Puerto Rico at Teddy Roosevelt’s Inauguration

In 1905, the image above was made into a stereopticon slide titled Our fellow Americans from the isles of the sea – Porto Rico Battalion, inaugural parade, Washington, D.C.

Stereopticon slides, also called stereographs, had two copies of the same picture. They could be put into a special viewer and seen in 3-D — a very cool thing to do in 1905.

The pictures showed the Porto Rico Battalion, which later became the Borinqueneers. The Battalion took part in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905.

Roosevelt wanted full citizenship for Puerto Ricans

Roosevelt gave a speech after visiting Puerto Rico in 1906 in which he spoke up for granting U.S. citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico: “There is a matter to which I wish to call your special attention, and that is the desirability of conferring full American citizenship upon the people of Porto Rico. I most earnestly hope that this will be done. I cannot see how any harm can possibly result from it, and it seems to me a matter of right and justice to the people of Porto Rico. They are loyal, they are glad to be under our flag, they are making rapid progress along the path of orderly liberty. Surely we should show our appreciation of them, our pride in what they have done, and our pleasure in extending recognition for what has thus been done, by granting them full American citizenship.”

In fact, Puerto Ricans have not yet been granted full American citizenship. In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act accord statutory citizenship to Puerto Ricans. But Puerto Rico still cannot vote in presidential elections and has only very limited representation in Congress.

The Puerto Rico National Guard, which became the home of the Borinqueneers after segregated units of the U.S. Army were dissolved, provided security in the 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Puerto Rico is proud of her long tradition of military service. The participation in inaugurations over a period of more than a century is something to be proud of.

But Puerto Rico should have the sovereignty and dignity of a state. Statehood for Puerto Rico is long overdue. Tell your reps that it is time for Congress to take the action the people of Puerto Rico have been demanding for more than a century: admit Puerto Rico now.

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