Activism

Springtime of Nations: Puerto Rico

By Charlie Lee, Springtime of Nations

The face of socialism in America is the fiery Puerto Rican congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. One of her many publicity stunts involved attacking Donald Trump and the Republicans for the lethargic pace of cleanup and aid efforts after Hurricane Maria struck the home of her grandparents, the US commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Now she, among many other progressive democrats in congress, wants to elevate PR to the 51st state in the union. Is this really what the people of Puerto Rico want? And why are they in this limbo-like state of not quite an American State but more than a territory? Today we will seek to answer these questions in this edition of Springtime of Nations.

We should begin with the peoples that originally inhabited the island of Puerto Rico before the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous Tainos. After Christopher Colombus brought the Spanish Empire, the natives were enslaved under the encomienda system to work mostly in gold mines. After they revolted in 1511 under the brutal regime, they were gradually wiped out through disease and abuse. To replace them, African slaves were imported starting in 1517, although by 1570 the gold mines were exhausted and the economy of the island shifted to cash crops like coffee and later the very profitable sugar cane. Slavery boomed into the 19th century in Puerto Rico, until its abolition in 1873 by a Spain anxious to stave off the kinds of rebellions that had erupted in neighboring Cuba in 1868. Liberal reformism arose in Puerto Rico during this period, seeking to increase autonomy, which they finally received in 1897. However, the course of Puerto Rican history was about to take a drastic turn in the following year involving an American Battleship named the USS Maine.

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