Wednesday, July 25, 2007

109th Anniversary of U.S. Puerto Rican Colonialism

By Hiram José Irizarry Osorio, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

On July 25, 1898 the U.S. armed forces landed on the Bay of Guánica at the outbreak of The Spanish-American War; the landing represented a military invasion of Puerto Rico by the U.S. On that day Puerto Rican coloniality started a metropolis transition: from Spain’s Empire to the U.S. young Empire in formation.

Why is it relevant to remember this day? Why should non-Puerto Ricans care about this day? Does it have any relevant repercussions beyond the confines of the Puerto Rican archipelago? Does this have anything to do with race?

The honest answer to the first three queries is that it depends. It depends on your implicit or explicit view of life and reality as hierarchical or not. Nevertheless, I would venture to say that it has everything to do with race (i.e., race perceived and defined as an othering process; in which this othering is hierarchical and containing a valuing system of what and who is worth it). The reason I state that the Puerto Rican situation has everything to do with race (i.e., as an othering process) is because in a colonial situation, by definition, there is a hierarchical relationship between the colonizer and the colonized (as eloquently theorized, among others, by Franz Fanon). With this statement I am not arguing that there is lack of internal racial hierarchies in Puerto Rico.

It also matters because Puerto Rico remains a colony of the U.S. in an era where supposedly colonies are extinct. It matters because Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans by international standards are part of the U.S.; however, people from the U.S. tend to have only a vague idea of what Puerto Rico is and who Puerto Ricans are, and how the U.S. ended up with this territorial possession. Furthermore, there tends to be a lack of knowledge of the different changes that the U.S.-Puerto Rico political relationship has experienced from 1898 to the present. My point is not to blame the U.S. population in general, but both the U.S. and Puerto Rican leadership and elites for the lack of knowledge and understanding they have engendered. This has created a stasis on the decolonization process of Puerto Rico, manufacturing a limbo identity for Puerto Ricans which has power, wealth, and status repercussions (see Jorge Duany’s The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States, among other issues, discussion of the 1940s and 1950s mass migratory deal among U.S. and Puerto Rican elites; these “encouraged” migrants came from the marginalized class).

Hence, my call today is for far more than remembrance for remembrance sake. My call is first to inform ourselves of a plethora of situations that might remain hidden unless those who have been marginalized are not given a voice, a space to become recognized. Because from that recognition, from that interest, we complete (or help complete) our day-to-day truncated humanity and by doing so race (as a hierarchical othering) might start to be transcended unto something else, unto something different. And who knows, we might even achieve a democratic society, we might even envision in practice and reality that beloved community…

What do you think?


  1. In spite of the harsh and gloomy reality, I share you the dream for a real democratic and just global society.

    Best Regards,

  2. The challenge Nahla (and one we should strive for) is how to translate/convert that dream "for a real democratic and just global society" to reality. But we need to keep in mind that we are not alone in the present or from the past. This has been an ongoing human struggle (or better, ongoing human struggleS). Hence, there is a tradition, so we are not "reinventing the wheel". We might be adapting to contemporary challenges, contexts, but the hope and goal is (or should be) humanity's liberation and its peaceful (meaningful) association (communion) with its environment...

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog entry.

    "Un abrazo",


  3. Dear Partner,


    I invite you to join the non-violent protest to demand that the United States (US) decolonize Puerto Rico (PR) immediately. It will be on Monday, June 17, 2013 from 8 AM to 5 PM outside the United Nations (UN) visitor’s entrance located on 46th Street and First Avenue in New York City.

    The UN has determined that colonialism is a crime against humanity in 1960 under Resolution 1514 (XV). That’s why the UN celebrates every year a hearing about Puerto Rico decolonization. Every year the UN puts forth a resolution asking the US to decolonize PR. Despite 30 of these resolutions, PR is still the oldest and most populated colony in the world! It is obvious by now that the US is not going to decolonize PR just because the UN asks.

    Through education, we must create a domestic and international solidarity with this cause to pressure the US to do what historically she has refused to do. This is why we need everyone who also believes that colonialism is a crime against humanity to join the protest to demand compliance to international law!

    Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US for 114 years. The US’ intention is to keep PR a colony forever unless we do something about it. It is important to note that: democracy isn’t what a government does. Democracy is what people do!

    President John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” These ideas, of course, are the reasons why the United Nations was created after World War II.

    It is up to us to defend the fundamental human rights that promote world peace. The tragedy of doing nothing is that we will have the kind of government that we deserve!


    José M. López Sierra

    For more information:
    Compañeros Unidos para la Descolonización de Puerto Rico

  4. Dear Partner,

    Since the United Nations determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity, there is no longer a need for plebiscites. The solution is to give Puerto Rico her sovereignty.

    But being the United States government does not want to, it continues to advocate the use of plebiscites to find out what Puerto Ricans want. Even if 100% of Puerto Ricans would want to continue being a US colony, Puerto Rico would still be obligated to accept her sovereignty to then decide what she wants to do.

    The only thing these plebiscites are good for is to divide Puerto Ricans. A Puerto Rican didn’t invade us to make us a colony. When will we understand that we need to unite?

    This is why we must peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until Puerto Rico is decolonized!

    José M López Sierra