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Puerto Rican nationalist

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Puerto Rican nationalist

Independence movement in Puerto Rico
Formation 1511 (503 years ago)
Purpose/focus advocates for the independence of Puerto Rico
Region served Puerto Rico
Key people Agüeybaná II

Antonio Valero de Bernabé
María de las Mercedes Barbudo
Ramón Emeterio Betances
Segundo Ruiz Belvis
Francisco Ramírez Medina
Manuel Rojas
Eugenio María de Hostos
Lola Rodríguez de Tió
José de Diego
Luis Lloréns Torres
Pedro Albizu Campos
Luis Muñoz Rivera
Antonio R. Barceló
Gilberto Concepción de Gracia
Filiberto Ojeda
Rubén Berrios
Fernando Martín
Juan Dalmau
Affiliations Boricua Popular Army
Cadets of the Republic
Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña
Hostosian National Independence Movement
Independence Association of Puerto Rico
Liberal Party of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Independence Party
Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico
Socialist Front
Union Party of Puerto Rico
University Pro-Independence Federation of Puerto Rico

The independence movement in Puerto Rico refers to initiatives throughout the history of the island with the goal of obtaining independence, first from Spain, and then from the United States. The movement has been represented by dozens of groups and organizations over the centuries, and thousands of individuals who share the common goal of seeking political independence for Puerto Rico.

Since the beginning of the 19th century, the independence movement in Puerto Rico has used both peaceful, political means as well as violent, revolutionary approaches to promote its objectives. Since the mid-19th century, various organized political movements have advocated independence of the Island. A spectrum of autonomous, Nationalist, and Independence sentiments and political parties exist on the Island.

The independence movement has not attracted wide support and support at the ballots dwindled significantly between the first and second parts of the 20th century. In a status referendum in 2012, 5.5% voted for independence.[1][2] The dwindling support was due to several factors: the intense persecution of Independence supporters by the United States federal government under the infamous COINTELPRO program; a likewise intense persecution of supporters by the Commonwealth government under the “Carpetas” program; and the movement of independence supporters to the Popular Democratic Party as a means to an end to stop statehood.[3] The "Cointelpro program", project conducted by the FBI aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.[3] The "Carpetas program" was massive collection of information gathered by the Island's police on so called "political subversives."[3][4]

Independence from Spain

Revolts by the Taínos

Some Modern Puerto Rican independence movements have claimed connection to the 16th century and the Taíno rebellion of 1511 led by Agüeybaná II. In this revolt, Agüeybaná II, the most powerful cacique at the time, together with Urayoán, cacique of Añasco, organized a revolt in 1511 against the Spaniards in the southern and western parts of the island. He was joined by Guarionex, cacique of Utuado, who attacked the village of Sotomayor (present-day Aguada) and killed 80 Spanish colonists.[5] Juan Ponce de León led the Spaniards in a series of offensives that culminated in the Battle of Yagüecas.[6] Agüeybaná II's people, who were armed only with spears, bows, and arrows, were no match for the guns of the Spanish forces, and Agüeybaná II was shot and killed in the battle.[7] The revolt ultimately failed, and many Taínos either committed suicide or fled the island.[8][9]

Revolts by criollos

Several revolts against the Spanish rulers by the native born, or Criollos, occurred in the 19th century. These include the conspiracy at San Germán in 1809,[10] and the uprisings of people in Ciales, San Germán and Sabana Grande in 1898.[11]

Many Puerto Ricans became inspired by the ideals of Simón Bolívar to liberate South America from Spanish rule. Bolívar sought to create a federation of Latin American nations, which would include Puerto Rico and Cuba. Brigadier General Antonio Valero de Bernabé, also known as "The Liberator from Puerto Rico", fought for the independence of South America together with Bolívar; he also wanted an independent Puerto Rico.

María de las Mercedes Barbudo, the first female Puerto Rican Independentista, joined forces with the Venezuelan government, under the leadership of Simón Bolívar, to lead an insurrection against the Spanish colonial forces in Puerto Rico.[12][13]

The Spanish occupation forces were the object of more than thirty conspiracies. Some, like the Lares uprising, the riots and sedition of 1897 and the Secret Societies at the end of the 19th century, became popular rebellions. The most popular revolts, however, were the one in Lares in 1868, and the one in Yauco in 1897.

