As the island of Puerto Rico transitioned from Spanish to U.S.
imperial rule, the military and political mobilization of popular
sectors of its society played important roles in the evolution of
its national identities and subsequent political choices. While
scholars of American imperialism have examined the political,
economic, and cultural aspects of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico,
few have considered the integral role of Puerto Rican men in
colonial military service and in helping to consolidate the empire.
In Soldiers of the Nation Harry Franqui-Rivera argues that the
emergence of strong and complicated Puerto Rican national
identities is deeply rooted in the long history of colonial
military organizations on the island. Franqui-Rivera examines the
patterns of inclusion-exclusion within the military and the various
forms of citizenship that are subsequently transformed into
socioeconomic and political enfranchisement. Analyzing the armed
forces as an agent of cultural homogenization, Franqui-Rivera
further explains the formation and evolution of Puerto Rican
national identities that eventually led to the creation of the
Estado Libre Asociado (the commonwealth) in
1952. Franqui-Rivera concludes that Puerto Rican soldiers were
neither cannon fodder for the metropolis nor the pawns of the
criollo political elites. Rather, they were men with complex
identities who demonstrated a liberal, popular, and broad
definition of Puertorriqueñidad.