Communication: Porto Rico and the War
"In his letter to The Harvard Crimson, Albizu expressed the hope that Puerto Rico might gain independence and become like Cuba. Albizu’s hope hinged, above all, on one figure, Woodrow Wilson, elected president in 1912."
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
To understand the attitude of Porto Rico towards the role that the United States is now playing in the present international struggle, a bit of history will not be out of place. When the Spanish-American war broke out, Porto Ricans looked to this country as their liberator, and a wave of Americanism swept across the country. We tried hard to become Americans in thought as well as in fact. A slight glance at our legislation between 1900 and 1904 will convince anyone of the truth of this statement. We went as far as to give more importance to English than to our own language, Spanish, in our schools. The Republican Party, with its belief in statehood for the island, controlled the country until 1904. However, a sharp reaction set in to counteract the political abuses of the appointees, and as an expression of national consciousness, the Unionist Party came into control as a result.
The new party, to satisfy the dissenting republicans who aimed primarily at the abolition of corruption, but who still had remained faithful in their belief in statehood, put in a plank to that effect. The nationalists also received recognition, for the party pledged itself to independence under the protectorate of the United States, identical to the present status of Cuba; and, thirdly, it declared itself for home rule somewhat similar to that which Canada enjoys. It is clear that this platform is an expression of the most conflicting interests. However, the Unionist Party carried the people with it and controlled absolutely the branch of the Government responsible to the voters up to November, 1916. The consent of the governed has not been, until the recent Jones Bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Wilson, a recognized axiom of government in Porto Rico. In spite of popular support, the Unionist Party, as any other party would have been, was helpless to solve the vital questions affecting Porto Rico--the relations between the island and the United States, the curbing of the omnipotence of corporations, etc., for the simple reason that by the Foraker Act we have been living until now virtually under the complete control of a council appointed by the President of the United States, and which with the governor also appointed, had legislative, judicial, and executive powers, the whole government being in its hands.
The futility of sustaining the Unionists in power was realized in 1916, although the futility of maintaining any party until we could have some sort of democratic government, was not as plain. The Republicans have again appeared in full strength still firm in their convic- tion in statehood and Americanization.
The Jones Bill which has become law, gives Porto Rico a form of home rule and makes Porto Ricans citizens of the United States. The press of the Island has expressed the joy that the people feel now due to such an important event, and there is faith in the United States and in the spirit of fairness prevailing here which has led this nation to generous action for the benefit of assailed mankind.
There is no doubt that if Porto Rico could view the status of Cuba, the bond between this precious Antille and this colossus would be one of the deepest affection. Although these wishes are not realized, gentlemen, let me assure you and the American people of our loyalty to the United States. The original charter of Porto Rico was granted by Spain because our loyalty had been tested, and it remained unbroken through the many vicissitudes that she had to suffer. We have seen our coasts bombarded and invaded by all her powerful past enemies, England, Holland, France and our country we never allowed to fall under their heels. We welcomed the American flag in 1898 because we believed it, and still believe it, to be a symbol of democracy and justice. It was conceived in that spirit. We want Americans to know the facts of our situation that they may be true to themselves and find a just solution for our relations. But so far as this war is concerned, there is no division among us, we detest German tyranny and arrogance, and we will give good account of ourselves in actual voluntary military co-operation with the United States. PEDRO ALLUZU Y CAMPOS '16.