Trending

Newsletter

To Hell with Statehood: Puerto Rican Activists Want to Reunite with Spain

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jun 12, 2014, 7:50 am

EspañolPuerto Rico Reunification with Spain (RPE): founded in 2013 but garnering traction in just the past few days, that’s the name of a movement launched by a group of Puerto Rican activists who aim to secede from the United States and become the 18th autonomous community of Spain.

To justify this initiative — which has now garnered 5,600 Facebook “likes” — the leaders highlight the island’s historical ties to the Kingdom of Spain. José Nieves, founder of RPE, said they want to belong to Spain again because it is a country Puerto Ricans never wanted to leave.

José Nieves, founder of the RPE movement, with its official flag
José Nieves, founder of the RPE movement, with its official flag. Source: Reunificación de Puerto Rico.

According to Nieves, a 42-year-old criminologist at the University of the Caribbean, the group will seek to bring the case to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. This court is in charge of dealing with, among other topics, disputes regarding sovereignty and territorial and maritime borders. They aim for what they call “historical justice.”

“The reunification of Puerto Rico with Spain is an act of justice, because that was the will of the people of Puerto Rico at the time of forced separation by the invasion of July 25, 1898,” states the movement’s official blog.

The invasion they refer to is the US landing at Guánica Bay under the command of General Nelson A. Miles, which provoked the resignation of the last Spanish governor from the island.

For its success, the movement must request the annulment of the 1898 Treaty of Paris. At that time, Spain ceded sovereignty over several of its colonies — Puerto Rico, Philippines, and Guam — to the United States in exchange of US$20 million, and ended the Spanish-American War.

Nieves told Fox News that they will probably register the movement with the secretary of state, then contact the Spanish Embassy, ​​and ultimately, the government of Spain.

According to Nieves, contrary to what Puerto Ricans are taught in school, the people of Puerto Rico did not receive American troops with flowers, but with shotguns. He claims that they were separated from their mother country against their will in 1898.

Reunificación de Puerto Rico con España
Source: Puerto Rico Reunification with Spain.

“Americans have always distorted history to make us believe that Spain didn’t want us,” said Nieves, adding that Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for more than 400 years before becoming part of the United States.

The popularity of the movement is rising. They have created a blog and a video that promotes the movement with phrases such as “Puerto Ricans, it’s time to go home!” and “Puerto Rico never became independent from you,” to show their sympathy towards the kingdom. They assert that there had never been a public debate in the island about the reunification until 2012, and that they are not afraid because “truth” is on their side.

“We believe that we would be accepted by the Spanish people. So far, 95 percent of the feedback we’ve had from them is positive and supportive,” the criminologist told EFE.

Nieves is optimistic about the future: “While advocates of reunification are a minority at the moment, we have received greater acceptance than we expected.”

“With Spain Our Situation Was Worse”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican author and libertarian Frank Worley-Lopez wonders why Puerto Ricans would want to reunite with Spain. For him, Spain treated the islanders worse than the United States, and he does not understand why anyone would like to return to that unfortunate situation.

He explains that during Spanish rule, Puerto Ricans were more oppressed. “There was much more poverty, and there was no freedom for most of the people,” he said.

Worley-Lopez notes that at least today the islanders enjoy civil rights protected by the constitution of the United States, and receive almost $25 billion per year from that country.

The movement, though, will keep seeking support from the 3.5 million inhabitants of the island. The next step in terms of domestic action is to organize a general meeting to be held this summer, to outline the strategic plan for the near future.

Translated by Alan Furth.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.