A Look At “Independence” For Puerto Ricans Under U.S. Colonialism

On July 4, 1898, in the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, the Reverend J. F. Carson read from the Holy Bible, “And Joshua took the whole land, and the land rested from war.” He sermonized that “the high, the supreme business of this Republic is to end the Spanish rule in America, and if to do that it is necessary to plant the stars and stripes on Cuba, Porto Rico, the Philippines or Spain itself, America will do it.” That same night, in the Presbyterian Church of Fifth Avenue, the Reverend Robert MacKenzie prophesied, “God is calling a new power to the front. The race of which this nation is the crown . . . is now divinely thrust out to take its place as a world power.” Senator Albert J. Beveridge also saw a divine plan. “God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing” he declared. “He has made us adept in government so that we may administer government amongst savages and senile peoples.”

On July 21, 1898, the US government issued a press release stating, “Porto Rico will be kept. . . . Once taken it will never be released. It will pass forever into the hands of the Unites States. . . . Its possession will go towards making up the heavy expense of the war to the United States. Our flag, once run up there, will float over the island permanently.” On the floor of the US Senate, Republican Senator Joseph B. Foraker declaimed, “Porto Rico differs radically from any other people for whom we have legislated previously. . . . They have no experience which would qualify them for the great work of government with all the bureaus and departments needed by the people of Porto Rico.”

Note: “Porto Rico” is not a misspelling by the author of this piece. The United States in legal documents and in speeches referring to the island spelled the name wrong for much of the first 50 years that they controlled it.

This is what “independence” means to a 2016 colony, the last colony in the world, Puerto Rico.

People may be aware of the recent news that has been highlighting the Puerto Rican economic crisis, 73 Billion US dollars of debt hanging over the head of the Puerto Rican people. That is over 20,000 US dollars per person living on the island.

Currently there is a bill that was signed by President of Obama called PROMESA that was supposed to help with the restructuring of the debt for the people of the island of Puerto Rico. Here are some highlights of the bill:

–No clear path to restructuring the debt, no clear bankruptcy or restructuring protocol or procedure is outlined.

–The installation of a Financial Control Board of the island that can overrule any financial decision made and voted on by the people or governmental bodies of Puerto Rico.

–This Financial Control Board is allowed to receive “gifts”, no description on what is meant by “gifts”, on the bill though it is obvious this creates the inherent conditions for bribery.

–The people of the Financial Control Board are to be selected by the US Senate, where Puerto Rico has no voting representation at all, and approved by the President. Not a single one of these people have to have any ties to the island.

–The minimum wage of the island will be reduced to $4.25 for workers under the age of 25 on the island, a place where Cost of Living is already drastically higher than most other places in the US.

READ: Boricua Pride Shines In NYC, But ‘War Against All Puerto Ricans’ Continues

This bill obviously exerts the colonial rule of the US over Puerto Rico in 2016. But it doesn’t stop there. Other things are contributing to the miserable human and social conditions of the island.

–Puerto Ricans pay the same amount for Medicaid as any other state or US territory but they only receive 50% of the Medicaid benefits that other states and territories receive. This coupled with the economic crisis has helped contribute to the closing of hospitals and clinics throughout the island creating a health crisis on the island that is already experiencing the Zika virus scare and the possibility of poisonous gasses being sprayed on the island to kill the Zika virus at the detriment to the health of the Puerto Rican people. That gas spray is being protested by the people of the island.

–Schools are being closed and privatized due to lack of funds. University of Puerto Rico has raised its tuition again making educational attainment ever more difficult for people already struggling to meet high tuition costs.

–Public Beaches are being sold and privatized to pay for the debt. Obama also announced the “Promise Zone” which favors US developers to build resorts, entertainment, and high end real estate on the eastern part of the island.

–The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will no longer monitor water resources in Puerto Rico because the island’s government owes it $2 million

The slow death of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican people through an economic and colonial chokehold has gone mostly unnoticed and unchecked. The reason why it has gone mostly unnoticed is because most people don’t know how it got this bad or that it really is this bad. Until the debt crisis and PROMESA no one really knew anything about Puerto Rico outside maybe Jenifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Many Puerto Ricans don’t even know the history of the island that led to these conditions. That is due to the incredible refusal of US media to cover things pertaining to the island and, until recently, a scarcity of educational resources detailing the progressive destruction and now, in my opinion, a guided gentrification of the island and slow murder of the Puerto Rican people. It would take too long for me to detail these things but if anyone is interested in taking a deeper dive read War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis.

The similarities between the current state of Black America and the trap used to subjugate black communities through economics, gentrification and disruption of black communities, and the use of the TRAP are eerily familiar.

Don Pedro Albizu Campos once said “[US] cares more about the cage than the bird.” Our cage is physical, mental, and spiritual. Colonialism has infiltrated our very veins through the 118 years of US rule over Puerto Rico. Now as the conditions have worsened for the people on the island to a breaking point independence movements and solidarity movements have begun to take form. It will be a long and difficult road but what more could be worth fighting and dying for than Freedom? Vive Puerto Rico Libre! Jesse ‘SobreViviente’ Cosme

This is an excerpt from an article originally published on DreamDefenders.org.