The book The War Against All Puerto Ricans published earlier this year is riding a wave of mostly bad news about Puerto Rico, including a nine-year economic recession that won’t quit, an unprecedented migration to the states, an aging population, an unpayable $72 billion in debt and the specter of default.
All of which has made it easier for author Nelson Denis, former editorial director of the newspaper El Diario La Prensa in New York, to connect the dots of what he states is the United States’ poor treatment of the island over 117 years – and sell lots of books.
“It’s pretty much 117 years of Puerto Rico being ignored,” said Denis, who will be in Orlando this week to promote the book whose subtitle is “Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony.”
Denis’ book spans the island history after 1898, when the United States took possession of the island after the Spanish-Cuban-American War, and through the 1940s, when nationalism and pro-independence fervor was at its height. He spells out sometimes in painful and riveting detail (there are 71 pages of footnotes) the deals and dealmakers who plundered the island. Even today, in the face of the current economic crisis, the political relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico remains unclear, a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” to quote Winston Churchill.
“The version of events is now under severe discredit,” he said, referring to how Puerto Rico came to its current political status as a commonwealth of the United States. Actually, that is too polite. “Sold out” is more Denis’ term.
The War Against All Puerto Ricans has been well received by critics and the public, selling 35,000 copies. Between 20,000 and 25,000 flew off the shelves in Puerto Rico, although the book is written in English. The Spanish translation comes out in November, opening up the book to even more readers and possibly new markets.
Denis is focused on trying to land a film deal, which he thinks would help reach a younger and broader audience.
“A movie is a synthetic event and yet the irony is that in this day and age it underscores the reality and makes it feel like a real event,” said the Yale-educated lawyer. In other words, it’s not real unless it’s on the big or little screen.
As for a book-writing encore, Denis said he may next tackle the issue of the carpetas, the secret surveillance files of Puerto Rican activists maintained by the FBI and other government agencies. Said Denis: “I want to let people know this information is out there.”
Catch Nelson Denis Friday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Universidad Politécnica, across from Valencia College off Econlockhatchee Trail in east Orange County. The event is free and open to the public.
˜ María Padilla, Editor