In 1868, the Grito de Lares took place, in which revolutionaries occupied the town of Lares and declared the Republic of Puerto Rico. Ramón Emeterio Betances was the leader of this revolt. Earlier, Segundo Ruiz Belvis and Betances had founded the Comité Revolucionario de Puerto Rico (Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico) from their exile in the Dominican Republic. Betances authored several Proclamas, or statements attacking the exploitation of the Puerto Ricans by the Spanish colonial system and called for immediate insurrection. These statements soon circulated throughout the island as local dissident groups began to organize.

Most dissidents were Criollos (born on the island). The critical state of the economy, along with the increasing repression imposed by the Spanish, served as catalysts for the rebellion. The stronghold of the movement were towns located on the mountains of the west of the island. The rebels looted local stores and offices owned by peninsulares (Spanish-born men) and took over the city hall. Spanish merchants and local government authorities, considered by the rebels to be enemies of the fatherland, were taken as prisoners. The revolutionaries then entered the town's church and placed their revolutionary flag on the High Altar to signify that the revolution had begun.[14] The Republic of Puerto Rico was proclaimed, and Francisco Ramírez Medina was proclaimed interim presidency. The revolutionaries offered immediate freedom to any slave who would join them.

Upon moving on to the next town, San Sebastián del Pepino, the Grito de Lares revolutionaries encountered heavy resistance from the Spanish militia and retreated to Lares. As ordered by governor Julián Pavía, the Spanish militia rounded up the rebels and quickly brought the insurrection to an end. Some 475 rebels were imprisoned, and a military court imposed the death penalty, for treason and sedition, on all the prisoners. However, in Madrid, Eugenio María de Hostos and other prominent Puerto Ricans were successful in interceding and a general amnesty was dictated with all the prisoners being released. Betances, Rojas, Lacroix, Aurelio Méndez and others were sent into exile, lending a permanent end to their revolt.[15]

In 1896, a group of residents of Yauco who believed in full independence of Puerto Rico joined forces and made plans to overthrow the Spanish government in the Island. The group was led by Antonio Mattei Lluberas, a wealthy coffee plantation owner, and Mateo Mercado. Later that year, the local Civil Guard discovered their plans and proceeded to arrest all those involved, however they were soon released and returned to their respective homes.[16]

In 1897, Mattei Lluberas traveled to New York City and visited the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, which consisted, among others, of the exiled group from the 1868 Grito de Lares revolt. There they made plans for a major coup in Puerto Rico.[17] Lluberas returned to Puerto Rico with a Puerto Rican flag to be used for such coup.[18] However, the Mayor of Yauco Francisco Lluch Barreras heard the rumors of the planned uprising, and soon notified the governor of the island. When Fidel Velez, one of the separatist leaders, found out that the Spanish authorities knew about their plans, he called for a meeting with Mattei Lluberas and the other leaders, and fearing that they all would soon be arrested, Velez demanded that the insurrection start immediately.[18]

On March 24, 1897, Fidel Velez and his men, which included José "Aguila Blanca" Maldonado Román, marched towards Yauco planning to attack the barracks of the Spanish Civil Guard there with the aim of gaining control of the arms and ammunition which were stored there. When they arrived however, they were ambushed by Spanish forces who had set up positions, and were lying in wait for them. A firefight ensued and the rebels quickly retreated.

On March 26, another group headed by Jose Nicolas Quiñones Torres and Ramon Torres also attempted to fight the Spaniards in a barrio called Quebradas of Yauco, however said revolt also failed.[18] Over 150 rebels were arrested, accused of various crimes against the state, and sent to prison in the City of Ponce. Velez fled to St. Thomas where he lived in exile, while Mattei Lluberas went into exile in New York City and joined a group known as the "Puerto Rican Commission".[19]

These attacks came to be known as the Intentona de Yauco (Attempted Coup of Yauco). The revolt, which was the second and last major attempt against the Spaniards in the island, was the first time the flag of Puerto Rico was used in Puerto Rican soil.[20][21]

The Spanish Charter of Autonomy

After four hundred years of colonial domination under the Spanish Empire, Puerto Rico finally received its sovereignty in 1897 through a Carta de Autonomía (Charter of Autonomy). This Charter of Autonomy was signed by Spanish Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta and ratified by the Spanish Cortes.[22][23]

