“So a new day has dawned for Porto Rico’s Jíbaro”: Military service, manhood and self-government during World War I


For Puerto Ricans, World War I provided the opportunity to test and challenge the linkages between military service, manhood, citizenship and decolonization. During the war, Puerto Rican political leaders, elected officials and opinion makers sought to advance the socioeconomic and political standing of their communities by demanding access to, and encouraging participation in the US military. In particular, Puerto Rican elites were interested in mobilizing the Puerto Rican peasantry, reasoning that training would transform them into modern men worthy of self-determination in the eyes of the metropolis.

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  1. 1.

    The Celebración appeared in Porto Rico Progress, an English language newspaper that was published between 8 December 1910 and the early 1960s, and it was decidedly pro US.

  2. 2.

    In this paper I use jíbaro interchangeably with peasantry to follow the contemporary common usage found in the documents used in this discussion.

  3. 3.

    Intersectional analysis considers multiple sources of domination interacting simultaneously to generate inequality while rejecting the assumption that one source of domination has primacy over others in shaping the lives of individuals and sections of society.

  4. 4.

    The US Citizenship and Naturalization Services expedites the application and naturalization process of non-citizens already serving in the US Military. By May 2008 over 39,000 service members had obtained US citizenship since the beginning of the war in Iraq in March 2003.

  5. 5.

    Filipinos opposed the American presence in their homeland after the War of 1898 ended. Fighting between Filipino and American forces broke out in February 1899. The war lasted over 2 years.

  6. 6.

    In this context criollo refers to island-born individuals of European descent, and in some cases, to those of mixed ancestry who gained entry into the island’s upper class.

  7. 7.

    El Carolina, a ship carrying Puerto Rican workers to the United States, became a sort of Puerto Rican “Maine” during the war after being sunk by a German submarine.

  8. 8.

    The B.I.A. was a branch of the War Department charged with supervising the administration of the US’s ultramarine possessions.


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I would like to thank my colleagues Arlene Torres, Anthony Brown, Milagros Denis-Rosario, Victor M. Torres-Velez and Ricardo Gabriel for their unwavering support and for reading early versions of this study during the Africana, African-America, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Research & Writing Faculty Seminar at Hunter College, CUNY. Likewise, many thanks to the blind referees for providing me with invaluable feedback and helping to strengthen my argument.

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Franqui-Rivera, H. “So a new day has dawned for Porto Rico’s Jíbaro”: Military service, manhood and self-government during World War I. Lat Stud 13, 185–206 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/lst.2015.9

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  • WWI
  • manhood
  • Puerto Ricans
  • military service
  • citizenship
  • colonialism