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The self-proclaimed “Diario de la tarde” (“the afternoon daily”), the newspaper El Imparcial (San Juan, Puerto Rico) was one of the main witnesses to Puerto Rican and international history of the 20th century. It began publication on November 1, 1918 and frontpage headlines included the end of the WWI, the actions of the Bolsheviks, their allies and their enemies after the Russian Revolution of 1917, along with the reactions and stances taken by the United States on these international issues. Much of the global news reported came from international services or correspondents.
Additionally, El Imparcial offered translations of news content originally generated in English.
On a local level, El Imparcial regularly covered the US’s political and economic control of Puerto Rico. For example, in 1917 the Prohibition Law, known as the Volstead Law, was approved in a referendum (within the Jones Act) that prohibited the production, importation, and sale of alcoholic beverages both in the metropolis and in the colony.
Additionally, the newspaper documented the repercussions of the October 1918 earthquake that affected two-thirds of the island, primarily on the western side of the island.
Advertisements that ran in El Imparcial after the earthquake reveal how brands tried to exploit the disaster to sell their products. For example, one advertisement called on all “CAPITALISTS and owners” to observe that buildings made of Atlas cement were “left standing without a single crack” (November 4, 1918).
El Imparcial offered extensive coverage of efforts to create the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The January 26, 1922 issue included the complete bill presented by Congressperson Philip P. Campbell to the House of Representatives to convert Puerto Rico into a “Free Associate State” (“Commonwealth”). This bill was rejected then; however, thirty years later, under different circumstances, a Constitution of Puerto Rico under the same name and mixture of contradictory terms was approved.
Additionally, El Imparcial was utilized as a vessel for providing a glimpse into the social life and culture of the island. It regularly published poems and other literary works. It also occasionally printed fashion-related news and included advertisements for all sorts of hats, shoes, dresses and more.
Chronicling America offers access to 13,316 pages of El Imparcial, published between 1918 and 1923. Explore the newspaper and share with us any interesting content you may find!