I was prepared for an amusing story — let’s all laugh at the dumb rednecks! — in this tale of Americans getting outraged because someone in Puerto Rico won the powerball lottery (apparently, that money is supposed to go to real Americans.) I knew that Puerto Rico was a US territory and that the residents were US citizens, so I am clearly superior to those goofs, but then the author answered with a history lesson about Puerto Rico. I did not know most of this stuff.
The U.S. “liberated” Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898. Later that same year, Hurricane San Ciriaco destroyed thousands of the island’s farms and nearly the entire year’s coffee crop. Of 50 million pounds, only five million were saved.
American hurricane relief was bizarre. The U.S. government sent no money. Instead, the following year it outlawed all Puerto Rican currency and declared the island’s peso, whose international value was equal to the U.S. dollar, to be worth only sixty American cents. Every Puerto Rican lost 40% of his or her money overnight.
In 1901, the U.S. passed the Hollander Act, which raised the taxes on every farmer in Puerto Rico.
With higher taxes, crippled farms, and 40% less cash, the farmers had to borrow money from U.S. banks. But with no usury law restrictions, interest rates were so high that within a decade, the farmers defaulted on their loans and the banks foreclosed on their land.
There’s more. That’s only the start of our depredations.
I stopped laughing.