Is Puerto Rico a Colony?

Puerto Rico is neither a State nor a country, but a territory of the United States. Some people might say that it is in fact a colony of the United States.

A colony is an area that is controlled by a country, but which is not in that country. It is usually understood to be distant from the country that controls it, and people from the controlling country usually settle in the colony. A number of different European countries, for example, had colonies in what is now the United States. Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain before the United States gained control over it.

Joaquín A. Márquez is one of those who believe that Puerto Rico is essentially a colony of the United States. In his statement submitted to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee of Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Oversight Hearing, he explained the effects of the colonial nature of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S.

“After World War II and the founding of the United Nations, a great universal movement to end colonialism was begun by the international community,” he explained. The U.N. developed a list of  “non-self-governing” areas — in other words, colonies. The U.N. established a special committee which calls out the owners of these modern colonies. The United States was embarrassed to see Puerto Rico included on that list.

It’s hard to be a champion of independence and democracy while also owning a colony.

“In 1952, partially in response to pressure from this movement,” Márquez continued, “the Truman Administration allowed the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to be established. While it provided a measure of local self-government, the island remained as an unincorporated territory subject to the full plenary powers of Congress under Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution. By establishing a locally self-governing territory, the United States was able to remove Puerto Rico from the United Nation’s list of colonies and stop further criticism by the world community.”

This was especially important at that point in history. The “Cold War” between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its height at that time. The U.S. wanted the world to see Puerto Rico as a showcase for American policies.

“The United States government wanted to draw a contrast between its successful stewardship of Puerto Rico and the Soviet Union’s floundering stewardship of Fidel Castro’s Cuba,” said Márquez. “While Puerto Rico enjoyed great economic progress and a vibrant democracy, Cuba languished under a hard dictatorship and a failed economic system.”

The United Nations continues to call on the United States to provide a permanent status for Puerto Rico, and the U.S. continues to ignore those calls.

But the U.S. has also changed the policies that let Puerto Rico look, temporarily, like a success story for the U.S. “These special privileges simply masked the colony’s intrinsic flaw – the insidious poison of colonialism, said Márquez. “The economic and political model on which it is based simply is not sustainable in the long-run.”

As a colony, in Márquez’s view, Puerto Rico can’t fix U.S. policies that are not in its favor, so the Island continues in the strange position of an unincorporated territory, with none of the power of a State or a country.

32 current states were territories before they became states, so being a territory clearly can be part of the pathway to statehood… but Puerto Rico has been a territory for long enough.

7 Comments

Dr Jose R Vazquez

Puerto Rico is a COUNTRY. El país de Puerto Rico. Siempre a sido un país. Y además es un territorio no incorporado y sigue siendo una colonia. Por favor
No cambien la raíz de nuestra nación por la americana.. Solo somos ciudadanos americanos por que se nos concede la ciudadanía.. Pero no somos nada más que puertorriqueños y punto. Aunque seamos el estado 51 seguiremos siendo puertorriqueños y nuestro país será siempre PR.. Pir favor.. Tengan cuidado con lo que dicen..

Reply
Mirmar

Jose Vazquez, Puerto Rico is no country and will never be. Independence is as unpopular as ever and puerto rico is too broke and it’s citizens are too eager to leech (at best) the welfare tax dollars of the mainland.

This is just the truth. If Puerto Rico wasn’t so fixed on being so economically dependant of the US, the colony would have been self-reliant by now. But you, I and everyone knows this is not the case.

If you want independence, act like you want it. Stop sucking on the breast of the mainland, stop leeching off the profits of actual states. This is a simple request.

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John Carmen

Let’s not forget Corruption that has also played a role in P.R’s situation – but I do agree entirely, to me, it is a WELFARE state and ALWAYS will be

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pedro rivera

To the Americans take your welfare and get out of Puerto Rico, but this is not the problem the thing is that the US doesn’t want to leave Puerto Rico free, The pittance money the give to Puerto Rico is nothing compared to the money that they take out to Puerto Rico, The USA never loses money in a business, they are squeezing us and they give us a misery, get out, go, for the good that makes us, the only thing they do is fill the island with atomic bombs making us the main target in a nuclear war that has nothing to do with us, GET OUT you have hurt us for a long time!

