The Impact of American Colonial Rule on Puerto Rican Society
In 1982 a journalist by the name of Luis Lòpez Nieves published an article in La Claridad, a well-respected pro-independence news weekly in Puerto Rico. The article revealed new information concerning the history of the American invasion of Puerto Rico. According to Nieves the U.S. did not raid the island on July 25, 1898, rather a few days earlier in a town called Seva. Apparently in this town the people did not only resist the Americans but defeated the Americans by forcing them back to sea, where they then decided to reenter the island through Guanica on July 25, 1898. Once the U.S. gained control of the island the military ...view middle of the document...
When Puerto Ricans found out that the Americans were taking control of Puerto Rico, many helped them fight off the Spaniards. They were under the impression that the land of the free was coming to liberate the island of its oppressors. As Reverend Henry Carroll reported to President McKinley in 1898 on the conditions of the island, "They expect under American sovereignty that the wrongs of centuries will be righted…(Trìas-Monge 36).
Puerto Ricans would be very surprised by the next 100 years under American colonial rule. The United States never had any intentions of giving the island its inalienable right to freedom. Puerto Rico was intended to remain a U.S. colony because it "represented the new frontier to be pacified, conquered, and stylized to fit U.S. political, business, and ideological interest in new ways (Guerra 49). Puerto Rico’s strategic location in the Caribbean added to the American motive behind obtaining its first colony in history.
Americans rationalized "imperialism based on racist principles and the inherent superiority of the North American white elite (Guerra 50). They claimed that the Puerto Rican people were not capable of governing themselves because of their racial history, specifically their direct descent from Spaniards and African slaves. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt "peace and the Anglo-Saxon civilization had to be imposed on the barbarian races of the world just as it had been on the Red Man" (Guerra 50).
In an effort to impose the "Anglo-Saxon civilization" the American government imposed self-serving laws such as the Jones Act which was an attempt at Americanizing the island and the Foraker Act that dictated the form of government that the island was to have. Through the Foraker Act the U.S. remained in ultimate control of the island by appointing most of its representatives and having the ability to take them out of office whenever they wanted without any explanation.
In an effort to remain in the elite class and possibly gain more control over political issues on the island while under U.S. control, "the elite came to present themselves to their colonizers and the Puerto Rican ‘masses’ as the success stories of Americanization" (Guerra 51). The elite would be so consumed by the American ways that they would petition time after time for the island of Puerto Rico to become a state of the United States.
Congress as well as the president heard numerous requests for statehood which were, "eloquent messages that had absolutely no impact on Congress" (Fernandez 68). For congress the objective was to keep the island in a state of limbo because everything was going fine for the Americans and as long as the Puerto Ricans could be kept with few rights, any thing they wanted to do was possible. In fact the petitions for statehood in most cases angered the Americans because they felt the Puerto Ricans were being ungrateful, claiming "it is their liberty to be governed by us" (Trìas-Monge 39).