How an American Military Invasion was Outdone by a Puerto Rican Coup d’Esprit
“We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves but to your property, to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government,” so proclaimed U.S. General Nelson A. Miles in 1898 upon invading the Spanish territory of Puerto Rico 112 years ago today.
On July 25, 1952, ominously 54 years to the day after Gen. Miles’s arrival in Guanica (forebodingly the same place where Juan Ponce de Leon stepped onto the island back in 1508), the “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico was established with much fanfare as a “compact” between the Puerto Rico and the United States of America.
Ever since, Puerto Rico has been held as a territory of the United States under the plenary authority of Congress, unequal in citizenship, and without the most basic rights in a democratic society under the so-called “Commonwealth.” On that day in 1952, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) perpetrated a coup d’esprit (golpe de mente) on the Americans living in Puerto Rico and has maintained it for the past 58 years, only getting better at its tricks and lies with the passage of time.
Politically unable to decide which side of permanent sovereignty they wished to pursue, i.e. statehood or independence, Puerto Ricans were sold the idea that would come to be known as “The Best of Both Worlds.” What they did not know was that in the process of achieving local self-governance, they were agreeing to remain–by a democratic vote!–a colony, with unequal protection of self and property, less prosperity, and limited immunities and blessings of liberal governance.
Of Gen. Miles’s four promises (i.e. protection-, prosperity-, immunities-, and blessings of liberal governance), only one can truly be claimed to have been achieved: protection. Puerto Ricans, however, have contributed much blood and sacrifice in the name of the protection of the United States. The prosperity that was promised can only be achieved through citizenship equality, and the immunities and blessings of liberal governance will surely follow. If Gen. Miles’s promissory note on behalf of the American people to those of Puerto Rico is to be redeemed after 112 years of colonial rule, then it follows that the only bank that will cash it is the Bank of Self-Determination.
July 25 should not be a celebration of the inherent institution of “separate and unequal” found in the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution and its embodiment through Puerto Rico’s “Commonwealth,” but a mourning of Puerto Rico’s sovereign capacities and the degeneration of the Puerto Rican democratic mind into a mental paradigm of dependence and uncertainty. Nothing that has happened in Puerto Rico on July 25, of whatever century, has fared well for Puerto Rico. Let us, then, hope that when Puerto Ricans proclaim their permanent status choice it happens on July 25, so that day does not live on in Puerto Rican infamy.