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Miguel Castro

Pedro Rivera: I’m afraid you’ll have to convince your fellow Puerto Ricans, who overwhelmingly disagree with you about asking the U.S.A. to leave. Unless, of course, you prefer dictatorship for your country and to override the will of your countrymen and women?

Also, will you please supply one iota of evidence for your ridiculous contention that the U.S.A. “takes money out of Puerto Rico”???

Last time I checked the “pittance” that you refer to is in the Billions of Dollars per year and it flows in ONLY ONE DIRECTION: From the U.S.A. to PR. If you disagree, please provide evidence.

As to your other delusion that “the U.S.A. […] fills the island with atomic bombs making us the target in a nuclear war…” Again, please provide evidence for your canards.

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Miguel Castro

The “Puerto Rico is a colony” canard is political demagoguery plain and simple, advanced by extremists on both the pro-statehood and pro-independence camps for political gain. Both camps want to saddle the real situation in PR with the negative historical baggage associated with the word “colony.” This word harks back to the time when the Spaniards and the British had colonies in the New World. But the situation in PR is night-and-day different on all the dimensions that count:

(1) Spain and Britain exploited their colonies by taking natural resources from the colonies back to their crowns and unfairly taxing the colonists without giving them any say in their own governance. Puerto Ricans pay no Federal taxes, and receive billions of dollars in aid, investment, and military protection. There’s no “taxation without representation” here. NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE.

(2) Spain and Britain sent their own viceroys and governors to impose governance on their colonies. Puerto Ricans elect their own local governor and congress. NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE.

(3) When the colonists expressed their desire to leave the yoke of their crowns, both Britain and Spain sent in their armies to cruelly and summarily squash any rebellion. Puerto Ricans have the democratic option to sever ties with the U.S.A. if they so desire. But they so far have never wanted this with any kind of majority or even plurality. All they have to do is vote that way with a convincing majority over a convincing length of time. Puerto Rico has the autonomy to decide its future through democracy. NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE.

PR is NOT a colony in the traditional negative sense of that word, no matter what the U.N., in its perpetual state of “paralysis by analysis” and with its diplomatic word salads, has to say in the matter. What PR has is a SWEET DEAL with the U.S.A. where they receive massive infusions of capital and defense for very little in return. Thanks to this, PR boasts one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. PR would be abjectly poor and corrupt (think Haiti) if it were left to its own devices because:

(1) It lacks natural resources in any scale sufficient to support its economy. Does it have precious metals? Petroleum? Strategic minerals such as uranium, aluminum, copper? Timber in sufficiently large scale?… Most emphatically NO.

(2) Does it have large-scale fertile land to support a vibrant agricultural industry? NO. Its terrain is mostly mountainous and rather poor for agriculture. A few plantains, gallons of milk, and pounds of coffee per year for local consumption is far from sufficient. Any trip to a local grocery store betrays the fact that most consumables in the Island are imported, not to mention other essentials and technology.

(3) It is too large to live off tourism like small Caribbean islands like Turks & Caicos, or Bermuda. Those localities have only several thousands of permanent residents, while PR is overpopulated with millions of permanent residents.

(4) Puerto Ricans don’t have a particularly vibrant research community or labor force, which is expensive and not blessed with especially salient talents.

I could go on, but perhaps this explains why only a small minority of Puerto Ricans want to sever ties with the U.S.A. and give up the sweetheart deal that they have with that great nation, to trade their current situation for abject poverty a la Haiti. The rest of the people are more-or-less evenly divided between wanting the status quo and statehood.

The pro-statehood camp is as self-deluded as the pro-independence camp, because Puerto Ricans have demonstrated over many generations that they don’t want to secede from nor do they want to join the Union. If they wanted Independence there would be more than the scarcely 10% that ever vote for the Independence option. If they wanted Statehood, there would be a substantial majority (2/3rds or more) who consistently, over generations, vote in that direction. The status quo, for better or worse, IS CLEARLY THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE.

This delusion is what prompts these two extreme camps to invent the VICTIMHOOD FANTASY that “Puerto Rico is a colony.”

Puerto Rico continues to be the master of its own fate and has a great thing going compared to the rest of Latin America, especially considering its poor prospects. If only they could be responsible with their own finances, but that’s another story.

Reply
jose A Amoros

But Miguel, the UN has never said that PR is a colony. All the contrary.

Reply

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