FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Puerto Rico is a Colony, No Matter How Else You Dress it Up

by

The island called Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. This fact means that the rights US citizens assume to be theirs do not necessarily apply to Puerto Ricans living on the island. The history of Puerto Rico since the United States military invaded it in 1898 makes this very clear. Whether one is taking a look at the economic relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, the political relationship, or the military relationship, the blatant nature of the colonial relationship is foremost.

This becomes very clear in Nelson A. Denis’ 2015 history War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony. Partially a biography of the Nationalist leader and hero Pedro Albizu Campos and partially a history of the Puerto Rican nationalist movement in the early and mid-twentieth century, this text tells a story more people in the United States should know. The racism and just plain disregard for human lives described in Denis’ narrative is a match for the very worst of humanity’s inhumanity to other humans. The fact that it continues in Washington’s current dealings with Puerto Rico is testament to the arrogance intrinsic to colonialism, no matter how it is dressed up.

In short, Puerto Rico is owned by Wall Street. Any investment or other input of money into the island’s economy via investment in industry, agriculture or services is removed at a greater rate than it was put in. No matter what form this colonial approach takes warpuertoand no matter what it is called, the fact is that the history of the people of Puerto Rico is one where their poverty only increases along with the debt. Because it is a colony and not a full-fledged independent nation (or a state), Washington controls much of Puerto Rico’s political system. This has meant that the islands are not only home to large military bases, one island was used for bombing practice for decades. This has also meant that the minimum wage in Puerto Rico is not subject to the same restrictions. So, if the dominant industries want lower wages to make a profit, the wages have been dropped. Indeed, this possibility is part of Washington’s current efforts to get Puerto Rico to repay the banks that own Congress and have bled the Puerto Rican nation over the past years via an economic development program set up for US industry and banking.

War Against All Puerto Ricans is a fascinating story of a movement and a man whose history has been intentionally left out of most history books. Instead of the truths told in these pages, what most US residents, including many of Puerto Rican ancestry, know about Puerto Rico is that it is an island with beautiful beaches and sugar cane. They do not know that it was invaded by US troops in 1898 toward the end of the Spanish-American War and has been occupied ever since. Nor do they know that its history since that invasion is one where most Puerto Ricans live at the mercy of corporate America, exist in poverty, and seen those country men and women who fight back killed by the US military and police forces acting in coordination with that military. They have not heard of the independentistas and the nationalists, nor do they know that many of those independence fighters have been in US prisons for decades.

Denis opens his book with a brief introduction to his family and his interest in Puerto Rico. From there the story moves quickly through a bit of Puerto Rican history, a description of the prison known as La Princesa—a prison condemned by the United Nations—where hundreds of nationalists were held after the insurrection he details at the end of the text. The book’s tone is truly set in the chapter describing what is known as the Ponce Massacre. This murderous episode in Puerto Rican history took place on Palm Sunday 1937. Families had gathered in the town square for a celebration of the holiday and the independence movement. Police and military surrounded the crowd and fired their pistols, shotguns and machine guns. Thirteen minutes later, nineteen people lay dead and dozens more were wounded. The police lied to the press and said they had been fired upon first. Honest journalists decried the cover up and tried to get the news out to the world. The police cover up failed, but the world did not pay much attention.

Denis’ utilizes a unique device to fill the middle part of his text. He introduces four men he considers crucial to the story he wishes to tell. The first is a man who would be a poet, an opium addict, a Nationalist and then a pawn of the FBI and US banks. Then there is the OSS agent, a filmmaker, the nationalist hero Pedro Albizu Campos and a barber who was so much more than just a barber. By providing biographies of these men, the author tells the history he set out to tell. It is a fascinating and engaging tale.

Denis writes these sentences towards the end of his book: “The story of Albizu Campos is the story of Puerto Rico. It is also the story of empire.” Reading this book reminded this writer of all the lies told daily about Washington’s overseas adventures today. It also makes clear that this is nothing new. War Against all Puerto Ricans is well-researched, quite readable, and essential to any reader interested in Puerto Rico, US history or the nature of colonialism. It is not a pretty tale, but it is one that must be told.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail