Between two oceans: Economy, Society and Intervention in Vieques
1942-1948
José L. Bolivar, Universidad de
Puerto Rico
Esperanza, Vieques 1968
Rainfall
Types of Farming
V ieque s, P ob la ción p or B arrio , 19 40
Vieques, population 1940
Is a be l S e g un d a
2,6 7 8
M o s q u ito s
85 1
P u e rto D ia bl o
F lo r id a
5 48
1,2 5 3
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P u n ta A r e na s
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P u e rto F e r ro
57 9
L la v e
1,7 7 6
P u e rto R ea l
1 ,7 8 5
Po bla ción p or B arrio
1 D ot = 2 0
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Thesis

Between 1942 and 1948, the economy of
Vieques went through three distinct phases:

a prosperous phase :1942-1943
an economic disastrous phase : 1943-1946
a partial recovery phase :1946-1948


Background

November 1941-1942 – American government
expropriates 22,000 acres – 65% of the island - for
use by the Navy.

The municipality of Vieques loses 40% of its
income.

Agricultural workers are expelled from their land.
Land Ownership
First Phase

1942- summer,1943 - Vieques experiences an economic boom
due to the construction of the military base in Mosquitos.

1,700 islanders – 61% of the labor force –were employed.

Salaries – averaging $2.25/day -- were 40% more than those
paid by the sugar industry; work was available year round.

The Central Playa Grande continued working.
Pico commission

March,1943 – Puerto Rican Government
Commission forecasts outcome of the closing of the
base, planned within 3 to 4 months.

1,475 of the 1,700 workers would lose their jobs.

Commission recommended the return of 13,000
acres expropriated and of no use to the Navy.
Second Phase

May, 1943 - Central Playa Grande closes.

Summer,1943 - Base construction is halted; extreme hardship
begins.

March, 1944 – PR government assigns $2,000,000 in
emergency funds which were never utilized.

April,1945 – Puerto Rico Agricultural Corporation (PRACO) is
created and funded with $12,233,000.
Third Phase: PRACO

Beginning of 1946 – January, 1948. Partial
recovery; intervention by PRACO.

PRACO becomes the largest landholder and
biggest employer in Vieques.
1947 map from El Mundo
La línea gruesa en el mapa de Vieques, ilustrado en este grabado, revela la ruta que nuestro compañero
Benjamín Santana, y los oficiales de la Marina siguieran por los terrenos que se han de utilizar en aquella
isla en la construcción de una base militar. Obsérvese el rompeolas, una especie de carretera pavimentada
sobre el mar, de casi dos millas de largo, comenzada durante la guerra en un esfuerzo por conectar aquella
isla con la de Puerto Rico. FUENTE: El Mundo, noviembre 23, 1947,Pág. 5
V ie qu es
U .S . N avy H is to rical L an d T enu re P a tter ns
PRACO holdings and 1950 expropriations
S a n ta
M a r ía
R e s e t tl e m e n t
T rac t
M o n te sa n to
R e s e t tl e m e n t T r a c t
Airport
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M a r t in e a u T r a c t
E x c e s s e d in 1 9 4 4 . A s s ig n e d b y W a r A s s e t s
A d m i n is t r a t io n t o t h e D e p a r t m e n t o f I n t e r io r f o r
O c c u p i e d P e n d i n g A c q u is i t io n a s o f 1 9 4 7 -4 8 : A c q u i re d 1 9 5 0
d i s p o s a l . L ic e n c e d t o G o v e rn m e n t o f P u e rt o R ic o
b y F e d e ra l W o r k s A d m i n is t r a t io n . S a n t a M a r í a
R e s e t t l e m e n t T ra c t R e c a l le d a n d U s e P e rm it R e v o k e d
in 1 9 4 7 . M o n t e s a n t o R e s e t t le m e n t T r a c t a n d M a r t in e a u
T r a c t a ls o r e c a l le d
b u t t e m p o r a r y r e v o c a b l e l ic e n c e
in 1 9 4 4 r e m a in e d in e f f e c t . M a rt i n e a u T ra c t u s e d b y
N o n - N a v y O w ne d L a n d .
P u e r t o R ic o A g r ic u l t u ra l C o m p a n y .
T e m p o ra r y G r a n t s t o t h e D e p a rt m e n t o f I n t e ri o r i s s u e d
J u ly 1 9 4 4 a n d J a n u a r y 1 9 4 6 a n d r e v o k e d S e p t e m b e r 1 9 4 7 .
S O U R C E : D e p a r tm e n t o f th e N a vy . 1 9 7 9 . C o n tin u e d U se o f th e A tl a n t ic F l e e t
W e a p o n s T r a i n i n g F a c i li ty In n e r R a n g e (V i e q u e s ) : D r a ft E n v ir o n m e n t a l
Im p a c t S ta te m e n t. N .p . , T i p p e tts - A b b e tt- M c C a r t h y- S tr a tto n :
A c q u ir e d f ro m 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 3 .
E c o l o g y a n d E n v ir o n m e n t .
PRACO – Intervention in
Vieques

January, 1946 - 13,000 acres are transferred from the Department
of the Interior, to the Government of Puerto Rico for use by
PRACO.

Federal government retained titles to the land.

PRACO employed 1,113 “viequenses” – 40% of the 2,800 labor
force.

Between 1946 and 1947 - PRACO accumulated losses of almost
$1,000,000.

PRACO invested $1,900,000, purchased 3,873 additional acres,
and became the largest landholder - controlling 51% of the island.
El Mundo
1947 Caricature
The second expropriations

January, 1948 - Navy retook lands ; PRACO
losses $1,900,000 invested in land improvements.

Vieques scheduled to be used as target practice.

Additional lands identified for expropriation.

Vieques lost the possibility for agricultural
development.
V ie ques, P opula tion in 1950
P ue r to D i a b lo
Isa b e l S e g u n da
89 4
3,0 8 5
Flo ri d a
2,6 3 8
M os q ui to s
20
P ue r to R e a l
16 7 7
P un t a A re n a s
0
L la v e
19 1
P ue r to Fe r ro
72 3
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Economy, Society and Intervention in Vieques 1942-1948