27 Jul

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Two days ago Univision congratulated Puerto Rico on its independence. Problem is, Puerto Rico is not independent, July 25th is Constitution Day for the US territory. The colonization of Puerto Rico is something often forgotten by the world, ironically, especially by those in the United States. Many forget that Puerto Rico is still an US territory, an ancient term that does not seem to belong in this century. Puerto Rico does not have the freedom of being its own country, it is unable to self govern or have its own democracy. Nor is it a state, and does not have state rights. While Puerto Ricans are able to vote in primary elections, they are unable to vote in the actual presidential elections, proving they do not hold the same rights as US citizens. For over a century people in the Puerto Rican Independence Movement have been fighting for Puerto Rican’s independence. Now, with social media the movement is getting new attention and drawing support from across the world.

In 1898, after four hundred years of Spanish colonization Puerto Rico received sovereignty with the Charter of Autonomy. Only a few months later, the United States claimed Puerto Rico with the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American war. During the 20th century the Puerto Rico Independence movement, the Nationalist Party, grew. Violent confrontations like the Ponce Massacre and the Rio Piedras Massacre showed the brutality the United States was willing to use to maintain control of Puerto Rico. Many who fought for Puerto Rico’s independence were killed without trial. In 1948, Law 53, better known as the ‘Gag Law’ was passed. The law made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, speak of independence, hold an assembly regarding Puerto Rico’s status, or sing a patriotic song. The ‘Gag Law’ remained in force for nine years. These actions sent a strong message that although Puerto Ricans were US citizens the protections of the US constitution did not apply to them.

In 1952, the US allowed Puerto Rico its own constitution. However, the constitution was subject to US laws and had to be approved by the US government. In 1954, four Nationalists opened fire in the House of Representatives in Washington DC. They displayed a Puerto Rican flag and yelled ‘Long live a free Puerto Rico’. They wounded five representatives and were all imprisoned. Twenty five years later they were released and received a heroes’ welcome when they arrived in Puerto Rico.

In 2007, a bill was introduced in Congress that would have provided a referendum giving Puerto Ricans the ability to decide if it wanted to become an US state or become a sovereign nation. While the bill received bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives it was never voted on in the Senate before the Congress ended. In 2009, another almost identical bill was introduced that again was not voted on before the Congress ended.

In the middle of June of this year an online campaign spread throughout social media and the internet. The campaign led by the group MRC13 inspired people to write ‘Soy PR Independiente’ (I’m Puerto Rico Independent) on their bodies and post the picture online. It was not long before the campaign gained popularity and momentum. People from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Chile participated in the campaign.

MRC13, Revolution Movement Calle 13, is a movement compromised of people from various countries that believe that change starts with education. It is a group, a movement inspired by the lyrics of Calle 13, a Puerto Rican music group.

MRC13 started the ‘Soy PR Independiente’ campaign after the vocalist of Calle 13, Rene Perez, met with Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica, and Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez. At the meetings Perez spoke about how Puerto Rico should be included in meetings and summits of Latin America, such as the recent Summit of the Americas in which Puerto Rico was absent from. Perez also urged the importance of the decolonization of Puerto Rico. “Like Puerto Rico and like Latin America, it is important to not let the decolonization of my land turn into a forgotten subject. On the contrary, we should unite to require compliance of UN resolution 1514 of 1960, that requires the immediate limitation of colonialism, more so when in the 21st century there is only a score of colonies left in the world,” Rene was quoted saying at his meeting with Argentina’s Fernandez. It was these meetings that inspired MRC13 to launch the ‘Soy PR Independiente’ campaign.

Calle 13 at the 2011 Latin Grammys

Calle 13 at the 2011 Latin Grammys

Calle 13 has long been vocal on political issues in Puerto Rico, from Puerto Rican independence, to police corruption and education reform. In November, the group was nominated for an unprecedented ten Latin Grammys , nine of which they won. The group opened up the award ceremony with their song ‘Latinoamerica’. Rene, known for wearing shirts vocalizing political issues, wore a shirt that said ‘Una Sola Estrella Libre’ (Only one star free) with the Puerto Rican flag on it. Back in 2009, Rene was asked to co-host the Latin MTV Music Awards. While co-hosting he wore a shirt that said ‘Viva Puerto Rico Libre’ (Long live a free Puerto Rico). While hosting he said, “Latin American is not complete with out Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico isn’t free.”

What is confusing to me is why the United States does not receive more international criticism for having one of the world’s last colonies. More confusing is why those in the United States, a country that prides itself on freedom and independence, are okay with its country colonizing. I find it hypocritical that the United States has a colony, when it was so against being a colony to Britain and says that it is a promoter of democracy. The surge in Calle 13’s popularity over the past few years and the creation of MRC13 brings hope to the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. Hopefully, through social media more of the international community will recognize the need for Puerto Rico’s freedom and support the movement. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans continue to fight to maintain their culture and national identity amidst colonization.


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