“It would have been good to see her go free, instead of going from owner to owner.”
- Eugenio Maria de Hostos
On July 25th of 1898, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico along the Caribbean Sea in the town of Guanica only a few miles from Ponce a group of US sailors snuck up on the shore took down the Spanish flag from a beach flag pole and replaced it with an American flag. They then set up a machine gun nest to defend what they claimed now belonged to the US.
This was not the first time that invaders came to the island nation of Puerto Rico claiming what was not theirs. In 1493 Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain and for the next 400 years Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain. In 1868 there was a rebellion against Spanish colonial rule in the mountain town of Lares led by Ramon Emeterio Betances who is considered the father of the Puerto Rican nation. The rebellion was betrayed and failed but it brought about the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico and it sparked the imagination of the Puerto Rican people for freedom.
In 1897 Puerto Ricans began gaining significant ground towards their independence from Spain. They managed to negotiate a large degree of autonomy that would eventually lead towards full independence. However all that hard work was brought to a stand still when the US started the Spanish-American War. It was the first foreign imperial adventure for the US. An imperial adventure that began with the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples in America in the 1600’s and continued into the 1840’s with the expansionist Mexican-American War. These imperial adventures were solidified into an ideology in the 1860’s called Manifest Destiny which declared that the US should expand from its original humble beginnings along the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific and they should let nothing and no one get in their way.
Not satiated with the expansion west to the Pacific, Manifest Destiny grew to include “America’s backyard” in the south and so the US started a war with Spain in 1898 in an effort to test their imperialist ideology overseas in the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The hubris of imperialism whether it be Spanish or American was that there was no thought given to the Puerto Ricans who lived, loved, worked and died on that island nation, not in 1493, not in 1898 and not today.
The Spanish lost the war with the US and Puerto Rico went from being a colony of Spain to being a colony of the US where it has remained a colony despite the pretty name redressing of “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth”. The only state that is freely allowed to associates itself with Puerto Rico is the US and the only commonwealth that is being shared is the wealth of approximately $35 billion generated on the island nation which is siphoned off to be commonly held in US banks.
This exploitation continues despite the talk of “non-binding” plebiscites over the question of status. Despite the continued harassment of independence supporters by law enforcement agencies both on the island and in the diaspora. Despite the calls for decolonization at the UN by the international community during the UN’s decolonization hearings. Despite the Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war held in US prisons. Despite the assassinations of independence leaders by US colonial powers. Despite all that, US imperialism in Puerto Rico continues and as the US chalks up another year of colonial exploitation they can expect another year of resistance from the Puerto Rican people, because it’s not a question of IF Puerto Rico will be free but WHEN Puerto Rico will be free.
What Is the 4th Of July To A Puerto Rican?
A Hunger For Freedom
A Rejection Of American Mythology (Part One)
A Rejection Of American Mythology (Part Two)
FALN – Struggle Until Victory
A Record Of Empire