Notes on Puerto Rico- by the US War Department: Civic Conditions in 1899

Below are excerpts of reports sent to the US mainland government by assigned US military personal after the signing of the Paris Treaty in 1898 that made PR property of the United States.

The first portion of the report solely focuses on the civic conditions of Aguadilla, Mayaguez, San Juan, Vieques, Arecibo and Ponce.


Specific instructions on how to report details in each area:

“…while including the subjects outlined herein will not necessarily confine investigations to these limits, the object of this circular being to obtain the latest reliable information, statistical and other wise, upon the existing state of the inhabitants and the natural and commercial resources of the islands.”


Paraphrase: Report the things we expect you to report on, but make sure you also add in other stuff just incase. This excerpt can be the source of the reason why so many, such as Pedro Albizu Campos, were “watched and reported on”.



“…for rates of exchange among the ignorant are simply rates of robbery and extortion.”

The word ignorant of 2017 refers to one who lacks knowledge or is generally unaware. One can argue that the “fairness” of trade amongst the native is rather proportionate to those native. Where as the US military personnel feels that the exchange is a form of robbery due to the “unfairness” per their guidelines of exchange.

Can we also argue that perhaps the person reporting this is ignorant? Did he (yes HE) take the time to investigate the monetary norms of Aguadilla prior to reporting on the ignorance of the exchange?


“No immigration from the adjacent islands should be allowed or encouraged. Only Americans should be permitted to come here and enter into business. All other classes, kinds, and colors should be excluded from this time forward.”

Sounds familiar? It should. Even in 1899 the US government was very vocal and out right bold about how they felt about brown bodies and immigration. Don’t believe me? Allow me to refresh your memory with Trump’s Mexico Wall.


San Juan:

“… naturally the inhabitants are lazy and easy going.”

Vieques: (see above picture)

“The civic conditions are decidedly bad although probably as good as might be expected, taking into consideration the fact that they still have to adhere to old Spanish obsolete laws and that they can not quite rid themselves of the Spanish idea that the public office is for the benefit of the holders thereof instead of that of the people.”

“The police are of no account whatever but fortunately the people are docile and easy to manage as far as disorder is concerned”

“The natives are lazy and indolent and will not work and do not want to see the negroes work.”

“The lower class of natives are ignorant, indolent and improvident, resembling very much the North American Indian without his courage. They make a dollar and then stop work until it is al gone.”


These are reports filed by the US on the state of Puerto Rico once they took the island from Spain. Do not be surprised by the treatment of the current government of the 3.4 million inhabitants currently suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The United States have always told the truth of how they felt for the island and its inhabitants since 1899.

© 2017, Lopez. All rights reserved.

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