At the present moment, the Puerto Rican independence movement is facing government repression from a number of angles: young men and women are being subpoenaed to testify in front of grand juries investigating Los Macheteros, a clandestine organization fighting for Puerto Rican independence; independence leaders are being constantly put under surveillance and harassment by local and federal agencies who even hack into and take files from their attorneys’ computers; political fugitives and exiles are still wanted and searched for; political prisoners are still kept under lock and key; and a number of other things that have or haven’t fallen under our radar. In addition, there is a clear government program of killing independence leaders, such as Filiberto Ojeda Rios in 2005, and putting them in prison, such as Avelino Gonzalez Claudio in 2008.
It has been said that the current repression is to not only intimidate those individuals and organizations who are interested in revolutionary social change and justice into stopping their efforts, but to persuade those still developing an interest in revolutionary social change and justice to think twice about taking up such efforts. The grand jury subpoenas in particular have been seen as such a tool of intimidation. So the questions are: How do young Boricua men and women feel about this? What is their understanding of the independence movement? And how have they developed despite the trends of repression?
As a young person myself, we can see clearly from the above that Boricua youth today are very aware of what is going on. How do we feel about it? Speaking on behalf of myself, I think it’s a shame.
The people of Puerto Rico and it’s Diaspora in New York, Chicago, and throughout the world, are very much Boricua. If you go into the home of a person descended from the Caribbean island, it is almost guaranteed that you will see somewhere a red, white, and blue flag with one star. It is very interesting that after about 90 years of being American citizens, we still respond “Boricua!” when asked “what” we are. All of this, among many other things, is a testament to the national consciousness we have developed and protected.
Our history as a territory of the United States goes back to the year 1898. In this year American navy men occupied the island in what has been called a military invasion. This event was the turning point in the island’s struggle for independence, which from that point on was focused on the liberation from the American occupation.
While the military occupation of Puerto Rico by the United States is grounds enough for the right to fight for self-determination based on UN resolutions and various international law protocols, something else should be mentioned. Sometimes I get the idea that, if you are a truly law-abiding citizen, you would have no problem understanding Puerto Rico’s fight for freedom and independence. Why? Because just months before the American occupation, Spain had signed a Charter of Autonomy that said Spain could not by itself, without permission from the Puerto Rican autonomous government, give control of the island to another country. What does this have to do with anything? The U.S. occupied the island because it claimed Spain, by itself, gave it to them when they signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American War.
So what does the Boricua youth today understand about the independence movement? Well it should be clear some of us understand that the basis for the present movement comes from the 1898 military occupation of the island. Some of us understand that this means every policy imposed on the island after the occupation is to be questioned very seriously. Some of us understand that since the island remains a territory of the country that occupied it, that the struggle for independence continues; that nothing has changed.
How have Boricua youth developed despite the trends of repression? If this writing is any measure, you be the judge.