[News] War Against All Puerto Ricans
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 21 19:45:28 EDT 2015
*War Against All Puerto Ricans*
by Nelson A. Denis (April 21, 2015)
Within thirty years of occupying Puerto Rico in 1898, the US had
devalued the Puerto Rican currency by 40% and owned 80% of all the
island's farms . . . as well as the insular postal system, the entire
coastal railroad, and the San Juan International Airport.
The US military controlled another 13% of the island.
In addition, U.S. federal agencies controlled Puerto Rico's foreign
relations, banking system, currency, customs, tariffs, import/export
quotas, radio waves, commerce, transportation, military service,
maritime laws, and cabotage rights.
Although Puerto Ricans were declared US citizens in 1917, just in time
for World War I, these same "citizens" were found ineligible for minimum
wage legislation in 1922, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the US
constitution did not apply to Puerto Rico. This did not sit well with
the /macheteros /- the sugarcane workers - who worked 50 and 60 hours a
week for starvation wages.
In 1934, the /macheteros /went on strike, and asked Pedro Albizu Campos
to lead them.
The "war against all Puerto Ricans" was declared by the Puerto Rico
Police Chief in 1935. After murdering four Puerto Ricans in the Rio
Piedras Massacre, Police Chief E. Francis Riggs announced that, if
Albizu Campos continued to "agitate" the /macheteros/, there would be
"war to the death against all Puerto Ricans."
Eighty years later, just three weeks ago, Nation Books published my
book. /War Against All Puerto Ricans
It documents how and why this war was waged. I knew this history had to
be told. What I didn't know, was the response it would receive.
*An Instant Audience*
Two weeks /before/ it was published, the book was a #1 Amazon Best
Seller. By the date of release, excerpts from the book received nearly
500,000 views on the /Latino Rebels/ website. Two days after the book's
release, the Independence Party of Puerto Rico called me to ask how they
could promote it on the island. Within one week, I made nine TV and
radio appearances, with further bookings scheduled for C-SPAN, New York
1, and /Democracy Now/.
Print journalists found the book quickly. Robert Dominguez of the /New
York Daily News/ wrote "Prepare to be outraged . . . meticulously
researched . . . a timely, eye-opening must-read." In /Latino Rebels/,
Julio Varela wrote that "/War Against All Puerto Ricans /earns 'instant
classic' status . . . anyone who wants to understand U.S. imperial
history from the time of Manifest Destiny needs to read this book." In
/Respuesta/, Andre Lee Muñiz praised "the book's historical value . . .
a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about Puerto Rico."
In /Gozamos/, Hector Luis Alamo wrote, "Nelson Denis doesn't just give
us history. He gives us history on fire . . . a thoroughly researched
indictment of over a century of U.S. policy toward one small island .a
full-throated eulogy of brave heroes, men and women of conviction, who
devoted every drop of their blood to a people and a principle."
>From Washington, D.C., Congressman José Serrano wrote that "It is a book
that every student of the US-Puerto Rico relationship should read."
In Chicago, José López Rivera - the brother of Oscar López Rivera -
invited me to Division Street for a four-day book tour.
Down on the island, Mr. Luis Gonzalez-Argueso, owner of the Arguezo &
Garzon Editores publishing company, offered to write a Spanish
translation for/free/. Don Luis is now writing it.
This overwhelming response, within a week of the book's publication,
made me stop and think.I am not a celebrity.I am not a famous writer.
There was something going on, that had nothing to do with me.
It was the subject matter.
*A Hidden History*
The story of Puerto Rico, under the tutelage of the United States, had
not been fully told. No one knew that Charles Herbert Allen, the first
civilian governor from the US, stuffed the Puerto Rican economy into his
pocket by stealing thousands of farms, running up to Wall Street, and
making himself the president of Domino Sugar.
No one knew that Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín was an opium addict, and that J.
Edgar Hoover used this information to control the island's politics.
No one knew that Police Chief Riggs, who declared "war to the death
against all Puerto Ricans," was the heir to the Riggs National Bank,
which had colonial investments all over South and Central America.
No one knew that, right after the Ponce Massacre, the Police Chief
re-arranged the corpses in the street, and then took photos of them, to
make it look like the murdering policemen had acted in "self-defense."
No one knew that an OSS/CIA operative named Waller Booth opened a
nightclub near Camp Las Casas in Santurce, where he spied on nearly
every Nationalist on the island.
No one knew that Albizu Campos was being subjected to TBI (Total Body
Irradiation) while in /La Princesa/ prison and everyone - from the FBI
to Luis Muñoz Marín to the prison guards themselves - knew all about it.
No one knew that the US kept a torture facility in Aguadilla, near the
Ramey Air Force Base - where hundreds of Puerto Rican prisoners were
interrogated, tortured, and killed.
