ALBA Movimientos: 125 years of the Puerto Rican independence struggle

Oct 30, 2023

Photo: Lolita Lebrón, Puerto Rican nationalist leader, arrrested after a 1954 shooting in the House of Representatives.

Translator’s introduction

Dianne Viera and Carlos Alicea of the Secretariat of ALBA Movimientos, Puerto Rico Chapter, wrote the following text in commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggle for Puerto Rican Independence on October 30, 2023. ALBA Movimientos is a platform that coordinates more than 400 organizations and social and popular movements from 25 countries, in struggle for the integration of Our America (Latin America and the Caribbean), and the construction of an emancipatory political project for and from the peoples, an Indo-Afro socialism, or our American socialism. Liberation School thanks Viera and Alicea for their permission to translate and reprint the piece.

There is no America without the Caribbean: 125 years of the colonization of Puerto Rico and the struggle for independence

After five decades of U.S. imperial rule over Puerto Rico, which began in 1898 with its illegal military invasion and occupation in the framework of the Spanish-Cuban-American War, the U.S. confronted the contradiction of projecting themselves as the defenders of democracy worldwide while maintaining a colony in the Caribbean.

As a result, they devised a mechanism to escape international scrutiny when in July 1950 the Yankee Congress approved Law 600 that would create the mirage of a self-government for Puerto Rico, since the fundamental powers and their consequent decisions were and are made by the United U.S. Thus, a few years later, in collusion with the Creole oligarchy, the “Commonwealth” was born, deceptive even in its name. It was the subterfuge that served to sustain the lie that the Puerto Rican nation had ceased to be a colony and for which it was removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories of the United Nations, exempting the United U.S. of their fiduciary duty to report on the socio-economic progress of the colony towards its decolonization.

When the beginning of this farce became known, the Nationalist Party, under the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos, decided to take actions that denounced the deception of the so-called self-government. With an armed uprising they sought to draw international attention to the colonial situation of Puerto Rico. Even when he was aware of the numerical and tactical disadvantage, a greater force moved him: the cause for freedom and independence. On Monday, October 30, 1950, at noon, the Nationalist Insurrection broke out.

Nationalists rose up in several towns across the country. The main military objectives were: the seizure of the police barracks to obtain weapons; the occupation of the telephone and telegraph offices to cut off communications; and the occupation of federal dependencies such as the post offices and the offices of the Yankee Military Selective Service. In Jayuya, the Republic of Puerto Rico was proclaimed, Blanca Canales being the protagonist of said action. The colonial governor mobilized the falsely named “National Guard,” a military force belonging to the invading American army, which invaded several towns and also strafed with fighter jets. This forced many nationalists to surrender, to avoid devastation. The guerrilla struggle continued in some towns, for example in Naranjito, which lasted until November 7, but was soon crushed down and most of the nationalists were imprisoned. The campaign of persecution and abuse of power intensified against the independence movement.

The revolutionary struggle was also carried into the bowels of the empire. On November 1, 1950, two nationalists living in New York, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attacked the Blair House, President Truman’s temporary residence in Washington. In response to the continuation of the lie that Puerto Rico was no longer a colony, after a false plebiscitary process, on March 1, 1954, Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores and Andrés Figueroa Cordero attacked the U.S.  U.S. This action sent them to suffer imprisonment in the nation that invaded us for decades, but their complaint was corroborated and affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the Sánchez Vallelle case, when it testified that Puerto Rico is a colony.

For years the independence movement has been consistent in raising the colonial condition of Puerto Rico and how the policy of domination, discrimination, displacement, economic exploitation, political persecution and militarization of the United States is the real cause of the economic, social and political crisis that the Puerto Rican people are experiencing. For years the people have been resisting, fighting, defending themselves and creating emancipatory paradigms that challenge and confront colonial institutions, from the labor sectors to the sectors that defend the common goods of nature. The Puerto Rican people have resisted and have managed to keep up the struggle using a variety of methods. From a single front, we kicked out the U.S.  U.S. from the Island Municipality of Culebra in 1975 and then from the Island Municipality of Vieques in 2003. From a single front, the people also managed to stop open-pit mining in the mountains of the Main Island in 1995.

