Puerto Rico And Other Outlying Aras, by Michael Burgan
This book is an interesting one in that it mostly focuses on Puerto Rico, even though a strong case can be made that the outlying areas of the United States deserve more treatment as a whole because of the struggles that are shared by them in general. Although Puerto Rico is by far the largest among these territories in terms of population, all of America’s outlying territories face the struggles of economic stagnation, a lack of self-government, and an ambivalent relationship within the United States as a whole. It remains unclear if Puerto Rico will ever be granted its statehood, and it is highly unlikely that Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or the Virgin Islands will ever be seriously considered for statehood. Indeed, although this book does not mention it, the Virgin Islands have not even been able to have a successful territorial constitution despite having been a United States possession for more than a century and despite having attempted to write a constitution in the 1970’s. By and large, the United States has simply not prioritized the development of its outlying areas, alas, and this has had severe consequences on the people in those areas.
This book is a short one at less than 50 pages. The book begins with an introduction, and then an almanac. After this the majority of the book focuses on Puerto Rico, discussing various elements of the island, from its history (going back to pre-Columbian times as well as colonial and then more recent history) to its people as well as its land (including, notably, the absence of any large rivers). This is followed by a discussion of the economy and commerce of the island as of the early 21st century, as well as its politics and government focused around the question of the island’s status. After that comes a look at the culture and lifestyle as well as the notable people from Puerto Rico that were important at the time or recently when this book was written. It is only at this point that the book talks about the other outlying territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. And that is followed by a time line, events and attractions, and suggestions for further reading, as well as an index.
This book, although it could focus on the outlying areas as a whole, is mainly focused on Puerto Rico because of its longer history, larger population, and greater interest in the area in the target audience. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, and this book is definitely one of those basic books written that is aimed at elementary and middle school students who are studying American geography. And this book is certainly well-placed to appeal to those students who want to feel proud about Puerto Rico’s history and culture. This book is not particularly complicated, and it is not particularly new, so it is missing the frequent votes that have demonstrates that a strong plurality to slight majority of Puerto Ricans want statehood because they think it will encourage development as well as concern in situations like hurricanes, although it is not too surprising that the United States as a whole has been reluctant to make Puerto Rico a state given the cultural differences that exist between the island and the United States as a whole. Whether or not this divide can be effectually bridged is something that will require a considerable amount of work and it remains to be seen if this will be done.