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Imre Demhardt: “The Changing Map of the Island of Enchantment: Puerto Rico and the Spanish-American War of 1898"

  • Wednesday, December 06, 2023
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Zoom

Arranged with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain and Texas Map Societies; Sponsored in partnership with California, Chicago, New York, Philip Lee Phillips, Rocky Mountain, and Texas Map Societies.

Location: Zoom

Time:  7:00 pm ET/6:00 pm CT/5:00 pm MT/4:00 pm PT

Title: The Changing Map of the Island of Enchantment: Puerto Rico and the Spanish-American War of 1898

Speaker:  Dr. Imre Demhardt, Virginia and Jenkins Garrett Endowed Chair in the History of Cartography, University of Texas at Arlington

After Spain had lost its mainland colonies in Central & South America early in the nineteenth century, Cuba was by far the brightest remaining possession amongst the Spanish islands in the Caribbean. Little noticed, however, the Isla del Encanto (Puerto Rico), made a modest progress in its economy and cartography. Unlike Cuba, that island of an area size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined with just under a million inhabitants even achieved limited self-governance in 1897. When the United States set its imperialist eyes on Cuba and the Philippines, Puerto Rico was drawn into that struggle as a mere appendix of breaking up the Spanish colonial empire. As a by-catch to Cuba, American forces landed in July 1898 and already by the next month had ‘liberated’ autonomous Puerto Rico and turned it into a de facto colony of the United States, the new imperialist power in the Caribbean. The inability of the conquerors to trace significant Spanish maps of Puerto Rico confirmed the American prejudice that the Spaniards were inept colonizers. That lack prompted both private and military U.S. cartographers to embark on mid and large-scale maps of the island which, however, turned out to be a sort of reinvention of the wheel.

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