The people have also been consistent in requesting an audience before the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization since in 1972, when Puerto Rican leaders wrote to the committee calling to “reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence, in accordance with Resolution 1514 (XV) of the United Nations General Assembly of December 14, 1960,” which states that: “The right to self-determination and independence requires the prior transfer of all political, economic, military powers, without conditions or reservations, to the colonized country so that it can to make a truly free decision without tutelage or impositions from the metropolis.” Since then, each of the next 40 resolutions adopted by the Special Committee on Decolonization have reaffirmed this claim. In addition, they urge the United States Government to assume the responsibility of promoting a process that allows Puerto Rico to make sovereign decisions about its economic and social needs and requests the UN General Assembly to examine the question of Puerto Rico extensively and to make a declaration as soon as possible. Yet the General Assembly has not received it for review and the economic and social crisis in Puerto Rico has worsened.

The brazenness with which the United States government tried to deceive the international community 70 years ago has been grossly evidenced by the imposition of the Promesa Law in 2016. As a result of this law, President Obama appointed a Fiscal Control Board (the Junta) that proved that the so-called self-government was a pipe dream. This Board openly decides each of the fundamental aspects of colonial administration. The objectives are several: to perpetuate the colonial regime and further strengthen economic control over Puerto Rico; the intensification of a process of population displacement and substitution; to ensure and extend the extraction of the wealth generated by workers; to guarantee to bondholders and vulture funds of Wall Street the payment of an illegal and odious debt, appropriating funds from the country’s budgets, at the expense of the social and economic welfare of Puerto Ricans. The Junta is a new tool of colonial oppression that seeks to perpetuate the mechanisms of economic exploitation inherent in the extractivist colonial model, sacrificing public education by closing schools, dismantling the public university, dismantling hospitals and medical services, eliminating pension funds, privatizing essential services that result in increased costs, putting public domain goods up for sale and granting tax exemptions to wealthy foreign tax evaders to buy properties in the country. This purchase of properties has skyrocketed rental prices and has caused a shortage of housing for Puerto Ricans, displacement, deterioration of community life and eventual emigration.

International law has declared colonialism a crime against humanity. In the middle of the 21st century in the insular Caribbean, 16 peoples have not yet achieved their first independence and remain colonies: Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, St. Eustatius, Saint Martin north and south, Yankee Virgin Islands, Martinique, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Guadeloupe, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands,and the British Virgin Islands. French Guiana and the Falklands can also be added to the list. This direct imperial intervention has the result that “the main forces of human movement, goods, values, transmission of values and knowledge occur with the metropolis” and not with the countries of the region with which one has “affinity of idiosyncrasies, environments and aspirations,” thus creating a flight of resources. In addition, although sovereign countries also fight imperialism, the colonial situation in the Caribbean “multiplies the force of control and uses our lands and borders to strengthen political, economic and military control over the entire hemisphere.” This region is fundamental as a wall against U.S. imperialism in Our America and that is why it is necessary to realize a Caribbean without colonialism, united to the just causes of dignity, justice, and freedom. That is why the definitive solution of the colonial status of Puerto Rico also lies with the international community.

The solidarity and support of the international community with the nation of Borikén-Puerto Rico is fundamental and necessary. We seek your support to proclaim and disseminate that National Independence is the only decolonizing alternative acceptable for the dignity and integrity of a nation to which the full exercise of its political sovereignty is usurped. And we invite you on this day to commemorate the glorious deed that embodies one of the most important chapters of our struggle for independence, and that marked a milestone of confrontation with the empire, and proclaim October 30 as the International Day of Solidarity with the Independence of Puerto Rico.

  • Long live Free Puerto Rico!
  • Independence now!
  • Decolonization is Independence!
  • Without the Caribbean there is no America!
Socialism an integral part of U.S. labor history

Socialism an integral part of U.S. labor history

In celebration of International Workers Day or May Day Liberation School is republishing "Socialism an integral part of U.S. history" by Eugene Puryear. Originally published in 2010 as a response to the mobilization of anti-communist propaganda against Obama to paint...

Socialism an integral part of U.S. labor history

Socialism an integral part of U.S. labor history

In celebration of International Workers Day or May Day Liberation School is republishing "Socialism an integral part of U.S. history" by Eugene Puryear. Originally published in 2010 as a response to the mobilization of anti-communist propaganda against Obama to paint...