April 13 is Borinqueneers Day. Congress declared this day a special day to honor the Borinqueneers, the 65th Infantry Regiment, composed of soldiers from Puerto Rico. The regiment began in 1899 as the Porto Rico Volunteers. In 1908, it became an official part of the U.S. Army, the 65th Infantry Regiment.
In 1917, Puerto Rico gained U.S. citizenship. Soon after, the United States entered World War I. The U.S. Army was segregated at that time; this was a shameful chapter of our national history. The 65th Infantry, along with regiments composed of Black soldiers, served in non-combat positions during both World Wars.
The Korean War
President Truman ended segregation in the armed forces in 1948. In 1950, the 65th Infantry regiment went into battle in Korea. The regiment chose the nickname “Borinqueneers” in honor of the Taino people, who called their land “Borinquen.”
“The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry give daily proof on the battlefields of Korea of their courage, determination and resolute will to victory, their invincible loyalty to the United States and their fervent devotion to those immutable principles of human relations which the Americans of the Continent and Puerto Rico have in common,” wrote General Douglas MacArthur. “They are writing a brilliant record of heroism in battle and I am indeed proud to have them under my command. I wish that we could count on many more like them.”
In Arlington National Cemetery, a plaque bears the inscription, “Dedicated to the men of the 65th Infantry Regiment United States Army for their Valor and Patriotism During the Korean War 1950-1953” / “Dedicado a los Soldados de El Regimiento 65 de Infanteria Ejercito de los Estados Unidos por su Valentia y Patriotismo durante la Guerra de Corea 1950-1953.”
The Borinqueneers were transferred into the Puerto Rico National Guard after the end of the Korean War, and there have been no more segregated regiments.
Puerto Rico continues to send men and women to serve in the armed forces.