“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
– William Randolph Hearst speaking about trying to get support for the Spanish-American War so he can sell newspapers
“In the prosecution of war against the kingdom of Spain by the people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Puerto Rico. They come bearing the banner of freedom, inspired by a noble purpose to seek the enemies of our country and yours, and to destroy or capture all who are in armed resistance. They bring you the fostering arm of a free people, whose greatest power is in its justice and humanity to all those living within its fold. Hence the first effect of this occupation will be the immediate release from your former relations, and it is hoped a cheerful acceptance of the government of the United States. The chief object of the American military forces will be to overthrow the armed authority of Spain, and to give the people of your beautiful island the largest measure of liberty consistent with this occupation. We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves, but to your property; to promote your prosperity, and bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government. It is not our purpose to interfere with any existing laws and customs that are wholesome and beneficial to your people so long as they conform to the rules of military administration of order and justice. This is not a war of devastation, but one to give all within the control of its military and naval forces the advantages and blessings of enlightened civilization.”
– General Nelson A. Miles after landing in Guanica, Puerto Rico
“A splendid little war.”
– Ambassador John Hay, writing from London to Theodore Roosevelt, about the Spanish-American War
“I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
– Mark Twain
Very few people know that the US is a colonial power. Not a neo-colonial power, in some esoteric, behind the scenes, pulling the strings sense, as in Afghanistan or Iraq but in a very real and classical sense like in the case of Puerto Rico. The history of colonialism in Puerto Rico goes back 520 years to the Spanish landing of Columbus in 1493. Spanish colonialism in Puerto Rico lasted about 400 years. In 1868 a failed insurrection against Spanish colonial rule led to a more rigorous political decolonization process by both Puerto Rico and Spain. By 1897 Puerto Rico had successfully negotiated it’s independence with Spain.
On November 25th of 1897 an Autonomic Charter “Carta Autonomica” was approved by Spain. Puerto Rico had both political and administrative power over itself. A legislature was set up with a Council of Administration consisting of 8 elected members and 7 appointed members and that was countered by a Chamber of Representatives with a representative for every 25,000 Puerto Ricans. By Spring of 1898 Puerto Rico had complete autonomy from Spain.
In April of 1898, the US declared war against Spain in order to try to gain control of Spain’s colonies in the Caribbean. On May 12th the US navy bombed San Juan. In June the US set up a blockade in Puerto Rico and on July 25th General Nelson A. Miles led his naval troops into the southern coastal town of Guanica and began the invasion of Puerto Rico. By August the Spanish were defeated and on December 10th Spain relinquished Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico to US power. The US has been a colonial power in Puerto Rico ever since then…
The artwork i created today for the 115th year of US colonialism in Puerto Rico is of a record of of resistance to foreign imperialism. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the world. In the center is the sketched figure of a Machetero holding two machetes. A machetero in Spanish is someone who works in the sugar cane fields cutting sugar cane but it’s also a symbol of cultural resistance in Puerto Rico. Throughout Puerto Rico’s rich rebel history of resistance macheteros banded together to fight against both Spanish and US colonial domination in Puerto Rico and in the process became the Macheteros, cultural symbols of Puerto Rican resistance.
The drawing was purposely done on black paper with a light gray pastel crayon to give the feeling that it was scrawled on the wall of a prison. The Machetero figure is surrounded by 520 markings, 405 markings for resistance to Spanish colonial rule and 115 markings for US colonial rule. At the end of the 405th marking is the crossed out word España for the 405 years Puerto Rico spent as a Spanish colony. The next 115 markings are followed by the crossed out name of the United States for the past 115 years of US colonial rule. The space beyond that is left blank in hopes that the next set of markings will be a record of Puerto Rico’s self-rule…