In USMAÍL, Pedro Juan Soto gives us a masterful description of life on the small Puerto Rican Island of Vieques during the 1930s, 40s and 50s as seen through the eyes of the islanders themselves. The story follows the life of a boy born to a poor, black woman from the rural countryside, whose American lover, sent to Vieques to manage a government assistance program, abandons her upon learning that she is expecting his child. But before her death, she bestows upon her newborn son a mysterious name, a name which will prove to haunt him for the rest of this life.
USMAÍL takes place on the island of Vieques during the that 26,000 of Vieques’ 33,000 acres of agricultural and residential land were expropriated for the establishment of a US Navy Base. Thousands of people, forced off land their families had occupied for generations, were crammed into small plots on bulldozed cane fields and left to fend for themselves. The influx of thousands of marines, sent to Vieques on liberty, prompted drunkenness, street fights, rapes and prostitution, disrupting even further the previously tranquil lifestyle of the Vieques community.