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The nature of colonialism in Puerto Rico has caused most political issues to be viewed within the framework of status politics. In the first stage of the struggle to expel the U.S. Navy from the island (1999–2003), civil society in Puerto Rico united when the issues were reframed with links not to status politics but to human rights and social justice. Viequenses symbolized for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, on the mainland, and in the world at large the costs of military colonialism. In the second stage of the struggle, since the military’s departure, Viequenses have struggled to control the future development of their community as well as to clean up the toxic legacy of six decades of military maneuvers. The important question with regard to this stage is whether civil society can again rise above the institutionalized structure of colonial status politics to advocate for social and environmental justice. Viewing the Vieques case within the larger context of Puerto Rico’s dependent relationship on the United States suggests that the struggle not only strengthened Puerto Ricans’ capacity to determine their own future but also may have changed the calculus of colonialism from Washington’s vantage point.


This article was originally published in Latin American Perspectives, available at DOI: 10.1177/0094582X05283520


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