those who are less well-off need unions and public education to get them the political information they need to self-place in line with their economic interests. The rich do not.

At the macro level, Iversen and Soskice sketch out a national feedback loop.

Source: Iversen and Soskice, "Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies"

Iversen and Soskice, “Information, Inequality, and Mass Polarization: Ideology in Advanced Democracies.”

In countries with strong unions, strong investment in public education, and generally informed citizens, politics tends to be left-leaning but also highly polarized. More left-leaning governments invest more in public education and support strong unions. The cycle reinforces itself.

By contrast, in countries with low spending on education and weak unions, mass political information declines. Because those who are less well-off lack information to properly locate their economic interests, politics trends rightward, and inequality increases as a result of further de-investment in education and declining union bargaining power, which further reduces political information. And so on. As Iversen and Soskice explain, “In this cluster of countries, we further expect politics and public policies to be shifted to the right because of the strong class bias in political information.”

Does this explain what’s going on in the United States?

Much in this theory is consistent with recent trends in the United States. Unions have declinedIncome inequality has increased. The educational opportunity gap has widened. The political mood has shifted to the right. More and more, the poor have dropped out of politics.

Republicans might respond by pushing back against the assertion that working-class Republican voters are making a mistake. After all, perhaps these voters actually understand what a bunch of pointy-headed academics from Harvard and the London School of Economics (where Iversen and Soskice, respectively, teach) never seem to grasp: that free market policies produce more prosperity for everyone, and that too much government regulation is slowing down the economy. Or maybe the struggling working-class voters think Democrats have done little to help them in recent years, so why not vote Republican. And besides, aren’t the Democrats too in thrall to their wealthiest donors to do anything really big to lift the fortunes of those who are worse off? Aren’t Democrats just a bunch of elitists who don’t really care about the poor?

By the logic of Iversen and Soskice, this is exactly the uncertainty that makes it hard for low-information voters to determine who actually represents their interests. They hear a bunch of competing arguments over economic policy and government performance. How do they know which to believe?

To be fair, surveys do show that Americans tend to be willing to tolerate a certain amount of inequality, especially to preserve free enterprise and individualism. But Americans also significantly underestimate the amount of inequality in society, and would probably be much more unhappy if they accurately estimated it. After taxes and transfers, the US is the most unequal of the advanced industrial democracies.

Obviously we are not Denmark. Or Sweden. And it’s not clear how we would become Denmark or Sweden. But this seems to me precisely Iversen and Soskice’s point: These reinforcing feedback loops are quite sticky. Once a country gets into a particular pattern, a whole bunch of factors make it very hard to break out of that trajectory.

What should Democrats do?

All these reinforcing loops described above point in the same direction: If Democrats think they can just wait for the public to get tired of Republican rule, they are going to be waiting a long time. Maybe half a century.

One of the intriguing, unresolved questions in the Iversen and Soskice paper is the role that electoral systems play. The left-leaning, equalizing Scandinavian countries tend to be multi-party proportional representation systems; the right-leaning, increasingly unequal countries tend have majoritarian systems with two or three parties.


As Iversen and Soskice note, “Because education spending and strong unions in turn lead to more left-leaning voting, there is likely to be a reinforcing feedback loop between left policies and left voting in PR systems.”

There is some evidence that because multi-party systems have several parties competing for voters on the left, politicians in these countries do more to mobilize the undervoting poor. Multi-party systems also tend to have higher voting rates. The US, by contrast, is the only major democracywith just two effective parties, and has one of the lowest voting rates of all democracies.

Certainly Democrats have plenty of incentives to mobilize the poor, who do tend to vote Democratic. But because of declining union infrastructure, various forms of disenfranchisement, and the weak social networks of the lower class, organization is difficult and costly. Moreover, the Democrats’ most active donors may not be super eager to see the poor get super engaged in politics.

Something significant may happen to upset the self-reinforcing feedback loops that appear to be in play. A major shock, like a serious economic upheaval (say, an automation revolution), or a bitter civil war that fractures the Republican Party, could reorder things. Or Democrats could come up with a new and brilliant strategy.

But absent something significant, get ready: American politics is probably going to look like it does right now for a few decades to come.

This post is part of Polyarchy, an independent blog produced by the political reform program at New America, a Washington think tank devoted to developing new ideas and new voices. See more Polyarchy posts here.


THANK YOU: George Lucas Just Donated $10 Million for Black and Latino Kids to Study Film at USC





It’s widely known that the University of Southern California boasts one of the world’s greatest film schools, with notable alums among its ranks, including Judd Apatow, Ron Howard, and George Lucas standing out on a list of the literally hundreds of Hollywood big shots who have graced its halls. But much like the Hollywood dream factory that plucks its recruits directly from each graduating class, USC’s alumni list also happens to be pretty damn white, and while there are undoubtedly myriad reasons for this imbalance, it probably has a little to do with the school’s exorbitant private university tuition.

Photo: Lisa Tomasetti/Lucasfilm

Thankfully, George Lucas is about to change all that. The 94th richest man in the world recently committed to donating $10 million to his alma mater in order to establish The George Lucas Foundation Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity. Now we can be sure that no one will ever pronounce that name in its entirety, but it does a decent job of getting the idea across: the fund will support scholarships for black and Latino students to pursue studies in film at USC. Starting next year, the scholarships will be divvied up evenly between young men and women for studies at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

8941176_1280x720 george lucas wife mellody

So why would someone like George Lucas be so interested in fostering “diverse voices and stories” in American cinema? Well, happens that Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson, is one of the most powerful African-American women in the entertainment industry, and given that her name is also attached to the scholarship, she just might have had something to do with it. Lucas explains, “Hispanic and African-American storytellers are underrepresented in the entertainment industry. It is Mellody’s and my privilege to provide this assistance to qualified students who want to contribute their unique experience and talent to telling their stories.”

