Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Thomas Lekan

Abstract

The Caribbean National Forest in Puerto Rico offers a unique lens into the environmental relationship between the United States and the Caribbean. Established by the Spanish and taken under possession by the United States, the forest represents an imagined space constructed as a Caribbean paradise. As environmentally inclined travelers reached the edge of the western frontier, their interests turned South to the tropics. Tourism boosters and the U.S. Forest Service fabricated a message of a uniquely American jungle. Tourism and the rise of the Caribbean vacation from the 1930s to the 1970s transformed the rainforest from a working landscape into a dreamscape filled with flawless ecological wonders, restaurants, and trails that made American travelers salivate. The U.S. Forest Service metaphorically tamed the jungle, and tourism promoters opened the eyes of Americans to an Edenic landscape under the safety of Uncle Sam’s flag. The Caribbean National Forest became a bargaining chip for control of Puerto Rico. Outdoor recreation became a form of cultural imperialism to sell the imagined forest as a luxurious adventure for mainlanders.

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