A brief history of environmental inequity and military colonialism on the isle of vieques, Puerto Rico

Joel C. Yelin, Demond S. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Puerto Rico has a long history of battling colonialism, first by Spain then by the United States. As a result of United States' possession of the island, Puerto Rico was thrust into a new battle between colonial status and keeping its identity despite colonial control. At the center of this fight, Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, represents a smaller model of colonialism due to the former presence of a military installation established by the U.S. Navy that claimed the majority of the small island in 1941, resulting in its citizens being moved from their homes to the center of the island near bombing ranges and ammunition stock houses. Landscapes that were once home to military installations and host to military activities are now often dangerous, contaminated, and changed in dramatic ways due to the introduction of munitions, bombs, fuels, and nuclear contaminants. Years after the U.S. Navy's military evacuation, environmental, physical, and mental health concerns were recognized, including the environmental damage due to toxic contamination and its effect on the communities currently residing on the island. This article documents the impact of years of environmental polluting and the destruction of the environment as a lingering vestige of military colonialism in Puerto Rico. The Indians [shall] live in community with the Christians of the island and go among them, by which means they will help each other to cultivate, settle and reap the fruits of the island and extract the fold which may be there, and bring profit to my Kingdom and my subjects. Queen Isabella to Nicolas de Ovando, December 20, 15031 As cited in Franklin Knight. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism, 2nd Edition. (Oxford University Press, 1990). 27.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-159
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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