Room Eight New York Politics (www.r8ny.com) is the blog site where one of my Puerto-Rican brothers in activism (Manny Burgos) promised an early response to my last column on the Puerto Rican situation -relative to its future relationship with the USA. A good thing I didn’t hold my breath. So while Mr. Burgos tries to (re)fashion and (re)shape his arguments for Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of these (dis)United States, let me give him some more to think about. 

Whenever you ask Hispanics about the current PR situation (as a ward of the USA), I invariably get an apology of sorts. No matter where the person originated (Caribbean, Europe or Latin America), I will hear similar things like: “Well what else can they do?” “They don’t have natural resources of any significance to fall back on”. “They need the USA; otherwise they will be worse off than any of the many backward(s) 3rd world countries in Africa”. “You want another Haiti in the Caribbean Sea?” “The people will suffer; there will be even greater poverty”. And so on, and so on.

What these answers all have in common is their negativity. The underlying assumption is that Puerto Ricans cannot “man-up” enough to take care of business; or, that they cannot stand-up strongly enough to develop their own industries, services, raw materials, technologies, etc. It is a sad answer for a brilliant people. Puerto Ricans can compete in this world’s economy: but they first need to have faith and confidence in their abilities. They must have hope that their intellectuals can lead the fight for solid economic development. One that is better than the one that apologizes for economic development nowadays: and has been for years. Puerto Ricans have absorbed the inferiority-complex forced on them by their colonial masters (USA), and have now made it into a material-survival exercise. They need to wake up and grow up: even little Grenada has. 

To me, the perception of most average citizens of the USA is that Puerto Ricans are more interested in hand-outs than in being given a hand-up; and that the indigenous people of the island aren’t really making genuinely true efforts to change this perception.

Independence should be what PRs should vote for in a plebiscite. And they don’t need the approval of the US Congress to do one: self-determination is their right not some privilege. Back in a more enlightened time, there were many island residents willing to die for their freedom and independence; nowadays those of this ilk are few and far and in between. 

The “Vieques” incidents of recent years, where the US military used the island of Vieques (off Puerto Rico) as a testing ground for high-powered explosives, military exercises, and such, only highlighted the domination of the USA vis-à-vis the subservience of the island folk. Just imagine this: the fallout from these experiments will have a deleterious affect on the health of the island’s men, women and children for years to come; and yet the natives had no say in when, where or whether these experiments should take place or not. And it isn’t the first time this has happened. I have been informed that there have been health-experiments that were harmful to PR‘s indigenous people, going way back to the early 20th century. In one experiment alone, thousands of Puerto Ricans were deliberately made sterile: as done with blacks in the USA, during the “Tuskegee” experiments of the mid 20th century.   

To any objective person, it will be obvious that the USA has used the island of Puerto Rico in order to further their hegemonic aims and aspirations in the western hemisphere. The point is this however: the approximately four and a half million indigenous people have no say in the matter. Truth be told, PRs have no real say in anything. Sure there is a deliberately crafted appearance that the governor of the island has some autonomy, but who really buys that bridge over the Hudson River?  

Puerto Ricans should be free to craft their own destinies and livelihoods void of the obnoxious intrusion of Uncle Sam. They should demand independence as soon as possible, after they negotiate some needed pre-conditions given more than a hundred years of US dominance. 

Stay tuned-in folks.