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Allora & Calzadilla Confront Puerto Rico’s Fraught Relationship with the US

Hyperallergic - Art Review - October 26, 2017

It begins with oranges. Shortly after the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain, in the aftermath of its victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, a merchant named Samuel Downes attempted to import oranges from the island into New York harbor. After being forced to pay import duties on the fruit, Downes sued the customs inspector, claiming the tax should never have been imposed, since the oranges came from a territory that was now part of the United States. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled against Downes, stating that, while the personal liberties of Puerto Rican citizens were sovereign under the Constitution, laws pertaining to finance and revenue were not. Writing the court’s majority opinion in 1901, Chief Justice Edward E. White referred to Puerto Rico as “foreign in a domestic sense.”

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