The reason that no one knew, is because all the information was buried
in police files, hospital records, newspaper archives, US congressional
transcripts, and 1.8 million pages of secret FBI files, known today as
*The Heroes of this History*
The final confirmation of all this history came from the people who
lived it: the Nationalists themselves. I interviewed dozens of them over
a period of forty years, starting from 1974.
They had lived in a world where selfishness was a great asset, a world
owned by strangers and governed by corruption, a world so threatening
and capricious that to tell the truth was to risk one's livelihood,
one's freedom, and sometimes one's life. It took a long time (in some
cases years) to earn their trust, but it was worth every moment. Their
personal recollections - with respect to the Ponce Massacre, the Rio
Piedras Massacre, the trial of Albizu Campos, the Gag Law arrests, the
1934 sugarcane strike, the police terror of Governor Blanton Winship,
the haplessness of Moncho Reyes, the bombing of Jayuya and Utuado, the
conditions at /La Princesa/ and /El Oso Blanco /prisons - all closely
parallel the newspaper accounts, congressional testimony, and FBI files
from 1930 to 1965.
The Nationalists fought a brave battle against the most powerful empire
in history. As the years progressed, and I earned their trust, these
brave men and women opened up to me. They told me things I'd never seen
in any history book, or heard in any lecture hall: not at Harvard, not
at Yale, or anywhere. In exchange for sharing this information, all they
asked was that I tell the story straight: with no embellishment or undue
drama. It wasn't much to ask...but no one had ever done this for them.
On October 30, 1950, a violent revolution swept through Puerto Rico:
Nationalists tried to kill President Harry S. Truman; gunfights roared
in eight towns; revolutionaries burned police stations, post offices,
and selective service centers.
To suppress this revolution, the US Army deployed 5,000 troops and
bombarded the towns of Jayuya and Utuado - the only time in history that
the United States government has bombed its own citizens. They also
arrested 3,000 Puerto Ricans and imprisoned Pedro Albizu Campos. While
Albizu was in prison, evidence strongly indicates, the US subjected
Albizu to TBI (Total Body Irradiation) until it killed him.
/War Against All Puerto Ricans/tells the story of this revolution. The
book occupies the same cultural space as /Bury my Heart at Wounded
Knee/, in 1971. It challenges us to re-set our moral compass. It awakens
the public conscience to America's plundering of an entire island, whose
residents have been US citizens for nearly a century.
It also arrives at a critical time.
April 21, 2015 marks the 50^th anniversary of the death of Albizu Campos.
The island is in economic malaise with a $73 billion debt, two gasoline
tax hikes in the past year, soaring electrical and water costs,
government pension rollbacks, layoffs, a proposed 16% VAT (value-added
tax), and even a proposed "obesity" tax.
At the same time that working class and middle-income Puerto Ricans are
being squeezed off the island, the government extends a 20-year tax
exemption on interest, dividends, and capital gains, for foreign (i.e.,
US) investors in the same island. This latest corporate welfare, called
Act 22, was passed in 2012 and applauded by the /New York Times /and the
US business press.
The moment that its debt was downgraded to "Junk Bond" status, Puerto
Rico became a target for corporate raiders and hedge fund managers, who
are now using Act 22 to buy "distressed properties" in every corner of
the island. The latest raider is John Paulson, whose hedge fund made $15
billion by betting againstthe US economy in 2007, during its national
Paulson is using Act 22 to buy and build two $500 million beachfront
hotels in San Juan. A herd of hedge funders is following right behind
him. The entire stampede is being trumpeted by the New York
Times("Puerto Rico Luring Buyers with Tax Breaks," Sept. 5, 2014),
Bloomberg Business ("Puerto Rico: Tax Haven for America's Super-Rich,"
June 6, 2014), and New Yorker Magazine ("The Puerto Rico Problem," April
What does this have to do with /War Against All Puerto Ricans/?
Albizu Campos was correct, when he observed that "owning a person makes
you a scoundrel, but owning a nation makes you a colonial benefactor."
The conditions are now mounting, for the gentrification of Puerto Rico.
Within one more generation, the entire island will become a playground
for America's super rich.
Unless we recognize this, and confront it together, the war against all
Puerto Ricans will soon be over. Our island will be gone. Our people
will have been evicted. It all reminds me of something my grandmother
once told me: "Puerto Rican eyes are all dark, with lots of yesterdays
*/Nelson A. Denis /*/served in 1997-2001 as a New York State Assemblyman
representing East Harlem in Manhatttan. A graduate of Harvard University
and Yale Law School, he wrote over 300 editorials for //El Diario/La
Prensa//, and received the Best Editorial Writing award from the
National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). For more
information on Denis, visit his blog
He can be reached at nelsondenis248 at aol.com
<mailto:nelsondenis248 at aol.com>./
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News