2021 International Conference: 27th World Congress of Architects

Colonial Legacies: Debt, Territory, Spatial and Visual Flow Between the United States and Puerto Rico

International Proceedings

Author(s): Marcelo López-Dinardi

The relation between Puerto Rico and the U.S. have resulted in asymmetrical manifestations of sovereignty marked by their colonial bond. The architecture of the Puerto Rican territory, this is, its spatio- political, visual, economic and legal forms, is a carefully manufactured system of colonial subjection and capital exploitation. The H.R. 5278 PROMESA Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2016 removed all power from an apparent sovereign territory by enacting the supreme power of the U.S. over it. As clearly described in the acronym used for the law (promesa is the Spanish for “promise”), I would argue, a promise is not an agreement but a unilateral declaration, a colonial legacy. Colonial Legacies examines Puerto Rico’s context of visual and capital flow in the figure of state-financial debt and territorial sovereignty, by giving visual and spatial dimension to Puerto Rico’s so-called public debt transactions. By inquiring visual narratives, economic and legal exchanges between the Caribbean islands and the U.S., the project aims to open up an alternative form of debt auditing, appealing to both everyday images and fiscal numbers. Following the trajectory of how these legacies were constructed in magazine’s cartoons, maps, books, and laws since 1898, this paper narrates and visualize samples within both territories. The paper and image-based project makes legible some of the complex economic equations of the colonial legacies between the U.S. empire and its logics of colonial extraction and territorial possessions.

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