Colonialism, Catholicism, and Contraception: A History of Birth Control in Puerto Rico

Colonialism, Catholicism, and Contraception: A History of Birth Control in Puerto Rico

Colonialism, Catholicism, and Contraception: A History of Birth Control in Puerto Rico

Colonialism, Catholicism, and Contraception: A History of Birth Control in Puerto Rico

Synopsis

The authors analyze the tortuous course that Puerto Rico has followed in evolving a population policy, highlighting the island's rapic economic growth, its role as a laboratory for testing different methods of birth control, and the inevitable conflicts between church and state. The strands of colonialism, catholicism, and contraception are woven into a background of profound social change, characterized by shifting values, industrialization, mass emigration, and technical innovation.

Originally published 1983.

Excerpt

The people of Puerto Rico have, for better or for worse, been studied and restudied. Probably nowhere has a society been as extensively observed, enumerated, and assessed. It often appears as though the interviewer has become a permanent and accepted adjunct of the Puerto Rican household. Computer technology has been applied to the task of counting more and more of the things that collectively make up the political, socioeconomic, and cultural life of this Caribbean island. and its recent past continues to be scrutinized and subjected both to reevaluation and, as new needs arise, to reconstruction.

The chronology of events regarding the history of birth control in Puerto Rico is relatively easy to record. An account of their intended and unintended consequences is more difficult to assemble. While the results of such analysis are by no means immune to question, they are less open to disagreement than is the interpretation we have also attempted to make of the various purposes of those who became involved in one way or another in activities touching upon the "population issue" in Puerto Rico. We see such interpretation as the critical element in this historical analysis. the dissemination and acceptance of family planning practices in Puerto Rico, as in any other society, can be understood only within the particular socio- economic, political, and cultural history of the people.

It has never been possible to separate the promotion of family planning in Puerto Rico from "the population issue," and that issue, in turn, has reflected, refracted, and magnified virtually every other issue that has pre- occupied the life of this society. It is a peculiar lens, for it often distorts and obfuscates those other issues, creating contradictory, if not illusionary, conclusions. Many of the most profound social tensions, antagonisms, and fears are expressed in it. Various segments of the society have appropriated it as a vehicle to articulate their expectations and aspirations, while it has been a shaping influence on them and those same hopes. Those who will feel impatience with the amount of attention we have given to summar-

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