Despite this, just a few months later, the United States claimed ownership of the island as part of the Treaty of Paris which concluded the Spanish–American War. This gave rise to the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party which maintained that, as a matter of international law, the Treaty of Paris could not empower the Spanish to "give" what was no longer theirs.[22][24]

The Nationalist movement was intensified by the Ponce Massacre and the Río Piedras massacre, which showed the violence which the United States was prepared to use, in order to maintain its colonial regime in Puerto Rico.[25] The profits generated by this one-sided arrangement were enormous.[26]

Several years after leaving office, in 1913 Charles H. Allen, the first civilian U.S. governor of Puerto Rico, succeeded to the presidency of the American Sugar Refining Company after serving as treasurer.[27] He resigned in 1915, but stayed on the board. It was the largest sugar-refining company in the world[28] and later renamed as the Domino Sugar company.[29] According to historian Federico Ribes Tovar, Charles Allen leveraged his governorship of Puerto Rico into a controlling interest over the entire Puerto Rican economy.[24][26]

By 1930, over 40 percent of all the arable land in Puerto Rico had been converted into sugar plantations owned by Domino Sugar and U.S. banking interests. These bank syndicates also owned the insular postal system, the coastal railroad, and the San Juan international seaport.[24][26][30]

Independence from the United States

Events under U.S. colonial rule

After Puerto Rico was invaded during the Spanish–American War in 1898, Manuel Zeno Gandía traveled to Washington, D.C. where, together with Eugenio María de Hostos, he proposed the idea of independence for Puerto Rico. The men were disappointed when their ideas were rejected by the government of the United States and the island was converted into a territory. Zeno Gandia returned to the island where he continued to be politically active.

A number of leaders, including a well-known intellectual and legislator called José de Diego, sought disconnection from the United States via political accommodation. On June 5, 1900, President William McKinley named De Diego, together with Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, José Celso Barbosa, Manuel Camuñas, and Andrés Crosas to an Executive Cabinet under U.S.-appointed Governor Charles H. Allen. The Executive Cabinet also included six American members.[31]

De Diego resigned from the position in order to pursue the island's right to govern itself. In 1904, he co-founded the Unionist Party along with Luis Muñoz Rivera, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón and Antonio R. Barceló.[32] De Diego was then elected to the House of Delegates, the only locally elected body of government allowed by the U.S., over which De Diego presided from 1904 to 1917. The House of Delegates was subject to the U.S. President's veto power and unsuccessfully voted for the island's right to independence and self-government and petitioned against imposition of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. Despite these failures, De Diego became known as the "Father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement."[33]

The newly created Puerto Rico Union Party advocated allowing voters to choose among non-colonial options, including annexation, an independent protectorate, and full autonomy. Another new party called the Puerto Rico Independence Party emerged, founded by Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón in 1912, which promoted Puerto Rico's independence. That same year, Zeno Gandía, Matienzo Cintrón, and Luis Lloréns Torres wrote a manifesto which stated that it was time for Puerto Rico to have its independence.[34] The Independence Party was the first party in the history of the island to openly support independence from the United States as part of its platform.[31]

United States "Manifest Destiny"

Several years after leaving office, in 1913 Charles H. Allen, the first civilian U.S. governor of Puerto Rico, succeeded to the presidency of the American Sugar Refining Company after serving as treasurer.[27] He resigned in 1915, but stayed on the board. It was the largest sugar-refining company in the world[28] and later renamed as the Domino Sugar company.[29] According to historian Federico Ribes Tovar, Charles Allen leveraged his governorship of Puerto Rico into a controlling interest over the entire Puerto Rican economy.[24][26]

By 1930, over 40 percent of all the arable land in Puerto Rico had been converted into sugar plantations owned by U.S. banking interests. These bank syndicates also owned the insular postal system, the coastal railroad, and the San Juan international seaport.[24] This land grab was not limited to Puerto Rico. By 1930 the U.S.-based United Fruit Company also owned over one million acres of land in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba.[35] In the early 1940s, the United Fruit Company also owned 50 percent of all private land in Honduras[35] and 75 percent of all private land in Guatemala. In Guatemala it also owned most of that country's roads, power stations and phone lines, as well as the country's only Pacific seaport and all of its railroads.[36]

The U.S. Federal Government supported these American economic exploits and provided its military support whenever necessary. During that time, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declared that "It is manifest destiny for a nation to own the islands which border its shores,"[37] and added that if "any South American country misbehaves it should be spanked."[38]

Formation of the Nationalist Party

Throughout the 20th century, a movement has persisted to gain Puerto Rican independence. It has not appealed to the electorate, however, which by the 1940s had voted for a majority of PPD members in the legislature, in 1952 voted by nearly 82% in support of the new constitution of the Estado Libre Associado or Commonwealth, and in 2012 voted by a majority to seek admission as a state into the United States.

