This essay intends to articulate a situated reflection based on the authors’ direct involvement in the developing of cultural policies through participatory methodologies, in the recent experience of the Commission for Cultural Development (CODECU). Puerto Rico represents a singular case, with historical and cultural parallels with Latin America, but subject to the legal, political, and trade framework of the United States. We propose to understand cultural policies not as an instrument for the advancement of given development agendas, but as a vital arena for discussing and re-imagining development strategies. Debates on culture in Puerto Rico are generally subordinated to political or economic issues. In the face of an unparalleled economic and financial crisis, cultural policies tend to be seen as irrelevant. But they can also wake up passions for its connotations in controversies over the colonial question and political status. We argue that culture is crucial for facing present dilemmas in Puerto Rican society and that its place in public policy should be urgently redefined.