Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

History

Date of Defense

4-24-2014

Graduate Advisor

Deborah Cohen, PhD.

Committee

Mark Burkholder, Ph.D.

Laura Westhoff, Ph.D.

Abstract

In the years that preceded Luis Muñoz Marín's tenure as Puerto Rico’s first elected and longest running governor, he used Puerto Rico’s so-called alarming population growth as the explanation for the island’s troubles and reform failures. In the early 1920s, the young neo-malthusianist, carved a place for himself as a staunch supporter of policies advocating for state provided birth control in a climate where critics of the jíbaros (Puerto Rico’s peasants) deemed them immoral and barbaric for having too many children. Less than twenty years later though, the same jíbaros who were causing Puerto Rico’s problems in the twenties were portrayed by Muñoz and his party as national symbols; and in journals and publications, the finger-pointing for Puerto Rico’s overpopulation began to zero in on Puerto Rico’s women. This eventually would lead Muñoz to commit to reform efforts that increased industrial production and migration to the mainland and to also dismiss independence as a viable status option. This thesis traces the course of Overpopulation Ideology-- by which I mean the comprehensive vision which dictated that there was a set carrying capacity for humans or an optimal number of people. I will examine what Muñoz Marín meant by overpopulation in the context of population movements around the globe over a period of more than twenty years, arguing that his Overpopulation Ideology was crucial to his vision for the 20th century’s economic and social transformation of Puerto Rico; a vision that drove Puerto Rico’s development on a particular path and would later stifle the independence cause.

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