Colonial Context and Political Change: Ethnography of Some Transformation Processes in Vieques Island (Puerto Rico)
The purpose of this paper is to describe the research carried out in the island of Vieques (Puerto Rico), and analyze the impact of the changes in the civil society after the US Navy left. During thirty years, the US navy had occupied it and used it as a bombing range and weapons testing ground, having claimed that it was uninhabited. After the Navy’s departure in 2003, two issues have been contentious: the decontamination process of the areas occupied by the Navy and the fear of tourist development in a complex project of community development. The ethnographic work consisted in the participation in some acts of those processes. I attended public hearings to explain the development project; I interviewed members of the community, and civil servants from local Government, Government of Puerto Rico and from US Federal Government. I analyze the difficulties of this ethnographical work developed and articulated through law and others juridical instruments (plans…). This macro dimension showed some theoretical problems to the ethnographic reconstruction because it was empty of people. It was necessary to contextualize historically the impact of this new process on the civil society to analyze the complex institutional articulation at a federal, national and local level that were trying to be reconstructed in those processes. Through this depiction, we arrive to preliminary conclusions about the impact of colonial discourses and some developmental practices on the governmental structures, at the national and local level, and especially on how community practices develop in pursuit of a ‘new civil society’ in a ‘new’ global context.
Keywords: Colonialism, Civil Society, Global Society
Cristina Urios Aparisi
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Law, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona