Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Laird W. Bergad

Committee Members

Herman Bennett

Teresita Levy

Jose L. Renique

Subject Categories

Latin American History


Puerto Rico, Railways


In the second half of the nineteenth century the establishment of railways was essential for the progress and modernization of the Puerto Rican economy. Railroads were fundamental and slowly appeared along the coast reaching their highest level of development in the first decade of the twentieth century. After the First World War, however, the railroads faced economic challenges, and competition with trucks and automobiles became a serious matter. During the depression of the 1930s, the state started to show unwillingness to aid railroads. The exclusion of the railroads from the new industrial model developed during the 1940s when a new conception of progress and modernity transformed the railroads into an obsolete means of transportation.

This study is about the transformation of the railroads in the efforts to build a modern Puerto Rican economy. Railroads signified progress and modernity during the nineteenth century to become symbols of inefficiency and tradition tied to the sugar business in the mid-twentieth century. Automobiles, buses, and trucks became new symbols of modernity and progress for a country struggling to overcome economic backwardness.