| Charles R. Venator Santiago
excerpted Wrom: RKJVZCMHVIBGDADRZFSQHYUCDDJBLVLMHA
Space, and the Puerto Rican Citizenship , 78 Denver University Law
On April 12, 1900, the Congress of the United States enacted the
Foraker Act of 1900, which replaced the governing military regime in
Puerto Rico with a civil form of governance. Section VII of this act
created a Puerto Rican citizenship for the residents of the island. This
citizenship was reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court in 1904 by
its ruling in Gonzales v. Williams. The Puerto Rican citizenship was
again reaffirmed on November 18, 1997, by the Puerto Rican Supreme Court
through its ruling in Miriam J. Ramirez de Ferrer v. Juan Mari Bras.
Mari Bras, however, through his renouncing of U.S. Citizenship, sought
to redefine Section VII as a source of law that recognized a Puerto
Rican nationality separate from that of the United States.
Rogers M. Smith contends that U.S. "justices were apparently
willing for Puerto Ricans, like other peoples of color, to be designated
'American' so long as what that meant in terms of citizenship status
remained unclear." Smith's argument suggests that the Puerto Rican
citizenship is a direct result of the racist ideologies of the moment.
In this paper I would like to analyze this argument by arguing that the
Puerto Rican citizenship is directly linked to a status of space that
was in turn created by racist ideologies. In other words, while it is
evident that there is a relationship between the Puerto Rican
citizenship and the racial ideologies of the progressive era, this
relationship is mediated by a spatial configuration.
The Puerto Rican spatial configuration that I am alluding to can be
understood as a liminal condition. This notion of a liminal condition is
informed by a reading of Michel Foucault's notion of the liminal, which
he uses to explain the status of the madman at the dawn of the
Renaissance. Explaining how madmen were generally placed on ships and
ferried away from the city, Foucault argues that
The madman's voyage is at once a rigorous division and an absolute
Passage. In one sense, it simply develops, across a half-real,
half-imaginary geography, the madman's liminal position on the horizon
of medieval concern - a position symbolized and made real at the same
time by the madman's privilege of being confined within the city gates:
his exclusion must enclose him; if he cannot and must not have another
prison than the threshold itself, he is kept at the point of passage. He
is put in the interior of the exterior, and inversely. A highly symbolic
position, which will doubtless remain his until our own day, if we are
willing to admit that what was formerly a visible fortress of order has
now become the castle of our conscience.
In the context of Puerto Rico, this argument would suggest that the
Puerto Rican space is located on the horizon or the juridical line
separating the foreign from the domestic. The political expression of
this juridical status could suggest that Puerto Rico is somewhere in
between colonial and territorial status. My contention in this paper is
that this ambiguous condition facilitated the creation of a Puerto Rican
citizenship that could be distinguished from an Anglo-American
citizenship and an alien status. Moreover, this ambiguous condition
served as a prison for the Puerto Rican citizen, preventing him from
becoming either an Anglo-American citizen or a citizen of a sovereign
nation-state. It also resulted in a status that was not entitled to the
constitutional protections and civil liberties guaranteed to the U.S.
citizen and the alien.
[a1]. University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Department of Political