Kirwin R. Shaffer, Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897-1921
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013; 256pp; ISBN 978-0252037641
Black Flag Boricuas introduces us to the two decades of greatest movement presence ('a few hundred anarchists') and influence in Puerto Rico. Specifically, it presents the emergence of anarchist writers and activists from the final years of Spanish rule and the initial U.S. takeover in 1898 to the development of anarchist militancy within and alongside burgeoning trade union and socialist party movements until decisive Red Scare repression in 1921. By offering valuable details on relatively neglected Puerto Rican anarchism, this well researched book adds an interesting new dimension to the growing literature on transnational and non-Eurocentric anarchist movements and thus new bases for understanding how and why anarchist militancy emerges and flourishes (or not) in widely diverse settings.
Shaffer provides ample extracts from newspapers and books to illustrate Puerto Rican activists' often passionate positions on familiar anarchist themes of opposition to the state, capitalism, imperialism, organised religion, women's oppression and conformist education. Along with accounts of frequent labour strikes, he also introduces more prominent anarchists such as better-known Lucia Capetillo and Juan Vilar as well as less familiar anarchist activists and writers such as Venancio Cruz, Alfredo Negrin and Angel Dieppa. As well, he describes the leading geographical and workforce contexts of Puerto Rican anarchist organising, with special focus on the exploited tobacco workers of Caguas, Bayamon and San Juan.
While mentioning the Puerto Rican artisan tradition ofparejeria (self-pride and resistance to authority) as a grassroots source for openness to more specific anarchist ideology (more could have been said on this subject), Shaffer underlines the importance for the Puerto Rican movement of the transnational circulation of militants, publications and ideas between Cuba, Tampa, the New York area and Puerto Rico. While influencing anarchist movements throughout the world, transnational circulation seems especially important in the case of Puerto Rico, a dynamic factor underlined here that could help inspire similar analyses elsewhere.
At the same time, this study...