IUPLR member centers are central to our organizational research and growth. What we have in common is our desire to advance the field of Latino Studies, but what sets us apart are our unique experiences as Latina/o academics across various geographies. Read more about our featured Co-Director and member centers below.

charles_venator libraryCharles R. Venator-Santiago is a professor at the University of Connecticut with a joint 
appointment with the Department of Political Science and the Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. He teaches courses with a focus on Latino Politics and Thought and in the areas of Public Law and Political Theory. In this issue we highlight his latest book “Puerto Rico and the Origins of U.S. Global Empire” and his legal research on U.S. territorial law and policy.

In his new book Puerto Rico and the Origins of U.S. Global Empire, Professor Venator-Santiago explores the history of how the U.S. came to acquire territories that it continues to rule as “postcolonial borderland[s]”. He researches the history of the U.S. legal ability to decide how to extend or withhold constitutional provisions, including civil rights and privileges, to unincorporated territories and their residents or inhabitants. 

In the aftermath of the 1898 Spanish-American War, the United States developed a postcolonial territorial tradition of expansion in order to rule Puerto Rico and other annexed territories mostly inhabited by non-white populations. It was at this time that the U.S. also began to constitute itself as a global empire. Venator-Santiago asserts that since then, the Supreme Court has invoked postcolonial interpretations of the Constitution “to temper the contours of the more extreme or imperialist impulses of Congress and the President”. It is a legal history that he argues is often overlooked by critics of US global empire and the war on terror.  

Venator-Santiago’s book seeks to discern clear differences between expansionist traditions and the subsequent territorial statuses by paying attention to five broad questions: What is the intent of acquisition of the territory? What is the status ascribed to the territory? What is the constitutional source of power authorizing U.S. legal and political actors to rule a territory? What is the membership of citizenship status ascribed to the inhabitants of the acquired territory? What civil rights extend to the territory? Using these questions, Venator-Santiago sheds a light on continuities and discontinuities among the three types of U.S. territorial expansionism, and highlights the differences between each type of territory. 

Visit Google Books to read sections of Puerto Rico and the Origins of Global Empire

El Instituto, the University of Connecticut, and IUPLR

Professor Charles R. Venator-Santiago’s research largely revolves around questions relating to Nation-State building in the Americas. His primary publications focus on constitutional interpretations and the creation of spaces that belong to the U.S. but are not a part of the nation for constitutional purposes. Other ongoing research projects include work on the deportation of Dominicans for the U.S., asylum and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and the ideological underpinnings of Latino politics in the Western hemisphere. IUPLR asked Professor Venator-Santiago a couple questions regarding his work at University of Connecticut which he was kind enough to answer below.

Could you tell us a little more about your IUPLR member center?

VS: The University of Connecticut’s El Instituto grew out of the merger of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute and the Center for Latin American Studies. Interestingly, the merger process enabled core faculty to redefine the scope of El Instituto in critical ways that fostered a form of praxis. Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to work on projects that enable collaborative partnerships between academia local, state, national and transnational communities. El Instituto provides an array of resources (both financial and labor) that enable the faculty to collaborate with an array of Latino American communities in Connecticut, to work with government institutions like the CT Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, to work with immigrants and migrants, as well as with local community based projects. On a more personal level, El Instituto has given me resources that enable me to help Latino/a and Latin American organizations and individuals in CT and elsewhere.

What work do you most look forward to sharing with IUPLR directors and members?

VS: My current research examines the legal and political histories of all of the citizenship and status legislation for Puerto Rico and the other U.S. insular areas (U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Since 2007, UConn has enabled me to acquire copies of thousands of digital copies of citizenship and territorial status documents from an array of archives. These documents not only tell a different story about the history of the extension of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico, but also open new avenues for research that have not been previously examined. This research enabled me to write the first, and to date, only comprehensive history of the extension of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico (1898-present).

In anticipation of the centennial of the collective naturalization of Puerto Ricans under the terms of the Jones Act of 1917, I am in the process of cementing several collaborative projects with IUPLR centers and other institutions in Puerto Rico to develop various digital repositories of documents that can tell provide a more comprehensive and critical understanding of the history of the extension of citizenship to Puerto Rico. Ultimately, the goal is to make these repositories available in all IUPLR member centers.