Teresita Martínez-Vergne is seeking to broaden the horizons of nineteenth-century Puerto Rican historiography with her new book. She has turned away from the social and economic history that has previously dominated approaches to this period, toward a post-structuralist-informed discourse analysis of liberal sensibilities and policies in the island’s capital. Martínez-Vergne traces the rise of a local liberal urban bourgeoisie and its efforts to define itself ideologically vis-à-vis shifting political currents in the Spanish colonial regime and the increasingly worrisome plebeian classes. Other historians of Puerto Rico have taken up this theme in the last 15 years, but none have yet examined its expression through the conceptualization and dispensation of charity. Thus, this book has the potential to provide illuminating insights into Puerto Rican class and gender relations, social mores, and changing political culture.

Martínez-Vergne argues that during the nineteenth century, local liberals asserted...

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