Now start working on those applications, kids.





Why Police Lie Under Oath

THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”

But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly.  Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.


Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record.  “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.

All true, but there is more to the story than that.

Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”

For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something.  You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.

Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.

The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so.


Save Puerto Rico Before It Goes Broke


Puerto Rico’s government is on the verge of running out of money. A messy default is in nobody’s interest, which is why Congress ought to move swiftly to provide the American territory with a way to restructure its huge debt and revive its economy.

The Obama administration last week offered the outline of a rescue plan to help the island and the 3.5 million American citizens who live there. The plan would impose new oversight on the island’s finances and expand access to government programs like Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit. Crucially, it asks Congress to change the law so that Puerto Rico’s territorial government and its municipalities can seek bankruptcy protection.

Political leaders in Puerto Rico and many financial and legal experts have been saying for months that the territory cannot repay the approximately $72 billion it owes to hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. Its economy is not growing, and tens of thousands of residents are leaving every year for the mainland to look for work. More than 300,000 have left in the last 10 years.

The Obama administration last week offered the outline of a rescue plan to help the island and the 3.5 million American citizens who live there. The plan would impose new oversight on the island’s finances and expand access to government programs like Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit. Crucially, it asks Congress to change the law so that Puerto Rico’s territorial government and its municipalities can seek bankruptcy protection.

Political leaders in Puerto Rico and many financial and legal experts have been saying for months that the territory cannot repay the approximately $72 billion it owes to hedge funds, mutual funds and other investors. Its economy is not growing, and tens of thousands of residents are leaving every year for the mainland to look for work. More than 300,000 have left in the last 10 years.

Its public pension plans need a cash infusion of about $44 billion. Puerto Rico has cut spending and raised taxes in the hope of saving itself, but that hasn’t worked, and it won’t work in the foreseeable future given the sorry state of the island’s economy.

Bankruptcy seems inevitable. But under federal law, Puerto Rico’s government, its municipalities and its government-owned utilities cannot go to bankruptcy court — hence the administration’s request for a new bankruptcy process for territorial governments and a change in the law to allow Puerto Rican cities and public utilities to seek Chapter 9 protection, much as local governments like Detroit and Orange County, Calif., have done.

Many investors who have lent money to Puerto Rico and stand to lose under any debt restructuring are bitterly opposed to the Obama plan. They say Puerto Rico can repay all of its debt if it tightens its belt and privatizes utilities and other government-owned businesses. Changing the law now, they argue, is deeply unfair. But the record of what has happened in troubled countries like Greece is clear: Austerity policies have only worsened the crisis. As for the fairness argument, legislators change laws all the time to meet new circumstances.

What investors must realize is that an orderly restructuring is a far better alternative than the long and complex legal battles that would inevitably follow a sudden default. American bankruptcy courts have a good track record of resolving complicated debt cases. And if, in addition to reworking the bankruptcy law, Congress also created an oversight board, as the Obama administration recommends, investors could have some confidence that Puerto Rico’s politicians would make needed policy changes.

There is no doubt that Puerto Rican leaders have mismanaged the island’s finances and economy. What’s at issue now, though, is not Puerto Rico’s past but its future and that of its inhabitants. If Congress doesn’t like the administration’s ideas, it needs to come up with its own.


Bernie Sanders Calls For Federal Investigation Of Exxon



Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants ExxonMobil investigated by the Department of Justice.

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday, Sanders charged the oil giant of engaging in a cover-up to intentionally mislead the public about the reality of human-caused climate change, and by extension the risks of its carbon-intensive product.

“It appears that Exxon knew its product was causing harm to the public, and spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the facts in the public discourse,” Sanders wrote. “The information that has come to light about Exxon’s past activities raises potentially serious concerns that should be investigated.”

The information Sanders cited was a recent investigation by Inside Climate News, which found that the ExxonMobil conducted research as far back as 1977 affirming that climate change is caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuels. At the same time, the oil giant gave millions of dollars to politicians and organizations that promote climate science denial, and spent millions more lobbying to prevent regulations to limit carbon emissions.

Sanders, like many, compared the allegations against ExxonMobil to the DOJ’s massive and successful lawsuit against the tobacco industry. That action found that a number of big tobacco companies engaged in racketeering by conspiring to hide the harmful impacts of smoking from the public.

In an interview with ThinkProgress on Monday, the attorney who prosecuted that case against the tobacco industry said an investigation into ExxonMobil by the DOJ is “plausible and should be considered.”



Mapping 22 Different Latino Populations Across the U.S.A.

1393665_448970858545634_31820082_nWhere do America’s Latino and Hispanic populations live? Let’s start with where they’re not living: in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and a whopping chunk of the Midwest that probably hears a sí as often as the cry of an Amazonian toucan.

That’s the picture painted by this absorbing visualization from the U.S. Census, showing where people with ties to south-of-the-border countries reside in the United States. Using people’s self-reported “specific origins” from the 2010 census, the nation’s top head-counters have assembled population maps for 22 ethnic groups from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. If you want to chat with someone of Mexican descent, you’d be wise to head to Los Angeles and multiple cities in Texas, for instance. The main population center for Cubans is Miami, Puerto Ricans mass around New York City and the East Coast, and Bolivians cluster in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Census released these revealing maps on September 30, but as its website went offline the next day due to the government shutdown, they haven’t gotten much attention. They’re quite noteworthy for the demographic patterns they contain, though: Flip through a half dozen or so maps, and you’ll notice that while these groups are spread throughout the country, their numbers are concentrated in just a few major cities, including L.A., New York, Chicago, Miami, and Houston. Here are examples showing that distribution (the size of the circles correlates to the largeness “proportion of the group that lives in a given county,” according to the census):

Folks of Mexican descent tend to live in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, around Chicago and Phoenix, and in western Texas. Smaller populations have made homes in Denver, New York City, Seattle, and elsewhere.

