And that brings us kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Let’s review the facts before we plunge forward.
Six hundred years ago Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the shores of a lovely island populated by a peaceful civilization of Arawak Indians (the Taino) who were mostly agrarian and who lived in harmony alongside a warlike tribe (the Caribe) whose main goal in life was to answer the question “What’s eating you?” Seeing that everything was hunky dory, Chris claimed the lands for Ferdy and Bella.
During the ensuing fifty years a combination of disease, slavery and outright murder reduced the indigenous population to around zero which was fine because Spain was getting overcrowded and those folks needed a place to migrate to. European nations claimed ownership of virtually every square kilometer of South, Central and North America despite the fact that the lands were already occupied by lots of dark-skinned people. In fact, those pesky Europeans fought among themselves for the right to defeat the natives.
Big Sugar dominated the Puerto Rican economy until the bottom fell out of the market. Spain’s military took it on the chin. The new kid on the block (USA) took Spain to the mat and won the right to rule the Enchanted Island. The brash newcomers from the north took over the reins of government and figured out how to ratchet up the value of Puerto Rico, both in terms of politics and from the standpoint of raw revenue. One of the native-born youngsters went up to Washington, D. C., got a college education and came back to reinvent his homeland. He racked up a lot of debt in the process, but he managed to transform the island into the brightest jewel in the Caribbean crown.
Rich folks from all over the world bought up the best properties on the island and turned them into cash cows. Tourists from far and wide flocked to the island to spend their hard-earned dollars and to dis the natives. The overlords (us) gave tax breaks to the rich and the rich responded by building factories and racking up more debt. Then the overlords took away the tax benefits and the rich packed up their tents and went back home.
So, in a nutshell, here’s where things stood. Despite the smiles of insouciance pasted on the facades of opulent resorts owned by offshore billionaires, the Enchanted Island was one hurricane away from disaster.