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The Puerto Rico Citizenship Archives Project

The year 2017 marked the centennial of the collective naturalization of Puerto Ricans under the terms of the Jones Act of 1917. This was the first organic or territorial act providing for the collective extension of citizenship to a United States territory that was not meant to become a state of the Union. Yet, the Jones Act of 1917 was neither the first or last law extending U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico.

Congress has ratified (Senate) one treaty and eleven laws containing citizenship provisions for persons born in the Puerto Rican territory since the United States annexed Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Over time, these laws have enabled persons born in Puerto Rico to acquire three different types of citizenships, namely a Puerto Rican citizenship or non-citizen nationality; a naturalized (both via individual or collective procedures) citizenship; and a jus soli or birthright citizenship. Between 1898 and the present, Congress has also debated upwards of 100 bills containing citizenship provisions for persons born in Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico Citizenship Archives Project (PRCAP) is a public repository designed to document the legal history of the extension of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico. The PRCAP provides a comprehensive overview of 119-year history of debates over the extension of citizenship to Puerto Rico. It also provides public access to the key historical documents shaping this story. The main goal is to create a reliable public archive of primary documents that can foster new research projects on Puerto Rico and its relationship to the United States as well as on broader visions of U.S. citizenship.

The core legislation contained in this archive was initially identified through a reading of the Congressional Research Index (56th Congress to the present) and the legislative histories of the relevant legislation for Puerto Rico. The ensuing information is organized in three ways. The PRCAP contains a series of short essays providing a narrative of the history of the extension of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico. The site also contains a searchable repository of all the federal legislation for Puerto Rico containing citizenship provisions as well as related texts that can help contextualize the broader debates over this legislation. Finally, the PRCAP will incorporate a resource page with additional pedagogical tools for classrooms and the community.

The PRCAP is part of a collaboration between the University of Connecticut’s Libraries and El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean and Latin American Studies; CENTRO: Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York; the Biblioteca y Centro de Investigación Social Jesús T. Piñero, Universidad del Este; Departamento de Ciencias Politicas, Universidad de Puerto Rico; and the Hartford Public Library’s Park Branch.