People with Puerto Rican bloodlines bunch heavily around New York and the I-95 corridor, in Florida cities like Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, and in Chicago and on all the islands of Hawaii.

The county’s Cubans are exactly where you’d expect them to be, in southern Florida.

There’s a big Little Guatemala in Los Angeles, and lesser ones around the San Francisco Bay, Houston, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Washington, D.C.

Bolivia represents in a major way in the D.C. metro area:

Ecuador has outposts in all the usual Latino population centers, with outliers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis (which might explain why local Ecuadorean eatery Chimborazo has an amazing 96 percent positive rating on Urban Spoon).

The Census Bureau has also mapped the populations of “other Hispanic or Latino,” such as Spaniards, who are all over the place, including New Mexico, the mountains of Colorado and Portland, Oregon.




Puerto Rican Family

Labor Migration and U.S. Policies:

The invasion of Puerto Rico during the Spanish-Cuban-American War bound the island within a U.S. political-economic orbit and promoted in turn the continental emigration of countless workers to American cities and possessions. U.S. occupation accelerated a foreign-controlled capitalist agrarian system. It ushered in decades of neglect and chronic underemployment connected with a metropolis-owned and protected sugar plantation monopoly.  Virtual eradication of coffee, tobacco and other agrarian sectors became the norm. Almost immediately, emigration loomed large as an escape valve for an increased population, viewed by U.S. government officials as excess and, therefore, fodder for relocation as a cheap source of labor. Recruitment of contract laborers by Caribbean plantation owners had drawn some Puerto Rican workers to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador in the waning years of the nineteenth century, but this worker exodus paled in comparison to what transpired in the twentieth century.

Charles Herbert Allen (April 15, 1848 – April 20, 1934) was an American politician and businessman. After serving in state and federal elected positions, he was appointed as the first United States-appointed civilian governor of Puerto Rico when the U.S. acquired it after the Spanish–American War. He previously had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley.

Charles Herbert Allen (April 15, 1848 – April 20, 1934) was an American politician and businessman. After serving in state and federal elected positions, he was appointed as the first United States-appointed civilian governor of Puerto Rico when the U.S. acquired it after the Spanish–American War. He previously had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley.

Within the first decade of American control, Governor Charles Allen lent full support to emigration as he surmised, “… the emigration of these people can do no harm to the island. Out of a population of nearly a million, not more than 5,000 or 6,000 have emigrated—scarcely one half of one percent. They will never be missed in making up the census returns of the next decade. Porto Rico has plenty of laborers and poor people generally“.[1] Recruitment centers opened in the coastal cities of San Juan, Ponce, Aguadilla, Arecibo, Mayaguez and in the western mountain areas of Adjuntas.  Between 1900 and 1901 eleven expeditions consisting of over 5,000 men, women and children were recruited by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association to work alongside Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese and Italians in the pineapple and sugar fields of those Pacific islands.  Contractual accords stipulated incentives—credit for transportation expenses, the availability of public education, opportunities to worship in Catholic Churches, decent wages and standard living accommodations.

[2]  However, contractual abuses abounded. The voyage to the Hawaiian Islands proved cumbersome, inflicting undue hardship and distress on the contracted workers. The trip originated in one of several ports, including the Capital City of San Juan, Ponce or Mayaguez, the island’s second and third largest cities. From there, the ships steamed to New Orleans, where the workers boarded trains bound for Los Angeles or San Francisco. The last leg of the journey was from San Francisco to Hawaii, where the workers’ contingents were parceled out in small crafts to plantations on several of the islands.

Families were particularly attractive to recruiters as they were known to provide stability and greater length of service. Women, therefore, were as important for a successful recruitment effort as were the men. Salary differentials as stipulated in the labor contracts placed women and girls at a distinct disadvantage, but this was not an uncommon situation, as female labor had been traditionally undervalued in Puerto Rico. Women were conditioned to work for considerably lower wages. Their primary function, after all, was perceived in conventional terms: the reproduction of children, integration of the family unit, transmission of cultural values and traditions and, by extension, reproduction of the workforce. Nevertheless, the contracted workforce found great distinctions between the agricultural system as practiced in Hawaii and what they were used to in Puerto Rico. Many of the workers came from the island’s depressed coffee sector, characterized by paternalistic relations between landowner and worker. In Hawaii, the Borinkis, as they were called, were used to temper the organizing efforts of the Japanese. Puerto Ricans were segregated in work camps surrounded by groups who spoke different languages, conducted different lifestyles, utilized different modes of transacting trade and worshipped different gods.

Type of steamship that carried Puerto Ricans to Hawaii

Type of steamship that carried Puerto Ricans to Hawaii

As early as 1903, 539 Puerto Rican children were enrolled in Hawaiian schools. Within three years this figure rose to 650, and there are indications that Puerto Rican women were already employed as teachers as early as 1924. Puerto Ricans constituted 2.2 percent of the Hawaiian population in 1923, just over 5,000 individuals. Despite increased outmarriage, dispersal and isolation of Puerto Rican workers throughout the islands and limited involvement with the homeland, 9,551 individuals claimed a Puerto Rican identity in the 1950 census.[3]

