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The Forgotten Colony

By exploring the ideologies of the island’s most important political theorists of the twentieth century, this website provides an overview and analysis of US and Puerto Rican relations since the island’s establishment as a colony in 1898

“Puerto Rico is complicated. The people are complicated. The history is complicated. The story of the United States’ relationship to Puerto Rico is complicated.”

-W. Kamau Bell

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On the twelfth of May in 1898, the United States Navy blockaded on the Puerto Rican capital city of San Juan. About a month later, more than 1,300 infantry soldiers landed on the coast of Guánica, a small town on the southwestern tip of the island, marking the beginning of their offensive into the island. The American invasion ceased on August 13th, when Spain officially relinquished its three-century-long possession of the Caribbean island, and Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States of America.

For more than a hundred years, Puerto Rico has sought to define its political identity under legal US occupation. The island’s political status virtually determines the rights of its citizens and the degree of political autonomy under which Puerto Rican policymakers can enact laws to determine their own nation’s future. The island today is officially defined as a “non-incorporated territory” of the US, a political denomination that carries a unique – and distinctly problematic – legal ambiguity. Despite this particular ambiguity, this legal-political denomination has had very clear, tangible, and significant repercussions on the social and economic development of the country. 

There are three primary political perspectives on the century-long issue of Puerto Rico’s political status. ‘Estadistas’ argue in favor of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the Union. ‘Independentistas’, on the opposite side of the spectrum, argue Puerto Rico should detach itself entirely from all of its ties with the United States and become an independent nation. Thirdly, ‘populares’ believe the island should continue being a territory of the United States and legally exist somewhere between statehood and sovereignty. These three prevailing theories on how Puerto Rico deserves to be defined have pervaded the island’s political discussions ever since the American Navy landed in Guánica in 1898. By presenting the lives, careers, and opinions of three of the most important political thinkers of Puerto Rico’s modern history as a North American territory, this website will seek to provide a strong understanding of Puerto Rico’s political alternatives moving forward.

Nationalist Party and Puerto Rico Independence Party

Nationalist Party: The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was founded in September 12, 1922 and its main objective was to achieve complete independence from the United States. The Nationalist Party at first was a small unorganized political group that was scattered around the island and had fairly little representation. Then came Pedro Albizu Campos, the only…

Commonwealth Party

Popular Democratic Party/Partido Popular Democratico (PPD): The PPD was founded in 1938 after a split from the Puerto Rican Liberal Party. The party held a majority in the delegation that convened to write the Constitution of Puerto Rico and holds its foundation in the belief that Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth of the United…

Statehood Party

In the span of Puerto Rico’s entire political history, three primary political parties that have outwardly advocated for the immediate incorporation of the island into the United States as a state. The first was the Partido Republicano, founded by Jose Celso Barbosa himself. The party’s agenda rested on the belief that statehood was only going…

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