Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ronald Fernandez, who wrote ``Los Macheteros`´ dies at 67

Friday, September 2, 2011 08:33 AM

Central Connecticut State University
Ronald Fernandez was an author and sociology professor.
The New York Times
Ronald Fernandez, a professor of sociology whose curiosity about a daring $7 million armored car robbery near his Connecticut home set him on a career path of scholarly investigation into the history of American colonialism in Puerto Rico, died on Tuesday in West Hartford. He was 67.
The cause was esophageal cancer, his wife, Brenda Harrison, said.
Dr. Fernandez was a recently minted Ph.D. teaching at Central Connecticut State College in 1983 when the robbery took place in a Wells Fargo armored car depot close enough to his house that he was detoured on the way home by police barricades. His initial idea was to write a book about the psychology of the bank robber.
But his research into the lives of the men identified by the F.B.I. as the masterminds of the heist, all of them members of a militant Puerto Rican independence group known as Los Macheteros, led Dr. Fernandez to a broader interest in the back story of the Macheteros’ cause: the long and, for most Americans, obscure history of disenfranchisement on the island of Puerto Rico, a subject he knew little about despite growing up in New York City, where about 800,000 Puerto Ricans now live.
Beginning with his 1987 book, “Los Macheteros: The Wells Fargo Robbery and the Violent Struggle for Puerto Rican Independence,” Dr. Fernandez wrote five books about Puerto Rico over the next decade. One, a history textbook, received an American Library Association award. The rest were deeply footnoted histories of American military and economic domination of a tiny island that has existed in a kind of limbo since becoming a United States possession in 1898, among the spoils of the Spanish-American War: neither colony nor part of the union.
The nearly four million residents of Puerto Rico are United States citizens, but cannot vote in federal elections. They are represented by a nonvoting representative in Congress. Tax and regulatory exemptions given businesses based on the mainland raise perennial public complaints about environmental and economic exploitation.