Unrest among the worker contingents surfaced almost immediately as reports describing the migrants’ horrendous ordeals appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times and newspapers in Puerto Rico.Desertion was not uncommon, and tales of individuals who refused to board Hawaii-bound vessels account for the emergence of the earliest Puerto Rican settlements in California. Men and women deposited on San Francisco wharves ultimately secured employment in Alameda and Santa Clara counties and went on to form the earliest Puerto Rican organizations in California. The Puerto Rican Club of San Francisco (1911) and the Club Puertorriqueño de California(1923) promoted progressive agendas pledged to advancement and maintenance of the island’s cultural heritage and values.[4]

Despite the fact that a small contingent of contracted workers was brought into Hawaii as late as 1926, labor recruitment virtually ends in the first decade of the century, influenced in great measure by island protestations.  Puerto Rican leaders blasted the controlled emigration, citing a weakening of the island’s social and cultural fabric.  Others, intending to justify recruitment, called into question the civil status of the workers: “If the island is an integral part of the U.S., so is Hawaii, and there is no law to check the passage of laborers from one domestic point to another; and second, if Porto Rico is not an integral part of the United States, neither is Hawaii; and therefore federal laws do not apply.” [5]

Less than a hundred Puerto Rican workers were repatriated, but others remained in Hawaii and, in time, managed to make productive lives for themselves. Some became landowners, homesteading on several of the islands. Such possessions remain in the hands of these early families to the present.

Ancestral quatro

Ancestral quatro

As would be the patterns in other stateside colonias, organizations soon emerged to structure and coalesce the small communities. Among the earliest in Hawaii, the Puerto Rican Welfare Association appeared in the 1920s, followed in 1931 by the Civic Club. The latter sought to change the situation of Puerto Ricans. Their charter pledged to promote the general welfare and prosperity of Puerto Ricans in Hawaii and to “improve by any and all lawful and honorable means their status and condition in order to attain highest order of American citizenship.”[6]  The need to promote themselves as the American citizens that they were arose on numerous occasions. Historian Norma Carr cites several attempts to deny Puerto Ricans the right to vote. Debates over the rights of citizenship, granted to all Puerto Ricans under the Jones Act of 1917, seemed to indicate the group’s intention to stay in Hawaii. Hawaii’s Puerto Ricans had all but created their own culture by the decades of the 50s and 60s, fusing elements of both their Atlantic island heritage and their Pacific island home. Although many would continue to identify with their country of origin, they spoke English, knew little about Puerto Rico, “poured Shoyo on their bacalao and sang Hawaii Pono’i” as their native anthem. Puerto Rican-Hawaiian musicians played the ukulele instead of the ancestral quatro and, in essence, became keiki hanau o Ka’aina— children of the land.

[7]  Nevertheless, a significant Caribbean presence did reemerge with the stationing of Puerto Rican military personnel in Hawaiian bases, enriching and replenishing the contemporary community.

As Puerto Rican contract workers emigrated to various countries and American states between 1900 and 1924, they set into motion a continuum of emigration and permutations that persist to the present. Justified by the premise of overpopulation, emigration was promoted as a temporary but valuable measure. Puerto Rican men and women were openly encouraged to leave their homeland, not only for Hawaii but to set the rails in Ecuador, harvest henequen in Yucatan, work in agriculture in Colombia, as industrial workers in St. Louis, Missouri, and pick cotton and fruit in Arizona and New Mexico.[8]  Viewed from another perspective, the ten women from “good families” contracted to work in the American Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn, New York, in 1920, the earliest documented couple to arrive in Meriden for work in a Connecticut ball bearing factory in 1925, and the 20 or 30 families recruited to live and work for the Arizona Cotton Growers’ Association in 1926 set the stage for a procession of migrants that would intensify with the coming years.[9]

The dynamics of migration were inextricably linked to economic considerations and fluctuated according to market cycles. During the First World War, a shortage of semiskilled and unskilled labor in the United States stimulated the migration of 13,000 contract laborers for employment in war-related industries.  American citizenship facilitated the transfer of thousands of Puerto Ricans to mainland communities, as their relocation encompassed nothing more than was required of individuals crossing state lines. Two other factors encouraged Puerto Rican migration: the decline in the U.S. labor force due to immigration restrictions accruing from the National Origins Act in 1924 and conscription into the U.S. military. Overall, some 83,000 individuals saw action in the two World Wars, and many would use their military experience as a springboard for living in the continental United States.[10]

Between 1909 and 1916, some 7,394 individuals emigrated from Puerto Rico to the United States, but in 1917 that figure rose to 10,812 migrants.  An estimated 52,000 Puerto Ricans resided in the United States between 1920 and 1930. The prosperous period following the Great War drew Puerto Rican migrants to employment in the lowest paying sectors of production—manufacturing and light factory work, hotel and restaurants, cigar making, domestic service and laundries. However, between the period of the Great Depression and the end of the Second World War, there was a marked decrease in the annual average net migration. By the decade of the 30s, Puerto Ricans already made up over 40 percent of the New York City’s Latino population—61,463 out of a total population of 134,000.[11]

For the next 30 years, this city, so important in the earlier struggles for independence, would continue to attract the major portion of the migration.



The Historical Narrative


Captain Ángel Rivero Méndez (October 2, 1856 – February 23, 1930) was a Puerto Rican soldier, writer, journalist and a businessman who is credited with inventing the “Kola Champagne” soft drink. As a soldier in the Spanish Army, Rivero fired the first shot against the United States in Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War.


