Saturday, July 25, 2009

A 111 Year Old Relationship

On November 9, 1897, three decrees establishing an autonomous regime in Puerto Rico were brought forth. In order to establish a government the islands autonomists had to be united and would obviously take some time. The task of establishing this government was not without it's obstacles but eventually a shaky unity would be achieved and a new government would be scheduled to take office in May of 1898.

Understand, that while this was going on, the U.S. was closely monitoring the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain, which eventually led to the Spanish-American War. As early as May of 1898, U.S. Navy ships had bombarded San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On July 25, 1898 in Guanica, Puerto Rico an invasion began. Now, whether some welcomed the invaders with open arms or in defiance does not change the fact that it was an invasion. The date can be marked as the beginning of a 111 year relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. A relationship in which many Americans still don't know anything or very little about Puerto Rico. Evident in the reports, back in May, of Sonia Sotomayor's parents being called 'immigrants'. A relationship which leaves 4 million U.S. citizens without a vote for President, an unemployment rate at nearly 15% and a health care system that is so lacking in quality care that the death rates are much higher than in the states. A relationship which has left an island nation dependent.

Still undecided, is the direction the citizens of Puerto Rico really want to take. This indecisiveness could be related to its dependency on the U.S. It can also be viewed in the same manner as that of the autonomists back in 1898. Differences, dissention and bickering within and among the political parties. Bringing about a solution to the status issue would require all parties to agree on common ground. Obviously, through resolutions and plebiscites the status still remains the same. Can there ever really be a common ground among the differing political parties? Can there ever really be a solution to the age old status issue?

"Finally, whatever course islanders choose, for change to be self-sustaining it must be rooted - again following Albizu Campos - in an utter rejection of the self depreciating mentality shaped by 400 years of Spanish, and 100 years (now 111 years) of U.S. colonialism. Statehood, for example, will solve nothing if it is based on a crude calculation of even greater economic dependence on the mainland." -Fernandez, Ronald. The Disenchanted Island: Puerto Rico and the U.S. in the Twentieth Century. CT Praeger, 1996.

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