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Anemia and Autonomy

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Chapter Summary

The hookworm campaign became a symbol for a variety of transformations related to U.S. colonial rule. The hookworm's appearance coincided with the disaster that compromised coffee production and accompanied U.S. colonial policies that undermined the industry's recovery. In the late-nineteenth century, the strength of the coffee industry had tied Puerto Rico and its elites to Spanish export markets and delimited political claims for reform. In their struggle for autonomy, many liberal Puerto Rican elites treated the nation as diseased and anemia as a political cause. The liberal elite used anemia as an ideological tool to challenge "the local Spanish authorities indirectly, by presenting themselves as the caretakers of a victimized lower class". They treated anemia as a metaphor for a curable condition of colonial abuse and its consequent effects on the "diseased state" of the Puerto Rican nation. Problems concerning markets and natural disasters were compounded by U.S. colonial policies.

Keywords: anemia; political autonomy; Puerto Rican elites; U.S. colonial policies



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