Because we acquired Puerto Rico as a spoil of war. In 1898, during the Spanish-American war, the U.S. launched the Puerto Rican Campaign, attacking by land and sea. After months of fighting, The Treaty of Paris was signed; Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the U.S., and the fighting stopped. When we took Puerto Rico, we took on the responsibility of Puerto Rico as well.
Because we’ve been arrogant in our treatment of Puerto Rico. When we gained control of Puerto Rico, we took away their currency, the Puerto Rican Peso, and replaced it with the U.S. Dollar. We even dared change the spelling of Puerto Rico to “Porto Rico,” effectively changing the name of their home. (We did change it back again in 1932.)
Because Puerto Ricans are Americans. We made Puerto Ricans citizens of our country in 1917, making it their country, too. The U.S. enacted The Jones-Shafroth Act, establishing U.S. Citizenship for those born in Puerto Rico on or after April 25, 1898. Make no mistake: We imposed our government on Puerto Rico.
The Governor of Puerto Rico was to be appointed by the President of the United States, not elected. All cabinet officials had to be approved by the United States Senate, and the United States Congress had the power to veto any law passed by the Puerto Rican Legislature. Washington maintained control over fiscal and economic matters and exercised authority over mail services, immigration, defense and other basic governmental matters. Puerto Rico was not given electoral votes in the election of U.S. President, because the Constitution of the United States of America allows only full-fledged states to have electoral votes
(Wikipedia, “Jones-Shafroth Act.”)
Because we were just plain mean to Puerto Rico. After Puerto Ricans were made American citizens, the U.S. Army created the “Army of Puerto Rican Occupation Medal” in 1919 to award to U.S. soldiers who had fought against Puerto Rican soldiers in 1898 in the U.S. Puerto Rican Campaign.
Because then we made Puerto Ricans fight for the U.S. in WWI. Also in 1919, the same year the medal was created, the U.S. passed the Selective Service Act, which provided for compulsory enlistment of U.S. citizens to serve in the military, including Puerto Rican men—which we could do because we’d made them U.S. citizens two years before. The U.S. government drafted about 20,000 Puerto Rican men to serve in WWI. There’s no way to know how many of them died for our country, because the U.S. didn’t keep records of the deaths of Puerto Ricans.
Because Puerto Rican soldiers fought and died for the U.S. in our Revolutionary War. They helped us gain our independence from the British. Besides the Revolutionary War and WWI, Puerto Rican soldiers have fought and died for the U.S. in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Because Puerto Ricans pay U.S. taxes. Puerto Rico contributed $3.742 billion dollars in taxes to the U.S. Treasury back in 2009. Puerto Ricans pay Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment taxes.
Because it’s a small world after all. The ocean may be “very big,” but it wasn’t too big for us to use when we invaded Puerto Rico in 1898. That was 119 years ago. With the limited capabilities our army and navy had then, we had the might to fight. Isn’t it small-hearted and mean-spirited to now claim that the same ocean is so big that our nation is unable to provide swift, essential aid to our fellow citizens?
Because Puerto Ricans aren’t just Americans, they’re humans. Period.
Categories: Suzannah's Voice