In 1919, Puerto Rico had two major organizations that supported independence: the Nationalist Youth and the Independence Association. Also in 1919, José Coll y Cuchí, a member of the Union Party of Puerto Rico, left the party and formed the Nationalist Association of Puerto Rico. In 1922, these three political organizations joined forces and formed the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, with Coll y Cuchi as party president. The party's chief goal was to achieve independence from the United States. In 1924 Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos joined the party and was named vice-president.

On May 11, 1930, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected president of the Nationalist Party. Under Albizu Campos' leadership, in the 1930s the party became the largest independence movement in Puerto Rico. But, after disappointing electoral outcomes and strong repression by the territorial police, by the mid-1930s Albizu opted against electoral participation, and advocated violent revolution as the means to achieve independence.

In 1932, the pro-independence Liberal Party of Puerto Rico was founded by Antonio R. Barceló. The Liberal Party's political agenda was the same as the original Union Party's agenda and urged independence as a final political solution for Puerto Rico.[39] Among those who joined him in the "new" party were Felisa Rincón de Gautier and Ernesto Ramos Antonini. By 1932 Luis Muñoz Rivera's son, Luis Muñoz Marín, had also joined the Liberal Party. Muñoz Marín was eventually appointed by the United States as the first native-born governor of Puerto Rico, after having served as its Regional Commissioner in Washington, D.C.. After 1950 he was elected as the first popularly elected governor of the island.

During the 1932 elections, the Liberal Party faced the Alliance, then a coalition of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico and Santiago Iglesias Pantin's Socialist Party. Barceló and Muñoz Marín were both elected Senators. By 1936, differences between Muñoz Marín and Barceló began to surface, as well as between those followers who considered Muñoz Marín the true leader and those who considered Barceló as their leader.[40]

In 1936, the U.S. Senator Millard Tydings presented a legislative proposal to grant independence to Puerto Rico, but many people believed that it had unfavorable economic conditions.[41][42] Barceló and the Liberal Party favored the Bill, because it would give Puerto Rico its independence; Muñoz Marín opposed the Bill because he wanted Puerto Rico's immediate independence but with favorable conditions.[40]

Muñoz Marín and his followers, who included Felisa Rincón de Gautier and Ernesto Ramos Antonini, held an assembly in the town of Arecibo to found the Partido Liberal, Neto, Auténtico y Completo (Clear, Authentic and Complete Liberal Party), later named the People's Democratic Party (PPD for Spanish name).

External video
Newsreel scenes of the Ponce Massacre here
During the 1930s and 1940s, Nationalist partisans took part in violent incidents:
  • On April 6, 1932, Nationalist partisans marched into the Capitol building in San Juan to protest the legislative proposal to approve the present Puerto Rican flag, the official flag of the insular government. Nationalists preferred the emblem used during the Grito de Lares.
  • On February 23, 1936, Colonel Elisha Francis Riggs, formerly of the US Army and the highest police officer in the island, was assassinated in retaliation for the Río Piedras events by Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elías Beauchamp. Rosado and Beauchamp were arrested, and summarily executed without a trial at the police headquarters in San Juan.[43]

  • On March 21, 1937, a march in Ponce by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, organized to commemorate the ending of slavery in Puerto Rico, resulted in the deaths of 17 unarmed citizens and 2 policemen at the hands of the territorial police, an event known as the Ponce Massacre.
  • On July 25, 1938, shots were fired at the US colonial governor, Blanton Winship during a parade; they killed Police Colonel Luis Irizarry. Soon afterward, two Nationalist partisans attempted to assassinate Robert Cooper, judge of the Federal Court in Puerto Rico. Winship tried to suppress the Nationalists.
  • On June 10, 1948, the United States-appointed Governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero, signed into law a bill passed by the Puerto Rican Senate, which was controlled by elected PPD representatives. It prohibited discussion of independence, fighting for liberation of the island, and significantly curtailed other Puerto Rican independence activities. The Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was officially known, made it illegal to display the Puerto Rican Flag, or sing a patriotic song.