To Angel Rivero, the young Puerto Rican Captain
charged with defending Fort San Cristóbal in San Juan that fateful night of August 13, 1898, the signs of peace were all but secured. Articles in praise of the American flag had appeared in La Prensa, and censorship had generally been relaxed. At one thirty in the morning he received the dreaded news that Spain renounced its sovereignty over Cuba and ceded Puerto Rico to the United States. “Such a sad night!” he writes. “I spend it, all of it, seated upon a cannon; as the sun comes out I affirm my resolution, taken before the war.  As soon as the peace is signed, I will leave the Spanish army and return to civilian life so as to share in whatever fortunes befall my country”.[1]

For close to 3 million American citizens of Puerto Rican ancestry living in the United States, and the 3.5 million who reside in Puerto Rico, 1998 commemorates the historical episode recorded so eloquently in Rivero’s Crónica de la guerra hispánoamericana. It marks the centenary of official United States–Puerto Rico sociopolitical and economically motivated connections that began one hundred years before, when the Treaty of Paris ceded the Puerto Rican Archipelago to the United States as indemnity to cover the costs of the Spanish-Cuban–American War. The second largest among the Hispanic/Latino population of the United States, Puerto Ricans have figured in the making of U.S. history since before the nineteenth century, when the colony was still a major fortification of defense for the Spanish New World Empire. Puerto Ricans reside in all fifty of the United States, with significant concentrations in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Among the earliest of crossroads in the Americas, Puerto Rico reflects the mestizaje that defines the hemisphere and encompasses historical legacies from indigenous, African, European and Anglo American peoples. American citizens by congressional fiat, Puerto Ricans enjoyed a long, well-documented history, before the passage of the Jones Act in 1917. That past incorporates over three millennia of Indigenous experience. Incorporated as well are the importation of enslaved Africans and the landmarks surrounding their struggles for liberation from the moment they set foot on the island until abolition in 1873. The fusion of these major strands molded a people who have historically struggled for political self–definition, determination, and cultural affirmation, first under Spain and in the twentieth century under the United States. In sum, while Puerto Rico was shaped by its own combination of historical forces, it shares an ineffaceable Spanish American and Anglo American heritage. That duality is aptly conceptualized in the statement coined by sociologist Clara Rodríguez when she wrote, “Since 1898, all Puerto Ricans have been born in the U.S.A.”[2]


Pioneros II:: Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1948-1998 (Bilingual Edition) (Images of America) (English, Spanish and English Edition)

To interpret a balanced history and understand the unique position of mainland Puerto Ricans without distortion requires educators to take several factors into consideration. First, the complexity of the island’s political status cannot be underestimated, for it directly impacts the creation of diasporic communities in the United States. Neither a state nor an independent nation, Puerto Rican affairs are as much a part of U.S. history as they are the history of the Puerto Rican people. Indeed, hegemonic deliberations and decisions about commonwealth, statehood or independence status ultimately rest with the Congress of the United States, albeit promoted by a steadfast patriotism on the part of the people of Puerto Rico. Second, the involvement of Puerto Ricans in the United States predates the nineteenth century and refutes popular notions that place this relationship at the moment of the groups’ post World War II arrival on U.S. soil, the first airborne migration of American citizens in the mid-century. Third, Puerto Ricans comprise diverse socio-economic mainland communities, two-thirds of which exist outside of the historically significant New York City. Each has its own unique heritage and experience, yet each is connected to the others primarily through cultural identification. Fourth, the study of U.S. Puerto Ricans increasingly incorporates the transnational nature of the Puerto Rican people. Described as a commuter nation, a people without borders, the experience is rooted in a nation with a shifting configuration of mainland settlements. In the words of sociologist David Hernández, “One must begin to take the position that Puerto Rican identity is not a local or insular matter but a transnational reality.”[3]

Their story, then, signals a complex process incorporating elements of both conventional manifestations of the immigrant experience in the United States and that of American ethnic and racial minorities. Their role in shaping continental communities and institutions begins in late eighteenth century, when Puerto Rican merchants traded in cities such as New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Bridgeport or Boston. The urban and rural sectors in which they interacted nurtured small exile enclaves by the early nineteenth century. These grew to influence migratory patterns and destinations, socio-cultural traditions, political and economic factors, language, literary expression, attitudes and ideas both on the island of Puerto Rico and in the continental United States. American citizenship made possible unencumbered population movements from the island to the U.S. mainland. The twentieth century communities Puerto Ricans forged throughout the United States bear witness to their place in American history, particularly in the arenas of labor, community building, bilingual and higher education, politics and organization. Their struggles for justice, equality and inclusion have strengthened American democratic principles. Too often, these are dismissed, misunderstood or homogenized into the more generic Latino experience.

Migratory Roots:

Some scholars date the earliest contacts between the United States and Puerto Rico to the exploratory voyages of Juan Ponce de León, who set out in 1513 to realize mythic fables in the sixteenth century spirit of Spanish conquest, exploitation and colonization. The island’s first governor laid claim instead to the Florida peninsula. Although this historic moment hardly blossomed into reciprocal interactions between island and mainland, the associations between the thirteen original American colonies and the former Spanish colony indeed predate 1898 by several centuries. The eighteenth century revolutions that sparked American independence in the United States found support among Puerto Rican Creoles, as the island harbored American ships flying the stars and stripes and raised money for the war effort. The emergence of the hemisphere’s first African American republic, the climax of the Haitian Revolution (1792–1801) and the transfers of French Louisiana (1803) and Spanish Florida (1819) to American sovereignty launched a flow of emigrants from the United States and Hispaniola. Many of the exiles sought and received refuge in Puerto Rico. As a major presidio in the Crown’s fortification system, guardians of the Caribbean gateway to the territorial riches of the Spanish New World empire, Puerto Rican immigration was further augmented by Mexican deserters, fugitive enslaved persons, an imported labor force, expanded military personnel and European and South American immigration. By the last half of the century, Spanish colonial ports were thrown open to foreign trade in which the newly created United States of America would play a dominant role.[4]

