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Puerto Rico Under American Rule Essay

2021 words - 8 pages

Puerto Rico Under American Rule

The United States gained control of the island of Puerto Rico as a result of the Spanish American war in 1898, claiming its intention to "free" the island from Spanish colonialism. When the United States took possession of the island, Puerto Rico became merely that, a controlled possession given little or insignificant power in many facets of Puerto Rican life. In a matter of a few months, Puerto Rico moved from being a Spanish possession to an American one, and this changing of hands had many implications on the status of Puerto Rico, politically economically, and socially.

Moved by desires for freedom, social change, and political change, lack of leadership, and plainly, fear, the Puerto Ricans welcomed the Americans to the island. After all, the Puerto Ricans had never been under their own rule. After being colonized and ruled by Spain for 400 years, no one knew what to expect from the United States, but the island hoped for change and for the chance to be self-governing, if not independent, because as a colony of Spain, all Puerto Rico wanted was to be considered a "state" of Spain. Spain, however, did not grant them this. Once overtaken, military forces ruled the island for two years, "undermining one way of life without replacing it with another", while the United States government decided what it wanted to do with her new possession (Fernandez, 1996). One thing was clear by the military occupation: the United States had no intention of letting Puerto Rico rule itself.

And, to say the least, Puerto Ricans were not happy. With the United States in control, Puerto Rico became a territory with no real rights of her own, (except independence which wasn't going to be achieved at that stage of its status of territory) no sovereign control of its own economic or political life. At least when Puerto Rico had been a colony of Spain, she had representation in the parliament of Madrid; here in the United States, as Senator Foraker noted, "Puerto Rico belongs to the United States, but it is no the United States, nor a part of the United States", and in that, of course Puerto Rico would not have had any representation in Congress, nor should had it been expected (Fernandez, 2). Initially, the United States wanted and cherished Puerto Rico as a war prize, a way to protect its interests and reinforce the idea among other empires, political leaders, and governments that it was a supreme power by taking over the last Caribbean and Pacific colonies that Spain had. But that was all they had in mind for the island; never was Puerto Rico meant to be a state, not even a territory but just a possession with which the U.S. Government could do whatever it wanted to.

Yet, it wasn't that easy. In an effort to, again, protect its interest and to keep the peace, Congress passed the Foraker Law in 1900, which established a civil government and free commerce between the island and the United States. And in...

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