The Nationalists did not have wide appeal among the electorate, who had returned the PPD to the legislature with increasingly high representation during this period.

Events under Commonwealth status

External video
Newsreel scenes in Spanish of the here

The Puerto Rican independence movement took new measures after the Free Associate State was authorized. On October 30, 1950, with the new autonomist Commonwealth status about to go into effect, multiple Nationalist uprisings occurred, in an effort to focus world attention on the Movement's dissatisfaction with the new commonwealth status.

They catalyzed roughly a dozen skirmishes throughout Puerto Rico including Peñuelas,[44] the Jayuya Uprising,[45] the Utuado Uprising, the San Juan Nationalist revolt, and other shootouts in Mayagüez, Naranjito, and Arecibo. During the 1950 Jayuya Uprising, Blanca Canales declared Puerto Rico a free republic. Two days after the creation of the Commonwealth, two Nationalists attempted assassination in Washington, D.C. of U.S. President Harry S.Truman.

Acknowledging the importance of the question of Puerto Rican status, Truman supported a plebiscite in Puerto Rico in 1952 on the new constitution, to determine the status of the island's relationship to the U.S.[46] The people voted by nearly 82% in favor of the new constitution and Free Associated State, or Commonwealth.[47] Nationalists criticzed the constitution as the Commonwealth was subject to U.S. laws and to approval by the U.S. Executive and Legislative branches of government, branches which Puerto Ricans did not participate in electing. As the government suppressed the Nationalist leaders, their political activities and influence waned.[48]

Four Nationalists opened fire on US Representatives during a debate on the floor of the US. Congress in 1954, wounding five men. The representatives survived. The Nationalists were tried and convicted in federal court and sentenced effectively to life imprisonment. In 1978 and 1979 their sentences were commuted by President Jimmy Carter to time served, and they were allowed to return to Puerto Rico.

In the 1960s, the United States received international criticism for holding onto one of the world's last colonies.[49] By the 1960s, a new phase of Puerto Rican resistance began. Several organizations began to use "clandestine armed struggle" against the U.S. government. Underground "people's armies" such as El Movimiento Independentista Revolucionario en Armas (MIRA),[50] Los Comandos Armado de Liberacion (CAL),[51] Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), La Organización de Voluntarios por la Revolución Puertorriqueña (OVRP),[52] The Ejército Popular Boricua (EPB), and others began engaging in subversive activities against the U.S. government and military to bring attention to the colonial condition of Puerto Rico.

Current approaches

Among the factors which has affected the independence movement in Puerto Rico have been the "Cointelpro program" and the "Carpetas program". The "Cointelpro program" was a project conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.[3] The "Carpetas program" was a massive collection of information gathered by the island's police on so called "political subversives,". The police had in its possession of thousands of extensive carpetas (files) concerning individuals of all social groups and ages. Approximately 75,000 persons were listed as under political police surveillance. The massive surveillance apparatus uncovered was aimed primarily against Puerto Rico's independence movement. Thus many independence supporters moved to the Popular Democratic Party as a means to an end to stop statehood.[3]

Currently, a majority of Independentistas seek to achieve independence through either the electoral or the diplomatic process. In 1946, Gilberto Concepción de Gracia founded the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). It has continued to participate in the island's electoral process. The party has elected some legislative candidates, but has not won more than a small percentage of votes for its gubernatorial candidates (2.04% in 2008) or the legislative elections (4.5-5% of the island-wide legislative vote in 2008).[53]

The independence movement has not attracted wide support. In a status referendum in 2012, 5.5% voted for independence.[1][2]

Levinson and Sparrow suggest the

See also

Puerto Rico portal

Further reading

  • Wilma E. Reverón Collazo. Introducción a la historia del MPI en el 160 Aniversario del Natalicio de Eugenio María de Hostos. Capaprieto /Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano - Mayagüez. Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. 11 January 1999. Retrieved 4 Juna 2011.


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