Why Puerto Rico's Struggle for Liberation is also Africa's

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Pedro Albizu Campos statue. Photo-Flickr.

[Knowledge To Power]

You know yourself through history.
One may ask why is a Senegalese like myself concerned with the welfare of Puerto Rico. The first answer that comes to mind is because I’m African, and Puerto Rico is African too.
It is worth highlighting Puerto Rico's Africaness through the Maroon Guerilla leader Marcos Xioaro who was masterminding a slave revolt which was designed to stop the horrific institution which brought my comrade ancestors to the Island. We must also mention the African-infused bomba music; as Plena. Then there is Africa on the plate by way of green bananas, taro root, and yucca just to name a few.
However, the biggest reason is the fact that Puerto Rico, like all African nations, is toiling for the right to self-rule in order to really give power to the masses.
Puerto Rico has and still is enduring under a system which your enemy pretends to be your friend, while using your brother to suck you dry. Puerto Rico, and Africa have the same common enemy; the Western Imperialist Agenda. The Puerto Rican.struggle is an African Struggle. Moreover it is critical that African, and Latin nations must hold hands in international solidarity in the struggle for socioeconomic and political liberation.
Like mainland Africa Puerto rico's history is one of turmoil. The indigenous people known as the Taint were peaceful, but if needed, could fight to defend themselves.
Due to their natural disposition as a warm, giving people, they accepted the Spaniards with open arms. They took it a step further and gave Spaniards gold. Once this occurred the Spanish conquistadors used physiological, and physical force to take control of the gold reserves on the island.
They enslaved the Tainos, and gave them the gift of smallpox in return for their labor. This gift killed most of the Taint off. As a result, the new unpaid labor came in the form of enslaved Africans.
On the physical side amputations, beatings, and rape took place to subdue the enslaved people. On the psychological side of things Spaniards would condition in their captives' minds inferiority complexes; that Spaniards were God-like, superior, and enlightened due to their Catholic doctrines and lighter complexions.
The Africans and Taino formed alliances. Many African runaway maroons joined the Taino, and even inter-married with them. They soon became brothers in arms, and used guerilla stratagems to route the Spanish.
This led to many efforts to gain autonomy from Spain. I raise this point to show before and during colonialism Africans and other completely distinct people formed alliances not based on religion, creed, color or lineage; it was based on the basis of human rights, and social justice.
I myself can close my eyes and picture myself as a maroon guerilla with my Taint comrade trying to gain what’s rightfully ours. So if given the resources I would not hesitate to help Puerto Rico with their quest for freedom.
The Spaniards were overwhelmed from this joint effort and had no choice but to annex Puerto Rico. Unfortunately this would be short lived. Due to the manifest destiny mentality of the United States, the Island of Puerto Rico would go into the hand of another enemy disguised as a friend. The theme of nation-building while free of the vicious fangs of Western imperialism is a recurring one; from Africa, Asia, to the Caribbean not one single nation has been left alone. Puerto Rico is no different.
When it comes to moral or ethical aspirations America should not be looked at for these things. One of the first things the United States imposed on Puerto Rico is the English language after it had become a Spanish-speaking Latin Caribbean country through the earlier conquest.
School attendance decreasing drastically as did the quality of education. The la Operacion, or operation bootstrap misinformed women about sterilization and the consequences. The the portion of the Island named Vieques was basically a testing ground for United States bombs. Due to this testing cancer rates in that area surrounding Vieques became 27% higher than the rest of the Island.
Dr. Cornelius Rhoads took it upon himself to infect Puerto Ricans with cancer cells intentionally. His words that "the Puerto Ricans are the dirtiest laziest, most degenerate, and thievish race of men," explains his mindset and Nazi-like intentions of ethnic cleansing. Fascist and Supremacist look at Africans and Latinos the same; therefore fighting amongst each other is wasted energy.
The most backward suppression of rights, in this the 21st century is the fact that Puerto Ricans are barred from voting for the United States president or congress. How can a United States territory not have the right to vote?
The circumstances which led to armed struggle were forced upon Puerto Ricans. Any human being who is in his or her natural disposition will always prefer peace over war. When you are constrained by an invader economically educationally, and physiologically the seeds of revolution are sown.
A young lawyer, Pedro Albizu Campos heeded the call. The logical argument which he presented is that Puerto Rico was a free state before the United States came. Campos, a brilliant Harvard graduate --a White racist professor prevented him from graduating first in his class--was later subjected to a long prison sentence. While imprisoned Campos may have been deliberately exposed to radiation and he suffered a stroke. He was pardoned only a few months before his death on April 21, 1965. Unfortunately this movement was met by mass imprisonment, and shootings. The Ponce massacre which took 19 lives of nationalist didn't derail the push for freedom. However heavy-handed U.S. aggression, with naval attacks and heavy land artillery forced capitulation of many and subjugation. Yet there were still people who united to put up the good fight for human self-worth and dignity.
The words of Filberto Ojeda Rios can resonate with many oppressed people of the world: "I have dedicated myself to politics because I was born in an enslaved nation. Had I been born in a free country my life would have been dedicated to the arts, and sciences."
Filiberto had the privilege of being educated in the United States. He witnessed his grandparents' land become monopolized by American sugar companies.
While working in a factory he saw firsthand that racism, and colorism as part of the social order in America. Rios was a musician and performed in many night clubs. He was also a conscious humanbeing. During his musical days the Cuban revolution was making major headway. He heard the rallying cry "Cuba for the people". This revolution pulled Rios back to Puerto Rico for a just cause --liberation.
Rios' contacts with Cuba deepened when he attended courses in the University of Havana. It was there where he would become a figure in the Movimento Por Indepencia. The FBI was sent to execute Rios in cold blood in Puerto Rico. Until this day his September 23, 2005 murder has not been done justice. The Puerto Rican Department of Justice sued the U.S. Justice Department for information on the case; the lawsuit was dismissed and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
Now you understand current conditions in Puerto Rico; it shows typical characteristics of a colony. A Puerto Rican friend says they are enslaved to the United States.
As an African who has lived through many injustices by Europe, and the United States I ask: Can Puerto Ricans live off $4.25 an hour while being pushed deeper into debt? While $450 million is cut from the university system? While $550 million is cut from the healthcare sector? Some of the confused elite believe statehood is a solution.
Imperialism, and capitalism pit us against one another. Puerto Rico's struggle is also Africa's struggle. Not just because of the extended relatives who were taken by force there, or the similar food, music, and spiritual systems; it's because we are in the same struggle for liberation, justice and dignity from modern imperialism.
Tainos and enslaved Africans resisted Spanish conquistadors; it's up to us to collectively resist domination by rapacious capitalism that has no respect for humanity.

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