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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Legal History Workshop to be Held on Monday, November 4

The Legal History Workshop will be held Monday, November 4, from 2:00-3:25 in Mondale Hall 15. At this session, Sam Erman will be presenting "Santiago Iglesias's Imperial U.S. Citizenship: Puerto Rico and Labor's Constitution".

Abstract: To illuminate relationships between U.S. citizenship - even when it carries few rights--and membership, legitimation, protection, and exclusion, I propose to examine the status as a fulcrum in the transformation of Santiago Iglesias. Mid-1898 found that then obscure Spanish-born anti-imperialist labor radical languishing in a Puerto Rican prison. A quarter century later he was among the most powerful people in Puerto Rico, a U.S. citizen leading an ever-larger organized-worker constituency in successful strikes and electoral campaigns while also promoting the U.S.-backed Pan-American Federation of Labor as it worked to implement a Monroe Doctrine for labor. In the interim, the United States annexed Puerto Rico (1898-1899) and Iglesias determined to abandon the anti-imperial cause of Antillean independence in favor of seeking to strengthen island unions and consolidate his leadership over them through claims involving U.S. membership, especially U.S. citizenship. He leveraged advocacy and receipt of U.S. citizenship to gain American Federation of Labor backing, align with purportedly paternal federal administrators against island politicians, and secure oversight from Washington. He argued that growth of Puerto Rican organized labor was a feature of the U.S. order--like mainstream mainland unions or the transformation of slaves into citizens--rather than an alien and communistic threat. Strikingly--and in line with conventional legal wisdom during the 1917 naturalization of Puerto Ricans--Iglesias did not identify particular rights that Puerto Ricans would gain as U.S. citizens. The most significant right that he disregarded was that to travel within the U.S. empire-state. Although such travel had proven crucial to his own professional successes, he came to see labor migration - especially when international--as harmful to migrants and workers whom they joined. He here coupled the weight he laid on citizenship and its association with national borders to a strategy of winning and insulating local labor gains.