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In my May 12 column on the Autonomous Charter which Spain granted to Puerto Rico in 1897, I pointed out that it was incorrect to say the United States thwarted Puerto Rico’s political development, attained from Spain under said charter, and outlined the provisions of the charter, which clearly indicated that the charter was far from granting our island broad autonomous powers and enhancing its political development.

Closely related to the above-mentioned incorrect assertion is the equally false assertion which is being made these days by some political leaders and factions to the effect that because of the "ignominious" invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States in 1898, Puerto Rico was deprived of continuing enjoying the freedom and democracy under the Spanish regime and, therefore, Puerto Ricans did not welcome the invasion of the island by the United States.

Puerto Ricans residing in New York City and members of Puerto Rico’s Revolutionary Party (opposed to the Spanish regime here) with headquarters in that city, in an assembly of that organization on July 12, 1898, approved a resolution to inform the U.S. government that Puerto Ricans on the mainland approved of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico and that some of those residents of New York wanted to accompany the invading forces, which were being organized, to Puerto Rico. A letter to that effect was sent on July 14, 1898 to the then U.S. Secretary of State, William R. Day.

The spirit and letter of the resolution was the following: "The members of the board of Puerto Rico’s Revolutionary Party and some 40 Puerto Rican residents of New York offer their services to the government of the United States to accompany to Puerto Rico the invading forces, which are being organized. In so doing, they are guided only by pure patriotic sentiments and in recognition of gratitude owed to the Americans, who are coming to free Puerto Ricans from the yoke of the tyrant and serve as guides and intermediaries between the armed forces and native Puerto Ricans. It is the plan to distribute to the people of Puerto Rico upon disembarking copies of a manifesto approved in the assembly, a copy of which is enclosed. The manifesto would prove convincingly to the people of Puerto Rico that the objective of the invasion was to (1) free native Puerto Ricans from the fierce power of Spain and (b) grant Puerto Ricans the form of government that would satisfy their needs and future welfare and happiness through the magnanimity of the great American nation, which is unparalleled in the world, and so induce all native Puerto Ricans to put themselves immediately under the American flag, symbol of liberty, order, morality, and protection."

The letter to the U.S. Secretary of State was signed by J.J. Henna as chairman of the board of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary party. Among the other 24 Puerto Ricans who signed the manifesto was Eugenio María de Hostos, one of Puerto Rico’s greatest leaders in its history, and who independence activists claim, in a distorted way, as their own, saying he was an inflexible pro-independence radical with a very anti-United States stance.

It was also signed by such other Puerto Rican patriots as Roberto H. Todd, Manuel Besosa, Enrique Domenech, Gustavo and Julio Steinacher, and Pedro Fernández Látimer.

The following are some of the highlights of the manifesto:

  • "We send you, fellow Puerto Ricans, this manifesto because:

    (1) of our deep love for Puerto Rico,

    (2) our constant pledge to serve it and help it attain freedom from the Spanish yoke,

    (3) our loyalty and love for the great republic of the north, where we found liberty, hospitality, secured asylum, and a peaceful home, and have made our adopted country against the persecution of the Iberian despot.

    We send you these friendly words, with the blessings of Divine Providence, at this solemn hour of our history, under the protection of the flag with the stars and stripes, and while the armed forces are coming to break forever your ignominious chains.

    It is not the foreign invader that menaces us; it is not a new master who is coming to enslave us; it is the great North American people who, with their power, wealth, morality, standards and free federal institutions, are coming to emancipate us.

    With the U.S. Navy along the coasts of Puerto Rico, our island will cease to be a colony of Spain, will be free of injustices and will flourish as a state or a nation in the shade of the greatest and most powerful federation ever known in the world." (Several Puerto Ricans accompanied the invading U.S. armed forces.)

  • The manifesto was distributed among Puerto Ricans who, unlike the military forces under the Spanish government in Puerto Rico, which received the invaders with fire, received the U.S. sailors and soldiers with flowers and the warm hospitality of their homes.

    Upon disembarking in Puerto Rico, Gen. Nelson Miles, in his message to Puerto Ricans, expressed many of the ideas contained in the manifesto. He said, "We have not come to make war against the people of a country that has been oppressed, but to bring them protection, promote prosperity and give them the blessings of the liberal institutions of our government."

    This was the way Puerto Ricans welcomed the U.S. armed forces when they landed in Puerto Rico in 1898. These are the U.S. armed forces whose installations on the island today play a vital role in the defense of the Caribbean region and in making a substantial annual contribution to our economy and a solution to the island’s critical unemployment problem.

    These are the same U.S. armed forces that come to our rescue and give us prompt and much needed help when catastrophes hit Puerto Rico, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and the contamination of our waters by damaging oil spills, as was the case not long ago in the San Juan area.

    I said it in my last column and say it again: It is shameful, sad and painful to read and hear some political leaders and factions distorting historical facts and misinforming the people of Puerto Rico in order to achieve political objectives. Let’s be on guard against people who, misguided by moral and ethical reasoning, and some out of malevolent political reasoning, don’t lose any opportunity to characterize the United States, its armed forces and federal agencies operating on the island, as well as anything American here, as "hateful and destructive demons unwanted in Puerto Rico."

    Let’s also guard against those separatists who, worried about the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of Puerto Rico cherish their U.S. citizenship and will vote against any status formula that would jeopardize the enjoyment of the many benefits that such citizenship entails, are saying that people in Puerto Rico only want U.S. citizenship to be able to go back and forth to the mainland, and have no devotion or patriotic feeling towards their citizenship. Such a false and demagogic assertion is clear evidence of the desperation the separatists feel upon seeing that 95 percent of the people of Puerto Rico reject independence and want permanent union with the United States.



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