It was, however, the emigrations of the nineteenth century that set into motion patterns of population movements within the Americas reflected in the diasporic communities of the present day. The Latin American wars for independence (1810–1824) spurred waves of immigration to the Hispanic Caribbean as loyalists and rebels alike opted to leave war-torn regions of the crumbling empire. Many with expertise in plantation economies and capital to invest relocated to Cuba and Puerto Rico, last bastions of conservative Spanish power. In the Hispanic Antilles, especially Puerto Rico, an increased military presence maintained firm control throughout the period of Latin American conflicts, despite repeated attempts to liberate the islands by Venezuelan and Mexican revolutionaries. Expeditions to free Puerto Rico came also from geographic sites in the United States financed by Cuban and Puerto Rican natives who sanctioned New Orleans, New York City and Philadelphia as conspiratorial bases. As late in the conflicts as the 1820s, groups of Puerto Rican men and women joined Cuban counterparts in unsuccessful attempts to include the Hispanic Caribbean in the Latin American struggles for independence. Their covert actions formed an extensive network, with benefactors in the United States, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico and were centered in ports of call that included the principal cities of San Juan, Caracas and New Orleans.[5]

As independent nations took form throughout Latin America, Spain tightened political and economic control in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Such suppressive acts provoked further departures to the United States and other regions of the hemisphere, even as Puerto Rico witnessed unprecedented immigration from Spain, the Canary Islands and other Catholic European countries. Due in great measure to Crown concessions and grants like the 1815 Cédula de Gracias, a royal decree that encouraged immigration to Spanish possessions, such relocation continued to parallel political and commercial connections established in earlier decades.  More significant, legal and clandestine immigration marked a dramatic decline in Spanish exclusivity. When the Crown decreed permission for foreign trade with Puerto Rico and Cuba in 1824, including the establishment of official consular representation, increased commercial bonds between the United States and the islands was all but assured.


Packing sugar Snow White from sugar mill Mercedita, Ponce

Along with Western European countries, the United States supplied the islands with furniture, machinery, steel and iron parts, jute, hemp, wheat, flour and hog by-products. By the last third of the century, Puerto Rican agricultural production depended heavily on American markets, and almost half of the island’s imports consisted of U. S. products vital for human consumption. Based initially on a flourishing ultramarine exchange of Puerto Rican rum, molasses, sugar and tobacco for American foodstuffs, Puerto Rican merchants ultimately accompanied cargo across the ocean. As early as the 1830s, trade networks expanded sufficiently to warrant the establishment of commercial brokerage houses in northeastern Atlantic cities including New York, Hartford and Boston. The Cuban–Puerto Rican Benevolent Merchants’ Association dates to that period. These commercial establishments facilitated trade and advanced the well being of its merchant members.

Trade routes and their resultant regional ties continued to link Puerto Rican emigrants to New Orleans as well as key cities in the Northeast. Before and just after the Civil War, New Orleans predominated as the center for commercial and political activities, a place where Antillean annexationists and independence seekers could meet under a variety of guises. Among the earliest emigrants involved in trade and other enterprises in the Northeast during that period was the merchant family of José de Rivera, a wealthy sugar and wine trader who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut from 1844 to 1855. The New Haven, Connecticut census for 1860 lists the names of ten Puerto Ricans, one of whom, Augustus Rodríguez, fought in the Civil War. Records indicate he became a city firefighter following the War.[6]  The Puerto Rican abolitionist, Julio Vizcarrondo (1830-1889), scion of a privileged family, found his way to Boston in the 1850s, not for purposes of trade but for political reasons. In Boston he was free to join anti-slavery movements and publish provocative political tracts read throughout Europe and the United States. Along with his Bostonian wife, he returned to continue his abolitionist mission in Puerto Rico in 1854.[7]

The last half of the century witnessed increased emigration from Puerto Rico, as individuals were ousted from the island or left of their own accord to escape tyranny and exploitation or search for economic opportunity.  Like Julio Vizcarrondo, many emigrated as political exiles. Others were artisans in search of opportunity or labor leaders disenchanted with the island’s political authoritarianism. Still others comprised contingents of contract and non-contract workers. A few left the island to enroll as students in American universities.  Who were the Puerto Rican students and what was their role in the fledgling communities?

Among those who attained university degrees in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries were well-known figures who changed the course of history through their leadership and actions and lesser-known individuals whose legacies were equally as important.  Puerto Ricans earned degrees from a number of colleges and universities, including St. Joseph’s Academy in Brooklyn, New York. A handful, among them Rafael Janer, established educational institutions directed towards fulfilling the intellectual aspirations of Caribbean or Latin American students.[8]

José Celso Barbosa (1857–1921) studied in the United States and saw political alternatives for the future of the rigidly stratified colony, particularly in the practice of democratic ideals, race relations and the treatment of American blacks in the North. Celso Barbosa was born into an extended family of free black artisans and rose to graduate first in his medical studies at the University of Michigan in 1882. Returning to Puerto Rico, he founded the Republican Party pledged to promote statehood, prosperity and civil liberties. His daughter, Pilar Barbosa de Rosario (1898–1997), the first woman to teach at the University of Puerto Rico, received master’s and doctorate degrees from Clark University. Celso Barbosa’s contemporary, Felix Córdova Dávila(1878–1938), provides another example. Córdova Dávila studied at Howard University and later at National University in Washington, D.C., earning a degree in jurisprudence. Córdova Dávila served as the fourth Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress, from 1917 until 1932.[9]


Pedro Albizu Campos (September 12, 1891 – April 21, 1965) was a Puerto Rican attorney and politician, and the leading figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement. Gifted in languages, he spoke six; graduating from Harvard Law School with the highest grade point average in his law class, an achievement that earned him the right to give the valedictorian speech at his graduation ceremony. However, animus towards his mixed racial heritage would lead to his professors delaying two of his final exams in order to keep Albizu Campos from graduating on time. During his time at Harvard University he became involved in the Irish struggle for independence.

From the early 1920s on, numerous Puerto Rican students, like the aforementioned Barbosa de Rosario and her contemporary Amelia Agostino del Río (1896–1996), who likewise earned impressive credentials from American educational institutions, opted to study in the United States.  The venerable nationalist and independentista leader, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, was a product of the University of Vermont and Harvard Law School. He completed his studies in the first decades of the twentieth century. Albizu Campos’ contemporary, Luis Muñoz Marín, the statesman whose leadership defined the epoch of Puerto Rican modernization and industrialization, was educated at Georgetown University. Similarly, the leader of the island’s Union Republican Party, Celso Barbosa’s successor, Rafael Martínez Nadal, graduated from Johns Hopkins University.

Agostino del Río is among the many interesting people excluded from the textbooks. Nonetheless, she personifies the growing numbers of young men and women whose careers directly affected continental communities. She was born in Yauco in 1918, and moved to New York after teaching in island schools. A Spanish teacher, she worked her way through Vassar College. By 1929, she had received a master’s degree from Colombia University and an appointment to the faculty of Barnard College. She is credited with writing more than 45 books of essays, plays, poetry, short stories and art history. Along with her husband, Mrs. del Río authored Antología de la Literatura Española, considered a classic in the teaching of Spanish literature.[10]

A survey of Puerto Ricans educated in the United States would undoubtedly reveal that they too comprised an important human resource for developing continental communities. Some, like Luis Muñoz Marín, a young Bohemian poet in Washington, D.C., and later in New York City, participated wholeheartedly in the affairs of U.S. enclaves; others did not. Many lived full lives in the service of advancing diasporic communities, while others chose to make their marks in the island society. Yet others emigrated because of harsh political or economic conditions beyond their control and were forced to divide their lives between island and U.S. communities. Among these were significant numbers of political exiles and workers, whose experience bridged the transfer of power from Spanish to American possession.

An émigré colony of Puerto Rican and Cuban political exiles, believed to date to the first stirrings for liberation in the late 1820s, surfaced again as the focal point for Antillean independence activities in the late 1860s and again in the 1890s. There were many reasons for political unrest in nineteenth century Puerto Rico, not the least of which was the failure of the Spanish Juntas Informativas in 1867. These representative commissions to the Córtes in Madrid assembled to draft provincial ultramarine legislation, Leyes Especiales, for governing Cuba and Puerto Rico. Rejection of the special laws’ framework fueled renewal of political activism in New York. A key figure in the liberation movement was Segundo Ruiz Belvis, emissary to the Juntas, but his arrival in New York in 1867 with the patriot, Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the architect of Puerto Rico’s abolitionist and independence movement, signaled a rethinking of political priorities. Determined to achieve Puerto Rican independence through whatever means necessary, Betances and Ruiz Belvis believed that liberation could no longer depend on Spain’s good intentions. Two years later Eugenio María de Hostos, leading educator, philosopher and liberal reformer, and Dr. J. J. Henna, as well-known for his involvement in politics as he was for humanitarian deeds, joined the exile group in the New York colonia. The earliest political and socio-cultural organizations stem from these encounters and indicate close connections between Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican arm of the Sociedad Republicana de Cuba y Puerto Rico, headed by Cuban Juan Manuel Macías and Puerto Rican Dr. José Francisco Basora, offers a good example.[11]

Along with New York City, the Floridian cities of Tampa and Key West comprised a pivotal triangle of revolutionary action from 1892 to 1898. Support for Antillean liberation came from several sources, including some five hundred Hispanic-owned cigar factories in New York—bodegas, barbershops, restaurants and boarding houses. Associations sprang up dedicated to supporting the war effort. These provided arms and medical essentials, disseminated propaganda and raised funds. They proliferated in the cities of New York and Brooklyn, not yet incorporated into the larger metropolis. Similar groups were also found in other cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia and Hartford. Tobacco workers, tradesmen, skilled and unskilled laborers constituted the bulk of the membership.  This was of particular importance, as cigar makers and others in the tobacco industry were known to be at the vanguard of workers’ movements in the Hispanic Antilles.  Such experience would aid in the formation of stateside communities.

Key to radicalization and consciousness-raising among the workers was the practice of la lectura (the readings) in the cigar factories.  In firsthand accounts, chronicler Bernardo Vega and essayist Jesús Colón convey the significance of the lectura in island society and in the New York communities.[12]  The readings stirred a sense of camaraderie among the workers, regardless of national origin, and engendered political reformist ideologies as well as literary erudition. In New York, la lectura flourished in Hispanic-owned factories that maintained the custom of reading aloud to the workers as they engaged in the various tasks of cigar making. Readers came from among the workers themselves; they organized the readings into current events and other non-fiction material, literature or political tracts. Vega recalls:

During the readings at “El Morito” and other factories, silence reigned supreme—it was almost like being in church. Whenever we got excited about a certain passage we showed our appreciation by tapping our tobacco cutters on the tables…. At the end of each session there would be a discussion of what had been read. Conversation went from one table to another without our interrupting our work. Though nobody was formally leading the discussion, everyone took turns speaking.[13]

For Puerto Ricans and Cubans alike, New York continued to be a choice site for expatriation. The diverse community in exile found in that city included banished Latin Americans as well as individuals from the Hispanic Caribbean, with whom Puerto Ricans could form alliances. Associations connected with Antillean independence reflected diversity, cutting a wide swath across class and racial lines. They recruited recent arrivals into their midst, among them former landowners, women, seasoned political activists, skilled and unskilled laborers and professionals. A notable example is the poet, Lola Rodríguez de Tió, staunch supporter of Puerto Rican independence, who lived much of her life in exile because of her liberal political convictions. A New York resident at the height of the conflict, she enhanced the cultural dimensions of exile community groups with piano recitals, poetry readings and fiery discourses for political change.


Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also Arthur Schomburg (January 24, 1874 – June 8, 1938), was a Puerto Rican historian, writer, and activist in the United States who researched and raised awareness of the great contributions that Afro-Latin Americans and Afro-Americans have made to society. He was an important intellectual figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Over the years, he collected literature, art, slave narratives, and other materials of African history, which was purchased to become the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, named in his honor, at the New York Public Library (NYPL) branch in Harlem.

The emigration to New York in 1891 of the young Puerto Rican, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, coincided with such political activities. The future archivist of the African diaspora devoted his life to fighting injustice against Africans and their American descendants. Schomburg proved instrumental in the development of the barrio Latino in his early years by founding associations dedicated to Antillean liberation.  Although faced with racial discrimination from the wider, non-Hispanic society and institutionalized residential segregation, black Puerto Ricans, like Schomburg, interacted in the fraternal life of the Puerto Rican community.  Along with Rosendo Rodríguez, he headed Las Dos Antillas, a racially integrated organization, and participated in the activities of numerous others. Among others, these groups formed bulwarks of the revolutionary movement.

In 1895 conflicts between Spain and Cuba erupted into open warfare. In New York, the composition of the Puerto Rican branch of the Cuban Revolutionary Party ranged from avowed independence supporters to annexationists, testimony to the growing diversity of the colonia.  Typesetter and essayist Sotero Figueroa, journalist Antoñio Vélez Alvarado, and the poet who would give his life for the cause, Francisco Gonzalo (Pachín) Marín, joined forces with annexationists Dr. José Julio Henna, Roberto H. Todd and Manuel Besosa, who favored tighter U.S. political connections.  Finally, community presses were particularly instrumental in disseminating revolutionary ideology. The first issue of Patria surfaced in March 1892. Edited by Figueroa, Patria, the newspaper of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, followed in the traditions of earlier newspapers published in the U.S., La Revoluciòn (1870s), La Voz de Puerto Rico (1874), and El Porvenir (1888).[14]

Clearly, the historical antecedents of community development are laid with the alliances and activities of U.S.-based revolutionary enclaves from 1860 to 1898.  Exile colonia aspirations firmly grounded in homeland concerns articulated an independent Antillean future for which U.S. settlements were merely stepping-stones. However, the culmination of Spanish colonialism in 1898 arrested many individual and communitarian agendas. New coalitions sprang forth prepared to broker the plight of continental communities, particularly in New York, which would garner the bulk of the migratory flow until the 1960s.  These groups would increasingly turn towards appeasing the circumstances of Puerto Ricans in the United States. Pioneer twentieth century hometown and social clubs, mutual aid societies and political, professional and social-cultural groups bridged the gap between associations that hinged on Antillean independence and those that followed in the wake of the new political order: the colonization of Puerto Rico under the United States.  Emergent and experienced leadership forged from past organizational encounters stimulated a nascent communal structure poised to cushion and mold the migration experience, ameliorating its inherent ruptures, relocation and renewals. Inasmuch as they continued to articulate Puerto Rican interests on both sides of the ocean, individuals and the organizations they spawned stabilized and advanced important communities within the North American setting.


SLAVERY AND GUNS: The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery


The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, “The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search ‘all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition’ and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds.”

It’s the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, “Why don’t they just rise up and kill the whites?”  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, “Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller.” There were exemptions so “men in critical professions” like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work.  Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 – including physicians and ministers – had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband – or even move out of the state – those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.  And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat.  Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunsmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape and join his forces.  “Liberty to Slaves” was stitched onto their jacket pocket flaps.  During the War, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779.  And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington’s army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

At the ratifying convention in Virginia in 1788, Henry laid it out:

“Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8 of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . . .

“By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither . . . this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory.”

George Mason expressed a similar fear:

“The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless, by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them [under this proposed Constitution] . . . “

Henry then bluntly laid it out:

“If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia.”

And why was that such a concern for Patrick Henry?

“In this state,” he said, “there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free.”

Patrick Henry was also convinced that the power over the various state militias given the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave-patrol militias.  He knew the majority attitude in the North opposed slavery, and he worried they’d use the Constitution to free the South’s slaves (a process then called “Manumission”).

The abolitionists would, he was certain, use that power (and, ironically, this is pretty much what Abraham Lincoln ended up doing):

“[T]hey will search that paper [the Constitution], and see if they have power of manumission,” said Henry.  “And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power?

“This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it.”

He added: “This is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.”

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and a slaveholder himself, basically called Patrick Henry paranoid.

“I was struck with surprise,” Madison said, “when I heard him express himself alarmed with respect to the emancipation of slaves. . . . There is no power to warrant it, in that paper [the Constitution]. If there be, I know it not.”

But the southern fears wouldn’t go away.

Patrick Henry even argued that southerner’s “property” (slaves) would be lost under the new Constitution, and the resulting slave uprising would be less than peaceful or tranquil:

“In this situation,” Henry said to Madison, “I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone.”

So Madison, who had (at Jefferson’s insistence) already begun to prepare proposed amendments to the Constitution, changed his first draft of one that addressed the militia issue to make sure it was unambiguous that the southern states could maintain their slave patrol militias.

His first draft for what became the Second Amendment had said: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country [emphasis mine]: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

But Henry, Mason and others wanted southern states to preserve their slave-patrol militias independent of the federal government.  So Madison changed the word “country” to the word “state,” and redrafted the Second Amendment into today’s form:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State[emphasis mine], the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as “persons” by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their “right” to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.